Students Worry About Unintended Consequences of Party Permit Ban’s Enforcement

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 previous years, many students leaving Pub Nite on Thursday evenings have gone to the Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi fraternities to socialize, drink, or cool off before heading back to their dorms.

But for the past two Thursdays, Swarthmore’s fraternities have been turning students away. Their sudden exclusivity is a result of the College administration’s decision to enforce a policy banning parties after midnight on weeknights. While the administration defended its decision to enforce the ban on the grounds that the policy is not new and is in the best interest of the campus community, many students are concerned about the unintended consequences of the decision and the administration’s refusal to communicate their reasoning clearly to the student body.

In an email, Dean of Students Liz Braun wrote that the intent of the party permit policy was to promote the academic success of the student body and that any students who wanted to hear the Dean’s reasoning were welcome to speak with her.

I would be more than happy to speak with any students that have concerns about our existing policy.  I do think this policy is there in order to support all students in being academically successful.  If we were to allow parties to go on after midnight on Thursday we would have to have party associates and party hosts who would be responsible for those parties and I worry about the impact that having parties past midnight on Thursday nights creates for not only for those students but for students in the residence halls who are trying to focus on preparing for classes and other academic commitments on Friday,” Braun wrote.

Students, however, questioned whether the decision to enforce the policy would actually make life easier for those studying on Thursday night.

Madeline Williams ’12, an RA in Willets, said that by denying students a popular recreation opportunity after Pub Nite, the change might disrupt hall life and place added burdens on her as an RA.

I’m concerned about students coming back to the dorms and disrupting the hall environment. Quiet hours in Willets are an issue, and a significant number of students do not attend Pub Nite… I am worried that students post-pub night will come back to the dorms now that late-night party permits cannot be issued,” she said. “It also does place a lot more pressure on the RAs to monitor these students and preserve hall cohesion and order,” she said.

Phoebe Hansen ’12, a DARTeam member, worried that the change would be counterproductive and result in more drinking occurring on campus.

If the ultimate goal of this rule enforcement is to minimize drinking during the week or on campus in general, I do not think the administration will be successful. As demonstrated this past weekend, the fraternities are introducing a new Friday night scene, [held on a night that was] typically more low-key in the past, to compensate for the Thursday night change,” she said.

Myrt Westphal, Associate Dean of Students, rejected the idea that the administration’s enforcement of the party permit ban will turn Swarthmore into a “three-party-night” campus.

I don’t think students have three nights to give to socializing. People have papers, lab reports, etc. I don’t think Swarthmore students can afford to go out three nights a week,” she said. And she disagreed with the suggestion that the same level of drinking would go on after Pub Nite regardless of the deans’ decision to enforce the ban.

If there’s no group impetus to continue partying after midnight, people might know, ok, time to go to bed,” she said.

Westphal said the Deans’ primary concern was for student safety. “We respond to what’s brought to us. If there are hospitalizations, and people are staying up well past midnight, we are going to respond,” she said.

A different worry among students was that the enforcement of the ban would lead to riskier drinking behavior on Thursday nights.

Williams, who is both an RA and a member of DART, said that she worries the decision will encourage unsafe drinking practices. She noted that many dangerous drinking incidents result from irresponsible pre-gaming and expressed worry that, “students might feel the need to “pre-game harder” if they think that there won’t be any options for them post-pub night,” she said.

Tramane Hall, the President of Student Council (StuCo), echoed this point and emphasized that the combination of increased drinking of Friday and more intense pre-gaming on Thursday increased safety concerns.

You’ve now increased the number of days that parties take place,” he said. “What we’re afraid of is that now there’s an increased risk of things really going wrong.”

Hall was most concerned, however, by the Deans’ failure to announce their decision to the student body.

I can’t figure out why the powers that be have been so quiet on this issue,” Hall said. Even as StuCo President, he said, “it wasn’t brought up to me. The only reason I knew to bring it up to Student Council was because I’m a member of DU.”

