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INFOGRAPHIC: 2014 to 2017 hospitalization data sheds light on drinking games ban

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In light of Public Safety’s recent crackdown on drinking games as reported in the March 22 issue, The Phoenix thought it appropriate to report the numbers of hospitalizations due to alcohol over the past four years since both the hard alcohol and drinking game bans were first introduced. The drinking game ban, which was instituted in 2014 for what Dean Liz Braun said were safety concerns, has been sporadically enforced by Public Safety prior to this semester according to several students. Director of Public Safety Michael Hill, who reported these numbers, said the number of incidents could vary for a variety of reasons and commended the community for calling Public Safety when help is required.

Students under the age of 21 make up the largest proportion of hospitalizations, with 2015 reaching a high of 32. Hospitalizations of students over the legal drinking age have steadily declined. The number of drug-related incidents has remained at one each year, except during 2015, where the number was not reported. Public Safety also did not reveal any more detailed number breakdowns.

PubSafe cracks down on beer pong, community seeks alternatives

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Public Safety has recently begun enforcing a rule prohibiting drinking games, preventing Pub Nite from hosting beer pong and shutting down Delta Upsilon for playing a similar drinking game in the past month. Both locations hosted such games for at least the past three years, several upperclassmen said.

According to Public Safety records, an officer reported “unauthorized drinking games in Paces” on February 15 and DU was referred to the College Judiciary Committee for playing drinking games in the house around the same time. Neither group has offered beer pong since, and leaders of the fraternity refused to comment on the issue.

Many students expressed dissatisfaction with the change. Director of Public Safety Michael Hill said it’s a delicate balance for officers to build rapport and engage with students while enforcing college policy and state law.

“Sometimes it requires that Public Safety officer [must] make hard decisions around enforcement, which are unpopular with some segments of our community,” he said.  

Dean of Students Liz Braun said that the drinking games policy — which prohibits “engaging in or coercing others into activities, games, and/or other behaviors designed for the purpose of rapid ingestion or abusive use of alcohol”— has always been enforced, although it might not have been visible to the student body.

However, despite the longstanding policy, students have noticed a change in enforcement.

“When I first came to Swat, PubSafe and school atmosphere was much more tolerant of drinking games, not cracking down unless hard alcohol was used or another school rule was broken,” Gus Burchell ’20 said. “I appreciated this, as in my experience, drinking games slow the rate of alcohol consumption and make the act more communal and checked, as opposed to drinking for the sake for drinking—which is what the recent increase in enforcement has made students resort to.”

The school tightened the reins on alcohol after the spring of 2013, a period when many student issues arose, by also banning any form of hard alcohol on campus. Institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and Tufts have also banned beer pong—what Time magazine called one “of college kids’ favorite pastimes.”

Luke Barbano ’18, a Pub Nite leader, said students should not get upset about the administration enforcing the rules, but rather try to change the rules themselves.

“I think students are frustrated because they think that something has been taken away from them when in reality they had been getting away with something that wasn’t allowed to begin with,” he said.

Braun said the rationale behind the rule is the safety of the students. To allow students other social alternatives, she recommends getting creative.

“I’m hoping that students will work with us collaboratively and creatively to find ways to uphold this policy while still having fun at social events,” Braun said.

And they are. Since March 1, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) has given Pub Nite around $150 to spend on food and other attractions to keep nightlife alive. Clare Pérez, another Pub Nite leader, said this opportunity gives students who might not engage in drinking games a chance to have fun on Thursdays.

In the past weeks, Swarthmore Queer Union co-hosted Pub Nite and featured blow up animals and coloring, and the Womxn’s Resource Center took over to offer free Qdoba and karaoke. Events have also been less beer-centric, as Shivani Chinnappan ’18 reported that attendees finished four boxes of wine but have yet to finish one keg of beer in the past two events, whereas in previous weeks, the group emptied two kegs a night.

“Pub Nite’s tradition certainly is not as a drinking games party,” Pérez said. “We want to reorient Pub Nite back towards its origins, as a unique Swarthmore tradition that appeals to the diversity of the student body instead of only a specific demographic.”

Despite this, many students believe that enforcing the drinking game ban kills an already dying party scene and promotes heavier drinking behind closed doors, as opposed to in a public space protected by resources like SWAT Team and party hosts.

Jonny Guider ’21 said that despite the recent reinforcement, beer pong is not going away.

“All the school has succeeded in doing is driving it underground,” he said. “Students are still going to play beer pong. Now they just have to do it covertly.”

Margaret Cohen ’19 agreed, adding that the prohibition of drinking games promotes binge drinking and is a form of self-sabotage on the school’s behalf.

“Students will likely feel the need to get over-inebriated to prevent any chance of ‘sobering up’ while out,” she said. “It is much more challenging to get alcohol poisoning from a glass of beer while casually drinking with friends at Pub Nite than from several shots of hard liquor taken before heading out.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that one shot of distilled spirits contains eight times more alcohol than beer, meaning it’s quicker and takes fewer drinks to become intoxicated drinking hard alcohol than drinking beer.

Cohen also said the increased enforcement is antithetical to the school’s anti-classist standard.

