Nearly 300 students filled the University Center on Friday night for the third annual Gatsby Gala. They wore 1920s-inspired outfits, danced and snapped photos with their friends.
But the room was significantly emptier than last year. Over 700 students were in attendance at the school-sponsored dance in 2016.
The Gatsby Gala was created by Student Senate in an effort to bridge the divide between different groups on campus. One of the most frequent requests from students was to host an event that combined Greek and non-Greek students.
Student Senate, the Residence Hall Association, Student Activities and the Lehigh University Police Department sponsored the event.
In order to make the Gatsby Gala more appealing, Student Senate said it worked with the Dean of Students Office to pass the Alcohol Pilot Program, which allowed for alcohol to be served to guests of legal age.
“We are committed to helping students find alternative social activities and provide an environment where everyone feels welcome,” Senate president Dakota DiMattio, ’17, said.
Georgeanne Brattland, ’18, the former public relations chair for Student Senate, said the PR strategy for marketing the event has changed throughout the years.
“The first year was stressful,” Brattland said. “It was a new event and we weren’t sure if students would participate. Last year we moved the location down to the University Center, which I think impacted attendance a ton. We also heavily relied on social media and promoting the Alcohol Pilot Program, which I think helped too.”
DiMattio said Senate was excited about the attendance for last year’s event, but the last-minute demand was overwhelming.
“We tried a different pricing structure this year to help alleviate that same demand just because our numbers doubled the last day and put a strain on Lehigh catering,” DiMattio said.
Tickets this year were $12 in advance and $15 the week of the gala. Last year’s tickets were $5.
The entertainment last year included both DJ Minnit and Steel City Sunrise. There was also a wide variety of food and drink as well as a photo booth. However, navigating around student’s social schedules for the night still proved to be a challenge.
“The event definitely had waves of people last year, but I don’t think we structured it to keep people there,” DiMattio said. “It is really hard to hold a large event due to the issues with communication on this campus and appealing to everyone. There is a large portion of campus who likes to go out, and it’s hard to duplicate that atmosphere or find common draws while still attracting individuals who might not want that same environment.”
A large part of the public relations strategy for the event is to partner with other student organizations on campus.
“I think a consistent focus for the PR committee throughout the years has been trying to not only have other big groups promote our events on social media, but also help promote their events that have similar objectives,” Brattland said.
Senate’s strategy carried over to this year. Since the event required cooperation from various groups on campus, DiMattio said it was difficult to get the word out about the event.
The Gatsby Gala committee, which is comprised of both Student Senate members and non-members, focused on marketing the event to groups like the Greek community and the Residence Hall Association.
Word of mouth drove attendance this year. Members of Student Senate personally invited professors or teaching assistants, although all members of staff were encouraged to come.
“I think it’s also a great way for students from across the university to connect,” DiMattio said. “We always have a lot of attendance from graduate students, and it’s nice to get to know TAs or professors outside of the classroom.”
Attendance was expected to increase this year with help from student organizations. Although it did not, Brattland said feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive, ensuring the Gatsby Gala will continue for years to come.