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I don’t give a hoot(enanny)

in Columns/Op-Eds/Opinions/Words of Wagner by

Last week, someone put up a sign on DU’s advertisement for their Hootenanny party that said, “Hootenanny stereotypes rural Americans — no classism.” I have a lot of criticisms of fraternity culture, that could fill up several more weeks of this column, but the Hootenanny is not one of them. My issue with the classism sign is that it in itself propagates the same stereotypes of rural Americans that the sign is trying to fight and ultimately is counterintuitive to solving the urban-rural divide.  I’m from an area that I often describe as farmy. My immediate family isn’t involved in agriculture, but my parents’ best friends own a large farm where I spent a lot of time from my childhood into young adulthood. I’ve seen how hard it is to run a farm, and I’ve also had the privilege of eating corn that was picked off the stalk the same day. I don’t know the exact qualifications for being a rural American, but I’ve spent enough time stuck driving behind tractors on a two-lane road to know that I probably meet most of them.

The argument that the Hootenanny party is classist rests on some assumptions that are nearly as problematic as the creator of the sign thinks that the Hootenanny party is. Classism is commonly considered to be prejudice and discrimination based on economic class, specifically against the poor. For the Hootenanny party to be classist against rural Americans, rural Americans at large must be poor and unhappy, and agriculture must be a dead-end vocation. This criticism of the party literally requires the false stereotype that farmers are poor and uneducated, which is largely false. According to the United States Census Bureau, rural areas have lower rates of poverty than urban areas. Farming as a vocation requires a high level of business acumen and specialized training and skills in the agricultural sciences. I’m probably correct that most Swarthmore students aren’t planning on farming after they graduate, and farming isn’t often on “best jobs” listicles, but rural America is not a wasteland. It’s not perfect and has many pressing issues, but college students dressing up as farmers is not making light of agriculture in the same way that dressing up as a sexy firefighter for Halloween isn’t widely considered to be offensive to firefighters.

The problems faced by rural America include declining social and political capital, the opioid epidemic, and the growth of large commercial agriculture companies. Yet, rural America is not desolate or out of options. I’m from southern Delaware, which is much more rural than the northern half of the state. Southern Delaware is nicknamed “lower-slower Delaware,” which reflects the more relaxed pace of life that many rural and quasi-rural Delawareans are proud of. To imply that social groups shouldn’t host Hootenannies implies that any imitation of rural culture must mock rural culture, which requires rural culture to be marginalized and for farmers to give a hoot about who wears flannel and cowboy boots in a frat house on a Saturday night.

Trump’s election illustrated clearly that many rural Americans felt largely left out of political discourse, and that conclusion certainly isn’t wrong. The result of the election showed that rural Americans tend to be conservative (just as Americans living in cities tend to be more liberal) and indicated that rural Americans were frustrated with identity politics. Many rural Americans would probably think that the attempts to enforce social and cultural boundaries onto a country-themed party is just what is wrong with kids these days. We can’t make the urban-rural divide any better if we try to use methods that are largely rejected by the people who actually are rural Americans.

Even worse, if DU avoids having Hootenannies in the future, current and prospective rural students may perceive the cancellation as a rejection of rural culture on a campus already considered to be a part of the “liberal elite.” If a party host can’t play country music and encourage wearing cowboy hats, then we’ve lost an opportunity for people who like country music and identify as being a rural American to espouse those preferences during at least one party a year. A frat hosting a Hootenanny is clearly different from frats hosting parties that stereotype based on race or ethnicity. Unlike race or ethnicity, an urban person can move to a rural area, take up farming, and become a rural American, and vice versa. The mutability of ruralness is what makes this type of party fundamentally different than parties based on race or ethnicity. Social groups can host Hootenannies and cannot host parties that appropriate other cultures because farmers are not marginalized, and anyone could decide to take up agriculture in rural area if they choose; conversely, there are marginalized cultures, and a person cannot move into or out of a racial or ethnic group.

