The Collegian
Saturday, August 15, 2020

Letter to the Editor: WC Dean Juliette Landphair responds to Ring Dance

I want to begin by sharing with you my gratitude to the Westhampton student leaders and colleagues who organized this year’s Junior Ring Dance. Each of them worked so hard to plan this year’s dance, an event meant to celebrate the academic accomplishments of our junior women and their friendships with one another.

To my delight, more than 80 percent of the junior class of women, including a record number of international students, attended this year. That’s 5-10 percent more than the typical attendance.

As you know, we made some changes to this year’s dance. In August of 2012, the Westhampton College class of 2016 was notified of the changes, which were meant to better align Ring Dance with the inclusive missions of Westhampton College and University of Richmond. These changes were made in consultation with students, faculty and staff. Last weekend, a rehearsal was held involving junior women at The Jefferson to ensure that all participants were familiar with the new format.

Another change this year was that the hotel decided to implement additional security measures because of issues that had arisen at past events, including, I am sorry to say, property damage by our attendees. These measures included additional security personnel and the wristband system.

This year, shortly after the ceremony began, there was a disruption of the procession when a number of guests began acting disrespectfully toward – frankly, berating – our student ushers and staff. As we could not allow that behavior toward students to continue, we placed the procession on hold until we were in a position to continue. When we resumed the procession, students who preferred someone to walk with them down the stairs were accompanied. 

I recognize how deeply meaningful this event is to the women of Westhampton. That is the common thread uniting today’s version of the event with the forms it has taken throughout the years since its inception.

As I have noted in the past, the Junior Ring Dance has its origins as an academic ritual, with the ring signifying academic progress and achievement of junior status. The event was introduced by the first dean of Westhampton, Dr. May Keller. Many alumnae remember Ring Dance on campus, with Richmond College escorts, and no dress color stipulation and no families present. More recently, the event moved off campus and families were invited to celebrate with our students, and we look forward to continuing to welcome families to the event as we did this year. So, while the format has evolved over time in fairly significant ways, the event has retained its central place in our students’ experience and in the memories of alumnae.

In the coming weeks, we will follow our regular process of evaluating this year’s event as we plan for future Ring Dances, including meeting with the newly elected junior class president when she is elected in March. I know that the women whose leadership made possible this year’s event will share observations with their successors and me and my colleagues about how to plan a meaningful event that weaves together shared pride in Westhampton, the academic accomplishments of junior women, their friendships with one another and their gratitude to those who have made their Westhampton and University of Richmond experience possible.

Contact Dean Landphair at jlandpha@richmond.edu

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