I realised this morning, that I have posted next to nothing about the ANU postgrad association this year. I am still pretty heavily involved, although I find myself keeping it at arm's length at certain times, while at other times I seem to immerse myself in it. This seems to suit me best. While I have played around with various roles within the association, my main involvement is still with the social team.
One thing I have let myself get quite involved in of late, is our latest event, happening tonight
The postgrad ball.
This has been a bit of a pet project of mine since I first got involved with PARSA's social team, having seen how successful such an event can be at Melbourne Uni (which attracted over a thousand students, though admittedly from Monash as well).
Last year at ANU, PARSA attempted something like this, which I rated as a moderate success. Based on this, I pushed hard at the start of this year to give it another go - and so we are - tonight!
In all respects, we are in a better position to run this event than last year. We have a better venue, more hands on deck (including some very enthusiastic people), and have done a better job of advertising it, with posters plastered across campus. We have lined up a fantastic funk/Jazz band, a DJ, and put on a three course meal - all for $25 a ticket.
Oh, and of course, like all self-respecting balls, we have a theme:
"Bling" - ie. Gold medallions, chains, big arse knuckle rings - a brilliant idea (not mine) I thought.
So everything, as far as I am concerned, is in place - well, all except one thing:
As of this morning, we have sold 75 tickets. This may go up today, but it is a tad disappointing I must say, given the 4000 plus postgrads at this university. Perhaps even more disappointing though, is the underlying negativity and animosity some people seem to hold about the event. I don't really mind if only 75 people rock up. What really amazes me is how some people who choose not to come, feel a need to dismiss the notion of a ball completely. The most common reasons I have heard for not coming are: "the theme is stupid", and "balls aren't my thing". Of course, other reasons also exist such as "too expensive", and "I have nothing to wear".
Lets take a look at these:
"The theme is stupid" - if that isn't the lamest excuse for not going to a ball then I don't know what is. For starters, "bling" only requires some sort of gold necklace or medallion. It's hardly the same as dressing up as a banana in pajamas, or a 70's porn star (done and done!). I cannot think of a single ball or party I have been invited to where my reason for not attending was the theme.
"Too expensive" - I have to be careful with this one, as I do understand for some it might be a bit pricey. I should say, I haven't heard too many people say this. Given most balls I have ever been to cost $50, I think we are putting on a very reasonably priced event (although PARSA's precedent for setting events at or below $15 a head is a difficult mould to break, but a necessary one if you want to do something largish like a ball).
"balls aren't my thing" - again, no worries, each to their own of course. It is quite amazing though, how many postgrads at ANU hold this view - and how quickly this reason is pulled out, without even finding out what the event really entails. If the opinions I have received are indicative of the masses, then the ANU may in fact be the centre of the anti-ball universe. More likely it is perhaps a refuge for those who had a lot of bad undergrad ball experiences.
"I have nothing to wear" - either do I ? semi-formal dress does seem to be a bit of a sticking point for many, which I guess I can understand. In many respects, this is supposed to give the night an air of classiness, which we in the committee thought would attract many postgrads. Apparently not, which is interesting.
Like I said, I respect people's choices, even if I can't completely understand them myself. It does inevitably, however, put a very wet blanket on the enthusiasm and willingness of those people who, like me, wanted to put on something big, just for postgrads (other than BBQs and trivia nights). What is frustrating about this is that those of us in the organising committee will feel a need to ask ourselves what we did wrong. Thankfully, after helping organise this and many other postgrad events over the last 18 months, and having pondered this question at great length, I think I finally have the answer -
Quite frankly, having seen more than enough postgrad events with low attendance here at ANU, I have come to the conclusion that ANU postgrads just aren't particularly interested. End of story. The people most interested seem to be those who just arrive. Over time, for whatever reason, postgrads appear to be less interested in it. Perhaps its the PhD blues, or a less pressing need to meet new people. Personally, I see a ball as the perfect chance to get a group of existing friends together for a big night out, and a chance to break the routine. Thankfully, I managed to get a few friends together to do just this, and I plan on having a biggy :)
As for next year, and what we do, I don't know. I guess its back to free lunch time BBQs, which sadly (IMHO), attract more students than any other event we organise. I probably won't be in the country to do much myself next year, which is probably a good thing given the slight hint of bitterness you might have picked up in this post :)
I do hope tonight is a great night - I expect it will be. It's just a shame that so few ANU postgrads will be there to see it.
Bling it on!