The College Announces, in A Perceived Eclipse of “Shared Governance”, the Cancellation of Fishbowl

“The uniqueness of the senior experience has been challenged.” This is a quote from an editorial published last spring by former Editor in Chief Jazmine Hughes, Managing Editor Ipek Bakir, Opinions Editor Ethan Harfenist and News Editor Dave Liakos. Many would say this senior experience was further challenged today with the announcement of the cancellation of Fishbowl.

The “Cactionary” from NESCAC blog In The ‘Cac defines Fishbowl as “Seniors only naked run during late spring semester. Enough drinking between 10pm and 2am to loosen inhibitions, strip and run from Cro to The Gong in south campus. Followed by a very awkward naked breakfast, unless you were wise enough to carry your clothes with you. Basically the greatest event at CC, second only to Floralia.”

The email announcement was sent from new Dean of the College Carolyn Denard Wednesday afternoon and read: “After a careful review of “Fishbowl”—including consultation with staff and student leaders, recommendations from staff in the Office of Student Life and a review of complaints and concerns from students and other College staff in previous years—senior administrators have made the decision to eliminate this event.

We invite the members of the Class of 2013 to work together to help plan a new spring tradition, one that more accurately reflects the values of the members of your class and the College. I have discussed this with senior class leaders, and they are very excited about the prospect of creating this new event with all of you. They are planning a meeting soon to get your input; look for an invitation shortly.”

Dean Denard is currently away and will answer questions when she returns.

SGA President Taylor Gould ’13 posted a message on Facebook after the announcement was sent. “As many of you now know the decision up has been made to cancel Fishbowl at the college. While I realize that this comes to a shock to many of you, this decision was made in consultation with the senior class council and myself. I encourage you not to rush to make judgments about the decision but rather to ask questions and become informed about all the factors that resulted in the decision. The 2013 Class Council and myself look forward to answering your questions and are excited about the creating a new tradition for our class and for senior classes in the future.” Gould later modified this statement: SGA was informed of the decision, not consulted.

Gould was not available for comment.

Senior class president Eli Kahan ’13 said, “The senior class executive board was informed of the administration’s decision to cancel Fishbowl and asked for ways to move forward. We were consulted on how best to proceed in order to keep tradition at Conn alive and provide a safe and exclusive event. We have the opportunity now to create a new and lasting tradition that will be talked about for years to come.”

Following the email announcement, social media outlets were abuzz with reactions. Alums and students alike protested a few major concerns. First and foremost was the elimination of school traditions (many cited the elimination of Tent Dance last year, as well as the laws against kegs established a few years ago). The second major concern was the level of student involvement on a campus with the mantra of “shared governance.”

Finally, some students have expressed that their willingness to donate to the college and Senior Giving in particular has diminished because of the cancellation of Fishbowl. However, it has been verified by Andrew Nathanson ’13 Senior Giving Committee Co-Chair that, “Senior Giving has no impact on student events like Fishbowl and the announcement of this change was not planned to intentionally follow the first Senior Giving reception.”

It is expected that students will show up for SGA’s open forum tomorrow night at 7:15 in Ernst to voice their opinions (both SAC and SGA have officially encouraged this), though it is unlikely that these students will be naked, as some have threatened.

Reactions:

The comments below were submitted by current students and alums who felt passionate enough to contribute to this story. At this time, their comments are being published in full so as not to compromise the integrity of their arguments.

Shared Governance.
Change is inevitable and important for the college as it grows. Changing or canceling this event is a not necessarily bad idea. What I find disconcerting with all of this is how changes are being made. Listening to the SGA meeting, and reading some of the articles and responses on The College Voice, it appears that the administration is starting to view student input on matters as an afterthought.
For matters of such importance, I feel strongly that students should be involved earlier in the process which is how it was handled while I was at Conn. Yes, it’s true that the administration can have the final say matters, but not including students in the process for something like this is wrong.
It’s not what the administration can do; it’s what it ought to do.
Shared governance by definition means a sharing or responsibilities in governance. What happened here was governance that was not shared. Decisions were made and students, it seems, were told to deal with it within the parameters that the administration chose fit. The administration may have valid ideas of what the college culture should look like, but students do as well. Not soliciting their concerns is shortsighted and disrespectful. The students play a strong role in the culture and traditions of the school and as such should have some kind of voice in matters about how the culture is being shaped.
I strongly believe that with student input the tradition of fishbowl could exist, be different, and better if the students were involved in the process earlier. Reactions might have been negative, but a democratic process requires differing opinions.  Canceling the event without input and then asking for a new tradition shows little respect or thought for student concerns and the idea of shared governance.
Safety issues or other injustices in the world, irregardless of where or when they occur, are extremely important to address and to be passionate about, but using them as a straw man to distract from the issue and force changes is not ok. The change I’m talking about here is not canceling Fishbowl, but rather an attack on the tradition of shared governance at Connecticut College.
-Nick Sullivan ’08

