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Honors student turns capstone into dance party

University of Massachusetts senior Dorothy Polatin has one hope for her capstone, a research-intensive thesis or project required of all honors students.

Amanda Joinson/Collegian

Amanda Joinson/Collegian

She hopes that everyone will dance.

Instead of opting to do a traditional project, such as producing a film or writing a manuscript, Polatin, a double major in communications and management, decided to organize a series of alcohol and drug free dances, the second of which will take place this Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Fine Arts Center lobby.

“I had always wanted to do some sort of dance that took away the pressures of alcohol,” said Polatin. “I want to give people who want to dress up, have fun and go out a place to do that.”

Since Polatin was already interested in hosting a drug-free dance, she decided to turn it in to her capstone in order to earn credits for her efforts.

“I told them this is something I am passionate about,” said Polatin. “And they didn’t say no.”

The dance, Neon Night, is open to all UMass students and free.

“You shouldn’t have to pay to have fun in college,” said Polatin.

Polatin is trying to create a club-like atmosphere in the FAC lobby, giving the event the tag line, “If you liked DAYGLOW, if you like Diva’s, then You’ll Like This.”

Hundreds of glow sticks will be distributed to partygoers upon entry and prizes, such as gift certificates to Bart’s, GoBerry, Central Rock Gym and Family Golf will be handed out throughout the night. The first 75 people to arrive will receive a free UMass Permaculture t-shirt.

“I want people to come and feel welcome, safe and meet new people,” Polatin said. “I want them to feel like they can go dance and still get up in the morning to do homework.”

Polatin does not drink, but still likes to go out on the weekends.

“I am outgoing. I feel very comfortable talking to anyone, and I don’t care if people think I look silly,” she said.

She also said the culture at UMass can be difficult for people who choose not to drink, which was one of her inspirations for the dance.

“Part of why I am doing this is because I have been around this culture of binge drinking,” said Polatin. “I don’t like this huge focus on ‘you can only have fun when you drink.’”

Polatin has sat in on several Campus and Community Coalition meetings, an organization that strives “to promote responsible decision making about alcohol and other drug use.”

Polatin said she feels that sitting on the committee has helped to shape her perspective of the relationship between townsfolk and students. The UMass Police Department’s committee membership has had the most influence, according to Polatin.

“I hear their side of the story,” said Polatin. “It is interesting. It is very difficult for the police. They have to put up with us, too.”

She continued to say that while she does not feel that house and frat parties are an “issue,” they do create some disturbances and problems within the Amherst community.

“We cause a lot of noise disturbances and not everyone is on the same schedule as us, some families have kids,” Polatin said.

Last semester, Polatin hosted “Winterball,” another alcohol and drug free dance, at the Newman Center. She said that approximately 115 students attended.

“I didn’t advertise enough,” said Polatin, noting that she hopes more people will attend this time. She has been advertising on Facebook, in the dormitories and via blog.

When Polatin originally proposed this project to the Honors College, she planned to hold one of these dances every month, but quickly realized she would have to scale it back.

“I am laughing now at the thought,” she said.

She is unsure of if she will be organizing another dance this semester.

“It’s a lot of planning,” she said. “This might be the last one I am doing.”

The dance is sponsored by the Stonewall Center, UMass Permaculture, the Panhellenic Council, University Health Service, the Office of Fraternities and Sororities, the Campus and Community Coalition and Campus Recreation.

Katie Landeck can be reached at

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