Sunday, February 02, 2003

Robbing Peter To Pay Dwight

Dwight Night, named for our beloved founder and all-around nutty missionary Dwight Lyman Moody, is a scholarship dinner dance, like the prom would be if it were held in the dining hall in the middle of winter and all proceeds went to support future and current students needing aid. A semi-formal event already on the books which this year coincided with the Chinese New Year in a school whose population is 20% Asian naturally led to an afternoon of hanging paper lanterns and student slavelabor paper cranes for Darcie (Project Coordinator for Student Programs), which in turn provided me with the exceptional and exciting opportunity to hide in a corner of the slowly transforming dining hall and entertain an increasingly tiredandcranky baby suffering her first real cold.

Home at 5 to iron clothes; we went back up the hill all dressed up at 7 to take advantage of free handrolled sushi, peelandeat shrimp, and "tuxedoed strawberries" (white chocolate dip under black chocolate tie, buttons, lapels and cumberbund) before the students started to arrive. Got suckered into manning the door for the first hour and turned only one tie-less kid away before we managed to slip into the night. Even now, out the window, I can hear the kids yelling on their way back to the dorms; like the prom, one of the especially special aspects of Dwight Night is that students attending are allowed to stay out an extra half hour past their usual deadline.

I have mixed feelings about Dwight Night. The idea of current students paying for current scholarships bothers me a little, even if it does theoretically "prime the pump" for alumni dollar requests after they've all graduated; some of these kids are on scholarship now, after all, and so they're ultimately paying money they can't really afford out of their own pockets for some portion of their own aid, which is just silly. The idea that some students can't afford the ten bucks makes me equally bothered; knowing that the relatively rich students -- and let me tell ya, at a prep school we do have some rich students -- are up the hill raising money for them smacks a bit of classism.

The displacement of 650 students who choose (or cannot afford) not to go to Dwight Night, or who try to get tickets only to find that they're already sold out, bothers me. Little effort is made to feed these kids, and I question whether this is fair to them. Sure, there is food offered on the other campus, in one dining hall, but how many kids are going to take a 15 minute bus ride both ways for a 20 minute dinner in a dining hall they never go to? Their parents already paid for food that night; I realize a refund is out of the question, but why aren't we making it easier for them to get it? Pizza for dorm-stuck kids would go a long way towards keeping the onus for this voluntary scholarship-raising event off the kids who aren't volunteering; heck, PB&J would be better than nothing.

The finances bother me more. 350 students at $10 a pop attend dinner and dance; another 50 or so join the party for dancing and drinks an hour later for $6. Theoretically, then, the event clears just under 4 grand for the Moody fund. In fact, however, looking above, we see that hundreds of students who have already paid for dinner that night through their tuition are being forced to sacrifice/donate their dinner dollars and don't get a single dumpling for their trouble -- the dining services staff and food that would otherwise feed those kids is instead "donated" to the event. But really, the food still cost money; it just doesn't get eaten by most who already paid for it. And the Dining Services Staff who run the event get paid, too, just like they would have if they were feeding the kids they are supposed to feed. Worse, four Student Programs faculty, including Darcie, spend their entire week working on this; I'd estimate that each makes about $800 for the week's work. Supplies aren't free, and neither are the flowers, the band, the DJ. It costs the school more, exponentially more, to raise this money than the money they make. Who's paying the scholarship when all is said and done?

On the other hand, I just love to see the kids all dressed up, uncomfortable with their own cleavage, comparing notes on accessories, teetering on their heels and tugging at their ties. Love making small talk with them, holding grenadine drinks, as if the clothes make the grownup. And the food is great. Love those tiny egg rolls.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:27 AM |

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