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.

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.

Uncommentable: Shame of Thrones: SBA President Under Fire After TV Series Spoiler (possible spoilers inside)

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All stories published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

By Albert Tawil, Staff Writer, and Guest Contributors Annie Zhou and Chris Ostojic

This month’s return of the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones has captivated millions of viewers across the country. However, with the show’s return so close to final exams, many responsible law students have pushed off the urge to watch until May 18.

Those law students were irrationally outraged when they opened a routine Student Bar Association (SBA) email regarding Exam4 compliance, which contained a spoiler of a major development in the season’s second episode.

“Finals are here, [redacted Game of Thrones reference], and please take a moment to download the latest Exam4 software and submit a practice test,” read the beginning of the scandalous email sent by SBA President Evan Shepherd.

“Honestly, if you are not Exam4 compliant at this point, you deserve it,” said an exasperated Shepherd, defending himself against a barrage of angry emails. “Anybody who is compliant would have just deleted the email.”

I don’t get what the big deal is. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die…

“This is an example of an elected official who is completely disconnected with the student body,” said former SBA Treasurer Ally Serre, a one-time campaign rival of Shepherd. Serre says she has started an online campaign with the hashtag #NYULawRemembers “to remind law students that while this betrayal has left them feeling empty on the inside, the student body will soon rise again, harder and stronger.”

“I don’t get what the big deal is. When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, it’s a simple two-prong analysis. Evan just pointed it out,” said one third-year law student who watches the show alone every Sunday.

To calm student outrage, the SBA Vice President released an official statement. “I, Samantha Coxe, the First of Her Name, Queen of Vanderbilt, Queen of the DL and the Three Sheets and the Amity Hall, Lord of the Lower East Side, Protector of the Bar Review, Khaleesi of the Great Grassless Square, called Samantha Stormborn, the Most-Turnt, Mother of Bobcats, hereby issue a proclamation to make recompense to those students so grievously injured by Monday’s Game of Thrones spoiler. An insult to your honor was not our intent, but it may have been a rather unfortunate consequence.”

“Bar Review tonight. 10 p.m. Off the Wagon. Be there. Last one.” the statement added, followed by multiple GIF’s of Tyrion Lannister filling his wine glass.

Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones raises a glass of wine.
Credit: Giphy.com

Several student groups also released statements.

“We stand in solidarity with those students who suffered from SBA’s spoiler,” said an email from the Westerosi Law Students Association (WLSA). “We are petitioning Academic Services to allow victims to defer exams for however long it takes to catch up to the most recent episode.”

Academic Services has confirmed that it will process all exam postponement requests related to Game of Thrones in its usual prompt time frame of six months.

Since the spoiler, Shepherd has met with student leaders from across the Westerosi spectrum to put forth ideas for the SBA to regain the trust of the student body. Proposals include sponsoring a Milback Tween Lunch of Assorted Sandwiches (with a free panel discussion on the unlawful detention of Cersei Lannister), a Game of Thrones-inspired 1L Reading Group called, “Using Statutory Canons to Interpret the Word ‘Hodor,'” a Wildlings Defense Clinic, and an Alternative Spring Break trip to Dorne.

Vote for your favorite option below.

George Harris Elected SBA Treasurer

With one-hundred percent of the precincts reporting, The Commentator is ready to make a call in the special election for treasurer of the Student Bar Association.

George Harris ’18 has been elected the 148th Treasurer of the SBA.*

Congratulations to George!

*All numbers are approximate.

SBA Election Results: Evan Shepherd, Sam Coxe Elected SBA President, Vice President

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 spring Student Bar Association elections!

  • President – Evan Shepherd
  • Vice President – Samantha Coxe
  • Secretary – Dana Wellesly-Stein
  • Student Senator – Naeem Crawford-Muhammad
  • Social Chairs – Neesha Chhina, Marissa Prieto
  • 2L Representatives – Agnes Aniol, Andrew Gerst
  • 3L Representatives – Staci Cox, Karston Erickson, Sarah Hsu

Uncommentable: Students Voting in SBA Elections Based Purely on GIFs

Editor’s note: Uncommentable is The Commentator’s satirical news imprint. All stories published under the Uncommentable banner are false and intended for entertainment purposes only.

