Traditions at Mills was the underlying tone at the annual Senior Pin Dinner last Thursday, held in the Orchard Meadow dining hall – at which Assistant Director of Residential Life, Lael Sigal, was pinned the honorary member of the class of 2006.
The Senior Pin Dinner is a longstanding Mills tradition. It is the annual fall celebration of the senior class’ upcoming graduation and the recognition of a faculty or staff member as an honorary member of the class of 2006.
This year, students nominated professors Bob Anderson, Barbara Bowman and Vivian Chin in addition to Sigal. Seniors then elected Sigal to be the member of their class. In her acceptance speech, Sigal accepted the senior’s pin, saying, “Thank you very much. I am really very honored to be among you.” In her emotional address to the class, she spoke of her work experience at Mills and said goodbye to the class, as she will be leaving at the end of this week.
“Lael has been an integral part of this community and has mentored many of the graduating seniors. She has been here for six or seven years and has developed a relationship with these students,” Iwata said.
Iwata spoke of traditions at Mills as she read (and sang) from a 1946 Mills Student Handbook – a true testament to the traditions that are still present in Mills life. “May our traditions take us many places and spaces,” Iwata said as she addressed the class. “Your journey has just begun.”
“We asked Joanna last minute to give a speech and I thought she did a wonderful job of not only engaging the audience, but keeping a light air about everything,” said Scottie Hall, senior class president. “Of course my favorite part was when she sang.”
According to Lynne Sloan, vice president of the senior class, between 110 and 120 seniors participated in the event. The celebration continued after the dinner at the Mills Art Museum, where seniors toasted their soon to be graduation with champagne. According to Sloan, 40 to 45 students attended the separate gathering. “Of course we would have had more participation if it had been in the same place [as the dinner],” Sloan said.
According to Hall, the senior class council was stonewalled in the effort to have alcohol present at the dinner. “It was really unfortunate that they wouldn’t let us have a traditional event and serve wine and have a toast to our graduation. There was no logical reasoning. They came up with several excuses that were on opposite ends of the spectrum.”
According to Iwata, Housing Management and Dining Services has several policies on how to deal with serving alcohol. “The senior council had planned to do both events in one location so my job is to take this into consideration with other people on campus,” Iwata said. According to Iwata, she initiated conversations with Vice President of HMDS, Karen Maggio, Vice President and Treasurer, Liz Burwell and Executive Vice President of Office of Institutional Advancement Ramon Torrecilha.
“I felt like they [the administration] weren’t treating us as adults or with the respect that we deserve as graduating seniors,” Hall said. “All of us have four years of higher education under our belts … many of us have more. Some of these women are mothers or professional business women.”
In addition to celebrating graduation, senior Dorine Slocum saw the Senior Pin Dinner as an opportunity to spread the word of free speech. Many students sported Slocum’s hand-made “Respect Free Speech” labels at the event. Slocum handed out the labels at the front door and explained that she made them in response to the Native American Sisters’ Alliance’s banners being taken down by fellow students on Columbus Day.
“I felt really strongly about it and felt … I needed to do something to address it,” Slocum said. “It made me really happy when people came up to me and said, ‘I know what you’re doing and I want a sticker.'”
Overall, seniors enjoyed the dinner and thought it was a great testament to the traditions that soak into everyday life at Mills and are apart of being a Mills woman.
“It was so nice to be a part of such a long Mills tradition,” said senior Alison Oscilka.
Sloan said the outcome of the event was exciting. “We really loved doing it. It was really satisfying to have such a great turn out,” she said. “It shows that the senior class is coming together and hopefully will work well as a group.”