Saturday night the T.H. Harris Auditorium was filled with students, parents and supporters in attendance to see 24 girls vying for 12 months, but what they witnessed was pageantry marred by controversy.
Technical difficulties caused by a computer glitch postponed the results of the 45th Annual Calendar Girl Pageant for nearly an hour. But five of Saturday’s 12 announced winners were stripped of their calendar titles Monday.
Twenty-year-old Houston native Tiara Thomas was crowned Miss Cover Girl.
“It was very insulting, degrading and one of the most horrific embarrassing moments of my life,” said Darianna Myers, a pre-law and psychology major from Pasadena, Calif.
“There was a malfunction with two of the computers. When it crashed it didn’t record the scores,” said David Ponton, dean of student activities. “The technicians attempted to repair the computers during the pageant.”
Pageant officials say they were unaware of the malfunction, as they were backstage working the show. It wasn’t until the contestants arrived onstage for their final walk, when they were notified that two of the five judges computers had crashed.
“In attempts to rectify the problem, data was accidentally missed in the loop of the computer program and, on a spread sheet like Excel, when that happens it creates havoc throughout the program,” said Ponton.
Refuting rumors that the glitch was done purposely, Ponton said that scores are always reviewed during pageants and once reviewed they discovered that some scores were not recorded correctly.
The first time in its 45-year history, and with the use of computers for the past six years, officials say that the decision came to announce the winners of the calendar months the night of the pageant because of the manual judging sheets and technicians had verified that all the scores were accurate.
“It is too anticipated of a pageant put on by university officials for errors of this stature to occur. They relied on technology. If in fact they weren’t 100 percent positive they shouldn’t have been announced them,” said Myers.
“We rely on technology to ensure that everything is right on the computer,” Ponton said. “But when we went back and saw that there was missing data on the computer print out that’s when we knew it was a problem.”
In addition to the malfunction, officials believed the scores may have been wrong because usually when a contestant wins an award she places somewhere within the 12 month calendar. Such was not the case with the initial winners announced Saturday night.
“That’s usually a red flag, especially when we see that there is a blank pocket of data,” said Ponton.
From there a committee of pageant officials was formed, in which they admit that there was a problem. They then submitted the scores again, reviewed them and began to contact the announced winners first, then met with the actual winners in a closed meeting on Monday.
“I take full responsibility, because regardless of what happened no one would intentionally cause a situation. It falls all on me as the director,” said Ponton. “I apologize to all the contestants, their parents, the student body and administration, because this is a situation we never want to happen.”
In efforts to rectify the situation, all contestants were refunded their $400 entry fee and will be represented in some form within the calendar.
Calendar Girls are judged in three categories: daywear, swimwear and eveningwear. The six Cover Girl contestants were judged in five categories: talent, interview, daywear, swimwear and eveningwear.
Others agree with the decision made my pageant officials to replace those whose scores were counted wrong.
“I understand the feelings of the people who were stripped of their title,” said 19-year-old Kayla McClellan, a history education major. “But those girls who deserved a month and did not receive anything that night were hurt and embarrassed and robbed of their moment to shine in front of Grambling and their families.”