“Students from upper-class backgrounds can more easily pay to go into Philly to drink than less privileged students,” she said.

Swarthmore students are not alone in their frustration. When their alcohol policy tightened five years ago, Harvard’s student newspaper released a piece entitled “But Can We Play Beer Pong?” in hopes of maintaining the college tradition. The Huffington Post went as far to report that the culture at Dartmouth, another campus a distance away from a metropolitan area, worshiped beer pong.

Though many view beer pong as a rite of passage for college students, the war against beer pong has been an uphill battle. Turning drinking alcohol into a competitive game is a practice many believe attributes to binge drinking and, for many liability reasons, a nearly impossible one to sell to administrators.

In recent years, the national spotlight has turned to the unsafe aspects of college party culture, such as underage alcohol poisoning and sexual assault. Alcohol-related hospitalizations increased around 2013 at schools like Harvard and Dartmouth, resulting in their tightening of alcohol policies.

Other institutions chose a different way to tackle the issue. Kenyon College in Ohio repealed their drinking games ban because, according to Tammy Gocial, their Dean of Students, policy change is not enough. A cultural change is what’s needed, and the college developed a student-responsibility campaign to do so.

At Swarthmore, the administration continues to search for alternative, safer ways for students to have fun on weekends. Assistant Director of Student Engagement Andrew Barclay echoed Braun’s statement for students to give feedback on on-campus events that comply with the alcohol policy.

I am always open to student feedback and look for opportunities to partner with students and help them turn their great ideas into programs that create a vibrant and diverse social life,” he said.

Sweden’s relationship with alcohol

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Ever since arriving in Stockholm, I have been intrigued by Swedes’ relationship with alcohol. Sweden has a long and complicated history with alcohol, from problems with everyone always being slightly drunk to intense state control. The more I learn about the history of drinking culture in Sweden, the more I am convinced that everyone in Sweden should have a rocky relationship with alcohol, but from what I see and read, most Swedes seem to have a healthy relationship to alcohol.

Coming from a college campus I often find myself thinking about different people’s relationships to alcohol. Alcohol consumption, especially among young people in the U.S., continues to be a problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 26.9 percent of people over the age of 18 have participated in binge drinking in the past month.

I was curious to see how Sweden’s history with alcohol-related to their current relationship to alcohol so I dove a little deeper into the history.

During the 19th century, anyone in Sweden had the right to produce, sell, and consume alcohol, and they did. Alcohol consumption levels were very high, and so was the rate of alcohol-related crimes. Churches and the government saw this as a morality problem and worried about the depravity of the lower classes. In response, the Swedish government attempted to control alcohol consumption through strict penalties for alcohol-related crimes like public intoxication or disorderly conduct. This system failed to reduce overall alcohol consumption in Sweden.

Sweden then created a national alcohol monopoly, removing the right of individual citizens to produce and sell alcohol. This also failed to fix the alcohol problem. During the early 20th century there was talk of a complete prohibition of alcohol, but instead they turned to a ration system.

Every Swedish citizen was given an alcohol ration book which controlled how much alcohol they could buy each month. Every time they went to the liquor store it was marked in their book. This system was in place from 1919 until 1955, when public protests forced the system to be abolished.

The ration system was abolished, but the monopoly on alcohol stayed. All alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content higher than 3.5 percent must be sold in a “Systembolaget,” a state-owned liquor store monopoly.

Systembolaget is still used today to help control alcohol consumption within the nation. Although Systembolaget is hated by many citizens, who complain about the lack of a free alcohol market, Sweden’s alcohol consumption has actually begun to decline in recent years.

In my time here I have observed that Swedish people our age have a different relationship with alcohol. It may be that I do not attend a residential college, but I do not see many drunk people around Stockholm. Whether I am at a party hosted by the school or at a club in downtown Stockholm, I do not see wasted people. When I mentioned this to my friends here, they all agreed. This could be because alcohol is ridiculously expensive at clubs, but I think it is more than that. Swedish people just don’t like getting blackout drunk.

Anyone who has been on Swarthmore’s campus, or really any American college campus, has seen that many Americans do not have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Of course, many people drink responsibly on Swarthmore’s campus, but there is still a significant population that does not. Every Sunday morning we all hear stories of people who drank too much and ended up sick or making a terrible decision, these are not the kind of stories I hear in Sweden, and when I do it is of the American students.

Swarthmore in no way has an unusually unhealthy relationship with alcohol. In fact, there are many things that make drinking at Swarthmore safer than in a lot of other places. The problem with drinking on Swarthmore’s campus is not the existence of underage drinking, but the way that it is done. Students work so hard to make sure they are not caught drinking that they make the dangerous decision to binge drink in their dorms instead. It is not just students, either — Americans as a whole do not have a very healthy relationship with alcohol.

Why is it that the drinking culture in the U.S., including at Swarthmore, is so much worse than in countries like Sweden? I believe that the drinking age in the U.S. plays a big part in fostering unhealthy relationships with alcohol. In Sweden anyone over the age of 18 can buy a drink at a restaurant and anyone who is over 20 can buy alcohol at Systembolaget. Since the drinking age in the U.S. is 21 in almost all cases, some people in college can legally drink while others cannot.

