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O4S demand to end frat housing part of long-term debate on party spaces, sexual assault

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On  March 24, ABLLE canceled a party it was scheduled to co-host with Phi Psi, one of Swarthmore’s two fraternities. ABLLE, an affinity group for black and Latino men, decided to cancel the event in light of the activism on campus by Organizing for Survivors (O4S), a student group advocating for policy changes regarding issues of sexual assault. The cancellation is part of a larger discussion for an institutional change in attitude towards sexual assault.

Angel Padilla ’18, a SwatTeam manager and co-president of ABLLE, said the group canceled the party out of respect for O4S and its mission.

“The week we cancelled on Phi Psi was decided because we felt it was inappropriate to throw a party during a time where sexual assault was being addressed on this campus in a powerful way through the movement of O4S,” he wrote. “We felt it would be respectful to the movement and its members to cancel that week.”
However, President of Phi Psi Mark Hergenroeder ’19 pushed back against claims that sexual assault is a bigger problem at Phi Psi parties than it is in other contexts and locations on campus.

“Based on Swarthmore Public Safety survey data from the years 2016-2017, there is no evidence to support an increased rate of sexual assault in Phi Psi relative to the student body,” Hergenroeder said.

While the call to end housing for fraternities is only one part of O4S’ demands, the issue has yielded particularly contentious debate within the student body.

“Swarthmore must remove students living in the fraternities immediately and relocate them to regular campus housing. By the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the college must terminate its leases with Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon and rename and democratize the buildings they currently lease so that any student or student group can host events there,” O4S core members wrote in the demands, which were published in Voices. “Swarthmore must begin a thorough, formal, and transparent process of examining whether the existence of fraternity organizations on campus is aligned with Swarthmore’s professed values of inclusion and justice.”

Of the five fraternities that have existed in the college’s history, the two that continue to exist are Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon. As highlighted by Bobby Zipp ’18 in a January 2015 article titled “Alcohol-related hospitalizations, calls decrease,” the implementation of a stricter alcohol policy in August 2014 removed the ‘ ability to fund parties that served alcohol making it more difficult for clubs and organizations to hold parties. The policy reduced the number of parties at venues like Paces and Olde Club, making the fraternities more integral to social life at the college.

The process for getting a party permit in addition to the process for getting an alcohol permit previously prevented parties from happening in Paces and Olde Club simply because people were unfamiliar with the protocol, said Robby Jimenez ’19, executive board member of ENLACE. The alcohol policy makes the fraternities on campus structurally able to host parties more consistently.

“Paces and Olde Club weren’t very used because people didn’t know that they could reserve them to throw a party or how to throw a party,” Jimenez said. “It’s interconnected with the alcohol policy [from 2014] that made it harder to get alcohol for parties with a process that frats just know how to do.”

In an opinions article for the Phoenix from 2015, several students including Peter Amadeo ’15 expressed discontent with the concentration of parties at the fraternities and how queer and trans students felt uncomfortable in these spaces.

“Swarthmore brands itself as a liberal institution,” Amadeo said. “To an extent that’s fair, but in the end it’s a corporation and it’s there to make money.”

Feelings of discomfort and dissatisfaction with the control over party spaces by the frats have resurfaced due to demands made by Organizing for Survivors.

O4S’ demand to abolish frat housing surrounds a greater discussion about fraternities’ access to spaces and how members of minority groups on campus may feel less comfortable in these spaces. Dylan Clairmont ’21, a board member of Swarthmore Queer Union, believes that many queer students at the college did not go to the frat parties because they weren’t comfortable in the space.

“A vast majority of the queer people I know at Swat do not go to the frats, that’s not to say that there aren’t queer people who go to the frats and enjoy the frat parties,” Clairmont said. “I know that people don’t like the frats and don’t feel that it is a space where they can express themselves and have a good time.”

