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University Dinner: Is this really an invitation? - Update #11

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My boyfriend and I have been together for three years.  For the last year and a half, we have been living together --- so for the sake of simplicity I will refer to him as ‘Live-in Boyfriend’ (LiB).  We are not engaged but I do think it is fairly reasonable to assume that we qualify as a social unit at this point.

LiB is a graduate student at University A and I just finished a Master’s degree (although not yet officially conferred) at University B.  

LiB won a prestigious scholarship this year and has consequently become a bit of a ‘poster boy’ (or ‘marketing tool’, if you prefer) for University A.  Among other things, he’s had a photo shoot for the alumni magazine, been honoured at an awards ceremony, and asked to give a speech aimed at recruiting new students.  There is a co-ordinator who contacts him any time the university wants him to do something else.  

A few months ago the co-ordinator mentioned that one of the colleges (you might interpret this as ‘private club’) that operates within the university wanted to invite him to a ‘High Table.’  Okay, that’s great!  Except that the logical question was, “What the heck is a High Table?”  His response was, “I don’t know.”  I suggested that he might want to find out.  

Fast forward to this past week.  LiB hadn’t heard anything about this mysterious ‘High Table’ since it was first mentioned and it seemed to be forgotten by the co-ordinator.  Well, we happened to bump into her at a university event the other night and LiB briefly mentioned that we never did find out what it was all about.  Now, this co-ordinator is very, very, very eager in her job so she jumped right on it.  The next day LiB hears from the co-ordinator that she’s followed up on the ‘High Table’ and now it’s on --- for next Thursday night!  In the meantime, she’s finally tried to explain what it is…Essentially, it will be a formal dinner of academics (and potentially other guests) with the dean of the college.  It is expected that guests will wear their academic gowns for the evening (these will reflect their level/type of education --- for example, different hood colours denote different fields of study).  This presumably means that my boyfriend will be expected to wear the basic, black undergraduate gown throughout dinner (as he has not yet finished his Master’s degree, he’s not technically entitled to wear a Master’s gown).


When in doubt, I usually advise LiB that he should just go ahead and ask for clarification.  In this particular case, the doubt has been whether or not I am expected to accompany him to the dinner --- so he went ahead and asked the co-ordinator.  (Note:  He has never had any formal invitation.  This is simply the co-ordinator telling him where to go and when to be there).  The co-ordinator said she actually wasn’t sure and would check on his behalf.  This made me a bit uncomfortable but I only heard about it after the fact so there was absolutely nothing I could do about it (since I can’t travel back through time -- yet).  She has since come back and said that I can attend.  Nevertheless I am really, really worried that her “checking on his behalf” went something like this:

Co-ordinator:  “Can LiB bring his girlfriend to this event?”
College Dean: “Ummm, well…ooohhh, I guess that’s okay if he really wants to.  But usually our guests are expected to come alone.”

However, it might have gone a bit more like this (and I really hope that it did):

Co-ordinator: “Are significant others welcome to attend the event?”
College Dean: “Of course!  Almost everyone brings their partner.  Sorry for the confusion.”

The reason I am worried is the simple fact that she had to ask.  I have no idea how she worded it and am sort of concerned it might have come off as pushy or begging for an extra invite (again, very eager in her job).  So I am at a total loss…

Do I go to the dinner only to discover that no other guests have brought along their partners?  I would be pretty mortified.

Or do I stay home, only to have LiB return and tell me that I should have come along because everyone else was with their significant others?  (And worse, that it was a fantastic night.)

To make matters more complicated, I am totally on the fence as to whether I even want to go.  After all, the idea of sitting around in a stuffy, borrowed academic gown while trying to make polite dinner conversation with complete strangers doesn’t exactly thrill me.  However, these are also complete strangers to LiB and I know he’s not totally thrilled to be going either…which is why he asked whether I was expected to come with him or not  ---- basically so that he wouldn’t have to suffer alone (if there is suffering involved).   I know my boyfriend pretty well and fancy dinners are just not his thing --- sometimes to my great dismay.  However, the evening isn’t actually doomed to be miserable.  It might be a great night and, if that’s the case, I really don’t want to miss it.

So I need some serious guidance.  Should I go (even though the invitation is essentially second-hand)?  Stay home, throw on some non-borrowed pyjamas and enjoy delicious take-away instead?  Or perhaps send a monkey in my place and hope no one notices?  

Julia S:
Is it possible to ask someone else (especially since there was no official invite)? Perhaps the Dean's assistant/secretary (or He/She Who Knows Everything, as I believe they are usually called :P) or a Professor who will likely be there?

If LiB is the University's poster boy, preventing a faux-pas is in their interest as well, so they should be willing to help him.

OP- If you were not familiar with acadamia yourself I'd say to skip this, but please, do consider going. You will be welcomed and should enjoy at least some of the discussion.

Especially if you both plan on getting your Ph.Ds, this is a nice thing to do.

Yeah these things usually end up less formal that initially thought. Maybe ask the deans executive assistant? they will be use to these type of questions.

All the high tables I have attended have definitely not been "and partner" unless we are talking about introducing the new dean or VC (and the deans/VC partner attends). As such I would not be expecting to go.


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