There are a lot of legitimately offensive party themes in the world, but I’m fairly confident that the Hootenanny is not high on the list of worst things fraternities have done. Swarthmore’s frats exist in the Swarthmore bubble, and we as Swatties often forget that students at many other schools deal with a lot worse from Greek life. We should never stop working to make the frats less problematic, but we also need to see the forest through the trees and focus on the causes of the issues, like the amount of social capital given to the frats as single-gender institutions and their near-monopoly on parties, rather than whether or not a country-themed party stereotypes rural Americans, or even if the stereotype that farmers wear cowboy boots and listen to country music is harmful or marginalizing to people who are from rural areas.

If the frats were to host a party that was racist or culturally insensitive, the campus would react with appropriate outrage and would likely prompt a response from the Bias Response Team. The Hootenanny just isn’t that. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and reactions to the party, but dressing up in country gear isn’t going to inflame the rural-urban divide.

Funding concerns stress Pub Nite

in Around Campus/News by

Halfway through Pub Nite on Thursday, Jan. 18, Pub Nite, party organizers climbed on top of the bar and announced that they only had enough money for three more Pub Nites this semester. They hoped were to convince regular Pub Nite attendees to contribute money to their dwindling savings. Ever since Pub Nite was disallowed from collecting the four dollar entry fee from students in 2014, the tradition has struggled to stay alive. Both organizers and attendees have been questioning the security of the future of Pub Nite.

“Student groups [can] request funding support to provide food, cups, and other event related needs. Pub Nite is taking advantage of that funding support and has taken advantage of it in the past as well,” said Assistant Director of the Office of Student Engagement Andrew Barclay.

Pub Nite organizer Chris Grasberger ’17 indicated funding from the OSE is not enough to keep Pub Nite going due to costs for alcohol.

“This semester, we’ve raised about $600 so far. We need about $3,000 for the whole semester,” he explained.

Organizers are limited in the number of methods they can use in order to raise funds for Pub Nite. According to another Pub Nite organizer, Dylan Gerstel ’17, they have utilized Gofundme and Venmo, in addition to an attempt at tabling last semester, which was not very successful at bringing in funds.

Although Pub Nite is now free, attendance rates have not increased since this change.

“It’s strange because now, week in [and] week out, you can just go to Pub Nite for free,” Grasberger explained.

“I think the spirit has stayed the same, though I think the popularity has gone down,” echoed Daniel Banko-Ferran ’17.

“I think Pub Nite is important because Swarthmore has a reputation of everyone working all the time with no reprieve, [so it is important] to have an agreement that Thursday night is Pub Nite and that’s an opportunity to relax and have fun,” Banko-Ferran stated, indicating that Pub Nite comprises a significant part of Swarthmore’s social scene.

“Pub Nite, in some senses, is like a frat party, but it’s not a frat. I’m looking for a certain thing in a party space, and for me, it’s always been really important because it’s a space that’s always been a little more open and less hyper-masculine,” added Saltzman.

The lack of funding, coupled with decreased popularity, has caused the future of Pub Nite  to appear questionable.

“At the rate that we’re going right now, I don’t think we could have Pub Nites every week this semester,” Gerstel admitted.

Grasberger echoed these sentiments and felt doubtful about the future of Pub Nite. He shared why he felt Pub Nite might come to an end.

“Especially with the frats being shut down right now, that means essentially that all the parties have to run off of donations, which is even more competition for people’s money. Between NuWave and Pub Nite, [it’s going to be a challenge],” he stated.

Saltzman, however, offered a more optimistic outlook on the future of Pub Nite.

“I realistically think that Pub Nite will stick around. There’s just work to do. It’s not impossible to get the money,” he said.

“In the last few years it’s worked out fine. There’s also a good mix of underclassmen who attend Pub Nite and are going to want to keep the tradition going,” Saltzman stated.

“It’s up to students to organize and plan Pub Nite, so there is always a chance that it could end if no students plan it. I do plan on working with the current group of Pub Nite organizers to help identify and transition a new group of students into that role,” Andrew Barclay confirmed.

The varying opinions on the future of Pub Nite, in addition to the frats being sanctioned, could cause one to wonder what the future of parties at Swarthmore is.

