A varied crowd of flower children and prep school students filled Sid Richardson College this past Saturday for their annual spring semester public party. In previous years, “Sid Schoolgirls” accumulated a wide following of students dressed in button-down shirts, ties and skirts. This year, however, the new theme, “Sidstock,” marked a change in tradition that, according to Sid Richardson President Lauren Schmidt, was only a matter of time and was unrelated to Title IX.
“Since its conception, every year Sidizens have come forward and either talked to [resident associates] or masters about how uncomfortable the theme makes them feel,” Schmidt, a junior, said.
According to Schmidt, this is not the first time the college changed the theme of the public.
“The opposition to the schoolgirls theme is definitely not a new problem,” Schmidt said. “Last year, the theme was [discussed] too late to change it. So the socials changed the name to ‘The Academy’ to diffuse the schoolgirls connotation, which elicits a lot of negative emotions should the person have experience with some sort of rape in high school.”
Schmidt said the college’s executive council met this past September to gauge student opinion in response to the controversy surrounding the party. The council initiated an open forum for Sidizens to voice their concerns in addition to releasing an anonymous survey containing questions like, “What offends you about the theme?” and “What would you like to see changed about the party?”
“We looked at the feedback and it was clear we needed to change the theme because it did elicit negative emotions from a lot of people,” Schmidt said. “Whether or not they attended the party wasn’t the issue. It was more that, as a college, we were institutionalizing the sexualization of underage women, and that was unacceptable.”
As a result, Sid Richardson’s election process for socials this year happened earlier than usual to ensure that the socials could lead the selection of the new theme. According to Schmidt, however, the theme change was not popular with everyone.
“Some people liked the classy attire of schoolgirls, but we couldn’t come up with a theme that embodied that without objectifying women,” Schmidt said. “There were a lot of schoolgirls at Sidstock. I don’t know if that’s a protest of the theme change, or people just trying to have some fun.”
Schmidt said she views the change as positive regardless.
“[Some] people were saddened to see [the schoolgirls theme] go, but there were definitely people excited to see it go,” Schmidt said. “I think the change was positive because I firmly believe that if something makes people uncomfortable, then it should change. And the minority opinion is very important to me.”
According to Schmidt, the open forum talks were successful in creating a safe environment for students to vocalize their opinions.
“I [would say] that you could use the discussion at Sid as a model for how people should go about discussing things in the college that make them uncomfortable,” Schmidt said.
Despite rumors, the name change is unrelated to recent events and controversies surrounding Title IX, federal legislation that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex, according to Schmidt.
“We started the discussion last year, so it’s totally unrelated,” Schmidt said. “It just happened that the timing of our party happened after the events.”
Schmidt also said the college did not change the name under any pressure from the administration.
“The perception I’ve been feeling from [the] campus in general is that a lot of people think the administration made us change the name, which is not the case,” Schmidt said. “It was an initiative started by a few Sidizens in the spring and our outgoing president Nick Cornell, who really pushed to have a safe discussion about it [and] see how people felt about the party and what needed to change so that we could have a safe environment.”
Schmidt said she is confident the change will proceed smoothly in coming years.
“Sid will decide in the fall whether or not we like Sidstock and want it to be a continuing theme or whether we want to [change] every year,” Schmidt said. “As far as schoolgirls showing up to Sidstock, institutional memory is only four years. So four years down the road, I bet there’ll be much fewer schoolgirls at Sidstock.”
Ana Gonzalez, a Sid Richardson College freshman, said the theme change was well supported among the college community.
“We as freshmen didn’t really know about the Schoolgirls party to begin with,” Gonzalez said. “But we all worked hard to give Sidstock a positive image.”
Akeem Ogunkeye, a Jones College sophomore who attended the party last year, said he enjoyed Sidstock just as much.
“It was generally the same this year as it was last year,” Ogunkeye said. “At the time I hadn’t even thought about [the theme], but if anyone complained I understand why it was changed. I’m okay with it. I know a lot of people who miss the theme, but it is what it is.”