Love is in the air — and for sale

The Senior Date Auction followed the Kingdom Prayer Vigil’s final day of prayer based on the theme of hope last week. The irony of the sequence of events was impossible to ignore, with the Senior Date Auction booth squeezed between two enormous red Prayer Vigil posters in Lower Beamer, where one of the strings of paper hearts on the booth read “marry me.” With graduation fast approaching, the auction seemed to be playing the comedic act of helping the 28 seniors up for bid get their “ring by spring.”
This was the first year Wheaton College ever held a fundraiser of this kind. The 2015 Senior Class Council organized the event to supplement costs for their Senior Class Banquet, but the idea initially came from senior class president Emma McRoberts and vice president Cameron Williams.
According to Williams, the Senior Date Auction was actually “one of the longest things to culminate” this year. “A lot of the original ideas were Emma’s as senior class president. I just had a few tweaks and suggestions.”
Since taking office, Williams had been passionate about creating more opportunities to involve the senior class business manager through a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. However, in a desire to support other organizations on campus, McRoberts and Williams deferred many of their ideas that were similar to existing Valentine traditions. After brainstorming several other possibilities such as a senior serve fundraiser, which favored more male involvement, the two leaders went to the council to pitch the proposal for a silent senior date auction of male and female seniors.
Initially, many people on the council were opposed to the notion. The event raised a number of concerns regarding the controversy of bidding, the risk of cleaving from traditional fundraising and finding seniors willing to participate.
Williams acknowledged, “The whole event has a scandalous nature to it.” However, the council made an effort to eliminate all the negative connotations associated with an auction by making everything confidential and making sure there was an emphasis on friendly and comfortable “date” suggestions, many of which were given in the school-wide emails advertising the event.
Despite these precautions, the Senior Class Council took a risk in opting for an untested fundraiser with their Senior Class Banquet at stake. The risk reflected the innovation-driven leadership of the Senior Class Council, who, in the past, has diverged from the more tradition-oriented encouragement of the administration. Williams emphasized a lack of pressure from the administration, simply noting that the Senior Class Council was more willing to try new ideas rather than traditions that people  enjoyed.
One of the Council’s primary concerns was accumulating a diverse number of senior participants without overly relying on friend groups. Through networking and persuasion, the Senior Class Council was able to find twenty-eight male and female seniors from various niches of Wheaton College, several of whom expressed enthusiasm for the event.
Wheaton College has two major stereotypes about its dating culture: “ring by spring” and “what dating culture?” When asked which the auction seemed to be operating off of, senior participant Andrew Shadid laughed, “I hope not the first one!” Shadid shared his excitement to explore more of the personal stories among his fellow students. Many of the other participating seniors vocalized similar outlooks on the fundraiser as a fun means for students to interact with seniors rather than a romantic ploy.
During the fundraising, the student body seemed to be torn on both sides. Some adamantly rejected the notion of bidding while others expressed enthusiasm for the event as an amusing way to get to know seniors. Others remained hesitant and unsure of what to think. In many ways, the plurality of responses reflected the dual and somewhat contradictory stereotype of Wheaton College’s dating culture.
Nevertheless, from the first day, Williams said he was surprised from the positive response and bids they received. “It wasn’t the maximum possible bids, but we got more than I expected,” he said.
Many of the senior participants encouraged students to look beyond Wheaton College’s romantic stereotypes and to be more free and open to being friendly without pressure or stigma. Student body president Grace Pyo said, “I’ve heard that more people — men and women — are asking people out on dates. I think that’s a positive development.”

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