For the past two years, GW’s Senior Prom has brought students and low-income elderly citizens together for a night of dinner and dancing on the house. But this year, attendees may have to go without the free meal.
Some Student Association senators said they are reluctant to foot a $6,000 bill imposed on the charity event by the Colonial Catering service. The Senior Prom has been catered by food donations from local D.C. eateries in the past, but the 10-year contract agreed between the University and Aramark last summer stipulates that the GW food service provider must cater most events in the Marvin Center.
Junior John Van Name (CCAS-U), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the event has nearly tripled in cost this year due to the requirement that it use Colonial Catering. The cost increase is coupled with the event not securing the same amount of outside support as it did in years past. In previous years, the event received approximately $2,000 from groups such as AT&T and Youth Service America.
With this year’s catering cost increase, Van Name said the University told coordinators to turn to the SA for extra money.
“The bottom line is, the answer can’t be, ‘Oh we’ll have the SA pay for it,'” Van Name said. “There’s a scarce amount of funding, and $6,000 is a sizable chunk for one event.”
Van Name complained about GW forcing groups to pay extra for Colonial Catering and added that the University should help pay some of the bill. The Senior Prom, which was never funded by the University, is being prominently featured in advertisements on buses and in newspapers as an example of GW reaching out to the community.
Johnnie Osborne, chief financial officer for Student and Academic Support Services, said he was familiar with the event but unaware of complaints regarding its cost.
Since the University mandated that Colonial Catering be the only option for Marvin Center events, several groups have voiced complaints about the food provider’s high prices. Members of the Jewish Student Association, GW Hillel and the Muslim Student Association complained in an October Hatchet article that Colonial Catering was charging exorbitant prices for kosher and halal food, which adheres to religious standards.
Prom organizers said that regardless of whether they receive any money, they would still hold the Senior Prom on April 17, which is National Youth Service Day.
“We’ll still have tables, chairs and music and provide as many services as we can,” said Emily Morrison, a Neighbors Project coordinator in the Office of Community Service.
Sophomore Elizabeth Schmelzel, a prom committee member, said many of the senior citizens who attend the dance often have to choose between paying for food or medicine and added that organizers are obliged to get money to use the Colonial Catering service to feed elderly attendees. She called the group “reliable” and added that they fully cater events with high quality food.
“We really want to honor this generation, and serving them food that’s not only good, but that there is enough of, is really important,” she said.
Schemlzel added that that getting food donations from local restaurants is often difficult and can be unreliable, with many venues not making dishes large enough to feed the banquet’s crowd.
Van Name said that while using Colonial Catering may seem like the “easy option,” student organizations cannot be expected to pay large sums of money to Aramark when there are cheaper options available.
“The issue is not that we don’t want to fund (the Senior Prom),” Van Name said. “We are hoping that the University will see this and say, ‘We want to contribute.'”
Schmelzel said prom organizers are still seeking grant money from local business and other student organizations and does not expect the University to fund the dance.