Similarly, RAs were not consulted about or made aware of the change until it had been implemented, although many of them have since communicated with the administration about the issue.

Matt Lamb, the President of DU, said that the administration’s decision not to alert the student body of the change placed the fraternities in the unfair position of having to explain to students a policy they themselves don’t understand. He said that he explicitly asked the administration before the first Pub Nite if an email could be sent out to make students aware of the change in policy, but no email or other form of communication was sent.

Hall, who is also a member of DU, agreed with Lamb. “It’s a little bit unfair that the way this policy has been disseminated puts the burden on us without having the administration first explain the decision and let the student body know,” he said.

Lamb said that he is additionally worried that the administration’s decision will make the fraternities seem more exclusive and less connected to the rest of campus.

Some of the guys are asking: ‘Why don’t we just have closed parties on Thursday night?’” he said. “It’s too bad, because we enjoy being an open, social space.”

Westphal said that the decision, however, would improve the academic environment at Swarthmore.

Friday classes are a problem around here. Why is that?” she asked. “One thing people can point to is Pub Nite. People have been burning the candle at both ends for all kinds of reasons, and one of these is Pub Nite.”

We’re looking for reasonable solutions,” she said, but added that “the administration isn’t going to change the rules to fit the informal culture.”

Why do we have Pub Nite on Thursday night?” she asked. “Why don’t we have it on Friday night?”


  1. “I don’t think students have three nights to give to socializing. People have papers, lab reports, etc. I don’t think Swarthmore students can afford to go out three nights a week,” she said.

    This is really a problem. If our dean seems to think that we students should spend LESS than three nights a week “socializing”, then it should really beef up the amount of money it spends on contracting out counselors for CAPS (as if that’s going to happen, lolz.) Yes, people have papers, lab reports, et cetera, but they also have to define themselves in ways that have to do with something other than how they can respond to theories of structuralism. A good way to do that is to, you know, socialize. Or to go out. Or to put the damn books down for a second. And yet our deans seem to think that we need to spend LESS time socializing? And more time to developing self worth issues and negative coping strategies, apparently.

    Getting rid of low-key socializing venues is exactly the opposite of what we need to do, because you know what, hanging out with friends and playing a few rounds of flip cup is what many researchers would call “fun”. I mean, I’m not going to be naive and say that Pub Nite isn’t also a venue for people to self-medicate and deal with their stress by abusing alcohol, but there’s a ratio there that I think is overall pretty healthy. Instead of getting rid of venues where students can socialize and learn to create healthy decisions that bolster managing workloads in productive and healthy ways, let’s force the “at risk” people to find more creative ways to get shitfaced faster and forget about the work piling up in McCabe.

    As Ana Celia Zentella, an old Cornell Visiting Professor in the Ling Department would say, “the helping hand strikes again.”

  2. This new policy strikes me as very “un-Swarthmore,” not so much because of the policy itself as because of how it was arrived at and implemented, with seemingly little concern for how *students* experience the party scene and how they are affected by both the formal and informal events surrounding Pub Nite.

    I’m not interested in proffering how this policy might increase or reduce alcohol abuse. I agree that alcohol abuse is a significant issue on campus but 1. speculations without hard, empirical data do not do much good, and
    2. no matter how good the actual or even intended consequences of this new policy, I fail to see how they would ever justify suddenly throwing Swarthmore students’ rights, this community’s values, and the way we do things at Swarthmore in line with those rights and values out the window.

    “I don’t think students have three nights to give to socializing. People have papers, lab reports, etc. I don’t think Swarthmore students can afford to go out three nights a week.”

