One month has officially passed since the beginning of the fall semester. Students have now experienced four weeks of parties hosted by the fraternities, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, and new party organizer NuWave. However, many students are of the opinion that the parties these last few weeks have been different than these parties in the past few years. For instance, in the past, the Swat Team was not as exact in keeping track of the number of students in a party space, whereas now, long lines of students wait to get into a venue that is up to capacity. Likewise pre-gaming has become a much more popular activity, and students are starting to drink quite a while before any parties are set to start.
Also, many students think that the novelty of fraternity-hosted events is wearing off. One major change felt this year was dissatisfaction with Disorientation. The event is the campus’ most highly anticipated first party of the school year traditionally hosted by Phi Psi during the first weekend of the school year to signal the end of Dry Week. In reality was not the first party this year,. It was held in the third week of classes, almost a month into the semester. Even then, the party did not live up to its hype while Phi Psi is usually packed to capacity during the party and is notorious for being wild and lively, attendance this year was quite noticeably sparse for most of the night.
Luke Barbano ’18 noted that there is a definite change in the air.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and we can’t really figure out why it’s different … but I feel like the parties are just lower energy. People are very disenchanted with the fraternities. They always have been, but I feel like it’s kind of reached a tipping point now where people are deciding not to go there as often. Exhibit A: when there was that party in Worth. Like, this has just never happened before.”
The most notable oddity of the last few weeks is that the perceived increase in presence of Swarthmore borough police has also contributed to the change of party scenes. Police have been active on campus three out of the four weeks that there have been parties hosted at the college, resulting in a subsequent shutting down of events. A lot of confusion has arisen as a result, as many students are unsure as to why police continually interfere with campus events for seemingly no reason.
Sergeant Raymond Stufflet of the Swarthmore Borough Police Department asserted that there has been no actual increase in police presence on campus.
“I would say that [police presence] has been consistent, but we have had some incidents up there, which has brought our attention to the campus, probably a little bit more frequently than normal,” Sergeant Stufflet said. “But as far as year to year, semester to semester, I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary. You know, perception is not reality. Maybe, it looks like heightened police presence on campus. Long summer, time passes.”
Swarthmore College’s campus is within the jurisdiction of the Swarthmore Borough Police Department, so it is not unusual for officers to patrol the campus each week. Sergeant Stufflet stated that two officers is the norm for both patrols and call responses. In the event that extra help is needed, back-up will be requested and other agencies will assist and send reinforcements. It is only when a call is made to the police department that officers would walk into a building on campus — however, the call could be for anything.
“It depends on the situation: a medical reason, a safety concern, anything,” Stufflet maintained. “ If there are potential problems over the course of a weekend, you could see increased police presence because it’s dictated by the set of circumstances. The calls for service will dictate our responses up there.”
On the night of Sept. 17, there was a flurry of activity between students and Swarthmore police. DU was hosting a party, was visited by Swarthmore police and ultimately had its party shut down. There are very different accounts of the events that night, which adds to the confusion, students are not sure why police were there in the first place or what happened to cause the party to be shut down.
Barbano, in his account of that night, was confused as to what was happening.
“I remember the police walked into DU, and they weren’t doing anything they were just looking around at the entrance. My friend, who was in DU, said that the president of DU called off the party because they didn’t want any trouble.”
It is unclear as to why the police were there in the first place, however. One student stated that they were on campus responding to a call in Danawell earlier in the night but remains unsure as to how they ended up at DU.
Following the end of the party, crowds of students filled the lawn spaces between DU and Phi Psi as they figured out their next plans of action. Shouts of “Fuck the police!” rang out from an angry crowd, to which the six officers on the scene were then pressed to “investigate the chant,” as one claims. The number of officers on scene is not consistent with the number of officers Sergeant Stufflet said is normal for a call, suggesting that there were other departments present at the time.
The same night, a junior, who requested not to be named due to the sensitive nature of the incident, got into an altercation with police that ended with their arrest.
“So a couple students went up and talked to them, and then, I was like, you know, I’m gonna go up and talk to them as well. And, so, me and my friend approached the officers and I was like, ‘Can I talk to you all?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, sure, let’s have a conversation. Come on over.’ I said, ‘Hi, I’m [name] nice to meet you,’ and I shook one of the officer’s hands. He said, “[Name], what’s your last name?” I said ‘I don’t really want to tell you that.’”
The student, who had been drinking prior to their encounter with the police, had been inside DU at the time it had been shut down. Before willingly approaching the police, the student had been seen twice by officers, who had shone their flashlights on them. They also admitted to having been among the students chanting. They, then, go on to explain what led them to attempt to engage in conversation with the officers at the scene.
“Initially, I had gone over there with the intention of one, seeing what they were doing, and two, apologizing for the chant, kind of on behalf of myself and on behalf of everyone else. But the conversation never got that far. As soon as I said, ‘I don’t really want to tell you that the officer was like, ‘You’re under arrest.’ And he went from handshake to, like, wrist grab.”
Before being put in handcuffs, the student pushed the officer’s hand away and attempted to back away, but was stopped by a tree behind them. The student then recounted being tackled by three officers and arrested. The student claimed to have never been read his Miranda rights. A Public Safety officer accompanied the student to the Swarthmore Borough station where they were told by police that they had been taken in for resisting arrest, which is a felony. They were not criminally charged with the felony, but they were cited, which does not result in jail time and can be remediated with community service. However, to this day, the student is not aware of what exactly he was cited for, as they were never explicitly told. The student speculates that the citation may have been for underage possession of alcohol, but they won’t know for sure until they gets an official letter from the court. While the student does not believe their actions warranted the arrest, they do believe the police had credible reason to be wary as the student had previously joined in on the provocative chant.
Sergeant Stufflet wishes to dispel any misconceptions.
“There is no distinction between the campus and the rest of the Borough of Swarthmore,” he says. “It is not unusual to see us on campus, and it shouldn’t be. We might not be as approachable as Public Safety, and we need to work on that … if the officer appears to be engaged in something that has their direct attention, individuals might want to be a little cognizant of the fact that it may not be an opportune time to attempt to engage in conversation.”
In an attempt to inform others of how to avoid the situation, the student whose actions ended in their arrest, wishes they had acted differently.
“I was chirping them a little bit with the chant, and then, I went up to them and talked to them directly. Those were just two really dumb things done on my part.” To students, they say this: “If most students just used the brain that they have, they’ll be fine.”
The close of each week brings more parties.. It remains to be seen whether police activity will actually begin to decrease or if there will be continued interaction between officers and students in the coming future.