“The administration is making it kind of hard for students to take parties into their own hands. They’ve been cracking down on everything pretty much. In our freshman year, we were allowed to have hard alcohol at parties … Steadily, it’s become more and more like they don’t trust the students to behave respsonsibly, and that’s made it harder to throw parties,” Grasberger explained.

“It’s also legal issues, it’s kind of like the administration’s hands are bound because of national scrutiny. However, the fact that this year a bunch of things at Worth have been shut down, the fraternities have been shut down, and funding for Pub Nite and Nu Wave being questionable — it’s kind of sad what [the party scene] will look like,” Gerstel also highlighted. Grasberger and Gerstel believe dorm parties could become the new norm as alternatives to frat parties and Pub Nite.

“I think the outside perception of Swarthmore is that we don’t have actual parties, we just drink in a dorm and then lay in the grass and publicly smoke,” said Istra Fuhrmann ’19. Without spaces like Pub Nite, this could become more of a reality on campus.

Hosting smaller dorm parties could also take a toll on inclusivity in Swarthmore’s party scene.

“Parties will find a way, I just think the biggest problem will be inclusion. People will be having smaller and smaller parties where people are drinking with a tight knit group of friends, which is great but I think one of the coolest parts about Swarthmore was always that I could go to any party and get in, and I’ll know people there. That’s not the case with a lot of other schools,” said Gerstel.

The final plan of action for Pub Nite organizers is to reach out to alums. Grasberger stated that they could largely impact on Pub Nite’s prosperity.

“Alums should donate, I think that might be the best long term solution. Once I graduate and get a job, I certainly plan on donating to Pub Nite. If only a few alums donate, that would be a big help,” he said. The future status and sustainability of Pub Nite remain to be seen.

Parties carry on, with little stability in sight

in News by

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.

NuWave Brings New Wave of Parties to Swarthmore

in Around Campus/News by

NuWave, a new social organization centered around throwing safe, inclusive, and consent-oriented social events on campus, began to host parties at the start of this academic year. The group aims to offer students alternatives to traditional parties held at the  two college fraternities.

Morgin Goldberg ’19 and Louisa Grenham ’19, two of the founders of NuWave, spent a great deal time at the two frats on campus during their freshman year. Although they often enjoyed themselves, they believed that the male-dominated culture was not as inclusive as it could be.

“The frats are a specific kind of party, a specific kind of culture … my experiences in the frats haven’t always been positive. I think that’s true for a lot of people. A lot of it isn’t necessarily from actual members of the fraternity, but it’s an environment that breeds that. It’s an environment that breeds a sort of lack of respect,” Goldberg said.

According to Grenham, it became more difficult for groups other than fraternities to host social events with alcohol  after the termination of the “DJ fund” in 2014. This fund was relatively accessible to students, who could get money from the college, ostensibly for a disk-jockey but usually spent on alcohol.

“No one’s gonna go to a party where there’s not alcohol, whereas the frats always have a space, and they always have people who are 21, and they always have money for alcohol,” Grenham explained.

Despite some problems raising money, NuWave has been able to throw two parties, the “2020 Birthday Party” held on Saturday, September 3, and the “Interstellar Party,” thrown last Saturday in cooperation with the Tri-Co dance group Rhythm n’ Motion. Both parties received funding from the Alternative Party Fund started by Priya Dieterich ’18.

Dieterich is currently working on publicizing the Fund, which prioritizes parties thrown by women, people of color, and queer and trans students. Although NuWave and the Alternative Party Fund are distinct organizations, they have collaborated to make alternative party spaces on campus, such as those thrown by NuWave in the past few weeks.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s crazy that these two things kind of came to be concurrently and were influenced by each other,” Goldberg said. Dieterich expressed similar sentiments.

“I think NuWave is going to be a huge resource for people who want to throw those parties … and then if they need more support, and they need someone to help them out, we [the organizers of the Alternative Party Fund] can refer them to NuWave,” Dieterich said.

Both NuWave parties were held at Paces Cafe, located behind Essie Mae’s in Clothier Memorial Hall. Notably, Paces is a space that is available for use by any group of students on campus, and it has historically been a popular location for many non-fraternity parties, as well as weekly Pub Nite.

