The line to purchase a ticket was exceptionally long, stretching roughly 30 feet from the door of the Adams Center to the parking lot. Neither the stars nor the moon were showing due to heavy cloud cover. The temperature was 32 degrees, warm for February.
Or was it the booze?
The door to last year’s 95th Foresters’ Ball was heavily patrolled by volunteers, keeping an eye out for anyone trying to sneak in or cause any problems. Floodlights illuminated more than 1,600 people as they passed through the door on the second night of the Ball, the most in Foresters’ history. For those waiting to buy a ticket, the temperature made it easy to stand in line.
This was the first time that the event was held at the Adams Center since it began in Schreiber Gym in 1915. The Forestry Club had to switch venues after the Missoula Fire Department deemed the lack of sprinklers in Schreiber unsafe.
Many of the students arrived after drinking heavily, as had become customary in the Ball’s 94-year history. As a result of public drunkenness, more than 100 people were turned away at the door or kicked out. The debauchery did not escape the scrutiny of University of Montana President Royce Engstrom or the greater University community.
Organizers of the Foresters’ Ball, which has made the list of Playboy’s best college parties, received unexpected news when they found out the ball was going to be canceled.
In the wake of an internal investigation of the Universities’ dealings with reported cases of sexual assault, many believe that the Foresters’ Ball fell victim to the circumstances.
Faculty adviser to the Foresters’ Ball, Beth Dodson, said that the reasons were not clear to the students at the time as to why the event was being canceled.
The speed at which the temporary decision was made meant it didn’t have time to make it to the foresters before it was announced to the media. Dylan Brooks, former treasurer of the Foresters’ Ball committee and current publicity manager of the event, said that many on the committee found out through KPAX in the week following that the event was canceled.
“Nobody contacted us,” Brooks said.
In December 2011, The University of Montana hired former state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz to do an internal investigation into University’s handling of sexual assault. Her report detailed, “A risk factor of alcohol has been involved in most reports.”
At an open forum hosted by UM concerning nine sexual assault cases in the week following the Ball, former Grizzly football player Charles Burton held up a copy of the Montana Kaimin’s article titled “From ball to drunken brawls.” He said that if student athletes had been implicated in this event that it would be much more discussed.
The article, written by UM journalism student Spencer Veysey, spoke to the rambunctious and drunken atmosphere of last year’s Foresters’ Ball. In the report, Veysey wrote, “a group of foresters called ‘the posse’ removed people if they became too rowdy, often trying to diffuse the situation.”
In the days immediately following the forum, Engstrom announced the cancellation of future Foresters’ Balls.
“[The discussion] started out with the students being told that the ball was done and over with by President Engstrom,” Dodson said. She said that the students then went to Engstrom with changes to the format of the Foresters’ Ball that would address the issues seen in last year’s ball.
Afterwards the two sides opened discussion and President Engstrom wrote a letter to the committee. The letter outlined several stipulations if the ball were to continue:
The time of the Foresters’ Ball must change.
Exhibits or venues that encourage inappropriate behavior must be eliminated.
Attendance must be a more “manageable size.”
The ball design must be attractive to and appropriate for families and school-aged children for at least part of the function.
The event must be designed to be more of an educational opportunity.
A clear plan must be in place for controlling admission of individuals under the influence of alcohol.
After much discussion with President Engstrom, the foresters developed an outline for the 96th Foresters’ Ball that both sides can agree on. Brooks and his fellow foresters said they hope the scrutiny of last year’s issues do not effect this long tradition. With maximum possible ticket sales cut to 1,200 this year and an increase in security, students can expect a stall on the Foresters’ Ball drunken fall.