    Like Zack, this statement really rubs me the wrong way. As much as I respect and esteem Dean Westphal, her opinion on how much time Swatties have for socializing should not be the justification for a policy that affects the students on this campus much more than it affects the administration. Again, whether she’s right (and I’m not convinced that she is) is really beside the point. What happened to involving students in the decision or at least making a concerted effort to engage us in dialog and collect a variety of opinions? What happened to our so-called “Quaker” emphasis on personal responsibility, which we are told is at the core of the College’s drug and alcohol policy? It does not follow that we always make good decisions just because we’re adults, but it DOES follow that, as adults, personal decisions about how to use our time effectively, safely, and enjoyably are ours to make. Partying three nights a week may be a bad idea; it may be a bad idea for some people and a good idea for others -having had incredibly brilliant and successful Swarthmore friends who were “big party-ers,” I would lean towards the first proposition. Regardless, that’s the kind of thing individual students should be figuring out for themselves, with the input and support of their community, certainly, which may include the deans for some people, but not with any one person far removed from their own condition as students making generalized, normative statements about all Swarthmore students.

    “In an email, Dean of Students Liz Braun wrote that the intent of the party permit policy was to promote the academic success of the student body and that any students who wanted to hear the Dean’s reasoning were welcome to speak with her.”

    Even assuming, for the sake of arguments, that the policy is a “good” one that will benefit the students it’s supposedly designed to help, why is the onus on individual students to contact Dean Braun to understand just what this policy is about and how it came to be (or, more accurately, be enforced)? I’d like to think many of us as reasonable people who respond well to reasonable arguments. The problem is those arguments were never even presented to the student body as a whole. If the question is of interest or concern to a number of students already, why doesn’t the administration issue a brief statement explaining the changes and the reasoning behind them?

    Finally, best line ever: “Yes, people have papers, lab reports, et cetera, but they also have to define themselves in ways that have to do with something other than how they can respond to theories of structuralism.” So true.

  3. I could not give less of a shit about how this policy affects pub nite. But what I do care about is how one of our deans could possibly think that we can’t give three nights a week to socializing.

    I truly believe that educators should serve as mentors, looking out for the overall well-being of their students. To say that we must study five nights a week (presumably all night, since, I gather from these statements, one cannot complete one’s work before 10 pm) is everything that is wrong about Swarthmore’s culture. There is much much more to life than studying and academia. And to reduce the amount of time we spend with friends, drinking or not, is to also reduce our level of mental health. Our teachers should be showing us that getting a B (or a C, or a D, etc.) is utterly insignificant. They should not be promoting the ideals that have caused me to see more than one friend break down over grades. I don’t want to live in a place where the people in charge could think this way.

    There are lots of professors here who have already run the academic gauntlet. And I’m sure they are proud of papers they’ve had published and research they’ve done. But I bet if we were to ask them what the happiest times of their lives have been, they would say it was spent with their families or their friends. Or, to put it another way, when they were socialing.

  4. What does Dean Westphal mean by “Friday classes are a problem”? Is this supposed to serve as sufficient justification for threatening to move a wonderful Swarthmore tradition to Fridays???

  5. I totally understand, and am convinced, that the administration’s primary concern is for student safety. My problem is with the causality that Myrt Westphal has attributed to hospitalizations and staying up late. As to staying up late: I know many people who stay up later doing work during the week than they do on nights that they go out and party/drink. We’re tired in Friday classes because the SCHOOLWEEK IS REALLY LONG AND WE WORK REALLY HARD TO KEEP UP WITH OUR WORK SO WE CAN ENJOY A NICE THURSDAY NIGHT AT PACES. Aren’t all you grownups who work Monday through Friday the most tired on Friday? People don’t go to the hospital because they drink at Pub Nite and the frats afterwards. When you are offered only beer from kegs that will usually have a long line, it’s much more difficult to drink an unsafe amount. When students know they can drink cheap/free beer on Thursdays from 9pm (the start of Pub Nite) to 2am (when the crowd at the frats and other places on campus tends to thin out), they know they can pace themselves and still drink enough to “have a good time” (I use quotes because although this isn’t the most glowing advertisement for allowing students to keep drinking all night on a weeknight, it’s the truth for most who go out that night). When Pub Nite is only three hours long and people want to get drunk without having any options for where to go afterwards, more unsafe drinking will occur. Tramane is completely right on that point. It’s the pregaming in dorm rooms that really risks student safety and I can say from my experience that that kind of activity occurs much less often on Thursdays than any other night of the weekend, or even the week, because everyone knows there is plenty of time to drink beer all night.