As their mission emphasizes, Nuwave employs a series of techniques to ensure that the environment in which the parties they throw are safe.

“One, it is framing the space; it’s saying: ‘No, this is the expectation of the space, this is how we’re setting it, and if you do have a problem with it, you don’t have to come.’ But the other part of it is deliberately creating a space once you’re there that has that [built] into its conception,” Goldberg said, “So we have signs up that remind people about consent.”

According to Goldberg, psychological studies have shown that reminders about consent actually trigger your awareness of it. She also believes that sometimes, everyone needs a reminder.

“People can’t see themselves doing harm, but people do harm, so it’s important to be reminded of your capacity to do harm … that’s why we have signs, we have people that are walking around [reminding others],” she said.

In the future, NuWave is looking to get its active members trained in bystander education and consent education. The organization has also created a “feedback form” in order to gauge the experiences of party attendees.

“We want to know … does it feel like these are all people that you’re partying with, does it feel like there’s weird gender dynamics happening, do you feel that you know and are safe around all the people that you’re dancing with, or do you not?” Goldberg said.

“I think all those things matter, and I think we’re trying to break down what a party is, and we’re trying to look at all those dynamics and look at how they’re shaping people’s experiences.”

Despite the hard work of putting together the parties, the group believes it was a success. The “Interstellar Party” hit the maximum capacity of roughly 120 people.

“The actual organization has been stressful at times, but there’s always been a lot of passion behind it, a lot of fire behind it,” Grenham said. “ … [T]here have been so many people who have been so grateful.”

However, hosting a different type of party does pose some challenges.

“I think there needs to be a lot of adjustment in how people understand party spaces, and what really surprised me was how uncomfortable some people are with having a party space that [was structured differently from] what [students] knew,” Grenham said. “That’s as simple as having a woman control the alcohol. That’s as simple as leaving some of the lights on so you can see people’s’ faces.”

In the near future, NuWave hopes to establish an executive board of members and start regularly throwing parties twice a month. In the long term, however, Grenham hopes to redefine the classic structure of a party.

“I think one of the things we’re trying to do is really rethink how you think of a party … [P]art of it is that you have to see that person as a hallmate or a classmate or a peer, not just a random person you’re hopefully never going to see again in case you do something weird, because there’s no accountability there,” Grenham said.

Goldberg believes NuWave is an organization not just for social event planning, but also for social change.

“I don’t think it’s silly that it’s a party space, or a movement about parties, I think those things both reflect dynamics that are existing in a broader scale and also they have the capacity to affirm or subvert them within that and then go outwards,” Goldberg said.

NuWave next party will be held on Oct. 1 in collaboration with the Kitao Art Gallery, and applications to become a member of the group are due Friday, Sept. 23.

Conversation around sexual assault continues

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Swarthmore and around the country, during which students and staff alike try to promote better understanding of the problem for all and support for survivors. Yet, even as programming around the topic has ramped up this month, questions remain about the current climate surrounding the issue of sexual assault on campus.

 

Two weeks ago, a t-shirt was found outside of Parrish on which was written, “Dean Braun is responsible for letting my rapist graduate. There is nothing else I can do but ignore it. Happy Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”

 

Together, this incident and the month in general have sparked new conversation about what understanding sexual assault looks like and whether we at Swarthmore have achieved meaningful awareness of the issue.

 

Most students that I spoke with agree that the student body has a general sense of what consent and sexual assault are but could better understand its causes and impacts.

 

“I think there are a lot of people that get the gist but don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of the experience,” an anonymous junior tells the Phoenix. “Healing, for example, is a really underrated part of the process.

 

Along those lines, this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month programming has increased emphasis on healing, community-building, and support. Last Sunday, over 100 people attended Voices of Healing, a storytelling event in the amphitheater, where survivors and allies were invited to share their narratives.

 

This was meant to fill the absence of The Clothesline Project, a previously popular event that allowed survivors to write an often-political message on a t-shirt, about their experiences, to be strung publicly in Parrish.

 

“I really liked that project. I really miss it,” Allison Hrabar ’16 explains. “I’m happy we have that public talk but a ‘Voices of Healing’ event isn’t really reaching a new audience.”

