Fall Ball Bigger Than Ever

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Last Thursday, October 27, Fall Ball, the annual New York University School of Law student costume party, went off without a hitch, with more students attending than ever before. Held off-campus for the first time, over 1,300 law students and their guests made the trek to Terminal 5, a multi-level concert hall in Midtown Manhattan, filling two levels of the trendy venue to capacity, according to event organizer Marissa Prieto ‘18 of the Student Bar Association (SBA).

Sponsored by the SBA and the Office of Student Affairs, Fall Ball is generally the most widely-attended social gathering at NYU Law. Because of its popularity with students, planners were initially hesitant to move the event away from Law School facilities. However, with mounting concerns about liability and requested attendance outpacing available space, then-SBA Social Chairs, now SBA President and Vice President, Evan Shepherd ‘17 and Samantha Coxe ‘17 began exploring external options, eventually identifying Terminal 5 as a prospective location last spring.

Asked for his thoughts after the event, Shepherd said, “[Samantha and I] believe the event was a success! We first want to thank [SBA Social Chairs] Neesha and Marissa for all of their hard work planning and executing Fall Ball. There are kinks that will be ironed out, but that comes with hosting an event for the first time.”

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Following their election as social chairs in March, Neesha Chhina ‘18 and Marissa Prieto ’18 worked with Dean of Students Jason Belk and Assistant Director of Student Affairs Sarah Bowman to finalize the details, signing a contract with Terminal 5 earlier this fall. In an email to the Student Bar Association obtained by The Commentator, Belk praised the efforts of the SBA, calling Fall Ball “amazing” and saying how “incredibly proud” he was of the way the event was executed.

Said Belk, who attended Fall Ball along with Director of Student Affairs Israel Rodriguez, “From what I gathered, students enjoyed themselves and appreciated the enormous amount of time and thought [the SBA] put in to the event.”

To expand on this year’s success with students at the helm, the SBA has plans to create a social committee to work with the social chairs to improve upon the event and incorporate more student input.

“I think the venue was the biggest highlight for sure. The atmosphere was way more of a party than when it was in [Vanderbilt Hall]. I also think one of the highlights was the fact that people were able to bring more guests, and the event didn’t feel supervised by NYU administrators/staff. We’re also really proud of the fact that our event was safe and had no major mishaps. Thankfully everyone was able to have a good time and do so safely,” said Chhina.

 

Editor’s note: Naeem Crawford-Muhammad is the current Law School student senator and a member of the Student Bar Association.

Sakhi’s “Our Bodies, Our Stories”: A Night of Intersectional Feminist Performance

Written by Katrina Feldkamp, Co-Chair, South Asian Law Students Association

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, NYC-based organization Sakhi for South Asian Women hosted “Our Bodies, Our Stories,” a night of feminist poetry and performance bringing awareness to violence against women. Sakhi, Hindi for “woman friend,” united performers to illuminate both individual female experiences and the wider feminine narrative with a focus on the voices of women of color and women silenced by domestic violence. Outreach and Communications Advocate Senti Sojwal opened the night, stating that “domestic violence does not occur in a vacuum.” Accordingly, artists ranging from musician and activist Kiran Gandhi to spoken word artist Nicole Shante White explored the topics of race, violence, class, sexuality, and identity through poetry, comedy, music, and storytelling.

The night was hosted by Kiran Gandhi, best known for running the London Marathon while menstruating to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding menstruation. Standing before an intimate crowd of Sakhi supporters at The Bell House, she reflected that “[talking about] domestic violence in the South Asian community has been taboo since the dawn of time.” Ms. Gandhi believes that the South Asian community’s silence on issues of gendered violence is magnified when other cultures embrace the cultural-relativist idea that “we can’t tell people what to do.” She thinks that a better approach to the issue is “how do we respect another culture while still making sure that members of that culture are safe?”

