Where are your Swarthmore memories? McCabe or Paces for late nights, Sci Commons or Essie’s for lazy afternoons, maybe even the occasional live show in the WSRN Big Room? The experiences we have here at Swarthmore, and indeed anywhere, are often inextricable from the spaces in which they take place. At Swat, as our specific communal spaces and the culture surrounding them change, our relationship as a community changes as well. For example, the recent redesign of Shane Lounge has made the room’s layout more flexible. The countless whiteboards spread around campus have allowed for both more collaborative work and more stress-relieving doodle breaks during study sessions. On the first floor of New PPR, a sprawling lounge with sliding blackboards, intimate wooden booths, and sleek design all around now serves as a gathering space among friend groups. These renovated spaces now promote creativity while students study and socialize.
We at The Phoenix appreciate these renovated spaces, especially as they foster a more connected community. However, with stricter enforcement of certain policies that affect social events and activities, students have felt inhibited from gathering in large friend groups or to engage in party games for fear of being shut down or cited. It is important to have the ability to hold social events that students would like to attend. Students should feel welcome and relaxed at social events such as Pub Nite, but the potential for Pub Nite to be shut down because of common activities such as beer pong impedes the sense of relaxation that Pub Nite should provide. This type of rule enforcement seems to dictate student behavior in a way that has minimum benefit but is a significant restriction on student autonomy. This type of policy make us students feel that we do not have full freedom of choice over our social lives.
Maximizing use of social spaces at Swarthmore takes creativity — we as a campus community can better make use of spaces by reimagining and stepping out of the rigid roles that we have set. Of course, beer pong and drinking games are fun, but so are nights spent playing cards with friends in a dorm room over a bottle or two of wine. There are a lot of ways to consume alcohol in fun social ways outside of classic drinking games. Expanding our social horizons has the potential to lead to new friends and great memories to look fondly on after we leave Swarthmore.
Particularly as new spaces continue to be developed on campus, it is important that the Swarthmore community recognize how influential place is to campus culture. Administration and staff need to recognize that students need to be respected and trusted in their use of spaces for gathering and events. With a little bit of creativity and collaboration, students can reimagine the spaces in which we socialize — to make them more inclusive, more varied, and more conducive to the positive interactions that foster a stronger and healthier community.