Author Topic: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation? - Update #11  (Read 2922 times)

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GlobalGirl

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University Dinner: Is this really an invitation? - Update #11
« on: August 06, 2010, 08:44:20 PM »
Background:

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).

Problem:

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?  
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 04:37:53 AM by GlobalGirl »

Julia S

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2010, 05:22:18 AM »
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.

ladiedeathe

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2010, 05:31:37 AM »
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.
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Nibsey

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2010, 05:40:00 AM »
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.
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scattley

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2010, 05:57:25 AM »
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.

DaisyChain

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2010, 07:26:49 AM »
GlobalGirl - can I ask where you are?  If you are in the UK, then it is inappropriate for you to attend.  High Tables are for invited academics only - no partners. 


veryfluffy

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2010, 08:03:49 AM »
GlobalGirl - can I ask where you are?  If you are in the UK, then it is inappropriate for you to attend.  High Tables are for invited academics only - no partners. 



Absolutely. And the "social unit" thing is not relevant, since it is not a social event, but an academic/work meal.
   

Goog

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2010, 11:21:27 AM »
I know nothing about the 'high table' portion of it, but do have to say that this whole thing sounds pretty fancy and ceremonial.  And as such, I would totally expect a formal invitation.  Basically word of mouth for a fancy thing like this?  No, that has the potential to blow up in your LiB's face.  I would call the office and ask where the invitation was, under the guise of getting facts right.  Tell them you feel extremely awkward to attend such a formal event as this one when you've not been apprised of any of the details except through word of mouth, and then only when you practically had to chase someone down to get any information at all.

And WHEN you get an invitation, look at how it's addressed for your clue on the guest situation.

Surianne

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2010, 11:25:51 AM »
I wouldn't have even considered that you'd be invited to this, honestly, and I don't think your boyfriend should have asked.  He likely put the woman in a pretty uncomfortable position.  Unless you're very clearly invited (without him asking), you shouldn't go.   

I know nothing about the 'high table' portion of it, but do have to say that this whole thing sounds pretty fancy and ceremonial.  And as such, I would totally expect a formal invitation.  Basically word of mouth for a fancy thing like this?  No, that has the potential to blow up in your LiB's face.  I would call the office and ask where the invitation was, under the guise of getting facts right.  Tell them you feel extremely awkward to attend such a formal event as this one when you've not been apprised of any of the details except through word of mouth, and then only when you practically had to chase someone down to get any information at all.

And WHEN you get an invitation, look at how it's addressed for your clue on the guest situation.

I wouldn't go this route.  Basically you're accusing them of not doing their jobs properly, which isn't a great reputation to have. 

veryfluffy

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 01:31:58 PM »
I know nothing about the 'high table' portion of it, but do have to say that this whole thing sounds pretty fancy and ceremonial.  And as such, I would totally expect a formal invitation.  Basically word of mouth for a fancy thing like this?  No, that has the potential to blow up in your LiB's face.  I would call the office and ask where the invitation was, under the guise of getting facts right.  Tell them you feel extremely awkward to attend such a formal event as this one when you've not been apprised of any of the details except through word of mouth, and then only when you practically had to chase someone down to get any information at all.

And WHEN you get an invitation, look at how it's addressed for your clue on the guest situation.

At colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, where a high proportion of the students live in, and eat in the dining hall, High Table is a table for the use of academics (known as fellows) and their guests. The table is normally on a raised platform and at the end of the dining hall. Academic gowns are usually worn (this is not the whole regalia, just the ordinary black robe, normally), and is also worn by the students dining in Hall, who are not at High Table.

Invitation to dine with someone at High Table (usually extended to fellow academics, out of town visitors, etc.) are definitely not formal or written, merely verbal. It's the same as asking a friend to join you for supper, really.

Although it would help to know what country the OP was writing from, I suspect it is the US and the university in question question quite possibly Princeton. A bit of googling turned up this article: http://www.princeton.edu/~gradcol/perm/hightable.htm

An excerpt:
"High Table in Procter Hall, however, was - and is - a much more democratic affair than it ever was at Oxford or Cambridge. With the Master or Dean presiding, High Table brought together selected students and faculty and administrative guests. The whole idea was not to separate faculty from graduate students but rather to provide an additional opportunity to bring them together.