 

Despite the ability for the Clothesline Project to reach a wide audience, not everyone within the survivor community on campus felt positively about it. The anonymous junior says that many other survivors found the upfront display to be triggering and unavoidable. She emphasizes the power of stories as another form of productive activism.

 

“Personally, a lot of what I’ve done is try to share my story with people who may not know a survivor. Personal stories are really important and so is making myself human and vulnerable,” she says.

 

“It’s such a charged discussion. People don’t necessarily understand the perspectives of a survivor. It’s an inability to empathize if you don’t have ties,” Clare Pérez ’18, who also works with Title IX, describes this gap as a key barrier in bettering campus culture.

 

Many believe that personal connections are crucial to humanizing the issue and seeing it as relevant and very important. However, students also wish the month directly addressed the underlying problems, like lack of education and social attitudes, that allow it to occur in the first place.

 

Cayla Barry ’18, wishes the month also re-addressed prevention. She describes how the consent education provided at first year orientation is not enough to adequately address sexual assault. Currently, orientation programming doesn’t note many kinds of violence, including those between same-sex people or within relationships, and the programming itself only happens once.

 

“I don’t see the same energy around actually practicing consent and enforcing it,” Barry said. “In my orientation, it seemed like they were saying sexual assault doesn’t happen here.”

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the programs it offers are crucial, largely because sexual assault at Swarthmore is still a common occurrence.

 

One freshman survivor described her experience looking back at orientation after experiencing assault this past year.

 

“I wish the school named the problem. It’s not always miscommunication. It’s attitudes, too,” she describes. “I wasn’t assaulted because someone misread the situation, you know? I was assaulted because they didn’t care.”

 

Hrabar especially echoed the importance of shifting focus of our conversations towards personal accountability.

 

“It’s much harder to hold people accountable. It’s one thing to go [to a consent workshop] and think, wow, I would never do that, good thing all these other people are here learning. It’s another to go and think, wow, I have messed up before,” she says.

 

The anonymous junior also notes the importance of accountability, highlighting the need for everyone to not see themselves as potential “bad guys” but rather capable of doing harm. Along those lines, Pérez emphasizes the focus of the Title IX office this year in doing just that.

 

“It’s moving the conversation away from blame and towards community,” she says.

 

In identifying ways in which institutional change can occur, the relationship between survivors and the College administration is a crucial point of conversation.

 

As the t-shirt found outside of Parrish displays, many feel a sustained ineffectiveness of the administration in adequately addressing instances of sexual misconduct. Some of these sentiments seemed to be reinforced last week when Dean Braun did not offer a response to the incident.

 

“If not malicious, then students perceive administration as incompetent. I don’t think there’s a lot of trust,” Hrabar, a senior, says. Especially with those who lived through “The Spring of our Discontent” in 2013, the relationship is perceived as precarious.

 

“I think there are a lot of people doing things to prevent sexual assault and to accommodate survivors and there’s a lack of recognition for those people. I have never had a negative experience with someone who knew I was a survivor. I’ve only gotten support,” the junior source adds. She clarifies that not everyone has been so fortunate.

 

Yet, even prior to contact with the administration, many students simply do not know what procedures and resources exist nor do they feel confident in helping others navigate them.

 

“What does it mean to be a required reporter? What do you have to report? What does the judiciary process look like? Who’s going to be asking me questions and what will they be?” the same anonymous freshman asks.

 

The administration could also be more proactive in initiating and supporting cultural change.

Concerning policy, both Hrabar and Pérez consider the current structures, norms and rules surrounding party spaces to be overly restrictive and inequitable.

 

“When I was a freshman, there was a party in Paces, Olde Club, and the frats. I went out and avoided the spaces where I felt uncomfortable,” Hrabar says.

 

Now, many feel that the dominant party scene is limited to the two on-campus fraternities. While some weekends a party is hosted at Olde Club or Paces, and Pub Nite (despite decreased funding) still happens once a week, most interviewees identify the fraternities as the almost-exclusive party spaces open to campus on a Saturday night.

