Attendees at the Mansfield College Ball on Saturday were dismayed to find that much of the promised food and drink ran out before the scheduled time, in some cases by several hours.
Held on 27 February, the Mansfield Ball was a ten-hour affair lasting until five in the morning. The ball’s theme, ‘The Doors of Perception’, centered around the various dimensions of sensory pleasure. Attractions at the ball included shisha, caricatures, laser tag, alcoholic milkshakes, chocolate fountains, various food trucks, and ample amounts of alcohol. Dining guests enjoyed an eight-course meal in Mansfield’s Chapel Hall, and live music played throughout the night.
The controversy began when guests began to notice that certain areas of the College were beginning to shut down much earlier than had been indicated on the ball’s programme.
One guest posted on the ball’s official Facebook page in the middle of the event, asking why the food stalls had closed at 11 p.m. when the schedule had stated they would be active until 2 a.m. The guest also noted that the confection room had closed an hour earlier than promised, and requested information as to why the tap room, which was scheduled to last until 4:30 a.m., had closed before 2 a.m.
The Mansfield College Ball committee did not respond until the following day, at which time the official page left a response signed by committee president Thomas Barnett.
“[The food and drink closed] because supplies of these things ran out due to much higher demand than expected. This is fairly obvious. Thanks for your constructive comments though, we’re glad our guests were so very perceptive”, Barnett wrote.
The original guest responded to Barnett shortly, calling the response “a disgrace” and an illegitimate excuse. “Miscalculating so blatantly how much food and drink are required is negligence on your behalf”, the student wrote.
“The response to guests’ concerns was wholly inappropriate, and I felt that the ball was very poorly organised in general”, said one undergraduate who wished to remain anonymous.
“The sit-down dinner took over four hours, causing dining guests to miss out on most of the other attractions at the ball. And because of the delay, the ball committee and porters tried to rush guests out at the end of the meal–in my case, before we’d even been served our last course. It was absolutely appalling for the price we paid”.
Dining tickets to the ball cost £130, while non-dining tickets were £90. The ball had completely sold out months before the event, with dining tickets in high demand.
Another guest observed that the queue for the Silent Disco at the end of the night was situated outdoors while the exit was inside, citing this as an example of poor planning on behalf of the ball committee. “It would have made so much more sense to have had the two locations switched, considering that the temperature was around 0 degrees”, she told OxStu. “No-one wanted to queue outside”.
“Also, they rented a massive marquee for the middle of the quad, but it was really too cold for anyone to stay out there because they didn’t have any heaters”.
In a statement to OxStu, Barnett wrote, “I can confidently declare that Mansfield College Ball 2016 was a great success. The barrage of praise and thanks that we have received via Facebook, Instagram, personal emails and in person from our wonderful guests leaves me fully satisfied that our vision was beautifully realised”.
Jessica Loring, Ball Committee Vice-President and Secretary, stated, “We regret that for some guests, some foods ran out quicker than others; portion numbers were decided based on past balls and the advice of catering professionals – we provided over 1,500 portions for just 550 non-dining guests. Our food was delicious, and the fact that it was so thoroughly enjoyed by our guests is testament to the excellent work of our committee and caterers. However, guests were not left unfed – in response to the unexpected circumstances our breakfast was pushed forward and I understand that guests were delighted with our chocolate-bacon pancake bar.”
“Our terms and conditions were always made very clear, and whilst it’s a bit unexciting to point to them as a response, they do amply justify our position and decisions”, said Barnett.