Concerns Raised Over Students’ Safety during Halloween Party

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.

This past Halloween party, held in Upper Tarble and Paces last Saturday, has continued to generate controversy even after the costumes have been put away for next year; concerns regarding the strength of the drinks were brought up by some students. Assistant Director of Student Life Kelly Wilcox said that “from what I understand, there were actually fewer hospitalizations than the last two years.”

“The impression I have received from students is that in general they felt safer than [in] years past,” said Wilcox, who cited the effort of the Students Activities Council and the Party Associates team for these improvements.

However, one student, who requested anonymity due to the nature of the accusations, offered a more alarming perspective of the Halloween Party. “Early on, I had one drink and that was all I drank that night, and about 10 minutes afterward, I started feeling really strange.” The student went on to describe a general loss of physical control as well as a warped sense of time. “It wasn’t like any gin and tonic I had ever had before.”

Another anonymous student suffered a similar experience. “I’ve got a pretty good tolerance for alcohol,” he said, “but I was really messed up [at the Halloween Party]. It wasn’t like I was going to throw up or anything, and I didn’t have a hangover from it, but I just didn’t feel right.” He attributed this feeling to the possibility that drinks were unusually strong and mixed poorly.

At most Swarthmore parties, drinks are mixed in large cooler before the event, rather than made to order. Near the beginning of the party, filled cups are often laid out on the bar.

SAC Co-Director Rebecca Committo ’10 however says she “oversaw the bar area all night, including the making of drinks. The drinks were mixed appropriately and were correctly labeled. The coolers used for serving the drinks were covered throughout the event, only opened to refill.”

“The bartenders paid attention to those who they were serving, and to the best of their ability, assessed the situation and did not serve individuals who appeared as though they should not be served,” she said. “Also, juice or soda were also served at the bar, providing a viable and popular alternative option for party-goers.”

A record number of PAs were on duty at the party, and due to SAC’s efforts, they were “strategically placed at several key locations.” Wilcox added that she “was impressed by their willingness to work and their ability to handle the situations that came up during the party.” She applauded the hard work of SAC in assuring the safety of their fellow students.

The D.A.R.T. helpline was also available for the first time this weekend, as part of efforts to ensure students’ safety. Wilcox said she felt it very important that this resource be available Halloween night. However, the hotline remained silent; those in need of help called Public Safety, “which was what [D.A.R.T.] advocated for.”

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses, hand sanitizer and wipes were provided throughout Upper Tarble. “In general, I think that the party went very smoothly, and that the health issues arose because individuals didn’t respect their personal limits,” said Commito.

“I’d really like to get the facts as straight as possible so that we are careful to avoid the spread of misinformation,” said Garikai Campbell, Acting Dean of Students. His office is investigating cases from the Halloween party. “We are thinking hard about what we’ve heard, about what we might encourage students to do differently, what we might require differently of spaces or hosts, and more generally, about what we can do to ensure that all parties, not just large scale parties, are both fun and safe,” said Campbell.

Neena Cherayil contributed reporting.

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