“The current administration continues their infantilization of the student body by making decisions about social life at Conn without student consent. If students are trusted not to cheat on exams, why not trust them to make good decisions in and about social life?”

– Peter C. Banos ’14

“I think it’s important to identify that we are a class that has taken the brunt of more conservative changes to the campus.  Nakedness and the opportunity to be naked is not what the problem is, the problem is that this is one change in a list of many changes that are negatively effecting our school and my grade’s opinion of the school. I chose to go to a liberal arts school, not a Catholic university.  I fear that even with an open forum and voicing our opinion to the administration, nothing will be done.

I believe the class of 2013 is upset that after experiencing tuition hikes, the elimination of tent dances and kegs (creating an off-campus bar culture that is neither safe nor legal), and stricter rules for clubs and groups on campus (a faculty advisor?) we are experiencing yet another change. We are adults. We are trying to be proud camels. The administration treats us like naughty children.  The administration is disregarding the very honor code we are told to uphold.

– Hailey Fyfe ’13

“I am deeply frustrated by the lack of integrity of the administration in how they handled this situation. This school prides itself on shared governance and the integral involvement of students in making our community a good place for all. However, claims of having “consulted” student leadership about Fishbowl cancellation now seem to have been dictation of intent without the possibility of voicing opposition (and, furthermore, no female students were present at these consultations). I understand the types of issues that spurred considering canceling Fishbowl. But couldn’t we have had the opportunity to address these issues through the principles of shared governance, and take advantage of the many students on this campus who are working extremely hard to educate and raise awareness on issues such as sexual assault and consent? These are the types of groups on campus that are flaunted in advertising the school, and yet we don’t use their knowledge at a time where it could have been extremely beneficial. Why not, for example, have every senior go through Green Dot training or a sexual assault seminar in order to address some of the concerns surrounding Fishbowl? These may not be the most thought-through propositions, but I see disregarding the student government and student body’s investment in making these events safe to be disrespectful and non-aligned with the very values the administration is asking us to inject into some potential “new tradition”.

- Leah Feutz ’13

‪”Its too bad the college felt it necessary to end a college tradition that has been a staple of graduating classes for years. Fishbowl was an absolute blast for me, and an opportunity for seniors to let loose with fellow soon-to-be graduates. The college administration shouldn’t let a few people ruin it for the rest of the community, especially without letting the community voice their opinions on the matter first, as it appears that is what happened here.  The more they abolish supervised events like these, the more they will find students binge drinking behind locked doors and drunk driving off campus to bars.  Everyone at fishbowl is of age. Campus Safety is right there keeping an eye on people. It began happening with the common room keg parties, albeit that change was driven by state policy. If some people don’t like a bit of nudity among friends, don’t go.  It’s simple as that. If you don’t want to take your clothes off, then don’t.  Just don’t be mad when most other people do.   ‪Good bye kegs…goodbye tent dance…goodbye fishbowl…high school applicants should take it for granted that Floralia is next on the cutting block.  The counter intuitive logic of Conn’s administration is that what is out of sight, is out of mind.  Otherwise supervised events social events for of-age students like these wouldn’t be disappearing at such a rapid pace.”

– Peter Collins ’11

“There are two issues as I see it from across the Atlantic – one is the ideological reasoning for why Fishbowl ought to be discontinued, and the second is the way in which a decision is reached in this regard. I understand SGA members have been involved in talks with the administration, but my fear is that the true reasons for this decision will not be transparent. This will prevent an allegedly democratic community from engaging in a principled debate as to the worth of this ritual. Further, what would it mean if shared governance is retained as a relic if all the important decisions regarding student life are made in select “consultation” with a few SGA members who ultimately don’t really have a choice to influence the outcome? My answer is simply this – a relic.

