There are few places on campus that the majority of the student body frequents. A combination of necessity and convenience draws students back to Sharples everyday like thesauraus.com during a long and uninteresting paper. As much as students complain, they always find themselves back in the homey ski lodge-esque dining hall that is slowly becoming too small as the the student body is increases. Dining options have increased with the implementation of the OneCard, but Sharples is still the closest food option during dinner, before 8pm, and the only one that will take swipes before mealtime. Like any social space, everyone inhabits Sharples differently. Most people choosing to fall into the routine of eating in groups. Sometimes when there isn’t assigned seating in a classroom, people accept the challenge and sit in the same spot for the rest of the semester, finding solace in their unofficial official seat. With such an academically focused student body, why would Sharples be any different?
Some Swatties noticed that “the athletes” constantly sit together at, the same tables, at A1 and started talking about it. They felt that this was not okay and was representative of the “fratriarchy”, the manifestation of the patriarchy in anything affiliated with fraternities. They decided that something had to be done, something bold. Their plan? Step one, sit at A1 and other A tables. Step two, eat.
For those unfamiliar, many students use a grid system to easily identify which table someone is referring to. When in the main room, columns are referred to with letters, and rows are referred to with numbers. When you are standing by the bussing station looking out at the tables, the table closest to the compost is referred to as A1.
When asked how the plan to disrupt the Sharples norm started, Ploy Promrat ’19 talked about how it began with her and her friends joking around in Hobbs.
“Essentially, Morgin [Goldberg ‘19] and I were just talking about how it’s kinda funny that certain tables are sort of tacitly reserved for certain groups and we thought it’d be funny to mess with that dynamic a little,” Promrat said.
Goldberg ’19 shared about how the joke then became a Facebook event, which naturally gained more and more interest.
“We did it because we thought, this would be funny. I made a facebook event and invited 10 people, my friends, with a lengthy description that was meant for humor and I said invite your friends … thinking it would expand to 25 people but in total I believe it expanded to 320 people,” Goldberg explained.
Sabrina Merold ’17, who participated, shared her perspective of the event before it happened.
“From as far as I can tell, this started as friends talking about what Sharples might look like if typically male sports teams didn’t sit in A1, and then turned into a discussion of masculinity and the patriarchy at Swarthmore,” Merold shared.
Merold also shared, in retrospect, what it was like to sit with the many people who expressed interest in the event on Facebook. It started at 4pm and Merold said it gave her an opportunity to sit with people who she otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interact with.
“I found it enjoyable that throughout the dinner, people would come and go at my table and I ended up eating with a diverse mix of friends from clubs and classes that I don’t usually eat with but have always wanted to,” Merold said.
Goldberg shared what happened from her perspective as she sat at the “A tables.”
“As people who usually sit in those seats came in, I expected people to be secretly mad, but the actual response, people were partially fairly openly angry and pissed off and threw their keys off at a different table,” Goldberg then further elaborated about what had happened.
“Some people were like, ‘haha okay we’ll sit somewhere else’, but then later around six o’clock the people who came in were pretty mad, people came up to me and were like, why would you do this, this is so petty and that was the point, it was petty,” Goldberg shared, expressing how surprised she was.
Merold described the initial confusion that many people expressed when they came to find the tables full of people.
“I did see some looks of confusion when some individuals who usually sit in column A came over and weren’t expecting to see the tables full,” Merold said.
Brendan Watson ’19, an athlete who normally sits at the tables at the center of the joke, commented about his team’s reaction to the entire situation.
“There was a lot of giggling by whoever was sitting at the usual ‘athlete’ tables, I guess they thought they ‘got us’ and made us look out of place by taking our usual seats. Most of us didn’t realize that people were upset over the fact that we sat at the same tables with the rest of our team everyday,” Watson recounted.
The group who organized the occupation of A1 were successful in proving, despite the “athletes tables” label, that the seating is open to any person choosing to eat in Sharples. The group of students took a stand, ate dinner, and disrupted the norm. Swatties were brought together and laughs were had, ultimately creating connections within our community while making students more conscious about their seating decisions.