Tiffany Wang ’21, treasurer of Swarthmore Asian Organization, supported the notion that the frats can be uncomfortable for minority groups, but added that the frats’ control over party spaces was itself problematic.

“For me, it’s twofold. Not only do you have minorities not feeling safe because of how [the frats have] used [the space], but also the fact that only they can use it,” Wang said. “Those are two problems that are doubly exclusionary.”

According to Clairmont, the discomfort of minorities at frat parties is partnered with an unequal access to the party scene where fraternities have an unfair advantage.

“I definitely agree with the sentiment that it seems unfair that the frats are always allowed these spaces that [creates] an unfair power dynamic,” Clairmont said. “If they were to reserve the spaces like any other group on campus as opposed to a designated space already given to them, I think they would still be able to have parties but that power dynamic would shift.”

The transition of spaces like Kitao, Olde Club, and the WRC from fraternity houses to spaces for the general student population demonstrates how the democratization of the fraternities can benefit the student body as a whole, according to Wang.

“I really think that Olde Club and the WRC being frat houses in the past and what they are now open up the perspective of why the democratization of the space is important because they are prime examples of what can happen when that sort of space is open to everyone,” Wang said.

According to Hergenroeder, the high volume of students that consistently attend the frat parties indicates that many feel safe in the space. He stressed the importance of sexual assault training for fraternity members and said that criticism made by students who don’t attend the parties was vital to making the frat house spaces more inclusive.

Samuel Sheppard ’21, a SwatTeam member, said the notion that frats at Swarthmore were safer and more welcoming than those at other US schools was popular argument among students.

However, Jimenez, who transferred from University of Connecticut to Swarthmore last year, feels that  fraternities at Swarthmore are not much different from those at larger institutions except that fraternity parties at the college are usually open to the entire campus.

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘this is Swarthmore, it’s different…these aren’t real frats’ but they are,” Jimenez said. “They function in a lot of the same ways; they have frat housing, they have their dues, they have their party themes. I think the only drastic difference is that there’s no one at the door checking to see if you can come in or not.”

However, unlike most fraternities at other institutions, Swarthmore’s fraternities are largely non-residential. At most times, only one brother lives in the DU and Phi Psi houses.

Jimenez feels that the fraternities at Swarthmore are no less exclusive than fraternities at other colleges.

“It’s the same dynamic and hyper-masculine space that makes a lot of people uncomfortable and I think a lot of the people that try to push this narrative that nothing bad happens at frats are the people who don’t feel uncomfortable by the frats themselves,” Jimenez said. “If you speak to minorities like women or the queer community specifically, you will find that they don’t feel comfortable there.”

While demands by O4S resemble the response to the problems regarding party spaces as a result of the alcohol policy from 2014, Nathalie Baer-Chan ’19 wrote in an email to the Phoenix that the volume of parties held outside the frats has increased since that time. Her experience at the college her freshman year, she wrote, consisted of a social life that was centered around the fraternities. Beginning her sophomore year, she noticed the growing presence of alternative parties on campus.

“If you wanted to go out on a Saturday, [the fraternities] were the options you were looking at,” Baer-Chan wrote. “Independent parties started becoming more common and visible, not just from formal organizations like NuWave but also from individuals who decided that if their kind of party wasn’t on campus yet, they would throw it themselves.”

While some students have expressed discomfort at the fraternities, there have been efforts by the new Phi Psi leadership to make the fraternity space more inclusive.

According to Padilla, Phi Psi first reached out to ABLLE to ask if they would want to co-host a party.

“[Phi Psi] reached out to ABLLE in new efforts to increase inclusivity and better relations with affinity groups on campus,” Padilla wrote in an email to the Phoenix. “[ABLLE] recognized the new leadership in Phi Psi and their determination to do better as a frat and engage with other groups on campus while addressing the darker history of the frat.”

According to Sheppard, his experience as SwatTeam for Phi Psi parties, there has been communication and a willingness to help make sure the space is safe for all party attendees by Phi Psi.

