February 2, 2012

University Opens Late-Night Dance Club in Robert Purcell Community Center

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Promising DJs blasting beats and mocktails on the house, University administrators are hoping to draw freshmen to the Friday night opening of a $15,000 late-night, alcohol-free dance club inside a newly transformed Robert Purcell Community Center.

The idea for the dance club arose after programming staff and student leaders identified a need for more late-night activities on campus, Tim Marchell ’82, director of mental health initiatives at Gannett Health Services, said. Marchell said he hopes the dance club will mitigate dangerous drinking among freshmen.

“From a health promotion perspective, if we want to reduce alcohol-related problems, there needs to be even more things for students to do late at night that don’t involve alcohol. Students want to be together and have fun, and dancing is a great way to do that,” Marchell said.

On six Friday evenings this semester, the club — which will span the entire first floor of RPCC — will be open to students from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to Denice Cassaro, director for Community Center Programs.

“In collaboration with various student organizations, we would transform the space into a dance club exposing students to a variety of themes and potential dance styles,” Cassaro said. “Some features would include loud music, special lighting, dance floors, intriguing décor, fun mocktails and interesting beverages and snacks.”

Each Friday will feature a distinct theme. The opening event is called the “Blackout White” party.

Administrators hope that the new dance club will fill the void of late-night programming, with one survey from Gannett showing that only 49 percent of freshmen agree that there are enough alcohol-free activities at night.

Whether the dance club will be popular is still unclear, and some freshmen expressed skepticism about its appeal. Many students said they had not heard of it and others were unenthusiastic.

“I guess it seems like a thing we might go to, but our friends would probably rather have the [University’s] rules on drinking relaxed,” Christina Stull ’15 said. “It won’t necessarily stop the problem of binge drinking.”

Tia Smith ’15 agreed with Stull, saying turnout at the event would depend on its decor.

“What will really determine who goes is the atmosphere: the music played, how light or dark it is,” she said. “How truly transformed is [RPCC]?”

Stull and Smith added that they wouldn’t be surprised if people drank before going to the club.

“Some people don’t want fun — they just want to get drunk, and a club wouldn’t solve that,” Smith said.

Jacob Ross ’15 said that while he appreciates that the University is taking an initiative in planning late-night programs, he doubts the dance club will attract the heavy student dinkers administrators are concerned about.

“I think it’s good for them to experiment to see if they can draw a crowd, but I don’t think they’ll get it … They’ll draw the crowd of people who wouldn’t have been going out in the first place,” he said. “I know people who’ll probably try it out, but like a lot of dry events that Cornell offers, they probably won’t go back [because] they’re usually repetitive and awkward.”

Despite the skepticism of some, administrators maintained the importance of providing the space and resources for late-night programming.

“We can’t predict if this will lower high-risk drinking by a significant amount, but the more opportunities there are for students, the better,” Jennifer Davis, assistant dean of students in the Student Activities Office, said.

Echoing Davis, Marchell said that, with signs of a “core cultural problem” around drinking on campus, it was crucial the University act to protect students’ health.

“Drinking to get drunk too often results in harm to students and those around them. When drinking leads to blackouts, fights and hospital transports, it is a problem … Both university officials and student leaders agree on that,” Marchell said. “While it’s not clear that the problem is different than in past years, one thing that has changed is that there is more widespread agreement that we all need to do more to reduce the harm that high-risk drinking causes.”

Although the club is undergoing a trial run, if the dances prove to be popular, the University will start building a more “permanent structure” in RPCC, Davis said.

“I just hope that it will draw a large number of students so they can have fun, relax and don’t have the pressure of having to pay a cover charge, purchase food or refreshments,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for people to have a good time without having to go to a bar or worry about getting into a party with a fake ID.”

Original Author: Akane Otani

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