Spring Cotillion, held at Stage AE on Saturday, March 23, was shut down 90 minutes early amid reports of rampant underage drinking.
According to Coordinator of Campus and Multicultural Student Life Jeff Mallory, the major issues revolved around “alcohol paraphernalia” that was illegally brought into the venue, showing that the student body has “misplaced” what Cotillion should really be. Mallory stated, “Stage AE and Aramark (the food and beverage provider) told us we should look at shutting down; they didn’t say we had to, they just said it was probably ‘in our best interest’ to shut down before further actions might be required if we didn’t improve.”
With this in mind, Mallory spoke to the students in an effort to “correct some of the poor decisions people already made, hopefully discouraging further bad-doings.” However, the event ended soon after, indicating that his message did not have the desired effect.
SGA Executive Board Vice President Beal explained the early ending occurred because “the student body decided to partake in illegal activity.” Beal added, “Stage AE wasn’t happy. We warned people, and people chose not to heed those warnings, and Stage AE decided they would like us to leave at 11:30.”
In addition to Mallory’s attempt to curtail the underage drinking and abundant flasks at the venue, he and Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Collins “tried to negotiate if the seniors and those over 21 could stay to the end,” according to SGA Executive Board President, sophomore Justin Teets. “They did absolutely everything they could to make sure Cotillion was a fun night for everybody, and it just so happened that Stage AE didn’t want to work with us anymore,” said Teets. “And I can’t blame them; it was a lawsuit on their hands, and they could have decided to call the cops because of the underage drinking.”
In addition to the numerous alcohol issues, rumors of physical altercations followed. Mallory did hear of one incident but “didn’t get a report saying that there was a case.”
Beal said there were “no reports or complaints from any of the agencies SGA worked with” about a physical altercation but added that “if something happened, it wasn’t a big enough deal that it got back to us.”
Mallory pointed out, “Everything was done on our part, including all safety and security measures from Saint Vincent College being in place.” He believes that “the amount of people who did something wrong was between 30 and 40, not everybody. Those select few that didn’t abide by the rules cost it for everybody else, and it was unfortunate.”
Senior Olivia Sharkey, who is an SGA senator, was “really proud of the senior class’ response to the situation, who took [Cotillion] for what it was, making the best of the two hours.”
“Students aren’t taking into consideration that the umbrella policy of SVC still applies even if not on campus and in Pittsburgh,” explained Mallory. “The rules are established and stated explicitly in two to three messages via e-mail, on the portal and the actual ticket to ensure [students] are definitely aware, but how much they choose to digest is dependent on each individual.”
Irresponsible behavior at Cotillions is nothing new. Sophomore Connor Crowley attended Cotillion last year and said, “The same stuff was going on, just on a lesser scale. People had flasks and were underage drinking, but it was more under the radar.”
According to Mallory, “Incidents are processed at each event. That’s just something we assume the risk of when we have an event.”
Teets added, “We are college kids; even with our Catholic and Benedictine identity, there are still students that don’t comply, and that’s nothing against the general student.”
Despite their anger, students were surprisingly peaceful upon returning to campus. “Public safety said it was one of the quietest nights on campus after a Cotillion, so it says a lot about the student body,” said Beal.
Teets noted, “The [students] could have trashed the dorms if they wanted to, but instead accepted they were in the wrong and dealt with it.”
“We as a department in Campus Life think we should hold ourselves in high regard both personally and as a community,” said Mallory. Despite the outcome of the event, he described the sophomore leadership—Jake Murtaugh (president), Lindsey Sullenberger (vice president), Kate McCauley (secretary), and Liz Susko (treasurer)—as “phenomenal.”
Beal commended the sophomore class on the “phenomenally pulled-off, well-planned and executed event” and noted that the incidents were beyond their control.
In addition to a closed-door SGA meeting following Cotillion, many other meetings discussing future Cotillions will occur. “This [Cotillion] is in the past, and we can’t do much about it now,” said Teets. “It’s how we can handle Cotillions of the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We need to decide how to curve the mindset and show that there is no excuse for everybody to go get sloshed, because Cotillion should be a nice event.”
Though the junior class that will plan the fall 2013 Cotillion is the same (currently sophomore) class that planned the most recent Cotillion, Beal pointed out that the positions are a contested race, so it could be an entirely new set of people. “No aspects of Cotillion,” said Beal, “aside from administrative aspects with the Student Affairs office, will be discussed until the new individuals are announced after elections.”
Teets did confirm, however, that pat downs before boarding the buses from SVC would be handled by public safety in the future, instead of SGA students who did so in the past because they “didn’t feel it was a student’s job to be put in that position.”
“There will be a strong reevaluation of how we do things at Cotillion, not the frequency or existence, but how we do things prior, during and after,” Mallory said. “We are going to look at the structure of how we do things, the parameters of who we let in, and revisit the rules and regulations we propose for Cotillion to ensure a more enjoyable and safe event for students in the SVC community.”
The biggest question still remains: Will Saint Vincent College return to Stage AE? “We have not been banned from Stage AE, and they have not said anything along that nature,” said Beal, adding, “We might want to take a little time off.”