Further, to revoke a privilege so seeped in tradition that extends beyond the immediate year is to dishonor the continuity and imbrication of generations of Camels, all of whom derive a sense of belonging through rituals such as these (and of course through other things as well), and look back at it as a unique experience of the 21st century – I mean can you imagine the bond forged between strangers of a class being footloose naked with each other? What will remain of Conn if these wonderful peculiarities are taken away? It might as well just be called “a College in Connecticut” with no distinct character, no ritual stating “we value freedom and we trust our students to have fun safely”. Perhaps we should ban Thursdays and Saturdays as days of the week as well.

– Mihir Sharma ’12

“Everyone in my grade considers it an outrage. Nothing quells the stress of finals and the pressing anxiety of real life quote like tearing all your clothing off, running across campus screaming and not remembering the shame of doing so the next day.”

– Isaac Woodruff ’11

“It was the nerves that got us all together. I saw some of the most confident people I knew shake at the thought of others seeing them exposed and some of the most timid ready to bare all for a chance to say ‘FUCK IT. I don’t care what you think.’ Taking away fishbowl is taking away that common hurdle everyone, for one night, has to tackle head on together.

No, I don’t remember who fondled who, or who went pantless instead of topless, or who did naked pushups on the stairs, or how many male nipple tassels I saw, or who was sober enough to realize they would remember things no one should remember. But I DO remember how much I loved my class that night.”

– Karam Sethi ’12

The graduating class, and graduating classes to come have just been robbed of an essential right of passage, and undoubtedly, one of the best nights of their lives. Senior year of college is a time awash with raw emotion, as the uncertainty of our future’s and the deep bonds of affection we share with our classmates mark a distinct period of transition for us all. Whether the administration wants to admit it or not, Fishbowl has become as deeply rooted at Connecticut College as commencement day itself. The night signifies an achievement for every single graduate, regardless of social clique, sports team, acapella group, major, or minor.  As the impending inevitability of graduation combines with the loss of inhibition, Fishbowl places us in the unique position strike up new bonds unexplored and celebrate old bonds reaffirmed. It’s an event that breaks the social boundaries we have created for ourselves over the past 4 years, pushing us to let down our guard and embrace all those who are now reaching the end of the same tattered road.

In many ways, Fishbowl is the defining community experience of Connecticut College.

It reigns in laughs, hugs, tears, wide eyed smiles, and rare moments of vibrance that come from knowing you in thick of moment that you have been waiting for; a moment that is well deserved.

It tears us from our zones of comfort and builds us back up with new confidence and poise, giving us an ever brief, but ever so important moment of blissful invincibility.

And It reminds us that through the sleepless nights in library, the stress of an honors thesis, the looming job hunt ahead, and the fear of the unknown we are about to face head on, we are still at the peak of the most enjoyable time in our lives.

But most importantly, Fishbowl reminds us that we have all reached this peak together.

Fishbowl is community.

Fishbowl is Connecticut College.

-Devin Cohen ’12, Former Arts & Entertainment Editor

 

This story is still developing. Any opinions or new information should be sent to Meredith at mboyle@conncoll.edu.

Emily Brouwer contributed reporting.

 

  

11 thoughts on “The College Announces, in A Perceived Eclipse of “Shared Governance”, the Cancellation of Fishbowl

  1. Matt M

    It’s especially worrying when the language used by the graduating class of 2012 when they were ambushed with Louis B Sussman shortly before finals and graduation, a commencement speaker who they felt did not relect their beliefs and values, is parroted back by that small group of administration officials who claim to represent the beliefs and values of the class of 2013. And that this announcement came only a week before finals and break.

    Finally, the school’s inability to have more complex and difficult conversations about possibly “problematic” events like Tent Dance or Fishbowl instead of cancelling them in the most shadow of processes is very concerning. There is a lack of trust and a polarizing of culture on campus between the administration and the “kids”.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: The College Announces, in A Perceived Eclipse of “Shared … | College Events

    • Stephen Dworkin '12

      Mihir Sharma points out why this announcement garnered such a spiteful reaction from me as an alumnus: Fishbowl tethered my class together, unified in our exposure to the midnight dew and the bellows of a dented gong, in a way that was not only unmatchable but also unexpected. I was thoroughly startled by the kinship Fishbowl fostered within our class, even and especially between strangers. This stuff really works wonders.