 

Despite sustained efforts, these spaces still feel uncomfortable to many. Many described the frats and other party spaces as being “hunting-grounds” for hook-ups, where the expectation of going home with someone is so strong that it has the potential to be dangerous.

 

Barry tells me about the persistence of people looking to hook up, despite verbal and nonverbal cues she’s given of disinterest. She also describes, as a queer woman, feeling watched and sexualized.

 

Pérez reiterates these party spaces, and party policy, as crucial points of activism.

 

“I disagree with just putting it on the frats but it is about creating a whole new culture and that involves creating new party spaces,” Pérez adds.  “It’s the transition to something new that doesn’t already have all these things attached to it.”

 

She describes the discussion around new spaces focused around women and non-binary people as an important step in diversifying the party scene and encouraging new norms.

 

However, many feel that the current policy is not conducive to this project. Because the fraternities have physical spaces and institutional recognition, they are able to more easily fund and organize parties on a regular basis.

 

“It’s the difference between encouragement and prevention. There’s no rule we can’t throw it a party but they are not helping us. It’s the difference between equality and equity,” Hrabar says.

 

Other important areas of activism cited through the interviews included more effective SWAT team training, better orientation education efforts, empowering RA’s to be facilitators of discussions, and even space-based tweaks, like locking doors or hanging up posters, to minimize risk and encourage in-the-moment accountability.

 

The anonymous junior discusses the new “It’s On Us” video to be shown at orientation and used as a tool of education and advocacy. She also discusses the renewed energy on the part of fraternity leadership in tackling these issues.

 

Summing up future hopes, Hrabar says, “We need to keep caring about this. It’s very, very easy to get tired. That’s where administration can come in.”

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important in reminding the general campus what so many already know: sexual violence happens on this campus and, even as so much work has been done to address it, there is still much more to do.

 

Edited April 29, 2016: This article previously misidentified the amount of students who attended Voices of Healing. The author is deeply apologetic for the misrepresentation of the event’s impact.

Students remember days of more, weirder parties

in Campus Journal by

We’ve all had our fair share of party frustration, in some form or another. Maybe you never bother to go out on the weekends because none of the parties offered are your idea of a good time; maybe you are among the throngs of people who spend the hour between 11pm and midnight rotating impatiently through Olde Club, Paces, and the frats, arriving at each place only to declare it insufficiently crowded and leave swiftly to avoid the awkwardness; maybe you’ve tried to throw your own party and experienced the myriad stresses of permits and permissions, kegs and taps, and then either empty rooms or unruly crowds.

 

There’s an unwritten rule that Swarthmore’s academic rigor entitles and drives us to a vigorous nightlife. In other words: work hard, play hard. But there are some obstacles between Swatties and their playing hard. Some of those obstacles are new, as a result of the newest party policy changes, which were put in place in the fall of 2014. The new party policy banned hard alcohol and alcohol-related “paraphernalia” at all registered parties. Perhaps the most significant change was the closing of a loophole known as the “DJ fund,” by which students could secure funding from the college, which was, on paper, designated for paying a DJ but was in reality used to buy alcohol for party attendees. A year and a half after these changes were made, how are the party kids of Swarthmore faring?

 

Doriana Thornton ’16 looks back fondly on parties during their first years at Swat, but also praised certain aspects of the school’s more recent party scene. For one thing, they noted that the queer party scene has gotten stronger, largely as a result of the increased involvement of non-Swat students. (Thanks to the hard organizing work of some SQU leaders, a mixer and party that were held in the fall brought students from across the Tri-Co and as far as Villanova and Temple to both Olde Club and Paces. Many of those students returned for the next SQU party, and the second annual “TriQueer” party is taking place next weekend at Haverford.)

 

Thornton also lauded off-campus parties such as those hosted in the Barn, where they currently live.

 

“We get to design them a little more, conceptually,” they commented. “It’s just fun to go to the Barn, the Barn’s a lot of fun.”

 

Thornton, for their part, appreciates being able to get away from campus and the restrictions of the administration and Public Safety. They noted that the school seems to be cracking down more heavily on drugs than they did in previous years. They pointed out that, in general, the increased regulation at the college is a result of the school being federally investigated (for its handling of sexual assault), and that the downsides of this regulation are not significant compared to the benefits of the college being held accountable for sexual assault.

