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What I Won’t Miss about Swat: Reflections Before leaving for the Summer

in Campus Journal by

Ah, summer, so close and yet so far. Various seedy “moving” companies have started emailing students, offering to take our clutter off our hands (they don’t say anything about returning it, though). The Rose Garden is starting to vaguely live up to its name. Shirtless show-offs fling frisbees around Parrish beach. How can I abandon all this for a 40-hour/week internship in D.C.? As a fun intellectual exercise (read: to actually contribute something to the last Campus Journal of the semester), I’ve decided to list the few things I won’t miss about Swarthmore this summer.

First, food: I am a lowly freshman. I am therefore overloaded with Sharples meals and am constantly bankrupt on Swat Points. For three brief months there will be no pasta bar, no badly boiled carrots, no fluorescent juices made out of suspicious ingredients. Also, I assume that D.C. has more than two streets of restaurants to choose from.

AND YET: Thanks to the OneCard, I can pretend that Swat Points aren’t “real” money and occasionally spend irresponsibly. In the world beyond Swarthmore, you actually have to pay with fun, adult things like dollar bills.

Second, housing. Shout-out to Willets residents: You do not have to spend the rest of your life in lounges furnished like a 70s waiting room in a dodgy doctor’s cabinet. There are floors without beer stains, toilets without vomit, kitchens without mice, and refrigerators without large amounts of moldy food. It’ll be hard to lose the smell of weed in the air, but I’m sure I’ll adapt quickly.

AND YET:…there is a Willets community. Sort of. We all get annoyed when someone dumps their ramen in the sink. And this dorm is a nice common enemy for everyone. Who will share my pain this summer? Nothing like irritation to bring people together.

And, lastly, Swatties. My fellow students, sufferers, lovers, thinkers, complainers, or whatever it is that brings us together. Believe me, I love you. You are all, for the most part, amazing people who will go on to do great things. And that is why we need a break from each other. Sometimes, I just need to walk around with my head in the clouds and not recognize everyone around me. I’d like to glimpse a stranger’s face and briefly imagine what their life may be like before losing them in the crowd, rather than recognizing them from a class or knowing way too much about their romantic history. It would be nice to not feel crushed by the weight of everyone else’s accomplishments and intelligent contributions to classroom discussions.

AND YET: I’ll miss late night discussions about random topics and having people to rant about French politics at. I’ll miss brilliant idealists describing a communist utopia and late night songs in Urdu and the most flamboyant figures tearing through campus in leather shorts and velvet headbands.

It’s been quite a year, Swarthmore. We probably need some time apart before I officially become a McCabe-dwelling bat that lives off Essie’s snacks. And I doubt I’m the only one who’ll be glad to take a break. Mountain Justice activists will probably enjoy not getting random citations for the grave crime of shredding documents. Members of the Conservative Society may not miss being one of twenty conservative students on a 1600 person-campus. Anyone who has struggled with Eduroam crashes (actually, that’s the entirety of the campus) will, hopefully, have the pleasure of finding a functional network; and, even if we miss our favorite professors and fondly recall our best classes, will we really long for the days of hunching over a laptop at 3 am, only halfway done with an essay due the next day?

No. Definitely not. The Swarthmore Bubble doesn’t mean the school is a perfect place, and a lot of people would benefit from a trip back into the real world. But then again, there probably will be the odd pang of nostalgia. We are Swatties, after all. Being here requires at least a small dose of masochism.

How did Swat get here? An abridged history of activism at Swat

in Campus Journal by

 

In the context of recent activism and student action regarding Swarthmore’s divestment from fossil fuels, I thought I’d take a look at past and ongoing activism both campus and related to the institution. Here’s a (brief) history of some historical progresses and moments of activism at Swat:

1869 – Nov. 10, the College opens with a tree-planting ceremony to honor the College founders Lucretia and James Mott, who were well known for their activism in the women’s rights and anti-slavery movements. At the ceremony, President Edward Parrish said “A peculiarity of this organization, as contrasted with most others for like purposes is the association of women equally with men in its origin and management.”

1905 – Swarthmore football player Robert “Tiny” Maxwell is photographed in a bloodied and battered state after a game against University of Pennsylvania. President Theodore Roosevelt saw this image of Maxwell, and declared that the sport had to be reformed or he would ban it. The legalization of the forward pass and the doubling of the yardage required for a first down were elements of the sport that came out of the reforms this spurred.

