Swarthmore 101

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.

Hello, freshmen! Welcome to Swarthmore. Seeing your fresh faces (which are inevitably hotter than those of all the classes before) makes me feel nostalgic for those days in August three years ago when everything seemed possible. The feeling is quickly squashed by the memories of cold, dark, McCabe-basement filled days that followed all too quickly, but never mind that! Allow me to be the first upperclassmen to remind you that you are PASS/FAIL. Indeed, SHINY INTELLECTUAL DISCUSSIONS and QUIRKY/INTERESTING NEW FRIENDS shall all be yours very soon! In fact, I would like to offer you my entirely non-comprehensive (and possibly entirely misguided) guide to navigating your way there. I include my favorite spots to work, study, and play as well as a glossary to get you acquainted with Swat lingo. Good luck!

Swat Lingo

Bonus: combine three of the words below to form a Super-Swattie-Sentence!

Swat Swivel: The Swat Swivel is a time-honored Swattie ritual, and you would do best to learn it soon if you want to avoid many an awkward moment. It consists of a quick turn to your left, and then another to your right before you launch into a story about what the super-sketchy kid from your Chem class did at Paces last night. NOT UNLIKE YOUR SAFETY GOGGLES, THE SWIVEL IS NECESSARY. This school has 1,400 kids. We all eat, sleep, and think together. I betcha $5 that SketchyChemist or at least one of his close associates is within listening distance right now.

Heteronormative: You know you’re a Swattie when “UH OH THAT’S HETERONORMATIVE!” becomes a punchline. The word can be used to describe anything that assumes heterosexuality as a starting point. For example, asking your female roommate if she has a boyfriend is heteronormative. You assumed she was straight. Once the idea of heteronormativity has seeped its way into your consciousness, you can’t even get through a Disney Channel movie without your brain putting up red flags everywhere.

Danawell: A portmanteau of twin dorms Dana and Hallowell. I’m trying to make Kempaul (Kempalice?) happen, but it seems unlikely: it didn’t come up once when a Gazette staffer looked into names.

Crunkfest: There’s no such thing as Crunkfest.

Paces: This is the space where an unfortunately large part of your “social life” will take place. On Sundays through Wednesdays, it’s a cafe where you can get kick-ass nachos for $3.50. On Thursdays, it transforms into a pub where you can drink and make merry with friends. On Fridays, it’s Swat’s hottest night club with all-you-can-drink Banker’s Club and crazy DJs mixing it up on their iTunes!

The Ville: The village of Swarthmore, where the party don’t stop till eight in the evenin’. You’ve got your basic pizza place (Renatos) and big-chain coffee house (Dunkin Donuts). And then you have certain independent shops we’re pretty sure are just elaborate money laundering scheme. So. Yeah.

Sager: Sager is a weeklong symposium on issues affecting the LGBTQ community (last year’s schedule). It used to conclude with a genderfuck party— but when the unofficial slogan of that party became “Boys wear a dress, girls wear less” and the emphasis became more on the “fuck” aspect, the Sager committee officially disassociated itself from it.

Hallcest: I know everyone seems really shiny and attractive now, but your hallmates are your siblings. Don’t hook up with them. Don’t date them. Just, don’t. I know it might be tempting. I know you’re thinking, “Oh, but it’s so convenient!” And maybe you’ve heard about the mythical hallcest relationship that does work out. But just trust me. Three months from now, when you’re walking to the water fountain across the hall from his room for the fifth time to see if he’s watching a movie with the guy he brought over or is “WATCHING A MOVIE,” you’ll regret it. Dormcest is slightly more acceptable.

Swoggles: Okay, so you know what I said just above about us being really attractive? Well, yeah. However! On the other hand, we do develop swoggles, which means that our prospects in the Real World start to look a whole lot hotter.

Quaker Matchbox: That’s us! One in six of you will marry another Swattie. How do we reconcile this with the above? Well, a friend who works for the alumni office tells me it happens at the two year reunion. You come back jaded and dejected, realizing that while the rest of the world may be more attractive, brains DO matter.

Worthwhile Person: That’s you! Former Dean Bob Gross famously reminded each new class of Swarthmore students that “No matter what anyone says or does to you, you’re still a worthwhile person.”

Admissions Mistake: That’s not you! The Admissions Department doesn’t make mistakes with the people they let in (supposedly). Remember that if you’re questioning whether the “worthwhile person” bit really does apply to you.

Swat Parties

Contrary to popular perception, the Swat party scene CAN be seen with the naked eye! (If you squint a bit.)

Parlor Parties: (Parrish) Parlor Parties are thrown by students in conjunction with the Deans’ Office, and are fun alcohol-free alternatives on Thursday and Saturday nights. Themes include everything from playing with the neighborhood puppies to chocolate fondue nights. If you’re interested in throwing a party yourself, the Deans’ Office will pay you a couple of hundred bucks to do it!

Delta Upsilon and Psi Phi: Compared to frats at State U., Swarthmore’s frats might as well be the Boy Scouts.* Case in point: a direct quote from a fraternity brother on what it’s like to live in the frat house: “I make a point to go to every show and venue at [the adjacent] Olde Club and the Kitao Gallery. For example, last week, I went to the poetry reading, the Olde Club show, and the transgender photography exhibit.”

Olde Club: Fancy standing around with your arms crossed over your chest in a smoky room while tapping your foot disinterestedly along with the band playing on stage? Olde Club is the perfect venue for you! There’s a show most weekends, along with open mic nights where student groups and individuals perform. Bands tend to be local-ish indie rock that have ranged from names that are on the verge of being huge in hipster circles (Ratatat, the Hold Steady, and Ra Ra Riot have performed in past years) to guys from Philly who rap about comic books. Plus, occasionally even hipsters will deign to crowd surf.

Pub Nite: On Thursday nights at 9:30, grab $4 ($3 if you’re a senior, or $2 if you’re not planning to drink), a deck of cards, and get thee to Paces. There, you’ll find kegs of beer so light and pure, it’s almost like drinking water! But the fun really starts a little before midnight, where wobbly people stand on equally wobbly tables, holding hands and belting out classics like “American Pie.” The evening comes to a close every week with a rousing rendition of “Closing Time.” Do not be the person that grabs the stranger in front of you and looks meaningfully into his eyes while singing “I KNOW WHO I WAAAANT TO TAKE ME HOME.”

Paces: Friday night is Paces night! Okay, so Thursday night was also Paces, but that was Pub Nite. Tonight, it’s the “insert theme here“ party at Paces, from 10PM – 2AM. These parties are usually thrown by student groups, often at the close of whatever week of awareness they were sponsoring. Don’t get there at 10:00, no one will be there and the dance floor will be empty. Alternatively, get there at 10:00: no one will be at the bar, and the dance floor will be empty! Sometimes Paces parties are amazing, and sometimes they aren’t. No one really knows why. It’s just a magical mix of good music and friends that makes a good party, and there’s no telling what this week will be. So go out there, and potentially dance the night away! Or come home at 11:30 and wonder why you decided to go to such a small school.


*Note: This is not to minimize the experiences of those who do not feel that the frat houses are safe spaces for them. Regardless of the space, it’s always important to be safe and take precautions at any party on campus. Make sure you go with a group of friends, have a buddy system, and drink responsibly. back

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