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PubSafe cracks down on beer pong, community seeks alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On PubNite and the community it fosters

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The sounds of pub nite always lead back to semisonic

in Arts/Music in Spaces by

Pub Nite can be pretty predictable when it comes to music. In the later part of the night, after the lights are turned off, music always shifts towards hits that are more dance-worthy, and of course, the night isn’t over until “American Pie” by Don McLean is played, followed by Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” “American Pie” and “Closing Time” have been part of the Pub Nite tradition for years. Nonetheless, there still remains an observable variety in the music from night to night. This is simply because different students DJ Pub Nite each week.

“I always try to play good songs,” said Dina Ginzburg ’18, who has DJ-ed Pub Nite twice. “And usually not recently popular songs, because I feel like you hear those at every single party… Mostly just songs that you can sing along to and that people really love. I think that ‘Hey Ya’ is just a classic — like who doesn’t love that song?”

But it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes the crowd becomes visibly displeased with the DJ’s selection of music, booing the music

“When that happens, you just have to be ready to switch to a different song,” explained Ginzburg. “You always have to have a playlist that’s longer than three hours. It’s really stressful if it’s not, and you start running out of songs.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to Pub Nite, playing “good music” is not a foolproof way to ensure that everyone has fun and stays.

“Last time, I know I was playing good music, but people left because it just wasn’t their night,” recounted Ginzburg. “I guess it was in the middle of a work week, but I feel like Pub Nite is always depressing at the end, unless it’s a special night, the atmosphere is right, and people want to stay the whole time.”

Seniors, who were around to experience the “old” Pub Nite before the school’s alcohol policy changed, claim that it was not always like this. Pub Nite used to be highly attended, for one thing, and a lot of people stayed until “Closing Time” finished, even helping the senior class officers clean up afterwards.

“After Pub Nite, they would just play Killers songs,” said Doriana Thornton ’16. “There’d be like 10 people, and we would just dance around and clean.” This post-Pub Nite cleaning doesn’t seem to take place anymore, especially since many students leave before American Pie or Closing Time are over, as pointed out by Ginzburg.

“People feel less of a sense of ownership over Pub Nite [now],” explained Tiffany Kim ’17. “I don’t know why the communal cleaning up went away… I guess the lack of support for senior class officers translates into them having less energy to worry about creating things like that post-Pub Nite atmosphere. It’s really not their fault.”

“It’s becoming more of an uphill battle to do things [as students],” commented another senior, who wishes to remain anonymous. “And I think the senior class officers were just so invested in [Pub Nite] and so excited about it that you couldn’t not be excited about it.”

Subtle shifts in the way music is handled have also contributed to the change in atmosphere. While the same structure of music was used previously — with more danceable songs playing towards the end of the night — music was quieter during the first couple of hours.

“Pub Nite … used to be about being able to talk to each other for the first couple of hours, like before the music changes,” Kim recalled. “It used to be not as loud so people could talk.”

The seniors illuminate just how Pub Nite has changed over the years. This change is often attributed to the change in alcohol policy and, as described above, is reflected even in the way music is handled and received at Pub Nite.

“Donate to Pub Nite!” said Kim. “Don’t let it die.”

Interrogating how we party in the post-save-pub-nite era

in Campus Journal/Columns/Swassip Girl by

From what I can tell, institutional memory at Swarthmore lasts like, four seconds. Unless you really drill the upperclassmen or do some hardcore Phoenix digging, the most you will probably pick up about Swarthmore’s recent history by passively existing here is that the Administration does Bad Stuff and should really Listen To Us and Something Something Alcohol Policy Changes. But for a few buzzphrases (“Crunkfest,” “funnels,” “Did you know Childish Gambino played Upper Tarble in 2012?”), the Swarthmore College that existed prior to my arrival here is mostly lost to me. This, I assume, is the nature of limited access to institutional memory — things get lost.

Pub Nite, as it currently exists, is a free weekly event:  part dance party, part standing near that cute girl from seminar while holding a cup. In contrast to frat parties, it has a reputation for fluorescent lights, goofiness, and a casual, communal atmosphere. Though most of that description has been true for years, the “free” part has not. Pub Nite — here’s a recent institutional history lesson — used to be a fundraiser. Every Thursday, students forked over a four-dollar entry fee that went toward financing senior week activities and, crucially, the night’s kegs and cups. With the 2014 changes to the alcohol policy, the fundraising function of Pub Nite was banned, and with it the usual means of purchasing the watery beer the women’s rugby team seems to like so much. Online donations became the only available source of Pub Nite income and the future of weeknight pong games hung on the balance. Pub Nite’s survival began (and continues) to solely depend on a collective remembered love for a thing — a big enough collective remembered love to inspire regular student contributions of money, time, and energy.

