The first year, I was both fascinated and excited by the possibility of May Balls. Having heard nothing but tales of glamour, beauty, and decadence – yet unable to afford the high prices of most people – I subscribed with a passion to work as many as possible. Work has been promoted via student pages like Camfess as a way to try the ball without paying. Google Form After filling out a Google Form in great anticipation.
Committee members instructed workers to refrain from “stealing food”
While I’ve been working on several other June events, none was quite as exciting as the prospect of working at the Trinity May Ball – with a budget of hundreds of thousands and a dazzling fireworks display, I wanted a taste of the magic without the £1 price tag. 225.
The Trinity May Ball was unique, in more ways than one. Working at the event showed me another side of Cambridge – a side of riches, arrogance, and merits that I had heard about, but had not experienced in my year at university. My experience made the stereotypes of Uxbridge such as those of drinking societies, populated by Eton alumni who burn money in front of the homeless, more believable.
The organization of the ball itself was a shame – the members of the committee were aloof and despised because they directed the workers to stay in the restroom and refrain from “stealing food”. After we were promised two hot meals throughout our 12-hour shift, we were met with a bowl of lukewarm penne pasta and some tomato sauce. By three in the morning, when I got a break, only cold noodles remained. One of the workers told me that he “refused to eat a banana in the workers’ room and had to deal with the lack of support from the committee”. Crepes, sushi, bao cakes, desserts and the overcooking experienced by the guests were strictly off-limits to us.
“I heard about the reputation of colleges like Trinity — and that night, they lived up to the stereotype”
It was not only members of the commission who treated us with contempt. The guests deliberately smashed champagne glasses for fun and left us to clean up the shards. When telling a guest not to take his glass in a certain area, she is met with the dubious question “Don’t you know who I am?”. Another guest asked if I could do anything about the “ordinary people” who gathered in boats on the river to watch the fireworks – because they “didn’t pay for it”. Another graduate of Trinity, upon hearing that I went to Hill College, taunted me and suggested that working on the ball was the only way I could get into it. We’ve all entered the same university – but the superiority of the guests seemed like I don’t think so. The way the guests were disrespectful to the workers and members of the public was really shocking.
It wasn’t just me who had this experience. Several of my co-workers had a similar colleague. Another first-year worker told me that Trinity May Ball proved every stereotype they had heard about Cambridge before they came. They commented that they had “never felt more uncomfortable and uncomfortable in this university” than at work that night.
Other May Balls were more welcoming to working students. At the Pembroke May Ball, the committee members constantly checked in with us, offering reassurance and asking if we needed anything. In Pembroke, just as in Corpus and Emmanuel, student workers were able to skip huge queues for food trucks in order to eat their 30-minute breaks. The other May Balls may have been similarly disorganized, but none of the other balls were treated with disregard for the student workers. Before coming to Cambridge, I had heard about the reputation of colleges like Trinity – and that night, they lived up to the stereotype.
Working at the Trinity May Ball was a harrowing and open-ended experience. Paying several hundred pounds to attend the ball does not qualify you to be rude to those who work tirelessly to make the evening more enjoyable. For the wealthiest singles college, Trinity really shows that there are some things money can’t buy – respect, decency, and care. There is something it does: entitlement.
Varsity approached the Trinity May Ball Committee for comment (02/07).
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