The Collegian
Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Westhampton Alumna Weighs in on Ring Dance Change

As a four-year member of Westhampton College Government Association who served as the junior and senior class president during my time at Richmond, I obviously hold a special place in my heart for Westhampton College and its traditions -- particularly Ring Dance, to which I devoted the better part of my junior year.

Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed to read the article in last week's Collegian announcing some major changes to Ring Dance for the class of 2016 -- black dresses replacing the traditional white ones, and escorts being removed as a part of the ceremony.

Many things about this situation are upsetting to me, but the most concerning part is that these changes are being forced upon Westhampton College by the administration without so much as even a simple poll of the student body. This quote from last week's Collegian article pretty much sums it up: "Students were not given a vote about the changes; rather the faculty came together to decide what were the right changes for the ceremony, Fankhauser said. If students were given a vote, it is likely the majority would want to keep things as they are, Landphair said."

My question is this: Why is Richmond caving to a small minority of discontents who are unhappy with this longstanding tradition, which, I might add, is not run by the administration but by each year's junior class cabinet?

I am baffled by whatever methodology or reasoning is behind this. You obviously can't please everybody all the time, but absolutely nothing makes sense about changing what the majority clearly wants in the name of accommodating a few. Certain students who expect the world to bow to their individual desires are going to have a rude awakening someday in the real world when they learn that success does not result from this attitude of entitlement. There are always going to be things we disagree with, but we deal with them. Part of the beauty of the college experience is learning how to be a contributing member of a community -- and that includes sometimes acclimating to situations that you may consider less than ideal.

Ring Dance is an optional event. No one is forcing you to like it, and no one is forcing you to attend. No one is forcing you to wear a white dress or be escorted by your father either. Plenty of junior women each year during my time at Richmond chose not to wear white, or chose to walk down the stairs alone, with a friend, with a professor or with an aunt, yet they would still be some of the first to tell you how much the night meant to them. Though they chose to express themselves differently, they had no problem with the other women who chose to wear white dresses and be escorted by their fathers.

Additionally, each year the junior class cabinet is able to provide financial aid to every woman who requests it. One of our greatest joys as a cabinet was making each and every woman in our class realize that nothing was hindering her from attending and enjoying the event just as much as anyone else, regardless of her financial concerns: a substantial amount of each year's Ring Dance budget is set aside for that very reason.

Throughout my experience, I found that all women who genuinely desired to make the night of Ring Dance special found a way to do so -- whether they wore a purple dress, walked down the stairs with their best friend, attended alone or spent the night on campus. They appreciated the tradition for what it was, and enjoyed the event for its embodiment of themes that transcended the tangible: class unity, family, friendship, the celebration of everyone's academic achievements thus far at the university, and the realization of a place within the rich history of Westhampton College.

There is nothing wrong with tradition. If you don't like the university's traditions, that's fine. If you have a problem with Ring Dance, don't go. Of course we're all perfectly entitled to our opinions, but forcing your personal agenda on the entire student body to make yourself feel better is the height of selfishness. Remember the famous saying, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent?" If you feel alienated or left out in whatever fashion from Ring Dance, the sentiment is certainly not originating from the members of your junior class cabinet or any other white-dress-clad woman.

What's next, doing away with cords and medals at graduation lest someone feels left out for not wearing any? Getting rid of sororities and fraternities so no one will ever feel excluded again? This is a dangerous road for Richmond to go down. I adored my time at Richmond, but unless the university seriously rethinks taking this huge step in the wrong direction, I may have to seriously rethink any further contributions to the school. I know I'm not the only alum extremely saddened by what is occurring.

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