The drinking age provides an incentive for binge drinking. Students want to be able to go out and have a good time but they know they may not be able to get alcohol while they are out, so they binge drink. Instead of going into Philly to have a few drinks and a good time, students take several shots in a dorm before going out to a party on campus. This kind of binge drinking can lead to serious health complications.

Drinking alcohol is not a bad thing. Many people find healthy ways to consume alcohol, and it can even have positive effects on one’s life by fostering social relationships, but it is important that people consume alcohol a healthy way.

There are things we learn from the Swedish system. For example, since 18-year-olds in Sweden can get alcohol at a restaurant but not in Systembologet, they are forced to drink more responsibly. They know they will be able to get alcohol while they are out, so they do not feel the need to binge drink before going out, and bartenders go through training to know when to stop serving someone if the customer is drunk they will not be served.

Americans’ relationship to alcohol is not going to change overnight, but realizing that there is a problem and that it doesn’t have to be this way is the first step towards fixing it. I recognize that the law puts Swarthmore in an uncomfortable position when it comes to alcohol consumption, but recognizing that students on campus are going to drink and investing effort into providing opportunities and spaces for students to do this safely is a good first step.  If students were allowed to bring their own alcohol to parties on campus, it could reduce the pressure to pre-game heavily. In addition, Pub Safe could focus their enforcement mechanisms, looking more closely not just at what kind of alcohol is being consumed, but also how it is being consumed. Instead of banning all hard liquor or all drinking games, focus on preventing things like Everclear and shots for the sake of shots.

Swarthmore may be limited in what it permits on campus, but it is possible to tweak the current rules and regulations to allow safer drinking practices.

On PubNite and the community it fosters

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Swarthmore has a reputation for being one of the most self-consciously intellectual schools in the country. We should take pride in that label there’s nothing wrong with a school prioritizing academics. The administration’s policies, which were revamped after 2013, make it hard to serve alcohol at or raise money for PubNite. and Pub’s current struggles show that the school has possibly gone overboard in regulating the party scene and by extension the entire campus atmosphere, by making it far too difficult to create communal spaces that help to build community at Swarthmore.

To be clear, not everybody goes to Pub Nite, and it has never been some huge event that commanded the entire school’s attention, at least as far as I can tell. I’ve personally only gone a few times in my brief career at Swat. But it is an example of a fun, social activity that rose organically from the student body, and is run by students. And having a space like PubNite that is always available as a place to meet new people and destress serves an important role on a college campus. There are a lot of opportunities to completely lose yourself in the endless churn of student groups, work, and outside commitments. To have a break on Thursday is a small antidote to that particular kind of rat race; not to romanticize it, but Pub is a good reminder that there’s more to do at Swat than read Kierkegaard or go to finance club meetings. Or, for that matter, to stay in your room and binge watch Rick and Morty.

In fact, wasn’t community the reason that many of us chose to go to a liberal arts college? For all the cliches in Princeton Review college guidebooks and informational settings, it is a self-evident truth that a campus with roughly 1,500 students is going to have a tighter-knit atmosphere than a state school with 30,000 students. So taking steps to promote that sense of place and belonging is important, because even with our extremely small size, there are still a lot of ways to distance ourselves from the wider campus community. In fact, Pub is unique as a communal space, not a group of like-minded people. Its value lies in the opposite: it is really just a random collection of students from across campus, who aren’t there to play a sport (unless you count beer pong) or do political advocacy or publish a newspaper, but just to go to a party, maybe meet some new people, and have a good time. There aren’t really any other opportunities to destress like that during a long week at Swarthmore, and there are few other places where we can make the connections outside of classes and extracurriculars that go toward making Swarthmore an actual community.

But the actual issue at hand is not to wax rhapsodic about how great PubNite is: it’s that the administration has policies in place that make it hard for PubNite to exist. Everybody who has spent any time at Swarthmore can talk about a time when Public Safety arbitrarily shut down a party or when school regulations made it incredibly difficult to even have a party in the first place. Currently, a party cannot accept donations if alcohol is served, leading Pub to fundraise on dry nights and continually scramble for funding. This is obviously exhausting to the students who run Pub, and constantly leaves Pub just scraping by, always at risk. And, of course, many other parties simply don’t happen.  Proponents of the restrictive policies make two main arguments: first, that tighter regulations on school-sanctioned events decrease unsafe drinking habits, and that the previous five-dollar charge for attending PubNite created problems of equal access. For the first argument, the policies actually create the opposite of the intended effect: in a January 2016 article, the Daily Gazette found that incidents tied to unsafe alcohol use generally increased ever since the stricter policies were implemented. In fact, for the school to make it harder to serve alcohol at Pub and other parties is a strange double standard, given that it implicitly accepts drinking in dorms and at private gatherings.

In terms PubNite’s funding issues, if the slight barrier of a five dollar charge is so horrifying to the administration, then why does it not take similarly drastic measures to help students buy pencils and notebooks? If real accessibility problems exist, organizers of PubNite and the campus at large can and should find ways to make PubNite open to all. The creative methods organizers have already used to keep PubNite afloat gives me confidence that the Swarthmore community can find ways to keep PubNite accessible. The idea that students here will passively accept the exclusion of some students from a event open to all seems far-fetched. But heavy-handed, top down intervention from the school will leave us worse off than before. The Phoenix and the Daily Gazette have raised many objections to the restrictions on fundraising and tightened permitting in many articles. The basic fact is that by being hostile to PubNite and to large parties as a whole, the administration is sending all the wrong messages about the type of community it wants Swarthmore to be.

