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Harvard Ball Proves We're Not Elitist

As a feast transitions from sour to sweet, so will this article. We are taught that first impressions count, and the lack of buses to the event certainly counted. This was apparently due to the large number of pre-parties and other grad schools attending. Since most pre-parties seemed to take place in SFP, and the “other school contingent” constituted only 10% of the people (apparently including a number of 18-year old freshmen gatecrashers), these excuses seemed as thin as the ball belles’ dresses fluttering in the cold night air.

On arriving at the Westin we paused to consider that this was apparently the final (worldly) resting place of some of the September 11 hijackers. Similarly the hectic scenes that met us on the third floor were more akin to that of a Middle Eastern bazaar than a stroll along Vienna’s Ballhausplatz. It was fun to emerge into the middle of a bustling throng, but it was not graceful. The well-stocked bars did their best to quench an unending thirst, but the ice/martini bar was a gimmick. It needed TOM 101, and a bout of LEAD for the attitude, and aptitude, problems of the staff. The ebullient pseudo-Austrian characters were cute, in a non-Euro, Disney kind of way. They offended both the eyes and ears with their garish robes and caterwauling.

Table-panic emerged, and tuxedos and tiaras started wrestling over seats. Reverse network effects kicked in, and remaining tables disappeared in a puff. In order to avoid the logistical complications, and expense, of serving a seated dinner to over 1000 guests, buffets were the order of the day. Evicting rival HBS students (the Ed. school never stood a chance) from prize tables and then queuing up for (delicious) food did little to convey a sepia-tinted aura to the event. Nor did the appearance of Chinese food in paper boxes. “It’s Spangler stir-fry!” went the cry.
Some complained that the student band, Corporate Whore was brash and overly long. Others, notably some EC Euro-women, were uncontrollable with excitement and had to be sedated. The identi-DJ played identi-music. We danced, but, alas, didn’t waltz.

While many ECs longed for the intimacy, the opulence and the panache of last year’s Harvard Ball, most recognized that even we have to change with the times. Money is tight (no sponsors this year), and numbers had to increase to cover the costs. Also, this inclusiveness fits well with the new espirit of relationships over ROI.

Tiberius Vadan (OI), co-chair of the event with Alex Adler (OF), considered the event a success. “I believe this year’s Harvard Ball was a great event. First, it brought together a great group of people…which in my opinion is the most important part of any social gathering. In addition to HBS, there was a larger than expected number of students from the Law School, Med School, School of Public Health, Ed School, KSG, and Dental School among others. Second, the ball lasted longer than any Ball I have seen at HBS-the DJ stopped at 1:30 am, and included three different musical acts. Third, the Ball had some memorable components like the “Viennese” Actors, ice sculptures, martini bars and champagne etc. Last, people really dressed up for the night. I felt people looked stunningly good that night. Altogether, I believe we were able to create some great memories.”

Tiberius and his team at the European Club deserve credit for managing a well-run, high-profile event, with more people and less money, and a notoriously demanding clientele.

November 12, 2001
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