Theatre maker Riti Sachdeva performed a recently-developed piece that combined spoken word, singing, and dance to touch on themes of youth and growth in India and the U.S., curiosity and exploration, and first experiences with violence. The piece was designed to juxtapose the beauty of the feminine experience with the darkness and heaviness of trauma. Sachdeva noted that this juxtaposition is unusually risky, especially given its intersectionality with the South Asian experience. She describes theater as a “traditionally white, very bourgeois scene” in which moderate views often pass for very progressive. However, she hoped that this piece and those of the other artists who performed throughout the evening could expand those boundaries.

Sachdeva is a community organizer as well as an artist. In the early 1990s, she formed a network of South Asian women in Boston organized around immigration and domestic violence, and has continued through her current work with South Asian Youth Action. This work, she says, has contributed to a lack of “rose-colored glasses about the issues” of gender, ethnicity, and violence in her art.

Speaking after the show, Sachdeva explained that her experiences with organizing have shaped the way she approaches art. “I come from a place of not having easy answers and I think that’s important for creating.” She was struck by the event’s ability to “move in a progressive direction when nonprofits are getting more conservative.” Such spaces, she said, allow women of color to unite as both creators and audience: “We are a part of this broader community and we also benefit from the work we do.”

Diana Oh, a punk rock artist and the vocalist in{my lingerie band}, put on a show that addressed everything from “celebrating your slutty phase” to tearing down catcalling and other forms of “degradation that come along with women expressing their sexuality.” Oh bares all, wearing nothing but lingerie throughout a show that, she says, “puts on stage the experience of a woman’s relationship with lingerie and confrontation of her sexuality, and of the language people use to discuss women’s sexuality.” She began combining lingerie and feminist activism with {my lingerie play}, a 24-hour public street installation designed as a “public in-your-face way to combat the system [of oppression and control of the female body].”

Speaking backstage before the show, Oh discussed the importance of authenticity, accessibility, and allyship. “You can’t fake the flow,” she says. “If [my art] is not reflecting a mirror back into the world the way that I want it to be reflected, I don’t want to do it.” Her artistic goal is “to take up space to make space for other people,” opening social movements to wider audiences. She also emphasized the importance of allies such as her bandmate Ryan, who doesn’t identify with the queer Korean-American experience that she brings to the table. He feels that “It’s not just enough to not be part of the problem, you also have to be making a difference.” Ryan, who donned glitter and whimsical makeup with Oh for the performance, “is constantly reminding me to keep going and keep making my art,” Oh says.

The night concluded with a performance from Kiran Gandhi, who performs as Madame Gandhi, and her collaborator sound designer Alexia Riner. The two combined electronic music, drumming, dancing, and a lights show with lyrics that describe the feminine experience. Their work celebrates female leadership and includes feminist ideas, at one point even incorporating an excerpt from The Feminist Utopia Project into their performance. Between songs from her existing body of work and her upcoming Voices EP, Madame Gandhi described her mantra: “the future is female.” “A world that is female is a world that is emotionally intelligent,” she said, “a world in which are all linked, and not ranked.”

What’s in a Name: How Mercer Became Hayden

Written by James Yang and Natasha Goss

When law students moved into the dormitories at 240 Mercer Street this August, their new home had a new name: Hayden Hall. The residence, which was once simply “Mercer”, received a rebranding along with a remodel this summer.

Many returning residents were caught by surprise. One 3L who lived in the residence hall last year recalled: “I didn’t figure it out until they put the residence hall sticker on my ID.” A Hayden Hall front-desk employee also learned of the new name when he saw the signs. He felt it was “just a name change,” and said that the building’s function and culture hadn’t changed.

Indeed, even the name has not changed in some students’ minds. According to second-year student Jordan Chafetz, “all the 2Ls I know still refer to it as Mercer, partly out of stubbornness and partly out of habit.”

New residents also knew the building as Mercer. Throughout the housing application process this spring, NYU referred to the dorm by its former name. In fact, it was not until mid-June that students received housing assignments in Hayden rather than Mercer. At the time, law school administration did not explain the reasons behind the change.