“Whenever I SwatTeam Phi, they’re quite communicative. Every time I SwatTeam, a group chat gets set up with the SwatTeam members and the president [of Phi Psi] and we are told that the brothers are a resource and there to help make a safe space,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard understands the frustration at the fraternities but also sees an effort made by the fraternities to make the party culture more inclusive and sees that the shortcomings are due to a lack of resources for the fraternities to assist in creating a better space for students.

“I definitely feel as though the inclusive party culture at Swat is really good in that a lot of people have the option to enjoy it and no one really feels excluded from it in that way,” Sheppard said. “As a SwatTeam member I can understand why a lot of people are frustrated with the frats because they aren’t able to do much about creating a safe space. But it is very hard for them to do so because they aren’t given the resources to do that.”

While the fraternities have put forth an effort to create a safe and inclusive environment, students continue to feel discomforted by the spaces and frustration with the access to space that the fraternities have. The discussions about fraternity housing sparked by O4S have raised the issue of access to space on campus but has not necessarily rallied an anti-fraternity sentiment. This resembles the frat referendum from 2013, which did not pass, where there was also a lack of support for the eradication of frats.

O4S has decentralized their position on fraternities, stopped putting up anti-frat posters, and have made efforts to clarify their demands concerning fraternity housing. Although the debate continues, any immediate action regarding the frats seems unlikely as President Smith made no promises in her letter to the student body about Title IX. The frats have responded to criticism by attempting to create a more inclusive environment.

SwatTeam chronically understaffed, limiting party options

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Last Saturday, both parties hosted by ENLACE and Phi Psi did not have SwatTeam members present. SwatTeam determines whether or not its members are required to work an event based on the attendance of the party and whether alcohol is being served. Shivani Chinnappan ’18 posted on the Swarthmore College Facebook group seeking SwatTeam members to work at parties that night.

SwatTeam serves as a liaison to Public Safety by carrying out safety measures at parties such as checking IDs, providing crowd control, regulating alcohol that is brought into parties or taken out, providing a safe walk to student’s residences upon the student’s request, and enforcing the end time for parties. Recently, SwatTeam has experienced a shortage of workers.

While ENLACE hosted an open party with no alcohol, so no SwatTeam members were required to be present. Phi Psi had to hold a closed party due to the lack of SwatTeam members working on Saturday.  

Chinnappan, a SwatTeam member and a party host on Saturday, believes that the shortage of workers on Saturday specifically was due to the storm.

[SwatTeam] put a call out for members to work on Friday but we were unaware of how many workers we would need because we didn’t know what parties would be occurring due to the power outage,” Chinnappan said. “On Saturday, we found out that a lot of people had withdrawn, so we told some groups that their party had to be closed.”

However, Chinnappan thinks that the shortage of workers this weekend was related to the more prevalent issue of not holding SwatTeam members accountable for working the shifts they have signed up for. Recently, the scarcity of SwatTeam members willing to work has been an obstacle for the organization.

“I can only speak for the past year, but there are lot of workers who will withdraw last minute,” Chinnappan said. “If you have a lot of people signed up to staff an event, someone might choose not to show up because they think somebody else will. We want to focus more on getting people who say they’re going to work to actually work.”

If there are a lack of SwatTeam members willing to work, organizations may not be able to hold open parties or serve alcohol at them. According to SwatTeam director Eli Kissman ’19 the number of SwatTeam workers that are required to work a party is determined by the size of the space and whether an alcohol permit was submitted.

This number [of SwatTeam members working] is somewhat flexible but there is a general guideline for each space, which is based on the number of exits as well as the size of the space,” Kissman wrote in an e-mail. “We will increase the number of SwatTeam members working at a given event if we believe it will be more popular for any reason.”

A party can be shut down if there are too few SwatTeam members. This is determined based on the order that the alcohol permits were submitted.

