The History of Screw

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.

In the Foreign Student Advisor’s “Survival Guide” to Swarthmore College, Screw Your Roommate is the first tradition listed. Described as “a dance when students pair their roommates with a blind date,” the tradition has survived at Swat for over twenty years and remains among the most popular events on campus, as much a Swarthmore rite of passage as Primal Scream or Chocolates and Choosing.

While you can conceivably avoid the SAGER party, Dash for Cash, or the McCabe mile, Screw’s location in Sharples makes it hard to miss (and even if you did manage to get away, you would probably see about a hundred pictures the next day on facebook.) The tradition, which began in 1983, was originally not location specific and dates were met all over the campus.

Liz Derickson, class of ’01, writes that “Screw was very much the same when I was a student: highly embarrassing/goofy meeting-up antics in Sharples, followed by hit-or-miss (more miss than hit!) date evening at the dance.” Some of these antics have achieved a nearly legendary status, as students can recollect a range of scenarios: from horror stories in which a student was taped to a wall of Sharples for two hours because his date ran late, to blossoming romances in the unlikely aftermath of a Screw setup.

Jim Bock ’90, can recall a range of colorful Screw scenarios. In one, the dates were attached to either end of a string that wrapped its way across campus and around various buildings. The date at either end had to follow the string so that the pair would ultimately meet up in the middle. In another, a student from Texas played “The Eyes of Texas are upon You” on the flute as the cue for her date. Recalls Bock, “She was stunned to see him wearing only cowboy boots, boxer shorts, and the Texas State Flag like a cape, tied around his neck.”

Though Screw is a favorite Swarthmore tradition, it is not unique to Swat and was in fact copied from other college campuses. Today, the schools that celebrate a Screw Your Roommate Party include Carleton, Pomona, Amherst, Haverford, and Stanford. Our Screw Your Roommate will be occurring February 23 in Sharples with the formal to follow the Margaret Cho performance that evening.

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