Basically, the administration has a choice. It can continue to make life difficult for people trying to throw parties on campus, thereby making it harder for any kind of campus community to grow. Maybe Swarthmore students will continue to be known as very intellectual and studious, but with the unwanted and negative stereotypes of being antisocial and workaholics as well. Or it can  throttle back its regulation of campus parties, allow Pub to fund itself, and move the social scene in a direction that creates open, communal spaces that help make college fun and bearable.

On the role of PubSafe

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As the first half of the semester has gone by, returning students have noticed changes in the way that Public Safety has been interacting with students, from specific changes like PubSafe’s official Building Patrol Notice as well as general shifts in campus drinking culture that are attributed to stricter enforcement of drinking policies by Public Safety. These changes inspire reflection on what kind of campus students want to have, and whether it is attainable in the fact of campus policies and state laws. Public Safety’s job, first and foremost, is to keep students safe, and I am incredibly grateful that I feel like I can walk alone at night around campus and have someone to call if I was in an emergency. However, recent shifts feel like they have crossed a line from keeping students safe to keeping them in line.

The Building Patrol Notice has the best of intentions: get students to stop leaving their expensive items around campus and make them lock their doors. These are noble causes. I personally make sure to lock my door whenever my roommate and I aren’t in our building. It’s more secure to keep doors locked, and prevents all of the valuables I keep in my room, which include textbooks, old t-shirts from high school cross country, and several bottles of nail polish, safe. Students should have the right to decide whether or not they value the convenience of having their room unlocked more than the added safety. Swarthmore is supposed to be a close-knit community, and dorm residents should be able to determine for themselves if they trust their dorm-mates enough to leave their door unlocked while they go to do laundry or even out for a jog. Public Safety should find a way to promote door locking and not leaving items unattended without going into dorms and locking doors and taking students items. If a student leaves their laptop on the main floor of McCabe while they walk to another floor to use the restroom, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not it will be there when it gets back. I certainly didn’t until it became official policy for PubSafe to take it if they choose; I trust my peers to both not take my stuff and to notice if someone who wasn’t a student tried to walk off with it. Swarthmore students are adults, and when I visited Swarthmore as a junior in high school, it seemed like I would be treated as such.

At that time, unbeknownst to me, the culture of drinking on campus was beginning to change. The DJ fund had been phased out, and the College was no longer funding PubNite either. Today, in my second year, I find the drinking culture here chilling. For many students, the average drinking options are the large parties thrown by the frats or whatever campus group is hosting in Paces, or drinking in their dorms. Public Safety has also been cracking down on drinking in academic buildings, which would make it impossible for even a small group of students to go to Trotter on a Saturday and drink wine while playing cards or another casual and non-disruptive game. The requirement for parties of 10 attendees and over to be registered means that a student who wants to get together with nine friends would not only have to register the party, but take on the legal responsibility for whether or not attendees under 21 consume alcohol. Because the hosts of registered parties are legally responsible for attendees of their parties, smaller parties are harder to host despite being much safer than a party at DU. If PubSafe came to a small registered party without being called and an attendee under 21 was drinking, it is much easier for the College to prove that the host knowingly allowed that person to drink illegally, which would have massive ramifications for that person. Conversely, there is a lot of plausible deniability for the hosts of all-campus parties because of the size of the parties and the fact that they are open to campus. Everyone knows that people under twenty-one are being served beer at open parties, yet a host of a small party takes on a higher degree of risk despite the much lower risk involved in a small, casual get-together compared to a packed frat party. The focus for Public Safety and the College should be on mitigating risk.  Making it difficult for small parties to happen when they are safe outlets for students to drink does a disservice to students on this campus. Carding students and confiscating alcohol from dorms also goes against the idea of mitigating risk and keeping students safe, but if students fear Public Safety, they will not go to them when they actually need help.

The national drinking age and state laws also are incredibly problematic in keeping students safe. The drinking age was raised to 21 because of lobbying by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to prevent drunk driving deaths. Pennsylvania does not provide medical amnesty for students who are ill due to the effects of alcohol. The enforcement of the drinking age on Swarthmore’s campus is of course, the law, but ignores the intent of the law. Students at Swarthmore’s campus don’t drive for the most part. About ten percent of students have cars, and approximately zero percent of students need a car to get from their dorm to Paces on a Saturday night. The drinking age has been effective in preventing drunk driving, according to the NIH, and that has absolutely saved lives and is good for society. However, walking under the influence of Angry Orchard has not harmed anyone, and as someone who is old enough to vote, join the military, and buy fireworks, I think I should be able to have a freaking hard cider without the full force of the law interrupting my fun. [Author’s note: I promise to neither vote or use fireworks under the influence.] The college should only devote resources to enforcing the drinking age if it keeps students safe, and as it stands, enforcing the drinking age incentivizing unsafe drinking practices.