This change arose from the decision to rename a neighboring undergraduate dorm from Hayden to Lipton. The Hayden name was then transferred to Mercer. Lipton Hall was originally named Hayden in recognition of a gift from the Hayden Foundation. Thus NYU’s transfer of the Hayden name was made to show continued recognition and appreciation.

Martin Lipton, a 1955 graduate of NYU Law, is the new Lipton Hall’s namesake. He has long served as a trustee of both the University and the Law School, and is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a prominent New York law firm. As a law student, Lipton lived at the newly named Lipton Hall, which was then a law school dormitory. Nowadays, Lipton Hall is primarily reserved for first year undergraduate students and is known for its delicious cookies. Lipton Hall’s new name reflects its heritage as a law school building.

Fall Ball Policy Memo Confirms More Changes Than Just Venue

Written by Gianna Walton, Managing Editor

Last week, the Student Bar Association (SBA) and the Office of Student Affairs announced several additional changes to the Fall Ball Policy Memo for this year, in addition to moving the event to an off-campus venue. As previously reported, SBA revealed last spring that Fall Ball 2016 would be held off-campus at Terminal 5, a concert venue in Hell’s Kitchen, instead of its traditional location in Vanderbilt Hall.

Though tickets for Fall Ball will still be free this year, drink tickets are now limited to two per student. Drink tickets are first-come, first-serve and will not be provided to guests. Terminal 5 will also have a full cash bar for those who wish to purchase additional beverages. Last year, attendees received a maximum of five drink tickets each.

In addition, students are now free to bring up to two guests each. In past years, Student Affairs utilized a Guest Lottery in which students wishing to bring a significant other to the event could enter to win one of 200 guest tickets available.

The event will also start several hours later than in past years, beginning at 10:00 p.m. and running until 2:00 p.m. Last year’s event was held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

In an email statement, Neesha Chhina and Marissa Prieto, SBA Social Chairs, on behalf of the SBA, said that the decision to move Fall Ball off-campus had been contemplated for a long time and was made jointly by SBA and Student Affairs.

“For liability purposes, Student Affairs began slowly imposing additional limitations on Fall Ball, such as limiting the amount of alcohol they would purchase, instituting a guest policy, and implementing drink tickets in order to limit how much any one person could drink,” said Chhina and Prieto. “Over time, students wanted more control over the event (decorations, start and finish times, etc.), and the only way to receive that was to move the event off campus.”

Jason Belk, Dean of Students, said in an email that the change in location was also driven by space limitations of the Law School.

“In recent years, the number of people wishing to attend the Fall Ball has grown significantly, and by moving it to an offsite venue, we no longer have the capacity constraints that we faced with Greenberg Lounge,” Dean Belk said.

The budget for this year’s Fall Ball is the same as last year’s budget, according to Dean Belk.

Chhina and Prieto said that SBA’s control over the event is one of the primary benefits of having Fall Ball off-campus.

“When the event was on campus, it was run by Student Affairs alone, and there was limited [to] no input from the SBA,” they said. “That means that this year, we were able to prioritize how we thought students would best want the funds allocated when it came to food, drink, DJ, decorations, etc.”

One such example is the decision to offer specialty cocktails. Drink tickets will not cover the specialty cocktails, but the price was negotiated with Terminal 5 from $10.00 down to $7.00, according to Chhina and Prieto. Other prices, including the $4.00 coat check, are at Terminal 5’s discretion, they said.

Chhina and Prieto also emphasized that even though students may be used to receiving five drink tickets in past years, the amount of available alcohol has always been limited. Given budget constraints, they said, “it is not possible to simply pay for what we would like to consume and then distribute an unlimited amount of drink tickets. . . .”

“We cannot guarantee that every single student will get 2 tickets, but we will have a system in place to ensure that no one receives more than 2 in order to evenly distribute them as best as possible,” they said.

Also evident from the Policy Memo is that transportation from campus to the event will not be provided for students. Last year, SBA stated that it planned to try to arrange busing from campus to Terminal 5, which is located about 30 minutes away from the Law School campus by subway or car.