According to Mark Hergenroeder ’19, president of Phi Psi, a closed party for the frat means that the party is limited to a smaller capacity than an open party.

We [the brothers] check IDs at the door and manage a spreadsheet of attendance. The most salient difference is that we prefer to limit capacity,” Hergenroeder wrote in an e-mail. “It’s more challenging to ensure a safe party environment with larger capacities.”

Hergenroeder sees the lack of SwatTeam members as a persistent issue for organizations looking to host parties.

I don’t like turning people away, but that’s the unfortunate consequence of being understaffed. We are happy to be flexible and help when possible, but it’s the third time this problem occurred despite having people who I’ve explicitly mentioned are willing to be trained,” Hergenroeder wrote. “This is confusing, unacceptable and unfair to every student organization who hosts.”

According to Hergenroeder, Phi Psi works with SwatTeam to take safety precautions before, during, and after parties.

We follow the list of procedures outlined in the Student Handbook to host parties. We work with SwatTeam in a lot of ways. The most important thing is cultivating a genuine, trustful relationship with them,” Hergenroeder wrote. “Before the event we create a group chat with SwatTeam to ensure easy communication, we identify brothers designated at ‘Party Monitors’ who are additionally resources for them, and we routinely check in with Swat Team throughout the night to debrief.”

Kissman believes that the solution to having enough SwatTeam members to work parties is to hire more members.

SwatTeam is not an easy job, which I think explains the low retention rate. You certainly cannot do your homework while working SwatTeam the way you can in some other jobs. We will hopefully alleviate the shortage of SwatTeam members by hiring new members,” Kissman wrote. “Ultimately if students want to party on this campus, there will be students working SwatTeam because SwatTeam is a requirement for open parties according to the student handbook.”

Regardless of whether SwatTeam hires more members or obtains more people to regularly work parties, the college will continue to require the presence of SwatTeam to ensure safety at parties.

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.”


I don’t give a hoot(enanny)

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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.

Parties carry on, with little stability in sight

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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.

Moving off-campus to find a new life, and a fridge full of kale

in Campus Journal/Columns/Swassip Girl by

I am always humbled and amused by how quickly my fall finals-induced hatred of Swarthmore transforms into a being-at-home-sucks-inspired love of the same. Such is our toxic love affair with this ridiculous college: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Home has non-Sharples food and your mom, but also racist grandparents and awkward social engagements with high school boyfriends. Swat has Pub Nite and your best buds, but also pasta bar and a constant sense of academic inferiority. This mood-swing cycle of going home and coming back is emotionally draining, and it seems that the Swarthmore collective conscious believes that the only way to escape this dizzying rotation is to finally graduate into The Real World. While I still go to Swarthmore, and still go home during breaks, I’ve decided to expedite my entrance into The Real World: As of this spring, I live off campus.

Just two weeks into the semester, life off campus has made schoolwork less all-encompassing. My hundreds of pages of reading per week are necessarily tempered by weirder, adultier problems, like cooking myself dinners that include vegetables more substantial than the dehydrated ones that come in ramen packets. And cleaning up the flood of water spewed into my kitchen at one in the morning by our broken washing machine. And freaking out one night because the apartment reeked of natural gas after someone knocked the knob on our gas stove. I have to pay rent and buy toilet paper and worry about whether my severely mildewed shower curtain is a health concern.

Incredibly, the addition to my life of scary adult problems has somehow reduced my stress instead of amplified it. My new set of shit to deal with has had the effect of putting Swarthmore’s craziness into better perspective. Now, when I want to or need to, I can remove myself from Swarthmore’s clutches, cook some food (from my fridge! With my stove!), chill in my (full-sized!) bed, and cuddle with some of my neighbors’ cats (real ones!). Though I’ve always lived on the other side of the SEPTA tracks while at Swarthmore, first in Mary Lyons and then in Roberts, living outside of the college’s purview has taken the edge off of what would ordinarily be a grossly overwhelming schedule for me. The giant stress cloud that hovers endlessly over Swarthmore’s campus doesn’t make it as far as the Barn. I’m free!