Students pregame hard in their dorms with hard liquor and then go out because of stricter enforcement. Pregaming is dangerous, because it mainly features hard alcohol and students attempt to drink quickly so they can go out and actually experience the party. Strict enforcement of the drinking age pushes students into hiding in secrecy, and fear of citation makes them not want to call for help if they need it. The current amnesty policy, that the caller gets amnesty, means nothing because students are still hesitant to cause their friend to get cited if it turns out the situation was not as serious as they thought. Public Safety and the State of Pennsylvania should make students feel like it’s better to be safe than sorry when calling for help.

As I go through my twentieth year of life, I increasingly find it frustrating that the College, Public Safety, and the government do not think I’m old enough to decide for myself whether or not I can drink an alcoholic beverage, and that Public Safety believes that taking students items in the name of protecting them from theft would do anything besides increase tensions between the student body and Public Safety. At least they gave us promotional fidget spinners!

Updated Clery data sheds light on crime trends

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According to the 2017 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report, last year resulted in the highest reported Violence Against Women Act offences since 2012, 19, and the first act of arson since 2012. Oppositely, larceny is the lowest since 2012, 36, as is burglary, 2.

The report, which Public Safety released on Sept. 29, details campus safety policies and crime statistics for the previous year, as required by the 1990 Clery Act. The act requires all colleges that participate in federal aid programs to publicly report such information annually.

The total reported VAWA offenses is largely due to the incidents of reported dating violence rising from six in 2015 to 15 in 2016, the highest number since 2012. Several administration members spoke about what work should be done going forward.

I don’t think we will rest until the number is zero in these reports and until we have a college campus where everyone can thrive and live without harm,” Women’s Resource Center Supervisor Shá Duncan Smith said.

Interim Title IX Coordinator Michelle D. Ray added that the Title IX office will continue to work diligently to support the Swarthmore community to stop, remedy, and prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Our policies are reviewed every year based on student, faculty, and staff feedback, and of course we also look very closely at what is shared with us by those who are most ​directly impacted,” she said in an email.

Neither commented on the spike in dating violence or mentioned potential policy changes in response to the numbers.

“We often see Swarthmore as an exception to a lot of these negative trends,” Lamia Makkar ’21 said. “Obviously these numbers aren’t to the same degree as a lot of other colleges, but this trend should be known and more actions should be taken.”

The decreased number of larceny and thefts, Hill said, can be attributed to a variety of things, such as students and community members reporting suspicious activity, securing personal valuables, and the implementation of technology tools on campus.

The college also reported 24 liquor law arrests — 18 of which were in residential facilities — and 33 alcohol violations. As a partial explanation for the numbers, Director of Public Safety Michael Hill outlined the liquor law arrest policy on campus.

“If someone calls for a friend and PubSafe determines the student is in need of medical evaluation and/or assistance, typically an ambulance will transport them to the hospital,” he said. “If the transported student is under the legal age of consumption, they can receive an underage drinking citation.”

According to Hill, after two court visits and several hours of community service and drug and alcohol education, first time offenders can erase the citation from their record.

Several community members see the policy as problematic.

Class Senator Akshay Srinivasan ’21 said the potential of getting a friend getting arrested could act as a deterrent to bystanders.

“Students would be less likely to report their friend being drunk because they would think their friend might be charged, but I don’t see a legal way out of it,” he said.

Vitor Dos Anjos ’21 said the problem isn’t with the school, but with the law.

“I think the problem is that the city of Swarthmore has the policy of immediately getting the police involved as soon as an ambulance is called,” he said. “If the ambulance is called and the person needs help, then the ambulance automatically breaks that person’s privacy rights by getting the police involved.”

Other schools had a dramatically discrepancies between alcohol arrests and violations: Williams reported four arrests and 343 violations; Middlebury one and 597, respectively. Hill did not comment directly on the comparison except for that every college is unique and has its own dynamics.

“It is difficult to address another institution’s statistics without knowledge of their institutional culture, policies, procedures, and the response and protocols from local law enforcement,” he said.

Both Hill and alcohol and other drugs counselor and educator Joshua Ellow called for a change in the school’s culture regarding alcohol.

Going out with the intention of getting wrecked can contribute to these numbers, but more importantly [it can] put community members at risk,” Ellow said. “Accidents do happen, but risk is directly related to the strength of our drinks (i.e., hard alcohol vs. light beer) and the pace at which we consume.”

Hill stressed that safety is our shared responsibility, and the college will continue to hold conversations to educate and raise awareness about alcohol and drug-related issues.

“W​ithin a small segment of our community, ​alcohol abuse is tolerated, and there is a lack of accountability to one another and for each other’s safety and actions,” he said. “In many instances by the time Public Safety is called, an individual is already in physical distress. There needs to be a larger conversation about the culture of AOD use and abuse.”

Several administration members said students are getting more comfortable with reaching out to Public Safety for help, although they did not attribute that fact to the high number of liquor law arrests or dating violence incidents.

“I think that our medical amnesty policy has led to more students calling for assistance when AOD problems arise. I see this as a result of our policy and the goal of getting students help in an emergency or risky situation,” Ellow said.

