The ticket price for Ring Dance was raised this year to $60 from $50, sparking conversation about the financial burden for participants.
Ring Dance is a University of Richmond tradition dating to the 1940s with the original intent of celebrating women’s collegiate accomplishments.
But over the years its focus has changed, and so has the cost. Some attendees spend more than $1,500 on the event, from purchasing tickets for family members and friends and staying in hotels to buying dresses and makeup.
Emily Trumble, a junior who participated in the procession last weekend, said that Ring Dance can be exclusive.
“Ring Dance matters to people like legacies who are sending their kids here and donating to the school,” Trumble said. “I think it matters to those people since it's been a tradition for so long but it ostracizes people who can’t afford it.”
Ring Dance was held Saturday, Feb. 1, and drew about 2,000 guests, many of whom spent two nights at one of Richmond's most expensive hotels, the Jefferson Hotel.
Rooms at the Jefferson Hotel started at $400 per night, with a mandated minimum of a two-night stay. Every year many families stay there to take part in socializing before and after the procession.
“I can imagine even for people who can't get a room or don't have friends who can get a room at the Jefferson, that it would be even more ostracizing,” Trumble said. “To me it's worth it to not have the event so that people don't feel ostracized and separated.”
Although booking hotel rooms is not required to participate, it is a major part of the social experience, particularly since a guest needs to be paying for a room to go upstairs.
“I think there is a pressure to get a room because when I went last year as a guest, I feel like such a big part of the night was being in the room with everyone and their families,” said Ally Marrinan, a junior who participated in the event this year.
On top of the cost of hotel rooms, the $60 tickets push the costs even further.
“The venue and services have gotten more expensive over time,” said Rose Williams, the Westhampton College junior class president. “Therefore the price increase had to happen for the school to just break even paying for the event.”
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The event is black tie, and most participants choose to dress in black floor-length gowns. Marrinan said there were additional costs in hair styling and makeup, shoes, dress tailoring and even catering for their Jefferson Hotel rooms.
Some also buy a class ring — the foundation of the tradition — with prices starting at $440. Marrinan had two rooms at the Jefferson Hotel and bought six tickets for family members and friends. With other added charges, she approximated her cost for the event was about $2,300.
Every participant takes part in Ring Dance differently and indulges in different things, so the cost will vary per person.
Although the cost might be different, Marrinan was not satisfied with the school’s explanation of the financial burden. Without a greater understanding of the overall cost of the event, participants and their families are unable to prepare fiscally.
“I don’t think they did a good job of explaining the financial aspect of it,” Marrinan said. “It is a lot more than you would expect.”
UR does provide some financial support for those who apply, said Kerry Fankhauser, the associate dean of Westhampton College.
“The purpose of the financial supplement is to have something that allows people to enjoy the event who cannot otherwise afford to, so that they can take part in the celebration with their class,” Fankhauser said.
Trumble understands that the school provides financial aid for the tickets but found that the tickets were only a small part of the experience.
“A hotel room at the Jefferson and getting champagne and ordering dinner and having a really nice dress and getting your hair and makeup done are a part of the ‘Ring Dance experience’ and without some of that I felt a little bit removed from it,” she said.
Fankhauser works with other members of UR administration to assess applicants’ financial status. Only about 75-80% of applicants receive the support they request. The aid can cover transportation or clothing, but it will not pay for class rings or hotel rooms because of the high expense of those items.
Marrinan considers the tradition important.
“Since no other school has something like Ring Dance, that's what makes it so unique,” she said. “Without it, we’d lose a big part of our school tradition. However, I know there are a lot of issues about it being so financially exclusive.”
Contact contributor Claire Paulhac at email@example.com.
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