Written by Albert Tawil, Staff Writer

Election season is upon us at NYU Law. Over the past few days, students have had a break from hearing about Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Clinton, and Sanders, and instead turned their attention to candidates who are actually qualified for their desired positions – the SBA Executive Board.

With countless emails, reserving prime real estate in the Vanderbilt lobby, and the first-ever election debate (hosted by this fine publication), candidates are trying to set themselves apart.

However, during a focus group convened by Uncommentable, many students expressed other methods of making their choices.

“My decision was easy. The key for me was to vote based on each candidate’s GIFs,” said Sarah Reitling ’18. “DJ Khaled was a no-brainer.”

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DJ Khaled | Credit: Giphy.com

“Bless up,” she added.

Sarah claims she originally planned on reading each candidate’s email in full, but gave up after scrolling down to see how long it was. “I wish there were briefs or outlines available instead of reading the whole thing,” she lamented.

Other students in the group took a liking to the Leslie Knope GIF.

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City Councilwoman Leslie Knope (Pawnee, IN) | Credit: Giphy.com

“Ron Swanson or Aziz would’ve been cool too,” said Rachel Xavier ’17. “But if a candidate can run NYU Law like Knope runs Pawnee, we are in good hands.”

When asked for other factors she considered before voting, Rachel proudly admitted she searched “drink tickets” in her inbox to see which candidates’ names would show up.

“I would’ve paid more attention to buzzwords like ‘philanthropy,’ ‘inclusion,’ and ‘affordability,’ but the paragraphs were just too long,” said Rachel, before doing 60 pages of Con Law reading.

Another student took a more political approach.

“I opened one e-mail and saw a GIF with Obama and Biden, and decided that I don’t think that candidate is right for me,” said Barry Trida ’18.

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President Obama (l.) and Vice President Biden (r.) | Credit: Giphy.com

When asked who he will vote for in the upcoming election, Barry responded, “Not sure, but definitely not Hilary,” despite the topic clearly being about SBA Elections.

When asked if he would attend this past Tuesday night’s debate, Barry said he would, as long as Megyn Kelly doesn’t moderate.

However, the most heated topic of debate among the group was the pronunciation of ‘GIF.’

“If it were pronounced with a soft ‘G’, it would be spelled with a ‘J,'” said Sarah, invoking a variation of expressio unius. “With the choice of letters, the creators of the word ‘GIF’ spoke to this precise issue.”

Barry, the only other 1L in the group, agreed, chiming in, “Even if, arguendo, it is ambiguous, pronouncing it ‘JIF’ is unreasonable. This clearly won’t survive Step 2.”

SBA Debate: Candidates Square Off on Eve of Election

Written by Cristina Stiller, News Editor, and Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Last night, The Commentator hosted the first-annual Student Bar Association (SBA) Debate. Vice presidential candidates Samantha Coxe ’17 and George Harris ’18 opened the debate, followed by presidential candidates Evan Shepherd ’17 and Alexandra Serre ’17.

According to SBA rules, there are no formal joint tickets in elections. However, Mr. Shepherd and Ms. Coxe, after running on opposing tickets for social chair last spring, are running informally as a joint ticket this year. Ms. Serre and Mr. Harris, a first-time candidate for the SBA’s executive board, are doing the same. The debate was moderated by The Commentator’s Editor-in-Chief Naeem Crawford-Muhammad and News Editor Cristina Stiller.

All four candidates currently serve on the SBA. Ms. Serre has the most SBA experience among the group. She served as a class representative during her 1L year and is now the SBA treasurer, where she oversees the student government’s $200,000 budget. Mr. Harris is the only first-year law student among the top-tier candidates. He is the 1L representative for Section 4.

Mr. Shepherd and Ms. Coxe, both second-year law students, presently serve as the SBA’s social chairs. Overseeing campus-wide events like Bar Review, Fall Ball, and Spring Fling, social chair is arguably the most well-known of the SBA leadership roles. It is the only position, for example, that requires the office-holder to host weekly student events for the entire Law School.

