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Efforts Made to Improve Safety at Mills Fetish Ball

Banning cameras, limiting publicity, and restricting the number of non-Mills students allowed are just a few of the changes that might be made to the Fetish Ball this year.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the annual dance hosted by Mouthing Off, the queer club on campus, the Mills community tried to find ways to improve the security of the event during a Town Hall meeting on Feb. 17.

The ball, slated for April 15, spurred controversy after Hustler magazine published an article about the event in their September 2004 issue. Sam Ospovat, a graduate student at Mills, wrote the article about his experiences at the 2002 Fetish Ball.

Approximately 20 people, both current students and alumni, attended the town hall meeting in the Student Union. Moderator Crystal Brannon, a Mills alum and advisor to Mouthing Off for the ball only, began the meeting by alluding to the article.

“I know we’ve all had exposure that we didn’t plan of [and] as a result we want to be more aware of the issues of safety,” she said.

Lauren White, a senior and the president of Mouthing Off, continued the introduction by describing the purpose of the Fetish Ball as creating “a safe space for women and their sexuality, especially queer women.”

Various members of Mouthing Off listed ideas to increase security of the event, including banning cameras, limiting publicity to Mills channels, restricting the number of non-Mills guests, and having sober volunteers from Mills to act as “safety monitors” within the dance. A legally binding sign-in sheet is also being considered that would list the rules of the event and be posted outside the Student Union. Brannon described the suggestions as “methods of control [to] limit the “element of surprise” that occurred after the exposé was published in Hustler.

Many attendees were pleased with the propositions but were concerned about the camera restriction, rule enforcement, and how to limit the number of students. Kasey P. Lindsay, a senior and ASMC Publicity Chair, appreciated the proposed ban on cameras yet was concerned about enforcing the rule.

“It’s important that we enforce the no cameras policy,” she said. “Even Mills students put their photos on Internet web sites, which is where Ospovat got his.”

White said that Mouthing Off will work with Public Safety to ensure that no cameras are used at the dance. They also plan to have a professional photographer on site who will photograph attendees for a possible charge. Erika Rickard, a member of Mouthing Off and co-president of ASMC, said, “We’re not concerned about people taking the pictures but [whether] they are published.”

Another concern is how to properly limit the number of non-Mills students. White proposed that they mitigate student traffic at the front gate by making sure Public Safety only admits Mills students and their friends on campus. Alexis Bucknam, Student Life Coordinator for Student Activities, suggested that they monitor non-Mills students at the dance by making attendees wear wristbands designating them as Mills students or non-Mills guests, and if they are permitted to drink alcohol.

The primary concern with hosting too many non-Mills attendees is infiltration of the event by Hustler informants or people exploiting the event who have read the Hustler article. Brannon mentioned that White has already received an e-mail from an individual outside the Mills community about the Fetish Ball.

The meeting elicited a mostly positive response from attendees. Joanna Minshew, class of 2001 and one of the original founders of the Fetish Ball, thought the meeting was good although she wished the focus “would have been more towards physical safety.”

White was pleased with the discussion yet a little concerned about the turnout.

“I think it went really well [and] we received a lot of good feedback,” she said. “There were no graduate students though. We really wanted them to come [to let] them know that we’re not blaming them for the actions of one student.”