Love is in the air this season, just in time for New College’s Valentine’s Day Center of the Universe Party (COUP), which was thrown on Feb. 25. For Novos needing to let off steam following the spring semester kickoff, the Love and Dionysus COUP was the perfect time to put on their best costumes and enjoy a Saturday night full of fun. COUP host and third-year Nayelis Cardenas curated six Greek mythology-themed campus areas, a live performance from student band Sungrazer and student-facilitated setlists that had New College buzzing with anticipation as that fateful date came closer. However, budget concerns, campus safety and lack of resources for student recreation loomed around the event planner, as the budgets thus far for the 2022-2023 COUPs have dwindled around $700, as opposed to the 2021-2022 average COUP budget of $2,000.
Cardenas was the sole organizer of the Love and Dionysus COUP, a large feat for one person.
“I was the main host of the COUP, however, the Equipment Teaching Assistants (EQTAs) and my friends have actually helped a lot and have kept me on track with all the individual things,” Cardenas stated in an interview before Feb. 25. “I really am looking forward to everyone’s outfits and the individual places coming together!”
Each area on campus was assigned one of the seven forms of love, according to Greek philosophy, to stay true to the Love and Dionysus theme. The Nook was represented by Eros, the Old Mailroom (OMR) as Mania, Palm Court as Agape, Z-Green as Philautia, Z-Amphitheater as Pragma and Ludus, and Hamilton classroom (HCL) 7 was represented as Philia and Storge. Cardenas went through their planning process with the Catalyst and described their inspiration behind each part of campus.
“For Palm Court, the plan was to have a blanket fort with red gel covering the lights to represent the intimacy and love of Eros (romantic love),” they said. “The Nook is supposed to represent self love, so I decided to [build] a forest of mirrors with a small appreciation station where you can write affirmations and make promises or resolutions to yourself.
“The OMR, I wanted intense flashing red lights with a fog machine to represent the blindness and intensity of Mania (obsessive love),” Cardenas continued. “For the Z-Amphitheater, I wanted it to look the most like a Greek-esque place with the golden garlands and the columns, and for HCL7 I kept it plain to not overstimulate.”
When the clock struck midnight, New College students flooded the Z-Amphitheater for student band, Sungrazer, as they prepared a setlist full of hits. Sungrazer played both original songs and a cover of “Cult of Dionysus” by The Orion Experience, which was perfectly on theme for the COUP. Meanwhile, in the Z Dorm kitchen, students sold Turkish delicacies such as Börek and Turkish delight to raise money for the citizens of Turkey and Syria who were affected by the recent earthquakes.
New College students danced, sang and rose from their seats to make a pit. In the middle of the performance, laughs filled the audience as thesis student and band member KC Casey auctioned off a ponytail of their freshly cut hair. The hair was eventually bought for $10 by third-year Isaac Tellechea. After the show, Casey was interviewed by the Catalyst.
“It’s really nice that we still have opportunities like this for students to participate,” Casey said. “I hope we continue to. It’s really nice because something like this brings people together and that’s what New College is all about. Especially with everything happening around us.”
“Music is a great way to do that, we had a really great turnout,” they continued. “It was our first time performing and it was really fun!”
Despite the list of exciting activities for the Valentine’s Day COUP, safety during New College events has been a major concern following the recent media coverage and publicity at the university. Luckily, the student-led safety patrol present at every COUP, the Fairy and Dryad volunteers, were present to manage the party and facilitate a positive environment during the event. The Fairies and Dryads receive training before COUP about identifying the warning signs of alcohol poisoning, overdoses, unwanted advances and aggressive behaviors in order to allow a safe and fun time during the celebration.
Fairy volunteer and third-year Jane Major spoke to the Catalyst about why she volunteered for the position.
“I sign up to be a Fairy or Dryad for COUPs as often as I can, simply because we can’t have an enjoyable, police-free time without them,” Major said. “Our job is simply to be the middlemen. When someone needs help, we make sure they get the help they need, whether that be a drink of water or somewhere quiet to sit or a call to someone who can get them medical aid.”
Fairy volunteer and third-year Meliah Wimbush also offered her opinions on school safety prior to the event.
“My main safety concerns, following the school’s recent publicity, is honestly just how the campus can feel extremely open and easy to access,” Wimbush said. “This is a security issue all year long, but I’ve definitely seen more unfamiliar faces around in recent weeks and hope that doesn’t impact COUP. I hope that COUP will go well and that students can have a moment to ease some of the tension circulating around campus and enjoy the uniqueness of this New College tradition.”
After COUP came to an end, a few students shared their opinions on the festivities with the Catalyst.
“It was fun, and I had a great time!” first-year Riley Riley stated. “I felt that the COUP was really well done and I loved the decor.”
“I loved all the local musicians,” first-year Max Parsons said. “The standup was really great too!”
Cardenas recently opened a Google Form for those interested in providing feedback, sharing memories and favorite photos from the event. Feedback will be used to keep improving the COUP tradition and give organizers insight into attendee’s favorite moments.