    While my argument is essentially that the administration should let us continue to drink the way we have been up to this point, I understand its shortcomings but also have to insist that we face the facts about college life. Those who enjoy going out and drinking will continue to do so. Thursday nights are a tradition that cannot be broken by new “enforcement” of an already existing rule (plus, what this enforcement entail?). Last Thursday, when the frats weren’t an option, a group of post-Pub Niters moved to Worth, at which point Public Safety promptly showed up. Will our campus safety start functioning to break up unsanctioned parties instead of making sure people aren’t ACTUALLY getting hurt?

    Drinking can be dangerous. College students often binge drink to an unhealthy degree. But it happens everywhere and I really feel that Swarthmore handles this reality better than any other college or university I have visited or heard about. As long as alcohol exists, people will drink too much and get sick but I think it’s pretty commonly accepted knowledge that this is more likely to happen when the drinking takes place behind the closed doors of someone’s room in Mertz than in a social space like Pub Nite or the basement of DU, where games are being played and people are talking or dancing instead of taking shot after shot to compensate for the reduction in the number of possible party hours on Thursday night.

  6. Now see, maybe I’m extraordinarily efficient — though I doubt that. But somehow, through some miracle of scheduling, I’ve succeeded in being a double major with a 3.4 average, and yet I have time for socializing roughly 5-6 nights a week. So what about me, deans? Is my fulfilling all of your graduation requirements, on time and with an “exceeds expectations” GPA, and being a 3-sport athlete, not good enough for you? Should I make myself miserable at the same time?

    Fortunately, I’ve solved the problem. I always drink alone. And in the words of George Thorogood, “You know when I drink alone/I prefer to be by myself.”

  7. The really offensive thing here is that the administration is being incredibly patronizing. They treat us like children that need to be told what to do in order to succeed. A sad statement of how they view the student body…
    If anything Swarthmore students should be known for our ability to work independently and taking the initiative to move towards our goals.

    This whole situation is reminiscent of a few years ago when Bill Clinton was forbidden to speak on campus because “it would be too distracting” during exam week. Hours upon hours of students’ efforts went to waste because we were deemed incapable of taking on a minimum amount of responsibility for a single day.
    First collection was only 3 weeks ago and I’m pretty sure there was talk of responsibility or something along the lines of growing up…empty words to make us feel better? No, thanks.

    We need real administrators, we don’t need extra moms.

  8. Wow, I’m completely baffled by this turn of events. There were people saying when I was graduating that the culture on campus surrounding alcohol was taking a turn for the worse, but I didn’t believe it until I read this article.

    What offends me the MOST has nothing to do with Pub Nite. It’s the implication that students need to be told how to manage their working and socializing time. Do Swatties have a problem with taking academics seriously and slacking of? Last time I checked, most Swatties (especially upperclassmen) spent the greatest percentage of their day inside McCabe. That hasn’t changed, right? So what the fuck?

  9. “We’re looking for reasonable solutions,” she said, but added that “the administration isn’t going to change the rules to fit the informal culture.”

    Why not?! Just because you have a rule doesn’t mean you need to keep it. This isn’t some 200-year-old document that must be preserved. It’s the student handbook. This “informal culture” is a big part of the social scene at Swat. Can you really not understand this?

