Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Can you remember what made you want to come to Swarthmore? For those of us who have already turned into jaded seniors, watching the newest addition to the Admissions Office’s library of materials for prospective students might serve as a healthy reminder.
The Admissions Office has produced a new DVD which features a 15-minute video entitled “Swarthmore Unscripted,” which focuses in on the daily routines of five Swarthmore students. Filmmakers, from a contracted company called Tribe Pictures, shadowed students Sam Graffeo ’07, Chloe Le Pichon ’05, Emiliano Rodriguez ’05, Joe Dickerson ’04, and Matt Goldstein ’04 for three days in March. The footage shown in the video tracks the students from dorm rooms to classes, art studios, professors’ offices and even the mail room. The five are also shown busily practicing sports, orchestra and a capella, socializing at the Screw Your Roommate dance, participating in protests, and salsa dancing in Philly. Along with several other students whose monologues are interspersed throughout the film, they speak about profoundly influential professors, the diversity of their friends and peers, the work that’s currently consuming them, and what they’d like to do after graduation.
Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 described the video as another part of the Admissions Office’s family of publications. The rest of these publications, including the viewbook, offer all the information a prospective student might need, Bock said, However, he sees the DVD as providing a more vibrant introduction to the experience of actually being at Swarthmore. Besides the featured video, the DVD includes an additional collection of eleven student self-interviews and several deleted scenes that failed to make it into the feature video (including promising footage of the Screw Your Roommate rituals in Sharples). There is also a 15-minute video produced by the Meaning of Swarthmore campaign which features a discussion among alumni about the school.
That the DVD is part of a stated initiative on the part of the Admissions Office to change what they perceive as a popular outside perception of Swarthmore as a rigidly intellectual environment has already earned it some negative buzz. Bock maintained that Admissions is definitely not seeking to misrepresent Swarthmore or recruit a new type of student with the video. “Everyone assumes it’s really slick. It’s not,” Bock said. “Do you think I could tell Swatties what to say?” Bock asserted that Admissions was simply trying to represent a more holistic view of student life to prospective students who are highly sought after by competing colleges as well. “My job is to inform, not to convince,” he said.
The DVD has already been viewed by the Board of Managers, the Student Council Presidents, the Admissions Committee, some of the students who were filmed for the video, and this writer. Sam Graffeo, who has viewed the final product, said that she enjoyed being part of the project, and that “it was quite an interesting experience having a camera crew follow you around…I don’t think that they were able to capture every part of me or every part of any of those involved in the video but what they did grasp were parts of us,” she stated. “If three short days in my life can allow a prospective student a glimpse into the life of a Swattie then I’m glad I was able to help.”
Copies of the DVDs are still being produced, and Bock expects the DVD to be ready for mailing in early November. The Admissions Office plans to mail the DVD to interested high school seniors and high school counselors first, and will work out other ways to utilize it from there. A trailer will be added to the Admissions website, adding to a small, rotating collection of “Swarthmore Unscripted” student self-interviews that the site already hosts.
Jim Bock confirmed that the campus will also be privy to a showing of the DVD, though Student Council is in charge of it and a date is not yet set.