The tri-annual, campus-wide celebration, formerly known as Palm Court Party (PCP), has been renamed Center of the Universe Party (COUP). The change came about as administration tries to distance the school from its “drug culture” reputation. PCP is also the acronym for the dissociative drug phencyclidine. The recommendation to change the name first came from the Drug and Alcohol Task Force. The task force, which consisted of student and faculty representatives, gathered to “examine New College’s policies on alcohol and drugs, attitudes on campus, and the reputation of the institution.” President O’Shea created the task force in response to the drug-related deaths on campus last spring.
The preliminary round of voting eliminated less popular names and narrowed the options down to 10. Students were then asked to rank the remaining choices from one to 10, with one being their favorite and 10 being their least favorite. Although the weighted average leaned in COUP’s favor, only 14.77 percent of voters selected it as their first choice, as opposed to the third runner-up, Palm Court Party. A distinction is to be made between Palm Court Party, which lacked the PCP abbreviation, and the former name, which obtained an overwhelming 26.14 percent of the first-choice vote. Despite demand to retain the name, Palm Court Party also received a surprising 12.27 percent of abstentions, or voters that refused to list it as one of their top ten. In contrast, COUP received 2.95 percent of abstentions.
Professor of Biochemistry Katherine Walstrom, who was chair of the task force, said the name change was a minor recommendation, “[It was recommended] mainly for outside perception, because anyone outside of NCF wouldn’t know what Palm Court is.” Walstrom acknowledged that the reason people use drugs is “way more complicated” than something a name change could resolve. Walstrom also noted the element of nostalgia present in the former name, and laughed when made aware, for the first time, of the new one. “[COUP] doesn’t have the same concerns. I don’t see a problem with it.”
When asked who had final authority on whether or not there should be a name change, Walstrom replied, “It should be up to the students to discuss the cost[s] and benefit[s].”
However, Evann Soltys-Gilbert, thesis student and co-speaker of the Towne Meeting, explained that an email sent out by Campus Life Coordinator (CLC) Vanessa Van Dyke made it seem like the name change was necessary.
As noted from the results of the final poll, more than 25 percent of the voting body chose to retain the name without the acronym, with many others voting for it as their second or third favorite choice.
Yet many students agree with the name change. Thesis student Erika Folk stands firm in her belief that the renaming of PCP is an essential part of what she calls “the healing process.” Although she recognizes the administration pushed for the students to change the name, Folk said, “[The name change] is a call to action rather than a forced change of tradition.” Folk also stressed the importance of a new name, because unlike PCP, “[it will make] people who are substance free be more comfortable.”
Though she discussed her own personal favorite name changes, such as Wall but Larger (WaBL) and Center of the Universe Party (CUP), she ultimately agreed with COUP because, playing upon the meaning of the word, “The decision was handed over to the students.”
Some who oppose the acronym COUP claim it invokes violent and problematic connotations of a coup d’état, but Folk, in disagreement, concluded, “COUP has violent connotations, but to this campus, it is more related to student empowerment.”
Others, such as thesis student Stefan Drakulich, stated in an email “I think it’s just as much a play on the word as PCP was.”
The problem, even to those who oppose the name change, is not necessarily the new name of the celebration, but rather the differences in the celebration itself. Drakulich stressed in his email that the atmosphere of parties on campus is slowly pushing people into their rooms, where they abuse substances more so than if they had stayed outside. Expressing his frustration, he continued, “Losing something that’s been one of the keystones of NCF culture so easily to the wills of the administration has made me disheartened even further. It’s just one in a long list of slow changes the school has made with the students completely powerless.”
Drakulich concluded, “I think it comes down to what we make of it. If we truly get our hands tied with how the party is thrown, then we’ll have to reconsider how we wish the school to continue. We’re the students, after all.”