The Collegian
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

'Traditions exist for a reason:' Parent attacks Ring Dance changes

I am the father of a Class of 2010 alumna. My daughter loved her time at Richmond. She graduated summa cum laude, was a three-year officer on the Honor Council and became editor of The Collegian her senior year. She was a journalism major and women's studies minor.

In short, I presume that Dean Landphair would consider my daughter to be the type of young woman of whom Westhampton academic administrators would be proud. My youngest daughter is an applicant for the Class of 2017.

I have recently read about the small minority of Westhampton undergraduates who believe they need to wear black dresses to Ring Dance at the Jefferson hotel. Apparently, these young women feel they need to proclaim some sort of moral indignation against a long-held tradition founded on the bond between Westhampton students and their fathers.

This tradition is based upon paternal love, not socio-economic exclusion. The two core premises that I read in their argument are totally fallacious: white dresses symbolize debutante balls; white dresses are primarily wedding dresses and therefore financially prohibitive.

My daughter was not a debutante, and we bought her dress from a discount shop here in Baltimore for her high school graduation ceremony (yes, it was a "tradition" here, as well). We paid about $150, and she also wore it for her Ring Dance at the Jefferson Hotel in 2009. The arguments, therefore, are specious at best.

In truth, they are merely further attempts by an academic politically correct elite to annihilate traditions that many parents and alumni/ae hold dear -- traditions that form the core premises of what makes colleges like the University of Richmond different from Brandeis, Middlebury, Amherst, Wesleyan and other Northern peer colleges.

I will quote Dean Landphair in her defense of allowing the "Black Dress Protesters" (my term) to invade Ring Dance at the Jefferson Hotel: "We don't want to deny the meaningful aspects of this for students who like the traditional stuff; but for the incoming students, hopefully they'll recognize we see this in terms of principles of inclusion." Huh?

Dean Landphair, I proudly admit that I am a parent who enjoys "traditional stuff." That is why I chose Richmond for my daughter. Wake up, that is why most parents choose Richmond over Northern colleges.

Just what exactly does wearing black dresses at Ring Dance have to do with "inclusion?" Perhaps Richmond should ban sororities and fraternities, since not every student gets invited or can afford the dues. Perhaps Richmond should ban intercollegiate sports, since not every student has the ability to make the teams or receive the athletic scholarships.

Perhaps Richmond should ban graduating any students cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude since not all the students possess the intellectual acumen or work ethic to attain these academic levels of achievement.

Rubbish. Traditions exist for a reason. They are the bedrock of why undergraduates consider their collegiate experience special, while also providing alumni/ae emotional reasons to return to campus for reunions and contribute to the alumni fund. They are good things.

No one is excluded from attending Ring Dance. If the students choose not to attend, that is their decision. If they cannot afford a $150 white dress from a secondhand store, then perhaps they should not be attending a college where total costs approximate $58,000 a year.

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Lastly, if Dean Landphair is losing sleep over students having to pay $150 for these dresses to an "elitist" Westhampton event, where is her sympathy for middle class parents like me who make too much for financial aid, but nowhere near enough to truly afford a Richmond education?

I suggest Dean Landphair attack an obsolete academic "business" model that penalizes hard working middle class parents and that create an academic panel to reduce Richmond's cost of attendance.

Perhaps if she did this, Ring Dance would truly be affordable for all.

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