Picking up a copy of the Phoenix from April 2, 1971, I spy a front page headline: “S’more Senior Arrested On Possession Charges in Media Narcotics Raid.” It reads that “a Swarthmore student is being held for grand jury” for what was described as the “biggest quantity of LSD ever confiscated in the borough” by the “Delaware County Daily Times”, coming in with a whopping 2,000 tabs of LSD and small quantities of marijuana, hash, and barbiturates (an old-fashioned strong sedative). The article, which would be a sure-fire headline story today, describes the student as “the Media link in a chain of marketeers for hallucinogenic drugs” which operated between Media and Swarthmore, and is shoved into three paragraphs in the corner of the front page, indicating that this big drug bust was perhaps not too shocking in a ‘70s Swarthmore.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine witnessing a similar drug bust at the Swarthmore I know today. I sat down with Lilly Price ’20 to discuss the fabled wild past of Swarthmore and how her expectations of Swarthmore differ from the present reality.
“When I was applying to Swarthmore, I was really drawn to the weird and quirky,” said Price
“I would read the comments on Niche.com from 2009 that would be like, ‘I go streaking every day and shove my best friend up my butthole! It’s so wild here!’”
We also spoke about rumors that we’ve heard thrown around in the Swat bubble of the weird traditions of the Swarthmore of yore.
“Obviously, Crunkfest is the most wild tradition I’ve heard about,” Price stated.
Crunkfest is a tradition you have probably heard about in passing, and it used to be condoned by the college to some extent. It takes place over the course of a few days, and the idea is that you form a team of friends and compete against other teams in ridiculous tasks. These tasks include but are not limited to: a “treesome” (threesome in a tree), eating a 20-egg omelette which you must then throw up (and then eat again), pulling flags out of you butt to present to your group at the commencement of the ceremony, and an array of other drug-fueled and absurd endeavors.
However, since many of Crunkfest’s wacky shenanigans also happen to be illegal shenanigans, the college felt that it could no longer support the yearly tradition. Certainly, Crunkfest is not the only eccentric tradition that the college used to claim as its own. I decided to go on a witch hunt for rumors, facts, and anything in between I could find about the fabled Swarthmore of the past, as well as traditions that still exist today.
“I’ve heard of orgies happening on Parrish Beach at night,” said Price.
In addition to Parrish Beach, rumors of Mary Lyon basement orgies have been around for a while. They are said to have taken place before the basement was converted into a dorm space.
“The story goes that ML used to be the party dorm because it was off campus — but because it was in the town there was a lot of issues. Swat started selectively putting people in there that wouldn’t make problems. Thus, ML becoming the nerdy dorm,” said Christopher Malafronti ’18.
Malafronti also talked about the Dash for Cash, a fundraiser for the rugby team, which constituted the team doing a naked run through all four floors of Parrish with paper bags over their heads. People would hold cash out to them, and they would try and grab the cash as they nakedly and blindedly ran through those sacred Parrish halls.
Though nowhere near a naked and blindfolded run through Parrish, sports teams still have their own traditions. Price spoke of the track team’s “naked mile,” which takes place during the fall semester. A pretty self-explanatory jaunt, members of the track team strip down and run a mile around the campus track. I’ve also heard rumors of other teams playing secret naked games at different points in the year.
As we are approaching an era in Swarthmore’s history where institutional memory about the Spring of Our Discontent is fading fast, I thought it would be apt to talk about a pre-Discontent tradition hosted by the queer community. The infamous “Gender Fuck” party, which was later extinguished due to frat culture infiltrating the space, is a highlight of the Swarthmore of days past.
Gretchen Trupp ’18 said the intent of Gender Fuck was for attendees “to experiment with gender presentation and come dressed in a new way, or in a way that finally makes them feel comfortable… encouraging people to fuck with gender, basically.”
The only party that I think could compare to this is “Glitter Booty Slap,” a party which occurred just a year before I came to Swarthmore. A “clothing optional” queer party which I’ve been told was as rowdy as it sounds – like people giving oral sex in a corner rowdy. In the true spirit of keeping the alternative party scene alive a “Glitter Bomb Party” is scheduled to be hosted again by SQU this year, inspired by the legacy of “Glitter Booty Slap.”
So what has changed about the Swarthmore culture between then and now?
“It seems like the college itself has maybe changed the type of students that it’s interested in. This is now one of the top liberal arts colleges, and now maybe the school is feeling more pressure to admit students who are very focused on performing well in school and sports, and less focused on bringing in students who are quirky, or have really crazy backgrounds or who are interested in counter-culture and being weird,” Price hypothesized.
However, I sat down with two bright-eyed freshmen, Grayson Mick and Maya Zimmerman, and they seemed to have a different perspective on things.
“It doesn’t seem with this freshman class that that’s really the case — I’ve met so many different unique people, and [it] doesn’t seem to be all about perfect scores and GPAS,” said Mick.
So is the class of 2021 the class to help bring weirdness back to Swat? Or is it a simply a matter of disillusionment with campus culture that happens over time?
“From what we’ve seen, they are wild,” Zimmerman asserted about the class of 2021.
It should also be noted that weird traditions are by no means gone at Swarthmore. An example of which is the Green Bottle Party which takes place during senior week.
Cesar Cruz Benitez ’17 told me that the premise of the party is “this is your last chance.” The gist of the event is that each senior is given a bottle of champagne (your ‘green bottle’) and they give it to someone they’ve always wanted to hookup with, or in more innocent cases, be friends with.
“Let’s say there’s someone you were interested in for a really long time — this is your time to go for it and be like, ‘Hey I’ve seen you from afar for a really long time, never actually talked to you, and I like you, I find you attractive. And whatever comes of that comes of that.”
As for the traditions which defined Swarthmore culture in days past?
“I definitely do think that there’s a possibility for these traditions to be brought back, in the spirit of bringing back Swat’s weirdness — there were a couple of more alternative parties thrown last year, and I think there is a group of students interested in making Swat weirder, which is great. We just need to get more students dedicated to that cause,” Price stated hopefully.