After looking into the costs of using NYU’s shuttles and alternatives such as ride-sharing services, however, SBA ultimately determined that providing transportation was not within its budget.

“[I]n the end, we decided that it was not possible or necessary seeing that transportation has never been provided for a Fall Ball or weekly Bar Review in the past,” Chhina and Prieto stated. “[W]e determined that it would not be prudent to spend student funds on an expense that we deemed as non-essential to the event.”

In addition to the main event being moved off-campus, students may also be unable to find places on campus to celebrate before the event due to the closing of the journal offices in the basement of D’Agostino Hall and various other common areas in D’Agostino Hall and Hayden Hall. Those areas were also closed off to students before last year’s Fall Ball.

“We will be closing journal offices and common areas in residence halls in advance of Fall Ball to avoid the extra cleaning costs The Law School has faced in the past,” Dean Belk said.

Heather Garvey, 3L, said that she appreciated the change in guest policy and thought it was nice for people who wish to bring significant others. At the same time, she said, it seemed strange that guests would not be provided drink tickets.

She also worries that the off-campus venue might make Fall Ball less relaxed and more similar to Spring Fling, which was held last March at Union Square Ballroom.

“It seems like the budget went towards having a venue as opposed to the experience,” she said.

UPDATE: According to an email sent by Dean Belk to the journal Editors-in-Chief on Tuesday afternoon, journals may in fact hold pre-Fall Ball gatherings in the journal offices in D’Agostino Hall before 10 p.m. on Thursday. The basement of D’Agostino will be closed from 10 p.m. on Thursday until 7 a.m. on Friday morning. Alcohol is not permitted in the common area of the basement of D’Agostino, but may be served in individual journal offices. The journal offices in Wilf Hall, however, will be closed beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday. 

What do you think of the new Fall Ball venue and changes to the event policies? Send us your comments at law.commentator@nyu.edu.

Letter from the Editor: The Commentator’s 50th Anniversary

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Dear readers,

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Commentator, the official student newspaper of New York University School of Law. 2015-2016 was a special year for the paper and saw us move from being a printed paper to an online platform: www.nyulawcommentator.org. This year promises to be another special year for us and happens to be our 50th anniversary. Founded five decades ago in 1966 as a weekly, print newspaper, The Commentator remains dedicated to bringing original content created by  NYU Law students to the wider legal community.

At The Commentator, our contributors have the freedom to determine their own areas of interest. In the past year alone, The Commentator has published scores of articles covering the thorniest issues of the day. From current events like the 2016 presidential election and the ongoing Supreme Court vacancy, to more casual and fun reads like our fashion column highlighting the best-dressed students at the Law School and our satire section, Uncommentable, which uses humor to shed light on everyday situations faced by law students. With The Commentator, you can keep up-to-date on the latest events at NYU Law as well as use our platform to share your opinion on an issue of your choice with the world.

While law school is tough and spare time is precious, we hope that you will spend some of your down-time with us. If you’re interested in writing, editing, or photography and would like to learn more about roles with The Commentator, email us at law.commentator@nyu.edu.

Kind regards,

Naeem Crawford-Muhammad,
Editor-in-Chief

 

 

Law Revue a Finalist in Above The Law Video Contest

Written by Cristina Stiller, News Editor

NYU Law Revue is a finalist for Above The Law’s annual Law Revue Video Contest, with its submission, “Trevor Effin’ Morrison,” a parody of “Alexander Hamilton” from the hit Broadway show Hamilton. As of Wednesday morning, their video was in third place, behind Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Texas School of Law.

Trevor Effin Morrison by NYU Law Revue

The video debuted two weeks ago at NYU Law Revue’s 42nd show, Catch Me if NYU Can, a parody of the film Catch Me if You Can.

Voting is open until Wednesday, April 27 at 11:59 p.m. Viewers can vote at Above The Law.

Editor’s Note: Cristina Stiller was part of the cast for Catch Me if NYU Can.