  10. Unsupervised parties are not in the best interest of Swarthmore students and the new policy of enforcement is a sound one, if a bit heavy handed and rushed. Party permits and PA’s are used, not to cramp people’s style or stop their fun, but to ensure students are able to enjoy themselves in a safe environment without many of the consequences they could suffer in the real world. Having personally dealt with students in need of assistance on regular party nights, I can assure you that things can go very wrong when drunken students are left on their own. I would advocate that Thursday evening parties be permitted but with proper regulation and oversight.

  11. Even as someone who does not attend pub nite or the frat parties, this policy has had a negative effect on my quality of life here. Keeping the parties at the frats means that I get my relatively-peaceful Thursdays to myself, and I like it that way.* One of the nice things about the Thursday night scene is that it’s away from the dorms–so people who want to partake can, and people who don’t aren’t too disturbed by it.

    All that has changed is that people are partying on my hall after midnight instead of down the hill. Be realistic, deans–you’re never going to find every single group of loud, partying students. But just because Pub Safety hasn’t found them doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping us from working or sleeping. If you’re so worried about people being up after midnight (oooh! scary!! because we’ve never done THAT before?) then why are you forcing the partiers back into the dorms with people who just want to sleep?

    *This is not to say that I don’t have a social life. Just not on Thursdays! 🙂

  12. Whatever happened to the good old 90s deans who put a keg on the beach every Friday?
    This means students, especially upperclassmen, will be going off campus to party more. That isn’t in the best interest of the students’ safety.

  13. I’m in McCabe…it’s 12:52 AM. I might be tired in class tomorrow (today rather)…please don’t revoke our late-night study permits??

  14. Dear administration,

    Do you want to know why williams and amherst are ranked higher than us. BECAUSE OF THEIR STUDENT LIFE. Social events foster a school spirit, and collective atmosphere. One of the skills that swarthmore students lack is competant social skills. Good social skills are not something that can be taught in the classroom, or in macabe by oneself for god knows how long. Being social competant is a necessity both in and out of the workplace. We want to send well rounded intelligent individuals into the world, and this process is inhibiting that mission.

  15. Are you implying that social skills can only be learned by parties and lots of drinking? Because partying and drinking a lot of beer is not learning social skills.

    You want to know what social skills are? It’s about learning how to listen to others. It’s about learning how to care for others. It’s about learning to put a friend’s needs first before yours. It’s about sharing personal stories, it’s about talking about religion and spirituality and issues, it’s about crying together when things go bad, it’s about celebrating when things work out.

    Socializing is about understanding each other, and in turn, understanding yourself better.
    It’s about SHAPING each other’s identities, a process where people GROW together.

    Partying and drinking can’t ever achieve that.

    • Actually, social skills, I think I disagree with you. While it’s true that there are plenty of things you can’t learn by drinking and partying, I think the social atmosphere does lead to a development of social skills.

      My above comment was a bit of a joke, at least where I said that I drank alone. The rest — 3.4 GPA, double major, 5 nights free a week — that’s true. But, surprise, my social skills were complete shit when I got here. I didn’t drink at all for a while, and I also didn’t make many friends. Then I started going to parties, and having a drink or two. Sure, sometimes more, but there’s no need to get trashed just to talk to other people. And in fact most people at parties aren’t drinking themselves to death, as it turns out.