But, of course, there are necessarily some trade-offs. While I’m not much farther away from campus at the Barn than when I lived Roberts, I am far less inclined to get my butt out of bed and go to class or Sharples or parties. I used to feel compelled to go out on weekends just to avoid sitting in my musty, sad dorm room. While in Roberts, I roomed in a triple with no windows besides a giant, leaky skylight. The harmless but noisy set of ghosts who I think live in the walls accounted for most of the dorm’s meager hall life. I never hung out there for long except to sleep. Now, I have my own bedroom in an apartment filled with a new barrage of wonderful domestic amenities, like a working bathtub and adjustable heat. I have blue bedroom walls and like, several avocados in the fridge. I can light candles! I have a spice rack! How am I supposed to go sit in McCabe when my not-McCabe living quarters are so cozy? The weekly choice between a rando frat party and watching a John Hughes movie in my PJs is being increasingly weighted towards the latter. If you don’t see me around my usual campus haunts, you’ll know it’s because I’ve tried and failed to come up with a reason to abandon my lodgings.

I won’t become a complete social recluse, though. Individual barn apartments throw parties now and again, though most of campus never experiences them. By virtue of the scant space and the population of hipper-than-thou occupants, Barn parties are generally smaller affairs with weirder music. Dancing happens, but only in small bursts punctuating the flow of partygoers from one bedroom to another, from someone’s kitchen down to the front porch for a cigarette. Barn parties, so far as I can tell, typically involve low-key chitchat, box wine, and a vague concern about noise levels for fear of the arrival of Real Swarthmore Police. Though you might not be able to return immediately to your bedroom when they’re done like I can (!), I’d recommend keeping your eyes open for any upcoming Barn parties if you’re one of those who is less inspired by beer pong and strobe lights, but who still wants to get drunk in a gross, run-down building surrounded by Swatties.

Maybe my new, less stressed state of being is a result of a newfound maturity, but I’m pretty sure it’s just my house. I moved off-campus for the heck of it, but little did I know dorm life had been a detriment to my mental health. Only 7% of students live off campus! Who knows how many people are wasting away in Willets wondering how they will ever escape the Swarthmore blues? When will they realize that freedom lies only a few blocks away in one of the several non-Swarthmore College housing options? I realize I’ve never actually lived on campus, so I can’t really speak to its effects on student well being, but I will stand by my assertion that a personal bathroom, a fridge full of kale, and a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle in progress on the coffee table will improve anyone’s semester.

OSE absorbs SAC, all-campus event funding

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The Social Affairs Committee, which previously served as the main funding body for all-campus events and parties, no longer exists, primarily because its function of providing alcohol funding for parties became obsolete last year. The Office of Student Engagement will take over this funding responsibility.

Co-President of Student Government Christine Kim ’17, who was previously a member of SAC, explained that a number of factors played a role in the decision to disband the committee and create a new funding process.

One of SAC’s primary purposes was to allocate alcohol money under the guise of DJ funding, Kim explained, referring to the practice by which clubs or groups hoping to host a party would bring a proposal to the committee asking for a certain amount of money to pay a DJ, and then use those funds to purchase alcohol instead. However, in the fall of 2014, SAC was no longer allowed to provide this “DJ funding.”

“Once that was gone, there was no point in SAC being there,” Kim said. All logistics for all-campus parties and events became the responsibility of the OSE, while SAC continued to make funding decisions, Kim explained.

According to Kim, this led to a great deal of miscommunication between the OSE and SAC and complicated the logistics of large-scale events such as Halloween and the winter formal. Additionally, the unpaid members of SAC were required to set up and clean up for these events, and were thus limited from fully participating in these events.