1907 – The Jeanes Bequest. Wealthy Quaker Anna T. Jeanes offered to bequeath her land to Swarthmore one on condition: the college permanently give up intercollegiate sports. The college refused.

1917 – Jesse Holmes, a philosophy professor helped found the American Friends Service Committee, providing conscientious objectors an opportunity to perform community service rather than fight.

1930 – The college organized and funded former area mill workers to clear paths, open trails, cut dead trees, and haul out trash from the woods. According to the Arboretum’s first director, after conducting this work from 1930-1932, they “literally transformed the dilapidated areas into a pleasant woodland park with attractive paths”

1933 – Sororities Abolished due to Jewish students being excluded from Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta. The ban was repealed in 2012.

1943 – Student Body integrated, although some black students were already  black students already attending the College as members of the U.S. Navy’s V-12 unit stationed on campus.

1967 – Superweek. President Courtney Smith initiated the publication of “Critique of a College,” which was a review of the college. During the week in December, classes were canceled and instead students and faculty held meetings and discussion panels about the school and its policies. For the week, there was a daily student newspaper titled “The Egg,” which detailed topics covered. These topics included the creation of an engineering department, installing pass/fail courses, counting social/field work for course credit, the Quaker tradition, the College’s relationship with students, and the role of women in academics and education.

1969 – The black protest movement, led by the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society (SASS) sat in the Admissions Office to demand increased black enrollment after there was dwindling numbers of black students and lack of administrative support for black students. The sit-in was eight days long, and the next year saw a large increase in the number of black students at the college.

1970 – students pushed for the Black Cultural Center and it was founded.

1971 – FBI files stolen from an office in Media reveal that Swarthmore’s Afro-American Student Society were under surveillance, and disclosed information on students and faculty

1974 – Inspired by the establishment of the Black Cultural Center and second wave feminism, members of Swarthmore Women’s Liberation pushed for their own center, which was established in Bond hall in 1974 and named after Alice Paul in 1975. (It no longer has that same purpose.)

1982 – Divestment from South Africa process begins when Student Council adopts a resolution calling the College to divest from all companies doing members in South Africa, and later members of the college’s Anti-Apartheid Committee interrupted a Board of Managers meeting by holding a demonstration outside their meeting room. Sit-ins and activism continued, and in 1986 the Board of Managers reached consensus to proceed toward total divestment, which was completed in 1990.

1983 – Swarthmore President David Fraser “mobilizes the College’s opposition” and testifies before Congress to oppose an amendment to withhold federal financial aid from students who failed to register for a military draft

1988 – First Sager Symposium. Richard Sager ‘73 created the Sager Fund to fund events exploring LGBTQ issues

1996 – Environmental Racism Conference – students organize a conference on environmental racism in Chester that leads to the formation of the Campus Coalition Concerning Chester

2002 – Shareholder Activism – Swarthmore became the first college or university to initiate a resolution against Lockhead Martin for discrimination against LGBTQ employes. Soon after, the company announced plans to add sexual orientation to their discrimination policy.

2003 – Swarthmore joins Amicus Brief along with other colleges to support affirmative action in college admissions. President at the time Alfred H. Bloom said “we believe that diversity is essential to our educational mission.”

2011 – Mountain Justice first meets with the board to discuss divestment from fossil fuels.

2014 Swarthmore gains an NGO observer status at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and sends a delegation of students, faculty, and staff.

2016 – In December, President Valerie Smith affirms Swarthmore as a sanctuary campus.

2017 – Mountain Justice spearheads a referendum, subsequent sit-ins, and a joint forum with president Valerie Smith, SGO, and members of the board to push forward the policy of divestment from fossil fuels, despite the college’s official policy since 1991 of not divesting for social purposes.

Swarthmore academic quality is dropping

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Year after year, Swarthmore College ranks as one the top institutions in the country. This year, the college currently ranks as number ten on Forbes’ Top Colleges list. Although a top ten ranking is not new for the college, it is still concerning. The reality is that the college has not been performing better, but rather worse, in Forbes’ rankings over the past several years. We once ranked as high as three, but have since clearly fallen to the tenth spot.

The downward trend is a concern to some, but for many students at Swarthmore, there is nothing to worry about. Swarthmore is an academically challenging institution, and students get reminded of that nearly every day. For some reason, many students correlate rigor of academics with quality of academics, and thus have no reason to fear that Swarthmore may one day fall out of the top ten.