 

Emma Kates-Shaw ’16 also commented on the changing rules as they relate to the call for the college to take sexual assault more seriously.

 

“We asked for reform and we got it, but what that reform ended up doing was pushing people towards the spaces where that problem was in the first place. And that’s something that I don’t know if the administration knows,” Kates-Shaw explained, referencing the fact that recent rule changes have largely pushed party-goers towards fraternity parties.

 

Kates-Shaw is sympathetic to the administration, despite being critical of the new policies.

 

“I don’t think we should be vilifying the administration, because it’s not the administration’s fault that they have to abide by the new rules. I just don’t think that they know what the consequences of that are. They don’t know that it’s pushing people either towards the frats or towards drinking in their room,” Kate-Shaw said.

 

Kates-Shaw said that she personally doesn’t feel comfortable in the frats, and that she thinks alternative party spaces are important to the Swat social scene.

 

Kathleen Baryenbruch, who started as part of the class of 2016 but took a year off after her sophomore year (and will now graduate in 2017), was disappointed, when she came back, to see how the party scene had changed as a result of the new party policy.

 

“There used to be more alternatives to the frats,” Baryenbruch recalled. She noted that while fraternities get a lot of criticism on campus, she thinks they serve a certain purpose. “I just think it’s a shame that there are less alternatives now,” she continued.

 

Baryenbruch herself has been in the process of planning a party that would be one of those alternatives. “It’s supposed to be a throwback, a nostalgic old-style Paces party,” she explained. For the underclassmen among us, those words don’t mean much, but many current juniors and seniors — who witnessed the days of the DJ fund — remember a time when Paces parties were frequent, well-populated, and provided a reliable venue for a certain type of partying.

 

Baryenbruch said the process of organizing a party through the OSE has been difficult. Anyone who wants to do this now has to submit both a space reservation request and a party permit request. Baryenbruch didn’t receive any confirmation on her space reservation, and a month later (after applying for a party permit) was told that the space had been reserved since before she filled out the initial form. The party has been pushed to a later weekend, but Baryenbruch is unhappy with how the OSE has handled it.

 

“It just seems like their priority is no longer helping people throw these parties that I think would help bring the campus together,” she observed. She attributed this difficulty both to the new policies, and to the way that the administration interacts with people trying to throw such parties.

 

Kates-Shaw has also spent much of her energy this semester organizing and hosting parties. She is part of this year’s “pub crew,” a group of students who have taken on the task of fundraising for, planning, setting up for, and cleaning up after Pub Nite each week. This is technically the role of senior class officers (up until last year, Pub Nite was a senior class fundraiser and students paid a few dollars at the door each night), but Kates-Shaw says the two roles are separating.

 

“I’m so intent on making Pub Nite happen because I feel like it’s sort of the last party for the people, by the people,” she explained.

 

Kates-Shaw emphasized how much logistical work goes into pulling off Pub Nite week after week, and described the job as, largely, thankless.

 

“The infrastructure isn’t there anymore, is what the bottom line is. There’s no set of rules. There’s no handbook that gets passed down.”  Currently, the “pub crew” only has enough money to hold two more Pub Nites this semester, unless they receive another influx of donations.

 

Kates-Shaw lauded Pub Nite and other non-frat parties as spaces that generate social connections among Swatties who otherwise may not meet. She said that the new policies push people to drink in their rooms with their friends, or to go to frat parties which have limited opportunities for socializing.

 

“That breaks my heart,” Kates-Shaw said.

 

She also noted that the way the Swarthmore party scene works doesn’t provide space or time for students to learn to drink responsibly, in moderation, over meals or in casual situations.

 

“That’s adult drinking, that’s a good skill to learn if you are someone who chooses to drink as an adult. It’s important to learn how not to binge drink.”

 

The lack of variety in parties and social life in general also means that for some members of the Swarthmore community, there are no parties to go to.

 

Min Cheng ’18, rarely goes out on weekend nights anymore.

