Watch out Cambridge: Princeton wants your balls

24Oct07

May balls, that is. A recent article from the Daily Princetonian reveals that Princeton’s Forbes College is planning a Great Gatsby-themed formal party. The name of the game is extravagance, with the college spending $20,000 on the event. Does this sound familiar? It should, the idea came from a Cambridge alumni:

The idea for a large-scale Forbes event arose out of Forbes College Master Christian Wildberg’s experiences as an undergraduate at Cambridge, where he attended elaborate end-of-year formal parties known as May Balls.

Unfortunately, Princeton: You may be one of the richest and prestigious universities in the world. You may have colleges with masters who studied at Cambridge. And you may even throw a big extravagant ball (perhaps in June, but referencing a previous month). But there are some things that you just can’t mimic from the other side of the pond. One glaring example:Forbes College’s party will be non-alcoholic. The annual Trinity May Ball, on the other hand, features hundreds of freely-flowing champagne bottles and a tent with a complimentary bar for the hard stuff. (Lots of non-alcoholic drinks too, but strangely no drinking water.)

I don’t mean to rain on Princeton’s parade, but while $20,000 is a lot of money… it’s just not in the same ballpark — no, it’s not even playing the same game — as the elaborate operations back in Cambridge. If you’re looking for decadence on Gastby-esque levels, then Princeton’s just on the wrong continent.

To be fair, I don’t think the university culture in the US is amenable to hosting a proper May Ball, even if economics weren’t an issue. At the risk of generalization, most US students don’t see their universities as `ancient pillars of academia,’ instead they think of it as a step of independence towards `the real world.’ In this respect, an event on the scale of a lavish Cambridge May Ball just doen’t mesh with graduating and getting a job in the city… or worse, graduating and living a research stipend as a graduate student.

(I don’t think anyone from Princeton reads this blog… but in case they do, I don’t mean to pick on Princeton at all. In fact, if any university in the US had a chance at emulating a May Ball, it’d probably be you guys.)



7 Responses to “Watch out Cambridge: Princeton wants your balls”

  1. 1 Leah Horner

    FYI UC San Diego tried to organise a Ball based on Cambridge Balls last year but it got wrapped up because not enough tickets were sold in advance …

  2. 2 Steffen

    Hehe, he said “balls”. Hehe, hehe, hehe…

  3. Branagh’s version of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” can be of some inspiration/motivation here.

  4. 4 Linda Gruendken

    hang on, The great Gatsby was written by an American, and speaks of American society – surely this must mean that they know something about “Gatsby-esque decadence”..

  5. Ah — but the Cambridge Varsity once called the Trinity May ball “the USA of May Balls,” so I think they’re reaching for the same ideal.🙂

    (The quote is a bit dated, at least by 10 years, if I recall.)

  6. 6 robert

    Sad to say Flip, “the USA of May Balls” might well mean irredeemably de trop, or afflicted by insane violence. Student Journalists usually aspire to work on the Grauniad. My motto, however, is and has always been – Party On Dude!! Mark you – the Beavis and Butthead soundalike steffan does have a point – it’s only UK Nationals who can do the nob joke and get away with it.

  7. Granted, comparing something to the US 10 years ago is very different to comparing it to the US today. (The extreme example: the image of Michael Jackson 10 years ago versus his image today.)



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