But could they be wrong? Has the quality of academics at Swarthmore declined over the past several years, and has this decline been reflected in our ranking? The reality is that sometimes, students, faculty, and administration turn the other way and ignore the flaws within the college that have begun to harm the academic experience of Swarthmore students, and instead hide behind the statement that, “Swat is one of the best colleges in the country.”

We at the Phoenix no longer believe that Swarthmore is a great school, and that hiding behind the truth of the past has tarnished the quality of academics at Swarthmore. The decline in quality can be seen not only inside the classroom, but in the curriculum and academic structure overall.

Swarthmore brags about having small classes, but in reality, classes at Swarthmore are not very small, especially in departments with high enrollment. Although the student to teacher ratio is eight to one, according to the Common Data Set (most data in this article is pulled from the CDS), the average class size at Swat is 16.1. Some would say that the size of the larger classes are compensated by smaller subsections. However, the subsections are not much smaller than the classes, averaging at 14.3.

Although 16.1 is surely a small number, especially in comparison to larger institutions, the college uses several techniques to effectively lower this number as a statistic without actually providing students with the benefit of smaller classes. It is easy to see this if we ask the question, “Do most students at Swarthmore take courses that are, on average, of smaller sizes.”

The answer is no. Most students at Swarthmore College take courses that are much greater than 20 people in size. According to the Common Data Set, the top five degrees at Swarthmore are Economics at 16.4 percent of students, Political Science at 12.8 percent, Biology at 12 percent, and Computer Science at 10.6 percent, and Mathematics at 8.1 percent. These five majors alone sum to 59.9 percent of all degrees given by Swarthmore. Since about six of every ten students will major in one of these five departments, Swarthmore’s academic quality heavily relies on the experience of the students within these departments.

Unfortunately, in the top five departments, many of them have class sizes that are above twenty students, effectively falling into the “medium size” range. Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, which are both courses required for the Economics major, are both about 100 students in size every semester. With the exception of honors courses, many upper-level Economics courses are much greater than 20 students in size. Cellular and Molecular Biology is easily over 100 students every semester, with labs usually greater than 20 students. Without including the incoming freshman class, 38 students are already registered for this class for next fall. Every Intro to Computer Science section is easily over 30 students. Many reports have been posted before regarding how the Computer Science department is severely understaffed at the college.

Even in departments that fall out of the top five, some of the most important courses are large. Organic Chemistry, one of the most difficult courses at the college, will currently feature a robust 58 students. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict course is set to feature 61 students with no subsections to complement the course. General Physics with Biomedical Applications has already reached 53 students for the upcoming semester.  

“At least courses are getting smaller.” This statement is false. In Fall 2010, the average class size was 14.8 and rose to 15.7 in Fall 2015. Subsections are rising in size as well. In the Fall 2000 semester, subsections were 9.9 students on average. In Fall 2016, they were 14.3.

“So the courses might be a bit larger than we hoped, but at least everyone always gets their classes.” Wrong again. For this upcoming semester, 74 Computer Science students were lotteried out of courses. This included upperclassmen in the department lotteried from upper-level courses. Many courses at Swarthmore end up being small because the college lotteries out students and forces them to take other courses in departments with empty seats. Foundation Drawing has already reached its enrollment limit of ten each for both sections, needing to lottery students to do so. Real Analysis I, a Mathematics major requirement, is also a vital course that was also lotteried out several students.  

It is easy to see that 16.1 is a skewed number, and that the College, on average, cannot provide its students with easily accessible small courses.   

“The College is financially in a place to fix this.” One could argue this statement is false. For the last four years, the College’s operating budget has broken even, so the College is not “losing money” in that sense. However, other financial trends are concerning. The Market Value of our endowment has decreased over the past three years. This is concerning because not only is the spending rate as a percentage of endowment been the highest since 2009-2010, but also that the college is not being compensated from its spending by return on investment. In 2013-2014, the spending rate was 3.5 percent and the College received 17.8 percent return on investment. In 2015-2016, the spending rate rose to 4.0 percent but return on investment dropped 19 points, falling to -1.6 percent. The College is not only eating into its endowment to cover operating costs and projects, but is also losing money on its investments.  

Although class sizes are an important factor in determining academic quality, it’s not the only thing. Other things to consider for academic quality include advising, quality of professors, resources outside the classroom, and quality control techniques. However, some students on campus would say that Swarthmore College also fails to meet its own standards in those categories, but that discussion is for another time.