 

“I don’t go to parties that often, just because people get very inconsiderate when they’re drunk. So usually it’s me — a small person — in with a bunch of sweaty tall people hitting me with their elbows.”

 

As a first year, she used to go out with a group of friends who lived on her hall, but she explained that the Swat social scene is not friendly to people who don’t have a friend group to go out with.

 

She also stopped going to the fraternities over a year ago. She explained that she used to jokingly tell people she was boycotting them, but that it has become less of a joke these days.

 

“It’s just really not for me, for the kind of person that I am, or what I like to do,” she stated.

 

When friends ask her to go to a frat party, and she says no, and they ask her for her reasoning, she is happy to explain to them.

 

“I’ll tell them that I think that fraternities that are inherently classist, racist institutions and I don’t want to support that. And usually they’ll say ‘Oh, I get that, but I’m still going to go,’” Cheng said. While her friends agree with her politically or morally, they still attend the frat parties.

 

“There’s just no choice, if you want to party you have to go to the frats.”

 

The lack of non-frat options has not entirely prevented Cheng from having fun party experiences, but she says she mostly enjoys herself at smaller parties, such as the ones held by her acapella group, Mixed Company.

 

Jinjie Dong ’18 also doesn’t frequent the Swat party scene. His main complaint is that there is only one kind of party at Swarthmore, and that it isn’t his kind of party.

 

“Here there’s a DJ and the room is super dark and there is super loud music and people are just like — ” at this point, Dong mimed the jolting and frantic dance style one might see late on a Saturday night after many drinks, “ — and it’s super crowded.”

 

Dong, who is an international student, said he was surprised by the party scene at Swarthmore, but that he may have had the wrong idea of what to expect. He is disappointed that it seems Swarthmore students have few ways of having fun besides going out to these parties. He noted two possible causes of the sparse options for fun:

 

“I think there’s a lack of space in Swat where relaxed events, and the kind of light-toned events can be held, where people can just go in and do whatever things they like,” he commented. He also emphasized that part of the problem is that people treat frat parties as the default type of party. “Since it’s an issue about how people think, I don’t really know how to kind of change,” he said.

 

It’s difficult to say definitively whether students who find the current Swarthmore party scene to be lacking would’ve been more or less satisfied if they had been at Swat a few years ago. But Thornton and Baryenbruch both reminisced about the weirder days of their early years at Swat, and lamented what they described as a decrease in lovably weird people and parties. In particular, both of the upperclassmyn sadly mentioned the end of Crunkfest, a 24-hour scavenger hunt that pitted teams against each other to see who could complete the most (often sex- and drug-related) tasks to secure their victory.

 

“It was the best party environment,” Thornton said of the event, “everyone was so consent-oriented and gentle with each other.”  Though Crunkfest tasks involved asking people to do “crazy stuff,” no one was pushed into doing something they didn’t want to do. “[It was] an environment I felt comfortable saying no in, which doesn’t happen in these loud parties we go to.”

 

Thornton said that the first time they remembered going to a party where rules about consent were explicitly stated was at the Diva party in the spring of 2013. Gabe Benjamin ’15, one of the party hosts, noted that the party, which took place during what has become known as the Spring of our Discontent, was very much informed by the student protests and other events at that time.

 

The Thursday before the party, which had been in the works for multiple weeks, the IC was peed on for the third time. Benjamin and his friends considered cancelling the party, but ultimately went forward with it.

 

“Several of my friends thought it was important to still have the party and use it as a sort of decompression space and try to make it purposefully for those who are marginalized at Swat,” Benjamin recalled.

 

To make the party what they hoped it would be, they organized a group of students to volunteer in various capacities throughout the night. Some volunteers were inside the party to serve as resources in case anything non-consensual happened. Others patrolled the outside of the IC all night, to ensure that no one vandalized or damaged the IC. They also made a sign with rules — such as “No transphobia,” “No fatphobia,” “No racism,” — and hung it by the door.

 

Some party organizers, especially for SQU parties, have carried on that trend of explicitly stating rules about consent and permissible behavior. The Facebook event description for a Barn party that Thornton hosted earlier this year included this rule: “As always clothing optional consent mandatory.”

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