However, despite the elimination of DJ funding, SAC continued to provide party funding. Kim said that the fraternities consistently asked for, and were granted, between $200 and $300 each week for party decorations. For larger events, such as Delta Upsilon’s annual party during Worthstock, Margaritaville, SAC shelled out a more extensive amount.

Thus, even though SAC was no longer allowed to provide alcohol funding, students continued to ask for party funding, though Kim acknowledged that these funding requests were fraternity-heavy and that few other student groups requested money or held parties.

As SAC came to seem increasingly obsolete, Kim and Steve Sekula ’17, fellow co-president of SGO, met with the former and current heads of the Student Budget Committee, which distributes the student activities fee between groups, clubs, and SAC. The students discussed a new event-funding process and decided to streamline it all through the OSE.

Sekula explained that the OSE had created a new portal where students seeking funding could input all of their event information and ensure the security of party permits, equipment, and other necessities before receiving funding.

Kim elaborated on the multiple simplifying features of the new process. Formerly, when student groups holding events would receive funding from SAC, the committee would have to send liaisons to check that the groups were using the money for their stated purposes.

“This wasn’t being coordinated well,” Kim said, explaining that the OSE, meanwhile, would have to ensure that groups having parties had secured permits and were using wet spaces rather than dry ones, as well as coordinating other forms of event assistance such as Swat Team.

“The real purpose of SAC was really confusing for a lot of people,” Kim said. Students would attend SAC meetings, but their proposals would not fit under the bylines of what the committee funded, so they would be sent to the Forum for Free Speech, to seek departmental funding, to the OSE, or to the movie committee.

“They didn’t know where to go,” Kim said. Now, however, all of these funding bodies and more are available to select as possible sources, to be evaluated by the OSE, through the new funding portal.

Kim emphasized that students would still have some say over event funding.

“The OSE will maintain the student aspect of student input in funding decisions,” Kim said. Kim said that the OSE interns would have input into the funding decisions, along with whoever is hired to replace Assistant Director of Student Activities, Leadership, and Greek Life Mike Elias, who leaves the college to take a position at Haverford College this week.

Kim said she hopes that the new, simplified funding process will lead to an increase in parties by groups other than fraternities.

“We’re hoping that campus culture will revive Paces and Olde Club parties,” Kim said. “I think it’ll happen, because it’s a much cleaner process for smaller student groups to propose and they are now given a legitimate support system through the OSE.”

Kim added that she thought the process would be imperfect, but that SGO and others would be open to change.

“If we need to reevaluate and say, ‘this isn’t working out,’ I’m sure that SGO and other people who have the power to shift these processes will change them the way they need to be changed,” Kim said.

Two open meetings to explain the new funding process, as well as a revamped chartering process for groups and clubs, will be held on Monday from 7-8 PM and 8-9 PM.

Debates over and shifts to the ways in which the college funds alcohol for parties (or not) are not new. A Daily Gazette article by Lauren Stokes ’09 discusses that as early as 2005, students were concerned about the ways in which the college provides funding for alcohol.

“…The school must stop its de facto funding of alcohol for reasons of potential legal liability,” the article reads. “As a result, enforcement of SAC funding will become more strict. Not only has the administration been alerted to the most prevalent ‘work-arounds,’ but SAC will start asking party proposers specifically about where they’re getting money for alcohol,” the article reads, listing a number of other changes to the party funding process.

Like Kim and others, students in the past were concerned about the shifts in the college social scene that would occur if SAC stopped funding alcohol.

“Some students expressed concern that the fraternities would consume the party scene at Swarthmore, but most believed that ‘Swattie ingenuity’ would be able to overcome that danger,” Stokes wrote.

“Most students don’t want to lose the ‘free activities’ so important to Swarthmore culture, but a few students pointed out the fallacy of equating ‘activities’ with ‘Paces parties,’” Stokes continued. “These students hoped that the crackdown on alcohol funding would inspire ‘more open thinking about the student activities fee,’ inspiring proposals for new social events instead of more ‘tired’ Paces parties.”

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