We at the Phoenix encourage the administration to fix this problem by adding more sections to larger classes, which will decrease the average number of students per section and limit the total number of students lotteried out of classes. To do this, the administration might want to consider analyzing the amount of funds given to each department to make sure departments with larger numbers of students receive more adequate funding.

Hopefully, the College can find a way to reverse its current track and begin providing students with the educational experience we were promised.

Being a low-income student at Swarthmore

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

College had always been part of my life plan. My parents were working-class high school graduates. I was the oldest of four and a straight-A student with a love of science and an intense drive to get a college degree. For my entire school career, college had been the goal. It was the reason I went to math tutoring during homeroom in middle school so that I could pass the pre-algebra test to get placed into the 8th grade accelerated track. It was the reason I stayed up studying AP Biology for hours after the rest of the house went to sleep. It was the ultimate end goal, but suddenly it was actually time to apply to college and to get accepted into college. It quickly became obvious just how many obstacles stood between me and that degree I had dreamed of for so long. The money was a big one, but more than that, the college application process was a maze of confusing forms and illogically conflicting deadlines. My mom always used to joke, “You practically need a college degree to apply to college!” and she wasn’t wrong.

Then, one day, at the start of my senior year of high school, there was QuestBridge. My school guidance counselor had one brochure which he could give to one teacher who could give it to one student; that student happened to be me. My English teacher handed it to me saying, “I thought you could use this,” so I took it home and showed it to my mom. We thought it was a scam. Who in their right mind would give someone that much money? Full-rides were reserved for outstanding, certified geniuses, not ordinary people like me. As it turns out, it wasn’t a scam. But this incredulity at the immense generosity of other people returned again and again throughout the process of applying and getting accepted to Swarthmore College. Why would a school like Swarthmore choose me? Why on earth would they give me that much money? It was something I had never experienced before, and it never ceased to amaze me.

I fell in love with this school the day I first saw it. When I attended the admitted students overnight event (called Ride the Tide back in the day), I knew without a doubt that this was where I wanted to be. Orientation psyched me up for four great years of pure learning, new friends, and impactful experiences. Then, three weeks into the semester, doubts came racing back, the doubts of someone who worked for years to prove their excellence only to begin to think maybe they were only ever competent. Maybe I was only a good student because it was easy. Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I don’t belong here.

One of the first things incoming students are told at Swarthmore is, “You do belong here. There are no admissions mistakes.” While it may be difficult to believe them, especially as a low-income or first-generation student, they really do mean it. This school wants us here, and we worked so hard to make it. The same compassion and encouragement I felt from QuestBridge was waiting for me at Swarthmore as well. The administration and faculty at this college are some of the most decent human beings I have ever met.

This year I declared a Biology and Psychology double major. Obviously, it was mostly because I am interested in those subjects and want to eventually go into a career in both, but I also feel at home in those departments. During my first year at Swarthmore, I doubted myself a lot. There were many days where I thought that surely I was the first and only admissions mistake, but the professors and the upperclassmen in the Bio and Psych departments reassured me that I could excel. This school is full of truly amazing people who genuinely want us to succeed. They care about us, not just academically; they are genuinely invested in how we are doing in our day-to-day lives.

An upperclassman Bio major once told me that they didn’t feel at home at Swarthmore until they had cried in their professor’s office. I told myself that wouldn’t be me. I got here on my own, and I would do college on my own. But isolation did not make me a strong student or a good scientist. It took me a long time to get over my fears of asking for help, but when I finally managed it, there was a support system waiting for me.

My advice to incoming Questies, low-income students, or any student doubting themselves is the same advice I was given. Ask for help. Go to your professor’s office hours. Lean on your fellow low-income classmates. We are all going through the same things. We all have the same doubts, and if we don’t admit it, we end up feeling like we don’t belong. I promise you that even though the rest of the student body seems to “have it all together,” everyone has that one class where they wonder if they’ll make it to the end of the semester. Everyone struggles to sit through what feels like the 4000th lecture. It took me way too long to realize I wasn’t alone and to finally listen to the people telling me to reach out when I needed help. My advice is to listen sooner than I did.

