Another Year, Another Winter Ball: Stepping Up Safety

As students returned to campus for the spring semester, many looked forward to the much-anticipated Winter Ball, an annual event sponsored by the Residential Life and Campus Activities Office. Last Friday, students could release their anticipation. Decked in formal attire, an abnormality to the traditional Colorado College wardrobe, students lined up in the Worner Campus Center to bus to The Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

As in years past, the event was highly attended. Zita Toth, paraprofessional in the Office of Campus Activities, spoke directly about the high volume of students at the event. “We estimate that approximately 1,500 students attended the event through the course of the evening,” Toth said. “This total is similar to attendance in years past.”

Yet, with such a high influx of students comes a high-risk. Although the night is a staple to the CC social calendar, it is still a school-sponsored outing. As such, the RLCA, in partnership with a variety of school-sponsored organizations, hosted a week of preventative programing—a new addition to the traditional event line-up. “This year, we partnered with the Wellness Resource Center and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator to bring students ‘Winter Ball Safety Week,’ a series of programs leading up to Winter Ball that aimed to inform students about safe practices to have an enjoyable evening,” Toth said.

Chris Walters, Health Educator in CC’s Wellness Resource Center, spoke to the reason behind this new addition: “To prevent harm that’s generally associated with the event,” Walters said. “In past years, multiple students have been transported because of alcohol consumption. We also wanted to make sure people understood personal boundaries and consent. These are things we teach all the time, but we really wanted to focus it right before the Ball because it’s a high-incident night.”

Safety Week focused on the topics of alcohol use and sexual consent. Events included Sexual Health Jeopardy, Pour Me a Drink, Build a Consent Castle, BAC Jack, and BADASS Tabling. “We were interested in getting students to think about setting their intentions for Winter Ball, instead of just going and seeing what happened—certainly just trying to get folks to think about what their goals were, thinking about themselves,” Heather Horton, Director of the Wellness Resource Center, said. This intentionality was felt through every event in the series.

A particularly thoughtful event was Sexual Health Jeopardy, where students from various disciplines and social backgrounds discussed their experience with sexual health and safety in the context of an interactive game. “Topics ranged from understanding Title IX, to sexual physiology, to consent,” Horton said. “We were just trying to engage students in some conversations with these kinds of things and seeing how they might relate to their experience at Winter Ball.”

A punch card was distributed to students as a way of increasing attendance to Safety Week. If a student attended three of the five of the events, they were entered into a gift card drawing. “We did get a lot of people coming by—a lot of the same faces which was cool,” Walters said. Horton also spoke highly of the engagement to the series. “We had a lot of students participate in the Sexual Health Jeopardy,” Horton said. “Certainly from the standpoint of engaging people, it was successful. That being said, it’s hard to know if they, the students, put that into their planning for a night like Winter Ball.”

Safety Week is a welcome addition for many students, as well. “Not to be cynical, but I think it’s one of the few CC events where CC encourages us to have a good time and drink,” junior Cait McHale explained on her experience with Winter Ball. “It’s almost like CC is providing a platform for us to get messed up. I definitely think that’s one of the bigger draws of the events.” With this in mind, both Horton and Walters hope to see similar programing, and vicarious engagement, at next year’s Ball.

With the increased emphasis on student safety and well-being, Winter Ball was another success for the CC student body. “I loved the throwbacks … definitely the best part,” first-year Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes said.

Although students are often divided when it comes to musical sets, DJ Phyllis was a welcome addition. “We always strive to improve programming based on student input,” Toth explained. “After reviewing student responses to a survey sent out during the fall semester, the Office of RLCA decided to incorporate a student DJ.”

As another year of Winter Ball comes and goes, these new additions to the event will certainly be considered for next year’s cycle of students. The WRC plans on hosting similar preventative programing in conjunction with spring school-sponsored events. Stay updated with the Wellness Resource Center website page for news of these events.

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