The First-Year Semi-Formal will no longer be held after 20 years of the Emory University tradition. Director of Residential Education Linda Bachman said that a decline in student attendance contributed to the decision. Instead, dorms will now put on individual, large-scale events. Because Emory hosts a wide variety of campus-wide events for first-year students, such as Songfest, First-year Farewell and the Six Week Kickoff, Goodman said the Semi-Formal no longer represents the unique experience it once was and has lost student favor.
“While the students who attended Semi-Formal have always enjoyed it, it is clear that overall student interest is shifting toward other activities,” Bachman said.
Semi-Formal has traditionally focused on first-year communities, Bachman noted. She said that the changed structure would allow the department to redirect resources on events that include all residential communities.
“It is OK that Emory is discontinuing this tradition in favor of large-scale events in individual residence halls because I think they had a huge budget before for a single event that didn’t cater to the enter student body,” Adelaide Rosene (25C) said.
Last spring, both first and second year students were invited since second year students missed out on the dance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event typically takes place in late fall of Emory student’s freshman year. The Semi-Formal has been held at multiple different locations including the Fernbank Museum and the Atlanta Zoo.
While Rosene said she understands why the University made the decision to stop holding this event, she said she really enjoyed her time at the Semi-Formal held at the Zoo. .
“I wished that more people had gone,” Rosene said. “A lot of people in my grade were not interested in attending semi-formal, but I thought it was a very wholesome night and I got to spend time with some people I don’t usually see a lot at Emory.”
Dan Zhang (23C) said he is sad to see this Emory tradition end.
“As a freshman, I loved Semi-Formal because it was one of the few large-scale opportunities for our entire class to get together,” Zhang said. “You get to dress up, dance and not only hang out with your close friends but also be surrounded by people in your class you might not otherwise see.”
Additionally, given that the responsibility is now on individual residence halls to throw events, Zhang worried about the competition it will incite among the different halls.
“With the introduction of a large, hall-specific event, there will naturally be competition between the dorms for which one has the best event,” Zhang said.
He also added that adding these new residence hall events is another added responsibility for RA and SA staff who help out during ResLife events.
“I would personally rather help facilitate a class-wide event rather than lead a specific event and be concerned that what we choose won’t be enjoyed by some residents,” Zhang said.
Rosene also expressed concern for the added pressures put on student staff in residence halls to put on large scale events.
“It was a smart decision to shift away from the semi-formal because the attendance was not ideal,” Rosene said.
Additionally, she said that she is interested in seeing, “how Residence Halls decide to start their own traditions.”
Individual dorm events that are designed for the broader Emory community have been held regularly in the past, such as Haunted Harris, which is put on by both Harris and Complex Halls. Taking place during October, Haunted Harris features a free haunted house with performers, mazes, strobing lights and horrific scenes.
Bachman shared that she hopes to continue engaging the Emory community with similar events. She shared that the momentum and energy after popular events such as Songfest makes residential education excited to offer students the opportunity to gather, feel connected and take pride in their hall communities.
“We are excited to see what our students in residence hall communities do with this opportunity,” Bachman said. “Our hope is that these programs will deepen existing traditions and cultures and create new traditions that help students feel connected to their home at Emory and to each other.”
Executive Editor Matthew Chupack (24C) and Photo Editor Ally Hom (24C) are resident advisors on the Atlanta campus and had no role in writing or editing this article.
Assistant Multimedia Editor & Atlanta Campus Desk | Lauren Baydaline (she/her 23C) is from Los Angeles, California, majoring in biology and anthropology and human biology on the pre-med track. Outside of the Wheel, she is working in Dr. Escobar's lab and as a classroom technical assistant. Baydaline is also an avid volunteer for the Glendale YMCA. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, selling clothes on Depop, and working out.