I also want to remind every student at this school of what orientation repeats again and again. You are all amazing students and people. Swarthmore College is a fantastic school and an awesome community. They choose their students very carefully. You made it, and that was not a mistake. Remember how hard you worked and how much you wanted this. Don’t believe the voices, whether they be internal or external, that say you don’t belong here or that you somehow deserve less than this. You are going to do awesome things, and your professors and classmates will be thrilled (and not surprised) to see it happen.

Lessons Learned from Cooking Shows (and Swat)

in Campus Journal by

Like any good French-Californian girl, I was taught to look at cooking shows with a vaguely pitying disdain. Until a week ago, if you brought one up I would either A) Blink confusedly and ask if that’s like one of those hot dog eating contests, or B) Snort inelegantly and mutter something about it being typical of Americans to need reality TV to learn how to make pasta. (Yes, I am aware that I’m a snob.)

Until, of course, I actually started watching cooking shows. I am now officially hooked. At first, I thought I was just willing to do anything to procrastinate. That is when I realized the horrible truth.

My life is a cooking show.

Or, to be somewhat fairer, I found parallels between the lives of participants in cooking contests and the lives of Swatties. Or perhaps I’m just sleep deprived and think the entire world revolves around Swarthmore. To recap my profound connections:

“The Great British Bake Off:” Multiple British people bake elaborate cakes and pastries (such as a 20-layer German cake, and yes, the judges count the layers) in a random outdoor area with freakishly green lawns. Profiles are pretty diverse, ranging from teenagers to grandparents. This show forced me to realize that certain British people have mastered cooking beyond fish and chips, lukewarm beer, and sticking everything in mint jelly. Much in the same way, Swat has made me realize that Americans outside of the California/San Francisco/San Franciscan French community bubbles are actually pretty great. We may have close to nothing in common, but we are all passionate about something (labor organizing, or Latin, or nature and rare plants, or linguistics). Also, contestants in TGBBO are almost suspiciously nice. They compliment each other and exchange hugs and are generally supportive of one another, like any Swatties I have encountered.

“Chopped:” One of the most famous cooking shows out there. Four chefs compete over three rounds (appetizer, entrée, dessert), with one chef eliminated each turn. So, not really like Swarthmore, which is somewhat harder to be expelled from. It is worth noting that the first episode I ever saw of Chopped was on the theme of noodles, and I had just had an argument over whether college students were actually able to cook anything other than noodles (considering that my hall’s bathroom sink has had ramen in it for the past three days, I would say some of us can’t even manage those). The show (like Swarthmore) is also very White, although there is almost always one Asian chef per episode. What struck me the most was the chefs’ obsession with each other’s dishes. For all that we are a cooperative school where (allegedly) grades don’t matter and you should only compete with yourself, I have overheard many desperate conversations about a classmate’s paper being longer, smarter, or generally better. There’s not much of a step from “chef X’s dish looks so much neater than mine!” to “everyone else in that class is so much smarter!” It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a political science essay or crafting the perfect Halloween meal; the other person’s plate/paper will look better.

“Cutthroat Kitchen:” Four youngish and photogenic chefs — at least one of which will rant about being from Brooklyn — compete in three rounds — appetizer, entree, and dessert. They are given $25,000 to buy “sabotages”  such as making all the other chefs hold hands as they cook. Whoever wins keeps the money they have not spent, so this show reminded me of my parents’ lectures on budgeting and necessary expenses. The title, I will admit, does not scream “Cooperative Quaker school.” But, let’s face it: Swatties have a dark side. As far as I know, none of us are actually willing to pay to make our classmates suffer (though think of all the choices, should such an opportunity come up. Limiting their course selections to 8:30 classes? Robbing them of Swat Points and making them eat at Sharples for every meal? Forcing them to wear a Donald Trump shirt?), but haven’t any of us ever fantasized about doing something very unpleasant to the one know-it-all in your seminar, who talks over the professor and starts every sentence with “actually?” How about causing something terrible to happen to that rude and unpleasant former hookup? Of the three shows that I have discussed, Cutthroat Kitchen is by far the trashiest and most bloodthirsty. Peace-loving Swatties would blanch at the thought of being compared to these culinary sharks, who discuss intimidation tactics and have such brilliant lines as “smiling is not my thing.” But that vicious monster does come out full force, at one time or another. Why do you think we have Primal Scream? I will admit this show is a guilty pleasure; but then, so is concocting wild revenge plots aimed at your assholesque hallmate/classmate/ex. Embrace the darkness in you, Swatties! At least it’s not being broadcasted to millions of people.

