Dance Marathon looks to become more inclusive


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Kelsey Adams, one of the Dance Marathon 2014 emcees, pumps up tired dancers. This year, the DM executive board has vowed to make the event more inclusive.

Alice Yin, Assistant Campus Editor

Dance Marathon is working to reach more multicultural and socioeconomic groups on campus this year after complaints surfaced last spring alleging the event was not inclusive enough.

To make the event more inclusive, DM plans to extend student fundraising opportunities and increase funding for its registration fee scholarships, said DM spokesman Ross Gordon.

“We are making Dance Marathon a more inclusive experience, one that represents the entire Northwestern student body,” the Medill senior said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The group first announced its intention to be more inclusive during the summer, after many NU student leaders published a letter to the editor in The Daily in April. In the letter, student groups described DM as being difficult for many students to access. Gordon said the letter encouraged the DM executive board members to make inclusion a priority.

The letter said the organization “privileges students with racial and socioeconomic advantages” as well as Greek affiliation.

SESP senior Gram Bowsher, who signed the April letter as president of Wildside, said students’ complaints about DM 2014 highlighted that “there’s a gap on campus that needs to be filled.”

“Many multicultural student organizations and other groups on campus are underrepresented in Dance Marathon,” Bowsher said. “Dance Marathon is just so Greek-dominated and a lot of students involved in multicultural groups on campus don’t necessarily feel like they could participate and raise the money.”

The student leaders also created a Tumblr in the spring called “Bigger Than a Tent” that featured testimonials regarding DM’s diversity and inclusiveness.

To make the $400 fundraising requirement more attainable for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds this year, DM will increase the number of canning days so students can have more chances to raise the money, Gordon said.

The group will also add fundraising opportunities by adding “Munchy Mondays,” which will give individual students or teams a chance to reserve a spot in the Technological Institute lobby on certain Mondays to fundraise. Gordon said the board plans to secure several days for Munchy Mondays during Fall and Winter Quarters.

Gordon said the DM executive board hopes to expand funding for the group’s registration scholarship, which waives the $50 registration fee for students who are unable to pay. The scholarship was created last fall using Associated Student Government money.

“I think it’s a very needed thing,” said Austin Romero, ASG vice president of diversity and inclusion. “We talk about (DM) being tradition, but in terms of access, a lot of it has to do with socioeconomic status.”

The board has also been meeting with student leaders across campus to discuss inclusivity issues, which Gordon said he hopes will continue in the fall.

“It’s important to get the change going and the conversation started,” Gordon said. “The entire executive board found them valuable. There were a lot of viewpoints I hadn’t considered before that made us more aware of these issues.”

Sean McQuade, Wildside vice president of finance, who has met with DM executive board members before to discuss inclusion, said the new additions to fundraising are positive changes but may not be viable for everyone.

“Fundraising with methods like canning is just hard for everybody to get the $400,” the Weinberg senior said. “When so many people are asked to raise $400 on campus, that can be tough because everyone is doing the same thing.”

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Dance Marathon’s plans to make the event more inclusive due to an editing error. DM plans to increase student opportunities to fundraise. The Daily regrets the error.