Students express outrage over expensive Senior Week, make alternative plans


Source: Carlos Belardi

A meme on Northwestern’s meme page making fun of Senior Week pricing. The high prices of some of the Senior Week events have caused students to become angry and plan their own activities instead.

Cameron Cook, Web Editor

Some students who can’t afford to pay to participate in Northwestern’s Senior Week are finding alternatives to the activities, saying the University excludes low-income students from partaking in them.

Senior Week is a collection of both free and ticketed events that occur between finals and commencement. The activities, which range from an alumni office-sponsored beer garden to a $55 day trip to Six Flags, have been met with student disdain. Low-income students have taken to social media to air their grievances with what they see as the University’s refusal to support those who aren’t rich and privileged.

SESP senior Samantha Buresch said she’s not surprised the University would exclude low-income students from Senior Week, but that the high cost of the activities was a “smack in the face,” especially since for some of the events, it would be cheaper to go alone rather than through the University.

“These events are ridiculously priced,” Buresch said. “I can go to Lincoln Park Zoo on my own, for free. They’re literally going to Shedd Aquarium on a free day and trying to charge students.”

Though students can attempt to lessen the cost using One Form — a program Student Enrichment Services developed in 2017 to help low-income students pay for on-campus activities — the money isn’t available to everyone who may need it. SES can only cover the expenses for a “limited number” of students, according to Northwestern’s website.

The money typically comes in the form of reimbursement, Buresch said, and students who are unable to front the cash can’t sign up in the first place. In addition, applications for One Form were due on May 27, which Buresch said was before the prices for the events were released. The deadline for the application has since been extended to May 31.

Communication senior Taylor Stark said another problem with One Form is that it isn’t well publicized — she’s used it once, she said, but wished she’d known about the opportunity earlier.

SES did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition, events sponsored by the Alumni Association come with the extra cost of a donation to the school, Buresch said. The Alumni Association deferred comment to University spokesman Bob Rowley, who said a donation isn’t required to attend Alumni Association events, both during Senior Week and the rest of the year.

“Participation in these programs does not require a gift to the University, although some of the activities do have a registration fee,” Rowley told The Daily in an email.

However, some still feel as though by making the events ticketed, the University is keeping low and middle-income students from celebrating.

“It kind of goes with the idea of who is able to pay for these events and keeping those students happy and only focusing on those students,” Buresch said.

Stark said she doesn’t feel like the University is purposefully excluding low-income students, but called pricing the events so high a “gross oversight” of low-income students and their end-of-year experiences, and that students should be able to “purposefully choose” whether or not to attend events rather than being forced to choose not to for financial reasons.

“I have already felt excluded at this university because of my financial background,” she said. “It seems to me that an institution of this status should try their best to help students not feel this way instead of adding to it.”

In lieu of going to some of the more expensive events, like the formal dance, some seniors are organizing their own events. One student-run event is an alternative formal, which Buresch said will cost between $20 and $25 — half the price of the Senior Week formal.

Stark said she might also attend the student-organized formal, but definitely plans to attend smaller parties thrown by some of her friends, as well as a couple of the school-sanctioned events — she would go to more, she said, but can’t afford many of them.

“What is supposed to have been a joyous celebration of all we have accomplished has turned into a financial stress and burden,” Stark said. “I have given my blood, sweat, tears and money to this school for four years. Seems like they could throw us a bone and pay for Senior Week.”

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