To recap: cooking shows are not bored housewives reading out Betty Crocker recipes (forgive my past assumptions). Stress, anxiety, and worrying about others being “better” is a universal experience alive both on college campuses and TV kitchens. Anyone can be a jerk. And British food is marginally less terrible than we are led to believe. At this rate, I have no doubt that we will soon see our own beloved(?) Sharples on national television soon.

Alcohol for the atmosphere: Swarthmore as a wet town

in Campus Journal by

Maybe it is just me because I come from a state where you can walk into a Walgreens and see a handle of vodka next to the health vitamins, but I think Pennsylvania alcohol laws are weird. When I first visited Swarthmore during my senior year of high school, my parents decided to go get something to eat in the Ville while I was visiting classes, and after walking around the two blocks that consist of downtown Swarthmore, they were puzzled by the lack of food options. A quick Google search showed that Swarthmore was a dry town, and that was probably why there were so few restaurants. Due to this fact, they have continued to make fun of me for wanting to go to an urban school and ending up at a school in a dry town 11 miles outside of Philadelphia that looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere.

But this summer that might all change.

Swarthmore 21, a community organizing group, is working to change Swarthmore to a wet town on this summer’s primary ballot. For more on that see: “Swarthmore 21 Causes Debate in the Borough.”

The thing about a dry town is that it doesn’t just prevent stores from selling alcohol: it prevents the town from growing. The mark-ups on alcohol in restaurants are astronomically larger than the mark-ups on food, allowing more restaurants to make a larger profit. An increase in restaurants brings more foot traffic to the town, allowing other stores to open up. Basically, our economy runs on alcohol.

When I chose to come to Swarthmore I knew I wasn’t getting a school that was integrated into a big city or had a huge party scene, and I was okay with that. But now that I am here I miss having a downtown area to wander. I miss walking around on a nice night and seeing couples eating outside of restaurants or kids playing in the fountains. I miss the quirky local shops and restaurants. More than that, I miss the atmosphere.

If you want to know what this is like, just walk by the Inn on any given night. Has anyone else noticed that people at the Broad Table Tavern always look happy? As I walk by the big glass windows I stare in wearily, wishing that the ziti didn’t cost $20. The place is always packed, and the reason isn’t just because the food is decent: it is because it is a monopoly. Regular people that drink and just want to enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner only have one place to go in this town, The Broad Table Tavern. Hopefully this will change soon.

I envision several restaurants opening up, offering students and residents alike places to eat out and laugh over a nice glass of wine. I see families walking through the streets on their way to a nice dinner. I see residents and students enjoying a nice conversation as they wait for a table. I see people walking through the Ville just because it is a nice place to be.

I don’t think my expectations are that out of line. Small towns have charm, why can’t this one?

Eight things Specs Should Know before Choosing Swat

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

For all its eccentricities, strengths, and flaws, I really love Swarthmore. It is a quirky, nerdy, beautiful place full of amazing people —some of whom I’ve met already, others whom I’m excited to one day meet. It’s true, Swat is not for everyone: it’s a combination of exquisite niches that will either make you absolutely fall in love with it or hate it. So, I talked a bit with some of my friends here at Swat and compiled a list of things we all wish we knew, or feel like Specs should know, before coming to Swarthmore.

It’s small size can be either one of its greatest strengths or greatest weaknesses. The college’s small size fosters an incredibly close-knit sense of community. Since everyone knows everyone, we all look out for each other, and we see each other everyday! However, this also means that you see all the people you’d rather not see everyday. Being a small campus also means that if you like to have things bustling 24/7, this is not the place for you. That’s not to say Swatties don’t make their own fun. From guitar circles to plays to Lang study breaks (free food!), there is usually always something to do on campus, even if it doesn’t seem like it most of the time.

It’s as much work as people say. It’s true that Swatties are huge nerds. Only a huge nerd would choose to go to a school with so much damn work. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant feeling of “it’s study time” for the majority of the day. However, if you really love the work you’re doing, then it’s usually worth it.

Swarthmore’s not perfect, but there’s a large space for activism. As liberal and forward-thinking as people make Swarthmore out to be, this place has some problematic aspects. However, these usually serve to show the resolve and persistence of activism among students on this campus as they stand up against the issues they have with the college and its administration.

Swarthmore will change you. You will discover things about yourself you never knew, some good some bad – some in between. This is an intense environment full of fascinating people. Don’t come expecting to leave the same person you came as.

