This February, Miami University will host the Charter Day Ball, an event that brings the community together every three years to celebrate Miami University’s birthday.
Miami University was chartered in February of 1809, and the Charter Day Ball has been held every three years since 1976 to celebrate the anniversary. The Ball is the largest student-run event Miami hosts. This year a team of roughly 60 students is involved in the planning.
The team of student planners is broken up into specific committees, such as the Marketing Committee and the Logistics Committee, but they all work closely together.
“As the marketing co-chair, I can’t do anything without interacting with at least one of the other committees,” said Emily McAlister. “We run everything by the other committees and work with each other on a lot of things.”
This year the teams of students who are planning the Ball involves an Inclusion Committee designed to make sure every person in the Miami community feels welcome at the event.
This year is the first that the team will have the inclusion committee, a team of seven students from all different backgrounds who are devoted to making sure every person in the Miami community feels they are wanted and welcome at the Charter Day Ball.
“A lot of times people might not feel included at Miami, which is a shame because I love this place so much,” said Elizabeth Kilbride, co-chair of the inclusion committee. “Inclusion is making sure that everyone feels welcome.”
The idea for an Inclusion Committee came from the current advisor, Lisa Combs, a graduate student at Miami. After looking through past photos of previous Balls, Combs and other members of the planning committees noticed that the people overwhelmingly represented only white and upper class students.
“I don’t know what it’s like to see an ad and not see myself in it because as a white, heterosexual female, it doesn’t really happen to me,” said McAlister. “Inclusion wants to make sure no one ever feels that way.”
The co-chair of the Inclusion committee, Darsh Parthasarathy, decided to become involved in the committee because she is an international student who wasn’t familiar with the idea of a prom-like event.
“I’m an international student so when I first heard about the ball I was confused because I didn’t have prom,” said Parthasarathy. “I thought it was cool because I had only seen prom on television.”
According to Parthasarathy, she was encouraged not only to attend the ball but to apply for the executive committee by J.S. Bragg, the Assistant Director of Student Affairs.
“I felt very included when I first became involved with the planning of the ball, and I want to make sure everyone else feels that way too,” said Parthasarathy.
The Inclusion Committee will host a formal-wear drive on February 5-6 in the Armstrong Pavilion and will have dresses and suits available for low prices. In this way, the group hopes students who are less financially well off feel able to attend the event. More information on the formal-wear drive will be available closer to the date of the Charter Day Ball.
The group has also worked closely with the Marketing Committee in order to ensure that the flyers and advertisements promoting the Charter Day Ball represent a diverse array of groups. There are several different advertisements on display currently, some depicting heterosexual couples dancing, while others feature homosexual couples.
“We work with the marketing committee to ensure the advertisements work,” said Kilbride. “We don’t want to shove it in everyone’s face, but we want to ensure that everyone feels welcome and that they are representative of a lot of different people.”
The Inclusion Committee has also worked with diversity groups such as Spectrum and the Office of Diversity Affairs in order to make effective and inclusive advertisements. They have partnered with the “It’s On Us” campaign so people know that it will be a safe environment to socialize with people.
“We don’t want people to think it’s like a bar kind of scene,” said Kilbride. “We want people to know that our values align with the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign and there will be security to ensure everyone’s safety at the event.”
Inclusion has ensured that diverse styles of clothing are featured in their promotional videos, as well as translating flyers into Mandarin — the second most common language spoken on Miami’s campus.
The venue will be accessible for people in wheelchairs, and will have a sensory room with less lights and sound for people who may have sensory issues.
Additionally, the online LookBook they produced made sure not to say “Ladies and Gents” as labels for their clothing, but rather “Suits and Dresses,” so if a female wants to wear a suit or a male wants to wear a dress, they feel comfortable with that choice. The LookBook can be found through the Charter Day Ball Twitter account, @CharterDay_Ball.
The group has also reached out to Miami’s branch campuses in Middletown and Hamilton to let the students there know they are welcome to the event.
Inclusion, as well as the other committees planning the event, wants everyone to know that the Miami community doesn’t just include students and teachers, but the Oxford community as well.
“Miami wouldn’t be what it is without the people of Oxford,” said McAlister. “We want them to know that they are also welcome to attend the event.”
The upcoming Charter Day Ball will be held in Millett Hall on February 17, 2018. Tickets cost $40 for students and $50 for members of the community, faculty and staff. Tickets can be purchased at the box office located in the Campus Avenue building, as well as the online box office.