Expensive Durham events exclude too many students

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“Style, prestige and indulgence – the most exclusive event in Durham is back.” Durham University Polo Club’s description of its ‘St Moritz’ Winter Ball is the epitome of the Durham stereotype – elitism and snobbery. And with what is likely to be an eye-wateringly high price tag, it appears that this exclusivity will play out to be yet another Durham University class-based affair.

Unfortunately, the University Polo Club is no exception. Although the £108 non-member ticket price for its most recent summer ball was more expensive than most, each term is filled with events from various societies deemed essential aspects of the ‘Durham experience’. One need not look too far to find someone gushing over Caledonian Society – a society hardly worth joining unless planning to attend its extravagant social events. Yet with the Michaelmas Black Tie Ball costing at least £72, it seems a society hardly worth joining unless one is willing to spend copious amounts of money.

It is entirely unfair to have such highly anticipated social experiences limited to a select few

This expense is compounded by biannual college balls, events which for livers in feel almost compulsory. The devastation felt on missing out when it feels as though your entire social circle is attending could be enough to make you believe that they would be made accessible for all – surely colleges would not allow students to miss out for financial reasons. However, to no surprise these too carry hefty price tags, roughly in the range of £50 to £80. To some, this cost is nothing. A small price to pay for an unrivalled social experience. But to those living on a student loan, after accommodation fees this price can be almost twice their weekly budget. For the working-class Durham student, they can’t help but feel that this University’s social scene was not designed for them.

I can of course understand the allure of these events – and by no means blame those who attend them – but it is entirely unfair to have such highly anticipated social experiences limited to a select few. Although some of these balls raise funds for charity through setting such high ticket prices, it is no excuse for excluding a large proportion of the student population. Surely an equally successful model can be arranged by cutting prices and increasing capacity. And if this means sacrificing some of the glitz and glamour associated with these events then so be it.

However, regardless of how inaccessible these events may be, students will still argue that it is their choice if they wish to pay for these experiences – but the simple fact of the matter is that indulgence and exclusivity have no place in a learning environment. To take students, many of whom never having worked, and to give them exclusive access to an event based on whether they have the means to afford a ticket is to allow a student’s social experience to be determined almost entirely on their origins. If the University ever wishes to rid itself of its elitist reputation, it must take action to make these events more accessible for all.

Surely an equally successful model can be arranged by cutting prices and increasing capacity

It is not asking much for the Student Union to place a price cap on ticketed social events and if a certain event cannot be achieved on this budget, then it should be subsidised by the SU as seen fit. In leaving the power to societies, the SU is allowing a form of class-based segregation to occur. Only those who can afford to pay the hefty price tag will attend expensive balls and build social circles there. Whereas those who cannot, will attend cheaper social events. Whilst both may be equally enjoyable, people from different backgrounds are driven apart and everyday classism continues within the University.

It appears that in their description the organisers of the Polo Club ball failed to understand what attracts people to these events. Balls are not popular because of exclusivity and expensive venues – grandeur is already woven into the daily lives of Durham students. College Balls do not sell out in a matter of seconds because students crave indulgence. Social events are about the company kept. If hefty price tags limit this company to a wealthy few, then the University is failing to comprehend and thus achieve inclusivity. The same old narrative of classism continues, and until the University takes action to alter this, Durham will maintain its stigma as being one of the UK’s most elitist academic institutions.

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One thought on “Expensive Durham events exclude too many students

  • “It appears that in their description the organisers of the Polo Club ball failed to understand what attracts people to these events. Balls are not popular because of exclusivity and expensive venues – grandeur is already woven into the daily lives of Durham students. College Balls do not sell out in a matter of seconds because students crave indulgence. Social events are about the company kept.”

    “… the company kept.”

    Precisely. In many of these cases, the people who want to attend those events were always the ones I tried very hard (mostly successfully) to steer clear of as an undergrad, if only to avoid the possibility of my blood pressure rising to a level where I might have spontaneously exploded, leaving a bloodied, visceral mess all over the tablecloth.

    They served as useful “twat klaxons”, frankly.

    Reply

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