      I would also like to point out that, at least in anecdote, there was an effort not to discomfort those who chose not to participate; many members of my class were on the fence about whether to participate up until the event itself (when they wound up going anyway), and they were treated respectfully by those who had already decided.

      Reply
  3. Welbith Mota

    i recently met the new Dean of College and she seems like an intelligent and kind person. a bit old school perhaps, but at the time i found that quality to be sort of endearing.

    i guess not so much.

    i find frustrating that after only a short time at conn she feels confident enough in her ability to “analyze” (an event she has not even witness) and proceed to dictate to the student body – present, past and future – that Fishbowl does not “accurately [reflect] the values of the [college’s] members….”

    Fishbowl may not be a “clean” tradition – but one thing is clear: it is one that many of connecticut college’s students have no problem adopting as reflective of their values.

    what does seem likely is that Fishbowl is a tradition that does not jive with the deans own values, and hence why she has decided it must be wished away. it does not – or at least it ought not – work that way.

    not to be dramatic. but i truly hope that the student body and alumni of the college hold the administration accountable and that they do not give up on the demand that it reconsider and reverse what will is unquestionably a stupid decision.

    Reply
  4. Billy Martinsky '13

    On behalf of the student body, I feel insulted not only by the administration’s sudden decision to cancel fishbowl, but also by the manner in which they chose to do so. This school ofter likes to state how it encourage students to be open minded, try new things, and to have our say with regards to student life on campus. It was such advertisement that encouraged me to apply and enroll in Conn in the first place. However, over recent years, the administration has become increasingly more reactionary. Student events that a strong majority of us look forward to become canceled, our vote for a commencement speaker is disregarded in favor of one of Higdon’s Wall Street buddies, and every student-run organization now has to jump through hoops in order to schedule an event. Conn likes to claim that we as students have a say in what happens on campus, but in many cases, such as this concerning fishbowl, they make an announcement before any of us can voice our opinions and without any discussion with our stident body or SGA.

    I say we should hold the school to the image it tries to sell and take student action. The administration continually says that students are encouraged to voice their opinions, so let us protest and petition this decision. If we remain silent and this administrative crackdown continues, who knows what they will target next. Will it be Festivus? Will it be Floralia? Personally, I do not want to see these traditions that bring us together as a community of students canceled and replaced with “new traditions.” I think many of us would rather attend fishbowl that some undisclosed event that will likely turn into something along the lines of a casual wine and cheese dinner where the administration discusses how we should all be grateful for a newly proposed campus construction project. We are continually told that we are mature adults responsible for making our own decisions, yet actions like these are attempts to control us like children. We need to petition and make it clear that we as college students have the right to have a say in how we experience these crucial four years of our lives.

    Reply
  5. The Forced Apathetic Camel Due To Administration's Awfulness

    The comments above were made by Saint Mihir (Exodus 3:12) 2012 BC.

    Reply
  6. Leah Feutz

    Just to clarify my point- I think the school does a disservice to its students when it tries to whitewash and censor controversy. The challenges events like fishbowl present could be confronted head on, but instead the administration’s actions are, as I see it, a statement of mistrust in the ability of students to fix issues in their own community. Being seen as unable to rise to the challenge, especially as seniors, is pretty much the opposite message I want to be given after we have all invested insane amounts of money and time into this institution. Frankly, it’s pretty shitty to have things like SGA and Peer Education flaunted on tours and to trustees, then ignored at the times we need them most. At the end of the day, telling your students that they aren’t mature, caring, nor intelligent enough to better themselves and their community reflects on the school’s confidence, and not on the students themselves. Traditions like fishbowl are what make Conn unique; schools with character are character building, so why stifle any opportunity in which students can prove to be the adults you say you’re molding them to become?

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Will Floralia be affected by Fishbowl, Tent Dance cancellations? : The College Voice

  8. CC

    “But most importantly, Fishbowl reminds us that we have all reached this peak together.
    Fishbowl is community.
    Fishbowl is Connecticut College.”

    This is really beautiful –true over a decade ago and true now. I graduated from Conn 12 years ago. Fishbowl wasn’t about being naked in Castle Court or who put the donut where. It really was about being together after four really special years in a really special place. It’s tradition.

    This is YOUR school — fight for it.

    Reply

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