A line of 400 students dressed in brown and white formal attire filled Packer Avenue on a Thursday night. The sea of students waited for buses to take them to a secret location for a night of food, entertainment and celebration at the annual Diner en Blanc.
According to its website, Diner en Blanc is an international event that originated in Paris, in which people dress in white to have a meal at a temporary dining setup in a public space.
Typically, attendees are required to provide their own food, tables and chairs. But getting off the bus on April 20, guests were led to Wind Creek’s ballroom for an all-included meal.
Lehigh’s adaptation of the event, hosted by Student Senate, is held each spring to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of Lehigh students, faculty and staff.
Hamsa Javagal, ‘25, Senate’s outreach committee chair, said this year’s theme was “celebrating community” because they wanted to make the event more engaging and inform guests about the different cultures that make up the campus community.
The night began with speeches by Javagal and Senate President Victoria Drzymala, ‘23, who addressed the recent hate crime on campus.
“I urge you all to participate in making the campus a safe place for all students, especially students of color,” Drzymala said.
Following the speeches were dance performances by TUMBAO, Belly Dancing Club, Bad Company, Lehigh University Dance team, African Renaissance and JM Entertainment.
Khadija Khan, ‘24, attended the event for the first time this year. She said she especially enjoyed the dance components of the night — citing TUMBAO as her favorite group.
“Seeing so much diversity, especially in the performances, that was nice,” Khan said. “It builds on the theme, so I liked that.”
Javagal said the outreach committee began planning the event in the fall semester when they selected the theme and dress code. This semester, the committee focused on finalizing the venue and selecting the menu.
She said the Senate raised a $45,000 event budget through sponsorships by various university departments including the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Auxiliary Services.
The Senate was able to select a menu featuring a taco bar, steak, mashed potatoes, mini red velvet cakes and more.
Despite the large sum of money raised, Javagal said the $5 fee students pay for tickets is used for expenses that arise after the event, such as beverages. Beverage costs vary based on how much is consumed throughout the night, so it is not accounted for in their fundraised budget.
Javagal said the remainder of the money is put back into the fund for next year’s event.
Missy Connolly, ‘23, said the ticket price was manageable.
“It would be nice if it was free because we go to the school, but $5 is fine,” Connolly said.
Jason McGuire, ‘25, a member of the Senate outreach committee, said the committee aimed to keep the cost of the tickets low.
“This is a fairly large and expensive event, so I think $5 is small enough that most people are able to afford it and come out,” McGuire said. “But I get why some people think it should be free.”
After the performances, seniors were invited to take a class photo together and all participants were encouraged to take pictures with their friends in the photo booth, which was provided by the Senate.
For seniors, this year’s Diner en Blanc was not only their last chance to attend, but their first without COVID-19 safety precautions.
Alexis Soulias, ‘23, attended the dinner when she was a sophomore. She said she had fun at the event and felt especially obligated to attend this year because it was her last one.
“I thought they did a really good job (these past few years) considering it was COVID and there wasn’t a lot we could do — it was very restricted,” Soulias said. “It was really nice to see this one and how it’s all done up.”
Javagal said she would like to see an increase in senior attendance in the future. She said the dinner is a valuable opportunity for them to celebrate the end of their four years at Lehigh.
Beyond this, Connolly and Soulias said they enjoyed having an event that allowed them to dress up and go somewhere.
“I definitely put together an outfit last-minute, but I think it’s fun to have a dress code to follow and the brown and white for Lehigh,” Soulias said. “It’s very fun.”