Hill added that although it would be better if individuals drank responsibly to begin with, he is impressed with the increasing number of students who have been willing to call in for help for a friend or even themselves for earlier intervention.

Ray said that’s what she had wished.

We hope that students have felt more empowered to speak up, that systems of reporting have become clearer, and additional trained personnel have helped make ​students feel freer to report.”

Although the numbers reported in the Clery Act are important to look over, they don’t always tell the complete story, according to Jonny Guider ’21. For example, he said, the stats could be a result of community members reporting more openly or a recent change in policy.

“The overall trends signify more than individual numbers,” he said.

Events at Disorientation spur reflection on drinking culture

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During this year’s first party weekend, known as “Disorientation,” five college students were hospitalized due to intoxication and cited for underage drinking. In addition, according to Public Safety director Mike Hill, four other alcohol-related incidents occurred on the night of, Sept. 3. The number of alcohol-related incidents during the annual Disorientation weekend has risen from four in 2012 to nine in 2017, an increase of five over five years.

The college has a medical amnesty policy in place that states that “neither the student in need nor the student or student organization requesting assistance will ordinarily be subject to disciplinary action” for a violation of the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) policy.

“This policy is specifically intended to support getting students to call for help,” Hill said in an email.

However, under Pennsylvania state law, any student transported to the hospital in an ambulance will automatically be cited for underage drinking, a charge that typically requires completing 30 hours of community service, paying a fine of $150 to $750, taking alcohol education classes, and complying with a 60-day driver’s license suspension. The charge will remain visible on a background check and cannot be expunged without going before a judge.

Many students have related recent increases in alcohol-related incidents to policy banning hard liquor from registered parties, which was enacted in 2014. Tyrone Clay ’18, who attended an 80-person pregame on Sept. 9, feels that the rule has caused drinking at the college has become more dangerous.

“The heavy pregame culture is directly related to hard liquor rule,” Clay said. “You can overdo it and end up too drunk.”

Clay feels that AOD policies and recent incidents reflect a “crisis of culture” in the college community.

“It’s very difficult to be both intellectually driven yet expected not to have fun in a traditional way,” he said.

According to Josh Ellow, the college’s AOD counselor, the ban of hard liquor at parties exists to slow down consumption of alcohol, because the act of drinking beer takes longer than downing a shot or sucking down a sugary mixed drink.

“I think the thought [concerning the policy] was, ‘hard alcohol is more risky because of its strength.’ The majority of the time that somebody goes to the hospital, when I talk with them and ask them, ‘What did you drink,’ usually shots are involved in the night,” Ellow said.

According to Willets resident Luke Pietrantonio ’21, because consumption of hard liquor does not occur at parties, students tend to consume it beforehand instead.

“Not having liquor at frats and at public, open parties is smart, but I think it also encourages pregaming and stuff like that,” Pietrantonio said.

According to the College’s AOD policy, any event with over 10 people, even in a dorm room, needs a permit as a registered event. Many pregames on campus, such as the one that Clay attended, involve as many people as frat parties. Despite this, because hard liquor cannot be present at registered events, hosts of pregames often do not obtain permits. Clay, who felt that he was able to regulate the amount of alcohol consumed by underclassmen attending his pregame, wants PubSafe to give out permits for pregames that involve hard alcohol.

“They should encourage pregames hosted by upperclassmen [and] have event registration for pregames. PubSafe would be there to regulate,” Clay said.

Ellow also feels that more registered pregames could facilitate safer drinking practices.

“I think if you required people to register pregames, I would think it would make people hopefully be more aware of what they’re doing, because they know that the school would be monitoring in some way,” Ellow said. “That’s the whole point of a registered party: they want to allocate resources like Swat Team.”

However, according to Ellow, it may be difficult to get students to register pregames with the current AOD policy.

“I wonder if that registered pregame would require no [hard] alcohol like we require at parties, if people wouldn’t register anyway,” Ellow said.

While Ellow also acknowledged that the hard liquor policy encourages pregaming in dorms, he feels that students are as safe drinking hard liquor at a pregame as they are at a party as long as they’re together.

“In my eyes, anytime people are around people that could potentially respond to an emergency, it’s a good thing, and I think most of the time, that happens,” Ellow said.

Though administrative policies are sometimes viewed as causing issues in the college’s drinking culture, Ellow feels that the issue is more about a lack of communication about student expectations of drinking culture.

“People know [policy] is there, but it’s not always enough to be the driving force,” Ellow said. “But I do think policy is important. I think that, you know, why have it if we’re not gonna follow it?  It’s a challenge though, because I think we hear ‘no hard alcohol at parties,’ but it’s still so prevalent elsewhere. But I know sometimes it is like that, when students are like, ‘Here’s the policy, but this is how we really do it.’ It can really divide people and take us away from the community feel that we want to have.”

Willets residence hall is one of the most popular spots on campus for pregames. Seven of the nine total alcohol-related incidents and four out of five hospitalizations to which PubSafe responded on Sept. 9 occurred there. Large pregames also often occur in Worth hall, but many more underage students tend to live in Willets than in Worth because Worth is an upperclassman-only residence hall. Because of the amount of underage drinking incidents that have occurred there, PubSafe has been monitoring parties and hangouts at Willets closely this year.

