Halloween Party Returned To Upper Tarble

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.

Last week, SAC announced that this Saturday’s annual Halloween party would be held in the combination of Upper Tarble and Paces, rather than in a tent on Mertz Field, as was previously planned.

“The rain location was always going to be in Upper Tarble and Paces,” SAC Co-Director Rebecca Commito ’10 said. The decision to move the party was “partly because of the inclement weather that is most likely going to happen,” but also because some Mertz residents expressed concerns about the plan for partygoers to use bathrooms in Mertz. Commito and Shumpei Tse ’10, the other Co-Director, wrote in an email that although SAC had received approval from the Mertz 1st RAs, they were “very sorry that the residents were not asked or informed about using the bathrooms ahead of time.” After talking “extensively” with the Dean’s Office and some of the Mertz RAs, they decided that it would be best to move the party to Upper Tarble. The $3500 that SAC had received for the tent will be returned to the SBC general fund, Commito said.

As in the past, there will be a dance floor in Upper Tarble and bar in Paces. Upper Tarble is a dry space, and partygoers will not be able to bring alcohol out of Paces.

Commito said that she was originally interested in the tent idea primarily because it would be one space where everything related to the party could be in one social space: a dance floor, a “social space” with tables and chairs, and an area for drinks. Safety was another concern, especially with stairs. Going from Tarble to Paces requires navigating a flight of stairs plus a few more steps, and bathrooms are two floors away. Indeed, when the party was last held in Upper Tarble in 2007, one student fell down the stairs and sustained minor injuries. The building, with its many entrances and exits, is also complicated for Party Associates. Plus, it would be a new and novel space: something different.

Commito looked into the idea of getting port-a-potties, but she said that the cost was prohibitive. At $200 a unit—the party would require maybe ten—SAC attempted to “be resourceful by minimally using a dorm space” for bathrooms. Setup for the port-a-potties themselves would also be difficult, according to Commito. “Port-a-potties are also rough to place: you have to put them on certain ground, and it’s just kind of difficult,” she said. Once the Mertz 1st bathrooms had been arranged, SAC stopped looking into port-a-potties.

Other locations for a tent were impractical because not only can academic buildings not be used as a party space, but also neither can their bathrooms be used, which might pose a problem for certain potential tent locations if port-a-potties are too expensive or impractical, Commito said. Between that rule and NCAA regulations that prohibit the use of athletic buildings, options for large-scale parties are limited. Mary Lyons RAs and residents, who hosted the party until 2006, were unwilling to do so this year; there were also concerns about shuttling students to and from the dorm.

The party was in Sharples last year, but Commito and Tse described the space as “too small” and complicated to clean; the larger room cannot be used because the many large tables are too heavy to move out. In addition, they cited problems with cleaning the space.

Dining Services Director Linda McDougall agreed with the challenges of cleaning the space. Normally, the contracted cleaning staff works until around 10:00 on Saturday nights, which would conflict with setup for the party. Cleanup after the party is even more complicated. Commito and Tse said that last year, some students stayed until 5:00am after the party cleaning up, and then had to return at 10am to finish.

Even so, McDougall said that “the cleaning was not up to our standards for opening for a meal.” Sharples staff still had to “clean vomit, remove some decorations,” and clean up after a “cereal fight.” In past years, there have also been issues with a coffee table being thrown off the balcony and injuring a student, vandalism of card swipe machines, and students breaking in to the kitchen area, McDougall said.

Although she said the decision is not ultimately hers, McDougall said that for her to be in favor of another party at Sharples, “some major adjustments” would have to take place. “When my staff arrives in the morning, there should be no signs that a party occurred the previous evening, and we should be able to go about our business as usual,” she wrote in an e-mail.

To SAC, the only feasible location left, then, was the Upper Tarble/Paces combination that has been used in the past. There will be a few small differences this year, however.

In the interest of simplifying Party Associates’ jobs, Commito said that SAC will be tabling at Sharples the day of the party, distributing wristbands to students with Swarthmore or Tri-Co IDs. (There will be different bands for under-21 and over-21-year-olds.)

While raising funds for the party’s alcohol, however, Commito decided to eschew the standard tabling system. (Alcohol cannot be purchased with SAC or SBC funds.) Instead, SAC has been doing door-to-door fundraising in the dorms. Commito called this approach “less aggressive”; she thought that students would have an easier time declining to donate in their own rooms, but would also be more likely to have a few dollars on hand to give. The policy has proved effective, and Commito wrote on Monday night that “we should easily reach our fundraising goal.”

In response to concerns about flu transmission, Commito said that snacks at the party would be individually wrapped, to avoid having large numbers of guests “reaching into a big bowl of chips.” They will also make sure to have “plenty of cups.”

Commito and Tse also pointed out in their email that organizing the Halloween party is not officially one of SAC’s responsibilities. Until 2006, the party had always been hosted by Mary Lyons RAs and residents; that year, since ML was “no longer interested,” SAC took it over. Commito said that she “would love to see a more collaborative effort” from Swarthmore students to organize the party. “As we’ve seen in the last few weeks,” she wrote. “A lot of people have diverse opinions and ideas about how the party should be thrown.”

Interested students, she wrote, can “shape the social scene here, in part by proposing events to SAC and receiving the funding they need to do so.” All are welcome to the first half of SAC meetings, on Monday evenings at 10pm in Kohlberg 330.

Meanwhile, this year’s Halloween party will be held in Upper Tarble, with drinks in Paces, on Saturday the 31st (Halloween day).