This campus is on a hill— and you never get used to it.

You’ll sleep everywhere. When you’re only getting a solid 5 hours of sleep per night, you’ll make up for it in creative ways. Not only will you partake in the infamous McCabe nap, but you’ll find yourself falling asleep in an array of unique locations. I’ve probably fallen asleep in almost every academic building on campus (yes, that includes in and out of classes).

It’s not hard to make friends. Seriously, just go for it. Swatties may be notoriously awkward, but that’s part of what takes the pressure off. It’s super easy to grab a meal with someone you don’t really know well, so just ask! Swatties are interesting and friendly people so you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to meet more of them.

It’s not as radical and weird as it used to be. The Swarthmore I heard of had orgies on Parish Beach and an annual Crunkfest (“A tradition that involved public nudity, hallucinogenic drugs, and public sex all taking place on Swarthmore’s campus” to quote a 2016 article in the Phoenix). However, as the administration has cracked down on various activities the craziness of Swarthmore’s past is less visible on campus. I have hope that with the collective effort of current Swatties and the incoming class of 2021, we can dare to make Swat wild again.

The McCabe experience

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Often referred to as “The Cage,” McCabe library inspires a wide range of feelings among the student body, many of which are far from positive. As someone who spends a large portion of my time in McCabe, I can easily see why my fellow students harbor varying degrees of animosity towards this library. As an initial critique, the walls are lined with narrow windows, reminiscent of a medieval prison. Furthermore, sometimes, when I am here late at night, friendly McCabe mice will scuttle past me, and although these small rodents are a cute reminder that there is life beyond my essays, it would be ideal for them not to be in an academic building. The seats of the carrels lining McCabe’s exterior walls are stiff and uncomfortable enough to keep even the most exhausted Swatties awake during a late-night study session. Combine all of this with bleak and colorless walls, everything serves to set a glum mood that fails to lend comfort or inspiration. Whenever I am studying on the ground floor for extended periods of time and the inevitable need to journey up to the second-floor restroom to empty my bladder arises, I am struck by how purely ridiculous it is that the designers felt no need to include a restroom on the main floor.

But all these issues aside, the defining characteristic of McCabe, the one that truly cements the name “McCage,” is the chronically dim lighting. While I was at one of the campus visioning sessions last semester, one of my friends declared, “As soon as I step into McCabe, I instantly feel depressed.” Sitting, as I am now, in a gloomy study room on the third floor, my computer screen is almost brighter than the two meager lights flickering on the ceiling. These poor lighting conditions, combined with the other structural problems of McCabe, make it difficult for the space to promote effective studying and improve the emotional, mental, or social wellbeing of students.

I often ask myself why I return to this library, night after night, to sit in these uncomfortable chairs, surrounded by narrow windows, drab walls, and dim lights. Considering the plethora of problems I have just listed, my presence here seems almost a contradiction. Yet I think that for all its flaws, McCabe has been a defining part of my Swarthmore experience, and is a space that I have grown to love, and that I believe has potential to better serve the student experience. I love the sense of community in McCabe, which I think is most clearly manifested in the collective migration that happens at 10 P.M. for snacks and coffee. Meandering over to the snack line at 10 P.M., being either delighted by the presence of Oreos or disappointed by the presence of those oatmeal-cookie-things that pop up to the collective dismay of assembled McCabe-goers, has become an integral part of my Swarthmore experience. These snacks and coffee, in and of themselves, really aren’t anything extraordinary, but the invigorating social atmosphere created by the nightly 10 P.M. study break tradition is what makes it so important. Despite its flaws, and despite the problems I, and many other Swatties, have with McCabe, it is an important part of communal structure at Swarthmore both socially and academically.

Considering the importance of McCabe, and considering that many Swatties spend a large percentage of their time on campus in libraries, the importance of these spaces cannot be overstated. While those who do not enjoy McCabe have alternative libraries they can turn to, including Underhill and Cornell, the fact remains that McCabe is the largest library on campus. While my experiences with this library cannot be said to represent the entirety of the student body, I think it is an important space that shapes social and academic culture on campus. As such, the importance of addressing the innumerable structural issues of the library must be addressed, and I hope that, in the future, efforts, such as the recent visioning process, can be harnessed to make McCabe a space that enhances the student experience. After all, it wouldn’t take that much—just give us some light!

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