Evacuate the dance floor: GV cancels President’s Ball amid severe weather conditions

President Thomas Haas performs a blast from the past for the Laker crowd during the Presidents Ball on Friday Feb. 5, 2016.  GVL / Archive

President Thomas Haas performs a blast from the past for the Laker crowd during the President’s Ball on Friday Feb. 5, 2016.  GVL / Archive

Olivia Fellows

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the decision was made by Grand Valley State University’s Office of Student Life to cancel this year’s President’s Ball. The decision followed five consecutive snow days — a campus record. According to Associate Director of Student Life LeaAnn Tibbe, it was a difficult but necessary decision. 

“I hope students understand that this was a tough decision and everyone at Student Life is disappointed,” Tibbe said. “However, due to campus being closed and classes canceled, we were forced to cancel the President’s Ball for students’ safety. Our view of the cancellation was that it was better to be safe than sorry with such bad weather and roads.” 

The President’s Ball is the second most student attended event at GVSU outside of football games, and many students took to Twitter to express their disappointment in the canceling of the dance. With many expressing that they believed the dance still could have taken place despite the weather conditions and some students expressing frustration over purchasing appropriate clothing for the dance that they won’t get money back for. Others were desperate to know if the dance will be rescheduled, especially because this was to be GVSU President Thomas J. Haas’ final President’s Ball before his retirement.

“Extreme weather?” one student tweeted. “The weather on Friday was near the same as it was a couple weeks ago. Same temperature. People spent hundreds on this night and are now out that money.”

“I’m really bummed it was canceled because of weather, I think it was a possibility despite that,” another tweeted. “They should really just reschedule it — it’s T. Haas’ last year!”

DJ Mark Witz, who was set to DJ the event alongside DJ Cool Breeze, said he was both shocked to see President’s Ball cancelled and sad to not work it for his ninth year in a row. Despite that, he said that he understands the university’s decision, but is especially sympathetic toward those who planned an event that was never realized. 

To give students an opportunity to have some sort of dance, DJ Mark Witz said he will be hosting an event at The Atrium in Grand Rapids at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8. While he said it won’t be as large as President’s Ball, the duo of DJs will try and provide students with a night of music and dancing to make up for the cancellation. 

“I started looking at the social media posts online saying exactly what I thought they would,” DJ Mark Witz said. “It was heartbreaking and I had to help. Also, this was the first year I was going to share the stage with another cool DJ. We were undergrads together, but he now DJs primarily in the Detroit area. This was our chance to work a large GV event together. So we said ‘let’s still try to do something.’ That way, we still get to share a night and hopefully give a couple hundred students another event to look forward to.”

As for ticket sales, Tibbe stated that both dance and dinner tickets will be refunded electronically to students in the coming days. Prior to the dance, the Office of Student Life had sold 500 dinner tickets within the first week of them going on sale, and around sold 4,000 dance tickets. 

As a reaction to the cancellation, the Office of Student Life boxed up more than 500 hot meals from the planned dinner and handed them out free of charge to people in need around the Grand Rapids area. 

Members of GVSU’s student senate were involved in the dance’s planning along with Laker Traditions, which helps in putting on the big events including President’s Ball and Battle of the Valleys. Student Senate Executive Vice President Morgan Mattler explained that members within student senate and Laker Traditions were very disappointed in having to cancel the dance, as they had planned an amazing evening for students. 

“I hope people will remember the incredible servant leadership that was exemplified in both President Haas as well as Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin in making this event possible,” Mattler said. “This night in general was supposed to be about making memories with your fellow Laker community. I don’t believe it will be rescheduled, however I hope that a similar kind of event can still be put on at some point this school year.” 

Mattler also said that another major loss due to cancellation was the planned honoring of professor Star Swift with the S.A.F.E. (Student Award for Faculty Excellence) Award that was to take place at the dance. The award honors a faculty member who has consistently gone above and beyond to contribute to the wellness and success of GVSU and its students. Nominations were public until student senate chose the ultimate recipient. 

Swift was nominated by student senator Christina Dekoekkoek because of her dedication in the classroom and beyond. An associate professor of management in the Seidman College of Business, Swift is a pioneer of an open access curriculum, has created websites full of educational resources and pushes for increased accessibility on campus. 

Dekoekkoek said that Swift has acted as a “second mom” for many students and has worked hard to help make GVSU a better place. Due to the cancellation, Mattler said that there will most likely be some kind of event to recognize Swift and other award winners for their dedication to the university community and that more information will be provided when details have been decided. 

Nobody was more disappointed in the cancellation of the dance than Haas himself, who would have had his final President’s Ball. Haas explained that the President’s Ball is more than just a dance, but a chance to continue a wonderful tradition that started years ago in Allendale, and has grown significantly over time. 

“I always look forward each year to the dinner and dancing, as we are all one together celebrating our great university,” Haas said. “I believe we have strong relationships with students, faculty and alumni and that is who we are.”

Following cancellation, Haas wanted to share the reason why being GVSU’s president has been so meaningful to him, as well as some advice for current and future students. Haas said he hopes that students will focus on the positives that GVSU has instead of focusing on the unfortunate cancellation of the dance. 

“The best part of being president is interacting with our students and then seeing them when I travel as alumni,” Haas said. “I am so proud of all of our students who have chosen to be Lakers for a Lifetime. Enjoy all the opportunities at the university and continue to grow in leadership, in your relationships with faculty, mentors and coaches. We are trying our very best to create an environment where students can succeed.”