“It might have been last weekend or two weekends ago when I was just walking through Willets and people were literally playing water pong, like they didn’t have any alcohol or anything at all. They were just hanging out in one room, didn’t even have 10 people and PubSafe came and shut that down, which was really weird,” Pietrantonio said.

Ellow believes that the the social dynamic behind alcohol consumption, rather than pregaming in and of itself, can explain the amount of incidents at Willets that night.

“It’s not so much peer pressure, but it’s just people thinking, ‘This is what everybody does,’” Ellow said. “There’s also this weird self-fulfilling prophecy; it’s weird how expectations work with alcohol. You know, if people expect Willets to be this place where they can just do whatever and get crazy, the alcohol’s going to be symbolic for that.”

Pietrantonio shared a similar sentiment about the overconsumption of alcohol at Willets on Sept. 9.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily people trying to live up to the reputation of Willets almost or if it’s kind of like a herd mentality type thing in Willets.”

However, Pietrantonio couldn’t pin the cause of the hospitalizations to pregaming at Willets.

“The people that I was with, which was a good chunk of people at Willets, weren’t pregaming by any means,” Pietrantonio said. “[The hospitalizations] kind of seemed a little atypical and just a little weird given that it was just people hanging out, casually drinking. People weren’t really taking tons of shots.”

Instead, Pietrantonio feels that the incidents stemmed from hype around Disorientation and the scale of events that night.

“I think part of it had to do, definitely, with it being the first weekend,” he said. “And from what I understand from some of the upperclassmen, there are certain weekends throughout the year that are like this, like they were saying Halloween, Worthstock, all that kind of stuff.”

A Swassip Girl article in a 2015 issue of the Phoenix also addressed the tradition of students expecting to party heavily at Disorientation.

“Disorientation represents one of the few endeavors by Swatties to map our perceptions of Real College Parties onto our quaint, nerdy, liberal arts surroundings,” Samantha Herron ’18 wrote. “It’s an attempt made in order to prove that Swarthmore goes as hard as you convinced yourself it would when you decided to go here.”

According to Pietrantonio, the party culture at Swarthmore was more active than he had expected.

“Going into Swarthmore … obviously I’d heard the reputation that it’s not a big party campus [but] with stuff like Disorientation, that has shifted my view a little bit,” Pietrantonio said.

Some feel that students should take it upon themselves to fix safety issues and other issues inherent in Swarthmore party culture through community discourse.

“Safety is a shared responsibility and we have to work together to make sure we all stay safe,” Hill wrote in an email. “There needs to be a conversation around personal responsibility, both for the individuals consuming and for those providing alcoholic beverages.”

As part of this conversation, the Delta Upsilon fraternity jointly held an event called ‘So you think you can party like a Swattie’ with Ellow, OSE director Andrew Barclay, Title IX director Nina Harris, interim Title IX fellow Raven Bennett and Pubnite officers to educate students about resources and solutions for AOD and consent issues, from Swat Team (formerly known as Quaker Bouncers) to the 4 D’s of intervention, as well as some of the unspoken conventions of Swat party culture.

“We as upperclassmen definitely have a culture of feeling okay with using our resources and we want to extend that, make it [known] at Swat,” PubNite officer and OSE intern Shivani Chinnapan ’18 said. “We want to talk about the problem before it becomes one.”

Both the PubNite officers and the DU representatives wanted to convey the message that the most important consideration when having a party is safety and that they have multiple options for reporting safety issues and using AOD resources at the College.

“Amongst younger students, there’s this fear of authority … when it comes to alcohol. No one is trying to get you in trouble, because the only real trouble is you being unsafe,” Chinnapan said.

DU risk manager Charles Kuchenbrod mentioned that fraternity brothers move their kegs downstairs at 11:30 p.m. so that people dancing have to consider walking downstairs to get more drinks, which typically discourages them from overconsuming.

“I am invested to make sure [the DU house] stays a good space,” Kuchenbrod said. “Saturday nights, we have a group of brothers walking around with glowsticks. By talking to us [before Swat Team or PubSafe], you’re giving us the ability to take a more measured approach [to safety].”

Next year, the OSE, PubNite, DU, and Ellow plan to hold a student panel similar to the one of the “So you think you can party like a Swattie” event during orientation instead of in September. While Pietrantonio feels that orientation information sessions can sometimes risk being overlooked because of how overwhelmed first-years are during those times, he supports the idea of upperclassmen addressing party culture issues that go outside of AOD policy.

“Maybe having upperclassmen on campus during orientation just to kind of help kids not like learn how to party but [learn] how to just be safe and know what their limits are, obviously if you’re at a pregame and you don’t know what is the right level for you, it’s easy to go over and then you have a problem on your hands,” Pietrantonio said.

“In some different setting, kind of looking at what a productive party culture is, or a safe party culture, rather than just being like ‘don’t drink.’”

Though students have voiced complaints about the college’s AOD policy, Ellow asserts that their policy leaves room for students to safely enjoy parties by, for example, only banning hard alcohol at registered parties and not prohibiting it completely.

“The college recognizes that alcohol in and of itself shouldn’t be demonized,” Ellow said.