High Table is now a monthly occurrence. The Dean of the Graduate School invites faculty members and students to attend. The evening begins with drinks and hors d'oeuvres at Wyman House, the Dean's residence. After a talk from the honored guest, the group moves down to Procter Hall and seats itself at the High Table. The Dean of the Graduate School sits at the middle of the table just below the portrait of Dean West. After dinner is over, the Dean leads the party back to Wyman House for dessert and coffee. "



   

mich3554

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2010, 01:44:20 AM »
Any professional dinner I have ever attended at my university, spouses or significant others are not invited.

IMO, social units do not apply to situations like this.  Sorry.....I think that this is something your LiB should attend alone.

GlobalGirl

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2010, 04:37:11 AM »
-- Clarification ---

We are in Australia.

I am Canadian and LiB is Australian.  Between the two of us, we have ten years of university academic and social life experience on two different continents.  Yet, until this situation arose, neither one of us had ever heard of a 'High Table.'  Meanwhile, precisely zero of our friends have heard of one either ---- let alone actually attended.  Thus our best and only dependable source of information seemed to be the co-ordinator.  After all, this is her job.  She manages, markets, and attends countless events for University A throughout the year.  It seemed pretty reasonable then to assume that she had been to a High Table before or had at least arranged them for others.  It was only upon asking her for clarification that it became clear that she too is a bit in the dark about them.  (Obviously, we should never have assumed anything --- lesson learned!)  

I think we are just totally thrown off by the informality of the invite versus the apparent formality of the dinner.  LiB has basically been issued a second-hand verbal invite through the co-ordinator for something that seems fairly official.  I understand that these events are more common in the U.K. (with a few choice American schools adopting these dinners as well).  However, those seem to be situations where the whole 'High Table' ritual makes complete sense given that many students live in residential halls.  My experience of Australian universities is the opposite.  Practically no one lives in official university housing, making the whole ceremony of a 'High Table' seem even more formal and something that should require more than a simple, "hey, want to come?"

It's not like it was necessary for an elaborately engraved invite either.  A simple email saying "Mr. LiB" or, alternatively,  "Mr. LiB and Guest" would have been sufficient enough to make sure there were no questions to ask.

Anyway, I am not a student at University A.  My only independent affiliation with them is that I am a Ph.D. applicant which LiB seems to think means that I should voluntarily go to these things with him now as I will probably be forced to go next year anyway (I sort of think that's equivalent to arguing I might as well clean someone else's house because I have to clean my own).  I have pretty much decided then that I should play it safe and stay home. I just know though that this guarantees that everyone will be there with their partners --- just as I know that if I do go, it guarantees that I will be the only partner there.  It's like Joseph Heller wrote this situation just for me (Catch-22).
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 04:39:02 AM by GlobalGirl »

Mrslouwho

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation? - Update #11
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2010, 06:50:53 AM »
My husband had something VERY similar happen to him.  We're American but he's studying in the UK.  The first year we were here he had an informal invite to a very formal dinner with important people he was supposed to make contacts with and generally impress.  After some hunting, we got someone who had been to the previous one say, 'she will be ignored and really bored if she goes, but no one will tell you not to bring her'.  I decided not to go. 
He said I made the right choice when he got back.  there were a few spouses left at a separate table the whole night while the start students were taken around and wined and dined the whole time.  If that sounds like fun, go for it.

noexitwounds

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Re: University Dinner: Is this really an invitation?
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2010, 08:07:13 AM »
Anyway, I am not a student at University A.  My only independent affiliation with them is that I am a Ph.D. applicant which LiB seems to think means that I should voluntarily go to these things with him now as I will probably be forced to go next year anyway (I sort of think that's equivalent to arguing I might as well clean someone else's house because I have to clean my own).  I have pretty much decided then that I should play it safe and stay home. I just know though that this guarantees that everyone will be there with their partners --- just as I know that if I do go, it guarantees that I will be the only partner there.  It's like Joseph Heller wrote this situation just for me (Catch-22).

I wouldn't stay home. That might have been my advice before you/your LiB asked (though I can see asking the question out of honest confusion as to what was going on) but the fact is you have now asked, co-ordinator had to explicitly inquire as to whether you were invited, and therefore there's a reasonable expectation you would like to go/plan on going. (Since they don't know LiB did it without consulting you.) If you stay home now it can look like you're snubbing them or just wanted an invite for the sake of an invite or any other number of things that would leave a bad impression of you to some potentially important/influential people at your first choice PhD program. *Not* something you want to do.  And I'd even argue it'd be rude to not go now, since you were confirmed as on the guest list (regardless of how that came about), and your reasoning for not going is your lack of clear invitation.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 08:09:15 AM by noexitwounds »
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