Student Senate hosted Dinner en Blanc to celebrate the end of a challenging academic year. After a year hiatus due COVID-19, the event was able to occur once again in both Johnson Hall and Lamberton Hall on May 3. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Student Senate hosts Dinner en Blanc in a hybrid format

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After a one year hiatus due to COVID-19, Lehigh’s Diner en Blanc event hosted by Student Senate was able to occur on May 3. 

This year’s Diner en Blanc’s theme was “completion,” in order to celebrate the accomplishment of pushing through a difficult year, said Declan Coster, ‘23, chair of Student Senate’s Student Outreach Committee

Dîner en Blanc, a French phrase that translates to Dinner in White, is an international event that began in Paris in 1988, intended to bring communities together. 

Since its conception, the event has spread to six continents—each with their own variation of the event where participants dress in white and bring their food to a secret location. 

In spring 2019, Student Senate brought the idea to Lehigh as a way to celebrate the end of the academic year with students, faculty and staff.  

“While not everybody may want to look back at the year, it’s definitely something we should all be glad we were able to complete through all of the hard work,” Coster said. 

In a typical year, the Diner en Blanc is held at a secret location that is disclosed to participants on the day of the event. But due to the pandemic, this was not feasible, Coster said. 

Instead, the secret element was presented in the form of a secret performer, who was Matteo Lane, a New York based comedian who has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup. 

Due to the limitations put in place because of COVID-19 the event was held both in-person and virtually, with the in-person aspect hosted in Johnson Hall and Lamberton Hall.  

Student Senate had to gain approval from numerous offices, including the COVID-19 Response Team, Coster said. The outreach committee was then able to offer 100 in-person tickets as well as a livestream for fully remote students. 

Students who were unable to secure tickets to the event were able to register to pick up a takeaway meal before the livestream. 

Tickets for Diner en Blanc sold out within 48 hours, with  tickets for the in-person component being sold out within five minutes, Coster said.

The in-person portion of the event was supposed to be held on the front lawn, however, due to inclement weather students were relocated to Johnson Hall, with performances taking place in Lamberton Hall. 

The student performances included the Lehigh Dance Team, Bad Company, JM entertainment and performances by Benjamin Santos, ‘22, and Alexander Gonzalez, ‘21. 

The event also hosted  speeches by Student Senate President Eve Freed, ‘21, Coster, William Constant, ‘21, and guest speaker Kathy Iovine, professor of biological sciences. 

Constant talked about the challenges some students faced keeping up with remote  school work while their loved ones were fighting for their lives during the pandemic. 

He also praised students’ motivation to log on to Zoom for their classes each day and force themselves to participate in a monotonous routine.

“Many will say, ‘oh the youth, they complain, they have it so easy,’ but we did it,” Constant said. “We survived and still survive this pandemic. You did that and no one can take that away from you.”

Iovine spoke about the “new normal” the world is beginning to experience due to the  prevalence of vaccine distribution, but how the repercussions of isolation from the past year still exist. 

She also encouraged the audience to reflect on everything they missed out on throughout the pandemic in order to appreciate those moments more. 

“We might wish to forget the past year, but I suggest we remember it because by remembering the struggles we faced, we can remember to appreciate the value in what we missed,” Iovine said. 

Francessa Logozzo, ‘24, a member of Senate’s Student Outreach Committee, wanted the participants to take away a sense of optimism of what the future can soon look like with the addition of more in-person campus events. 

She said she hopes the event this year gets students excited for next year’s Diner en Blanc.

“Going from being completely confined to dorms to now being able to go to events in person, I just want people to take away that things are starting to get better and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Logozzo said.

Freed said she hopes students who attended the event felt a sense of accomplishment for making it through a very difficult year, as well as a sense of the resilience of the Lehigh community to tackle it together. 

“This was a tough year for so many reasons so I just want students to feel a sense of accomplishment and togetherness, that we all struggled through in various ways, but we were all able to come out of it strong and together as one Lehigh community,” Freed said.

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