Cheers to the Seniors

 

By Ruth Jacobs
 

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Costumed seniors cavort in the annual Champagne on the Steps celebration of the last day of classes in May.
Photo by Rob Kievit '09

Like last year, rain poured onto costumed celebrating seniors as they cheered, hugged, and drank some bubbly on the last day of classes. Unlike last year, no one left in a police cruiser.

For months, members of the senior class worked with the administration to devise a plan for Champagne on the Steps that would not resemble the debauchery that led to arrests and injuries in 2006. On May 11, the seniors proved that they could preserve the tradition. But the fate of the event wasn't always certain.

Early in the spring semester, rumors began circulating that the administration had canceled what has become known as "steps." More than 500 students and young alumni joined a Facebook group called "Save Champagne on the Steps," and some alumni threatened to withhold annual fund support.

Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Terhune and Director of Student Activities Kelly Wharton assured students the event had never been canceled and outlined requirements for an improved event. If the seniors could to develop a plan that was inclusive, safe, legal, and responsible, the College would help with logistics. "It's consistent with what we've been trying to say to students all year, about taking responsibility," said Terhune, who began working at Colby just before the 2006-07 academic year.

About 40 students worked together to create the proposal. "You get a significant chunk of the class engaging in the conversation and [you find] that the majority of the class doesn't like what's gone on," said Terhune. The new plan: Students would be required to sign a statement declaring their respect for the tradition and their commitment to safety, among other things. In turn, they'd be issued a bracelet for admission into a fenced-off area, where they would each be allowed three cans"yes, cans"of sparkling wine. (In previous years broken glass became a safety hazard. The cans of Sofia Mini, named for Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, came from his vineyard.)

Students were given a second chance, but they would not get a third. "They know that if we have anything close to what happened last year then it's done," Terhune said prior to the event. But for now, the tradition that began in the early 1990s with small group toast will live on, at least for another year.