It was clear from the opening statements that both sets of candidates were well-prepared. With several dozen people in attendance, including Dean of Students Jason Belk, the candidates offered detailed policy proposals for a range of student concerns.

Mr. Shepherd appeared the most comfortable in the debate format. Speaking often without notes, he repeatedly came from behind his podium to move closer to the audience when explaining his ideas. Ms. Serre, one of two Californians in the race (Ms. Coxe is from Los Angeles), kept a cool demeanor throughout, easily switching between diverse topic areas, such as tuition levels and the Law School’s alcohol policy.

In one exchange, Ms. Serre offered a passionate explication of the SBA Finance Committee’s work, which she heads, in setting student budgets for the 2015-2016 academic year. “I think all the student input we got [over the summer] was very important. No one was forcing them to [review budgets] over the summer,” said Ms. Serre.

Alternatively, much of Mr. Shepherd’s pitch revolved around his record as social chair, where he says he has kept five out of six campaign promises for diversifying social event locations and increasing inclusiveness and attendance. (The sixth promise, according to Mr. Shepherd, was fiscally unfeasible.)

While the candidates largely agreed with their opponents (all favor additional funding for student organizations and improving campus diversity and inclusion), there were some disagreements.

During the vice presidential debate, a student submitted an online question that asked whether the candidates would support placing standing desks in the library as part of a health-improvement initiative. Ms. Coxe, pointing to a study and student support for the move, suggested that standing desks could have potential health benefits. She said that she would support the addition of standing desks in the library.

Offering a different take, Mr. Harris cited a study that found no correlation between standing desks and improved health. However, Mr. Harris said that he was open to helping students identify more places to study while standing in the library, if there was sufficient demand.

Perhaps the most introspective question of the evening came via email from current SBA President Taaj Reaves ’16. Ms. Reaves asked the candidates for president to discuss a time when they “didn’t get it right this year on SBA,” and how they would recover and manage losses next year.

Ms. Serre reflected on a time during her term as treasurer when she funded an event retroactively, something the SBA typically doesn’t do, because she overlooked the date of the budget request. While she defended the expense as something that “should have been funded” on the merits, she said the error taught her to focus more closely on the minute details. And that, as president, she would be sure to stay on top on the small issues as well as the big picture.

Responding to the same question, Mr. Shepherd commented on an occasion where he elected to host a Bar Review at a venue discouraged by the Office of Student Affairs. Not fully appreciating the prescience of this advice, the event yielded avoidable logistical challenges. Mr. Shepherd said he learned to more readily rely on the experience of others in order to avoid mistakes. But, when mistakes are made, to take responsibility and never repeat them.

Asked for her thoughts following last night’s first-ever SBA debate, Ms. Coxe replied by email, saying, “The debate, hosted by The Commentator, is something that should happen every year. It is a great way for students to voice their opinions, to have candidates speak about the prevalent issues and concerns within the NYU Law community, and for the student body to become more informed about each candidate’s platform and vision. With an effort to increase attendance in the coming years, the debate should certainly be an annual tradition during election week!”

“The debate was an incredible event, thanks to everyone who came out and The Commentator for hosting—I hope after hearing our ideas, Sam and I have your vote,” said Mr. Shepherd.

In an emailed, joint statement from Ms. Serre and Mr. Harris, the candidates said, “We were glad to have the opportunity to highlight how we’ll serve the student body over the next year in a public forum like this! With [Ms. Serre’s] experience on SBA over the last two years, and George’s close connection with the Class of 2018, we think we can do a lot of great work for NYU Law students. We want to thank The Commentator again for all of the hard work behind the debate!”

Each candidate was allowed a two-minute opening statement. They were then presented with questions compiled by the editorial board of The Commentator, as well as questions submitted to The Commentator via social media, email, and an online survey. Candidates were not given the questions beforehand, but were notified of the general debate topics in an article posted to The Commentator’s website last week. Elections are today and tomorrow via online balloting.

Editor’s note: As a recognized student organization, The Commentator is funded by the Student Bar Association. Naeem Crawford-Muhammad is a current class representative and is running unopposed for Student Senator, an SBA executive board position.