Across the pond, a swirl of controversy has arisen from student preparations for an Empire-themed ball, which is set to be held at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on June 14, 2009. (As an aside, John Harvard is an alumnus of Emmanuel College). The Emma May Ball is one of several ‘May balls’ held annually or biennially by colleges at Cambridge University, which function similarly, but in expanded capacity, to residential colleges at many American universities.
On the ball’s website, which has a suitably empire-like theme to it, organizers say this year’s event
takes as its inspiration the Victorian commonwealth and all its decadences. Travel with us to the Indian Raj, an emergent Australia, and the West Indies. See for yourself the hedonism of 19th Century Hong Kong, the sweltering rainforests of Sri Lanka and the beautiful cliffs as you sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Last, but by no means least, journey back to the jewel in her majesty’s crown: the Great British Isles themselves. On Sunday 14th June, in the glorious grounds of Emmanuel College, we invite you to experience the Pax Britannica and party like it’s 1899.
One must be skeptical of any college event that promises to transport you to the the “sweltering rainforests of Sri Lanka” and “around the Cape of Good Hope”, but rumor has it that Emmanuel College throws a terrific party; would certainly hope so at £106 per ticket – or $151 USD. The night’s festivities include a long list of musical acts, as well as copious amounts of ethnic food and booze, from locales that formerly composed the British Empire.
Because of its theme, the event has been decried by some as making light of Britain’s oppressive colonial past. One individual interviewed by the Daily Mail said, “Colonialism is associated with repression and exploitation and slavery. We are not thin-skinned but you have to draw the line somewhere. For a leading university like Cambridge it is amazing how ignorant some people can be.”
Really, though, it appears that protesters are making a big deal out of nothing. It seems to be just good ‘ol fashioned college debauchery to us – albeit substantially fancier than your run-of-the-mill Ivy League frat party.