On Wednesday, the full lineup of Columbia Senior Week—events for seniors of all four schools that take place after finals—was announced. The purpose of Senior Week—which this year includes a sunset cruise, a barbecue, and a masquerade ball, among other events—is to bring graduating students from all four undergraduate schools together in celebration of their time at Columbia and upcoming graduation.
With over 2,500 students graduating from Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies, and Barnard College combined, “bringing everyone together” should mean holding events that are accessible—both in terms of capacity and price—to as many seniors as possible. Yet, none of the events currently on the Senior Week schedule have enough space to accommodate a significant portion of the class of 2014. Of the formal events planned, the largest is a masquerade ball to be held at the Marriott Marquis, with 1,100 tickets available. However, seniors are allowed to bring dates, so the actual number of seniors in attendance will likely be a few hundred smaller. The other two formal events—a sunset cruise and an event at the Columbia Club—will allow 600 and 100 seniors to attend, respectively.
These are the most anticipated events of Senior Week, so it's disappointing that none of them will be held at a venue large enough to accommodate a significant portion of the senior classes. But there are venues available to Columbia that can hold thousands of students—or, at a minimum, more than half of the students of each graduating class.
Every year, incoming students of all four schools are invited to events as part of the New Student Orientation Program. In the past, these have included events at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Intrepid, places that could easily accommodate the majority of the senior class.
This year, Columbia added online ticketing for Senior Week and expects the tickets to go very quickly. There is clearly an expectation by those who planned Senior Week that tickets will be in demand. Why, then, would they not attempt to make room for more students?
What's more, even if these events did have more tickets available, the ticket prices are prohibitive for many students. Tickets to the largest event—the masquerade ball—are between $90 and $100, which is a significant price by itself, but even more of a potential hardship when added to a pile of graduation-related expenses. Items such as caps and gowns, as well as travel and lodging arrangements for families, represent large expenses on their own.
In years to come, the Senior Week Committee should make a concerted effort to increase accessibility to these celebratory events, both in terms of size and price. Having more students at events will usually result in a lower per-person cost, so there should be at least one event each year that can be accessible to the majority of graduating seniors. These are the events that cap off a four-year journey through Columbia. The sentimentality of graduation and moving away from friends should be an experience shared by all graduating seniors, not just those who can afford it or who clicked “Register” the quickest.
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