Alex Byers: Unity Ball misses its mark

I hadn’t planned on attending the Student Association’s Unity Ball Saturday. Peer pressure got to me though, and at the behest of a fraternity brother, I got a ticket and went to check it out.

And you know what? I had a good time.

There were plenty in attendance, the music was solid and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Ready to deem Unity Ball a success a successful event? I’m not.

Unity Ball was designed to celebrate diversity, school spirit and 150 years of Greek-letter life – but in reality, the event went one for three. Fraternities and sororities were certainly well represented Saturday, but when it came to building school spirit and bringing together students from separate corners of campus, it didn’t stand much of a chance.

There was hardly any unifying going on at the Capital Hilton on Saturday. There might have been some uniting going on within the Greek community – Greeks accounted for the vast majority of ticket sales – but there was little community-building for the GW student body as a whole.

Not much happened to promote unity all night – unless you count the union of guys and girls on the dance floor. The only unity-related happenings were a presentation from Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, speeches from the presidents of other multicultural organizations and a performance from three members of the Organization of Latino American Students. Ironically, these made it more obvious that the Unity Ball wasn’t getting its job done.

Tapscott and the other speakers had to pause nearly 10 times to plead for the crowd’s attention. For the most part, they weren’t too successful. The heart of the matter is that most of those in attendance were not giving the presenters their full attention because they were not there to hear about unity or diversity. They were there to party.

Expensive galas do not build campus unity, especially when a large majority of the attendees all come from the same corner of the University. Instead, it comes from more profound events – something to rally around, like a nationally ranked basketball team. And while I don’t mean to imply the organizers expected GW to walk as one overnight, it didn’t seem like Saturday night’s event even got the ball rolling.

This criticism is not a knock on Greek-letter life, of which I am a proud member. It’s not a criticism of the multicultural community at GW. And it’s not a condemnation of the Student Association – President Vishal Aswani’s call for a stronger campus community is a noble one.

Instead, this should serve as a reminder that building community is a lengthy and multifaceted process. It doesn’t happen at an event where Greeks greatly outnumber non-Greeks. It comes from a desire in all students to wear their school colors proudly – something that’s been hard to come by in recent years.

Did I have a good time at Unity Ball? Absolutely. Was the GW community any stronger Sunday morning? Do I feel more connected to those GW students that I don’t have a lot in common with? Not so much.

The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s assistant sports editor and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

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