      Maybe I’m rambling a bit there. But the fact of the matter is that I definitely improved my social skills greatly by partying. I’m more comfortable around people, I can hold conversations (drunk or sober) even when I don’t really care. I can relate to people better. In fact, why don’t I quote you and answer point by point:
      -“It’s about learning how to listen to others.” Listening to others is the main thing I do at parties. It’s lots of fun, and it helped me get better at doing it in other situations too.
      -“It’s about learning how to care for others.” I think we’ve all had one of those times with the friend who drank too much, right? At least, a lot of us have. Plus, being in a close social atmosphere like Paces or the frats develops a camaraderie, where I find that I care more about people I’ve never met. We’re all in this together. If someone looks sick, or someone is harassing someone else, I try to step in. Because I care.
      -“It’s about learning to put a friend’s needs first before yours.” See above.
      -“It’s about sharing personal stories, it’s about talking about religion and spirituality and issues, it’s about crying together when things go bad, it’s about celebrating when things work out.” Well, there are a couple ways I can get to this one. I’ve had some outstanding drunk conversations, where I’ve revealed things about myself so personal that I never bring them up sober. And who hasn’t gone out drinking/partying because they want to get past something tough? Or to celebrate? Those are almost the only two reasons people party just by themselves.
      -“Socializing is about understanding each other, and in turn, understanding yourself better.” Indeed. And, as I mentioned above, partying has allowed me to do exactly that.
      -“It’s about SHAPING each other’s identities, a process where people GROW together.” You know, one of my greatest memories with my group of friends was a party we had for someone’s birthday. We all drank together, shared some ridiculous stories, spent some time being brutally honest with each other… it was fantastic. And I feel closer to all of them because of it.
      -“Partying and drinking can’t ever achieve that.” WRONG. Partying and drinking can — and did, for me, though I admit they may not for everybody — achieve that.

      I like ending with quotes. So how about this one? “Party on, Wayne.”-“Party on, Garth.”

  16. “Unsupervised parties are not in the best interest of Swarthmore students ”

    Uhhh yes they are. That should be obvious to anyone whose head isn’t up their own ass. Unsupervised parties might not be in the best interest of the college due to reputation/liability but that is a different issue. Students have every right and every reason to fight this. We are adults.

  17. All that happens is that Thursday night, the party moves to various lounges across campus. I know, because the past two Thursday nights, extremely loud music and screaming drunk idiots have made more noise than a Paces party outside of my window until 3 in the morning.
    I wish the Frats would take them so that I could sleep.

    • yes, thank you sleepy… I don’t even go to pub nite/care for weekday drinking and this new (or newly-enforced) policy makes it so that I pretty much can’t sleep on thursday nights until about 2am (when everyone presumably passes out or something). I am a zombie on fridays (again, I don’t even GO to pub nite). keep the drunkies away from my dorm, please. if their partying makes them fail out of swat, it’s their own problem…

  18. More positive social options for students need to be offered by the college each week. Other highly selective liberal arts colleges offer many more social opportunities for their students.

  19. I agree that the college is failing to treat us as adults when they attempt to micromanage our night life. I doubt that anyone in the administration would enjoy being told when they are allowed to hang out and/or drink.

    My most selfish concern, however, is how this impacts dorm quiet hours. As someone who only attends pub nite 0-3 times a semester and who usually needs to be in bed by midnight, this is going to seriously ruin my ability to get the rest I need to complete Swarthmore’s demanding work week.

    Please don’t send pub niters straight back to their dorms.

    Anyway, I thought the song went, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

  20. These comments aren’t going to do jack. I wish I wasn’t abroad right now, because this is some bullshit. Why the hell is anybody deciding what is good for me? We’re Swatties, we didn’t get here by some cosmic accident. We got here because we ruled shit at our schools and dunked on our ACTs, SATs, and APs. That didn’t happen because we were screw-ups who couldn’t manage their social lives. This school has a problem with social life as it is; are they really going to take away one of the few social outlets we have? Screw that.

    Sadly, they aren’t going to change things because of a few comments on the Gazette’s blog. Organize. Revolt. Do something. Make Thursdays so intolerable for dorm people that there is such a backlash from the dorm-goers (maybe a little extreme, but you get the point) that the school takes action. Party on Thursdays after 12, even if it means PubSafe coming to the door. Party outside. I don’t care what you have to do just do it. I didn’t come to Swat so that Big Brother could tell me how and when to live the way I want to live (yeah, I want to get trashed on Thursdays after 12, what of it?). Making it to that Friday class after a Late Night marathon builds character; acing that Friday class is what makes us Swatties. Internet forums won’t change things, action will. Get after it Swat. How bad do you want it? Fight the power. Workers unite. You get the picture.

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