After some controversy over a tentative date printed in the Mills student handbook, Fetish Ball, an annual dance put on by Mouthing Off!, is still plagued by logistical problems.
The date was initially set for April 6, which is also Good Friday – one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. After agreeing to change the date, Mouthing Off! is now facing problems finding a location for the dance.
“The first I heard about a date was in the newspaper,” said Linda Northcott, the master calendar events scheduler.
Joanna Iwata, dean of Student Life, said that after the capacity issues that plagued last year’s Fetish Ball, planning for this year’s event began last spring. The planning was a collaboration between Student Activities and Mouthing Off!, the queer alliance club that sponsors Fetish Ball. “We wanted to plan ahead to avoid lines, and because the Student Union wasn’t big enough. We looked in April for dates, and whether a Friday versus a Saturday would be better. We decided a Friday in April would be best, and then the student representation went back to the club to discuss which Friday they wanted to schedule.”
The tentative date, as shown in the student handbook, did have strong campus reaction.
An open forum published last week in The Weekly voiced concerns that the scheduling was intentional and anti-Christian, which provoked mixed reaction from the officers of Mouthing Off!.
“The date was neither chosen to be deliberately offensive to the Christian Community, nor a witty or provocative statement,” said Helen Vance, president of Mouthing Off!. “Our [club’s] agenda doesn’t involve alienating people. It involves respect. We want Fetish Ball to be an event for everyone.”
“If there was any oversight on the part of the club with scheduling, it was due to the fact that we believe sexuality doesn’t go against God, or someone’s spirituality. That date was chosen at the time because it was most convenient in terms of access to facilities and student academics,” said Tina Sogliuzzo, a senior and Vice President of Mouthing Off!
Sogliuzzo also said the letter was upsetting “because the author never dialogued with the club or the officers to find out our intentions or to clarify any information. As a club, we work hard to put on these events, and it’s upsetting to be accused without consideration.”
Saranique Schwartz voiced the same concerns, and added her own, “We [Mouthing Off!] are not comedians, and we’re not Satanists. Queer sexuality and fetish aren’t mutually exclusive with spirituality.” Schwartz defended the dance, saying, “[Fetish Ball] is a serious event, despite a lot of unfortunate publicity. Last year it was starting to be taken seriously again, even though there were many there just as spectators.”
An official date request for Fetish Ball was submitted last week, however because a location has not been decided on, the date cannot be made official. According to Vance, Mouthing Off! is considering Adams Plaza in conjunction with the Student Union or an off campus location “We’re pretty much running out of options on campus,” she said.
Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Erika Macs said the incident showed the need for more interfaith dialoge on campus, but praised Mouthing Off! saying, “I think it was very gracious and thoughtful for Mouthing Off! to have moved the date.”