The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News February 15, 2008

Date Auction's Heat Funds Sierra Leonian School

The verdict is in: building schools is sexy. The Valentine’s Day Auction’s 36 dates sold for a sizzling sum of $1,203.16 to go toward funding the construction of a school in Sierra Leone. Combining that to total donations collected at the door, College senior Rachel Rothgery, who organized the event, was able to pour about $1,400 into the charity pot, which now holds between  $5,000 and $6,000.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought it went great,” said Rothgery.

By about 9:20 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, at least 150 students had crowded into the Cat in the Cream to see how this unorthodox fundraising event would unfold. It seemed to have an equal chance of being embarrassingly awkward and audaciously entertaining.

However, College senior and emcee Tom Curtin ensured the latter scenario by keeping the audience loose and entertained for the entire night, most vitally during occasional lulls in bidding action. “I just tried to keep the energy up,” Curtin said. “I mostly just played off the crowd. It was certainly a worry of mine that a date auction at Oberlin would be entirely awkward, but it went over well.... It was pretty much fun from the beginning.”

As was expected, the auction began with some unavoidable awkwardness as spectators shed their inhibitions and became participants in the pursuit of romance. The mean price paid for a date over the course of the night was $33.50. “I’m just glad I made more than average,” said Rothgery, who went for a cool $40. “I think some people heard that I was engaged and got scared off.”

Rothgery and Curtin both agreed that the personality of the crowd played a crucial role in the event’s success by allowing the auctionees to feel comfortable modeling themselves. “People can feel very insecure on stage, putting themselves out there to be bid on,” Curtin said. “It’s a terrifying concept.”

One such person, double-degree first-year Erin Lobb, said, “It was kind of nerve-racking, but everyone was having fun with it and the emcee was hilarious. It helped that I was one of the last people to go, so the crowd was already into the format of it and it wasn’t quite so scary.” Lobb, who strutted onstage to James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” ended up selling for $70, the second highest total of the night.

“I tried to act like it was something I expected, but no, that completely took me by surprise,” Lobb said of her price tag. “I probably turned all kinds of wonderful shades of red to match my shirt.” While many of the students were purchased by friends in the audience, Lobb was bought by double-degree senior Ralph Lewis for his friend whom Lobb called a “total stranger.”

Any bidders concerned about emptying their pockets further at the actual date had their dilemma solved by the gift certificates given out to each couple for one of the local eateries. Lobb and her Valentine will be having a complimentary dinner at the Feve.

Looking back on the Date Auction, Curtin felt that it was “relentless fun. But I was lucky enough not to have my self-worth on the line.”


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