Notes on President’s Ball: Annual event needs more forethought, new venue

Author’s note:

In a May 3 email to the student body, the Pause Co-Coordinators and Student Government Executive Team addressed the decision to end the President’s Ball early and announced the choice to not host a Pause Dance for Spring Fest. In the email, they cite disrespect from students through “physical and verbal harassment.” I in no way condone this behavior from students and I acknowledge the Pause staff — along with collaborating organizations — efforts to create a safe atmosphere.  I wrote this piece intending to critique the planning behind President’s Ball — not the actions or decisions made by the Pause staff and event planners during the event.


Last year’s annual President’s Ball — affectionately called Pres Ball — was hosted under the stars in the Quad. This year on April 23, the event returned indoors. This shift resulted in an underwhelming, disorganized, and flat out disappointing Pres Ball experience.

Early in the evening, my friends and I effortlessly made it past security. Ticketers marked an ‘x’ on our hands to show our validation, and we entered the Pause Mane Stage without issue. After watching our friend’s a cappella performance, we left to explore the rest of the activities in Buntrock.

In the course of this exploration we came across the Buntrock Ballrooms, which was filled with refreshments including punch, water, and cupcakes. This was nice, although there were not enough tables to hold everyone coming to get refreshments. After leaving the Ballrooms, my friends and I stood in line for about half an hour to take photos in one of two photobooths. 

By the time we took our photos, we had been at the event for about two hours, and the dance had started up in the Pause. Grudgingly, we made our way to the back of the line which had reached the top of the stairs on Buntrock’s second floor.

“Well, at least it’s not as long as the line for sophomore prom,” I remember thinking. But as it turns out, while the length was shorter, the wait was certainly not.

My friends and I found ourselves waiting an hour until we reached the front of the line. When we got closer to the Pause entrance, we realized people from behind our group had begun to skip past us to get ahead in the line. Once in the Pause, an employee told us that the line had taken forever because the Mane Stage kept reaching capacity, so they had to stop the line to accommodate restrictions.

When we reached the security table, we were able to skip about ten people since we had already been marked with an “x” earlier in the night. This brought up the question: why weren’t there two lines? One for people who had been marked, and another for people who still needed to be swiped in? But, alas! We were stuck six people away from getting in, at a standstill because the Pause had reached capacity. We had waited there for about five to ten minutes when the Pause Security yelled out that the dance had been canceled due to lack of masking.

My friends and I groaned — we knew this was going to happen. The two Pause Dances that had happened earlier this year had also been cut short due to lack of masking. The cancellation is so frustrating for everyone involved — event planners, Pause Staff, DJs, and attendees. Clearly the current mask policy for these dances is not working.

At President’s Ball the only time students were required to wear masks was in the Pause. Everywhere else in Buntrock that hosted Pres Ball activities was mask-optional. The COVID alert level does not require masking on campus, we don’t have to wear our masks in the crowded lines of Stav, or in the classes where we can’t control who we sit next to, and at most campus events. Many have had COVID this semester and believe they are immune. Students are so used to not wearing masks everywhere else on campus that requiring it at Pause Dances has caused an issue. 

If concerned about the spread of COVID, why not host the President’s Ball in a larger space? Why not outside again, or in Skoglund? This would have accommodated more students and/or perhaps have allowed there to be more room — making the event mask-optional.

I loved that the President’s Ball was outside last year. Everyone dressed up and dancing under the stars felt magically wonderful. While that night was cut short due to lightning, it was one of my favorite dances I have ever been to. It even stormed during this year’s Pres Ball, and my favorite part of the night was running in a downpour to Buntrock in my nice dress with my best friends.

Outdoor dances are difficult to pull off at St. Olaf due to noise considerations for the Northfield community, but weather is the biggest issue. While it is risky, it is worth it. I can only hope that future President’s Balls are an improvement of this year’s.

masking. The cancellation is so frustrating for everyone involved — event planners, Pause Staff, DJs, and attendees. Clearly the current mask policy for these dances is not working.

Ainsley Francis is from Charlotte, N.C. 

Her major is English.


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