As previously noted, our track record for institutional memory is grim. At first glance, however, that does not seem to be the case. When Pub Nite was announced to be at risk for dissolution last year, the campus was up in arms. The thought of a world sans hungover Friday morning lectures appeared to traumatize the student body. In the online comments section of the Phoenix exposé of the Pub Nite problem, an inspired cohort of alumni sang undying praises for this tried and true Swarthmore institution and threatened to stop donating to the college as a result of such an ignoble fallout. My favorite gem of passive-aggressive anger in the thread: “my double-legacy children can now look forward to a lifetime of being subtly pressured to attend Oberlin. Lucky them!” I was newly arrived on campus at the time and had never attended Pub Nite, but impassioned posts flooded my Facebook feed, encouraging me to support the cause if I wanted my future to include singing American Pie with drunken pseudo-strangers (which I totally did and still do).

As such, I anticipated a cure-all student uprising. All I got, however, was an increasingly slow-going GoFundMe site. Though Pub Nite has been “saved” for three semesters now, Swatties have mustered up less and less enthusiasm with each round of donations and I’ve heard no rumblings of a more permanent solution. I’m not holding my breath, but a small part of me hopes that desperate times will rouse people to act. In my favorite movie, “Empire Records” (a shitty but entirely endearing 90’s teen dramedy), a group of employees “save” their independent record store from being sold by hosting a late night benefit party and a rooftop rock performance. Kids on skateboards storm the storefront, shout, “Damn the man! Save the empire!” and fill plastic jugs with the requisite nine thousand dollars. I realize that “Empire Records” is fiction, but given how much love everyone advertises they had for Pub Nite (and, I admit, given my ever-present desire for my life to look like a teen movie), I really did expect a little bit more than a GoFundMe by now: an Olde Club show, an OSE sit-in, a hashtag, a telethon, a devoted senior standing outside Paces with a clipboard and a dream. I wanted a protest, a petition, a strongly worded letter! Where was the Parrish rooftop benefit rock concert? Damn the Man! Save Pub Nite!

Already, though, the GoFundMe for this semester did not reach its five thousand dollar goal. Unless some extra measures are taken, I don’t see how the GoFundMe could reach that same goal next semester, or any semester after that. Is Pub Nite going to die? And if it is dying, should we keep trying to rescue it? In a world hell-bent on rapid change, to try to keep things as they are is, in a great many cases, a noble, if futile, act. I think of museums and my middle school diaries and colonial reenactment towns and baby pictures. I fully support those passionate and stupid enough to throw themselves into “saving” something from the natural entropic tendency to disappear with passing time, but the payoff of those efforts is never the continued existence of the saved thing, but rather a memory of that thing — it will never again be the 18th century in colonial Williamsburg and baby pictures don’t stop anyone from aging. No amount of money will preserve Pub Nite in amber forever. To “save” something is relative and temporary, but, arguably, not useless.

As is, only half of the current student body has ever known a pre-Save-Pub-Nite! Pub Nite. Those in the 2016 and 2017 class years did, but soon they will graduate and if nothing is done, the memory of that Pub Nite will leave with them. Assuming the donation decrease stays its course, Pub Nite will eventually sputter to a halt, and it will make a lot of people, myself included, very sad. The Pub Nite that I know, though, is not, and could never have been, the Pub Nite that existed to fund senior week. I only know a Pub Nite that was kept alive for its own sake by the sheer strength of memory (and the donations that memory warranted). “Remembering,” it seems, is not only an action verb, but a community effort and a ticking clock. Soon, maybe, memories of Pub Nite will be exclusively secondhand.

Do not be confused when the kegs run dry for good. The final Pub Nite, whenever it may come, will be devastating, but should probably not surprise you. That being said, it could be prevented, or at least delayed. There’s enough money in the pockets of Swatties to support Pub Nite semester after semester, but our collective remembered love for it will naturally dwindle. Maybe it’s worth the energy to convince incoming class ater incoming class of the urgent need to save something that started dying before they got here, but if not, we can’t maintain a collective remembered love for Pub Nite when no one is left on campus to do the remembering. Even if someone were to swoop in with a million dollars dedicated to the infinite perpetuation of the event, even if something called Pub Nite happened in Paces every Thursday with boundless quantities of Natty Lite and a playlist of sing-a-long favorites, would that be Pub Nite “saved” once and for all, or would it be a nostalgic mimicry — Pub Nite a la colonial reenactment town? It might be sadder if the collective remembered love for Pub Nite were to die out before Pub Nite did. My endorsement is this: At Pub Nites past, I have had moments of such complete stupid joy that I cannot fully comprehend a life at Swarthmore without it. Pub Nite is special and weird and sweaty and wonderful. For the short time that I’ve known it, I love Pub Nite a heck of a lot. I hope that we don’t let it go without a good fight. I’m not prepared for a permanent Closing Time.

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