As long as Swarthmore remains a college, students will continue to throw parties, and student and faculty discourse will continue to flow around how best to facilitate a healthy and safe party culture.

“Throw a party with the intention of it to be a good time,” Ellow said. “A good time should always be about more than just a drink.”


Red tape causes vacuum in open party scene

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The first weekend of the semester saw party-goers, especially first-years, standing in line outside Delta Upsilon. This continued until the early hours of the morning, when they realized they would not get in and returned to their dorms. These long lines can be chalked up to a decrease in open parties on campus.

Various upperclassmen have attributed this void in the party scene to the stringent policies enforced by the administration that make hosting open parties very troublesome. Before being allowed to host events, hosts have to receive comprehensive training from Andrew Barclay, assistant director of student activities and leadership, among other event registration processes.

“Being someone who has worked extensively with Andrew Barclay to discuss the party scene situation, I blame the void on excessive red tape associated with throwing a party. The party hosts take on all of the party’s liability. As a party host, you are required to monitor the party space closely and remain sober the entire time. In addition, one of the party hosts must be [at least] 21 years old. These rules make it more difficult to throw parties and put more responsibility on the shoulders of the hosts, which is stressful and annoying,” said Vice President of Phi Psi Jack Ryan ’18. Phi Psi is currently under suspension and cannot throw parties until the end of this semester.

Barclay stresses both the importance of hosts being trained to provide a fun, safe inclusive party experience and the safety of guests while attending open events. While training is mandatory for hosts, he voiced his support for events like ‘Party Like A Swattie’ and discussed ways in which to party safer.

“We also work directly with hosts leading up to events to ensure they are supported and have what they need to make their event a success. Beyond the work that I do with hosts, I consider event safety a shared responsibility between hosts and guests.  Both are critical towards providing a safe and inclusive environment,” Barclay said.

With these guidelines, there have been a limited number of open parties on campus. Delta Upsilon has been operational every Thursday and Saturday night since the start of the semester, and fraternity members have taken notice of the long lines forming outside their house on those evenings.

“We’ve had really long lines, and I’ve had friends telling me that they’ve just waited in line for 30 minutes and haven’t been able to get in. Usually Phi Psi and DU share the capacity,” said social chair of DU Dimitri Kondelis ’20.

Dimitri believes queues outside DU parties are impacted by rules and regulations regarding the number of people allowed to be present in the house at a given time.

“SwatTeam limits how many people we can let in and regulates the party space. If they think there [are] too many people, they won’t let anybody in, so we can’t really do anything about that,”  Kondelis said.

SwatTeam, too, has their hands tied. SwatTeam Manager Layla Hazaineh ’20 mentioned that each building has a maximum number of people that can be accommodated in accordance with various safety procedures. According to Hazaineh, SwatTeam merely adheres to these restrictions by regulating the number of people in party venues.

NuWave, an organization that aims to provide party alternatives to the fraternities, also hosts weekend parties that are an option for students. On Sept. 9, the same night as DU’s “Disorientation” party, NuWave hosted the “Class of 2021’s 1st Birthday,” which they believe was very well attended.

“There were way too many people looking for parties — it was a combination of people who didn’t like the frat parties and were looking for another place to party on campus, combined with the fact that the party space at the frat got slashed in half that created this whole almost pressure to create other parties so that people could go out,” said Roberto Jimenez ’18, a member of NuWave.

This year, with more than half of their executive board studying abroad, NuWave is in the process of recruiting new members to help plan future parties.

“I think there will be some form of recruiting for new members, especially from the freshmen. I think once that gets figured out, there will be a little more organization, and we’ll be able to throw a lot more events,” Jimenez said.

With few open parties to attend, people are resorting to throwing private parties in their rooms — a situation that can potentially pose a higher risk for both students and the administration.  

“I think the administration should prefer to have the drinking … where they can regulate it, instead of indoors where students think they’re safer. But it’s not actually as safe as there’s no one looking out for them and no one knows how much they’re drinking,” said Izzy McClean ’20.

These sentiments were echoed by Ryan as well, who felt that students found it easier to throw unofficial parties in their dorm rooms instead of jumping through hoops to get the required permissions to host official open parties.

“I believe that the increased regulations have made the costs of throwing parties outweigh the benefits. Public Safety doesn’t let partygoers play water pong anymore. There is just too much scrutiny over the parties that it makes it more work than it’s worth,” said Ryan, who believes that the college should put more trust in the student body to make good decisions.

“Swarthmore used to rely on the maturity of the students to throw responsible parties, and it feels like we are no longer being treated with such liberty,” he said.

Administration has not heard feedback on the issue, but is willing to listen to student concerns.

“I have not received any feedback that students are taxed by hosting responsibilities, but I am always open to hearing feedback about how I can better support students having safe parties that meet the expectations outlined in the student handbook. If hosts are following those expectations they greatly minimize any liability when hosting events on campus,” said Barclay.

Despite the crowds these past weekends, some first-years seemed to have learned how to have a good night out on campus.

“Just get there a bit earlier because the lines aren’t as long,” said Oliver Tennenbaum ’21.

           The conversation around party scenes will continue until the students and the administration reach a consensus on how events should be regulated.

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