Transparency Issues About New Paces Fee

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.

Students who wanted to throw a Paces party this year were faced with a budgeting surprise. In the contracts, signed with Paces, instead of a $150 refundable deposit, the Dean’s Office and the Paces Management split it up into a $100 refundable and a $50 non-refundable fee, to go towards cleaning the space after the party was finished. The Dean’s Office did not inform the student body about this change, or explain why the $50 non-refundable fee was suddenly necessary.

On Tuesday night, the Student Activities Committee and Paces worked out an agreement, in which they lowered the cost of the $50 fee and decided that the fee will be fully covered by SAC, and not by the student groups that host Paces parties.

Paces, which is otherwise funded by the Deans’ Office, and SAC will be jointly presenting their proposal to the Student Budget Committee on Sunday. The SBC, after receiving budget appeals, has been retroactively covering the fee for parties thrown earlier in the semester.

“We need to ensure that Paces Cafe and Paces as a social space can cohabitate,” said Joe Maiorana ‘12, SAC Manager. He added that, because the space is used for serving food, health and sanitation standards need to be maintained. According to Callie Feingold ‘12, Paces Cafe Manager, the refundable fee put in place to assure that students would clean up after parties was not effective. “It is hard to hold your peers accountable, to get in touch with people,” said Feingold.

Because of SAC and Paces’ successful negotiation, individual student groups will not have to foot the nonrefundable cleaning bill. Still, students are frustrated at what they see as a lack of transparency in implementing the changes. “I was confused as to why the additional $50 was not announced,” said Maiorana. “Students deserve a just and holistic explanation,” Feingold agreed.

The Paces fee is the second party-related issue of the semester that the administration has neglected to openly discuss with student representatives and the campus community. It came just weeks after the administration declined to announce its decision to begin enforcing a policy that prevented the issuing of Thursday night party permits.

“They [the Administration] are selling a product of consensus-building and student input, but that’s not what we’re seeing,” said a member of SAC who declined to identify himself because he works closely with the administration.

However, on Wednesday morning students received an email from Dean Liz Braun, co-signed by Student Council President Tramane Hall ‘12, about an open dialogue about the social life on campus.

Paury Flowers, Student Activities Coordinator, did not see an issue with transparency on the part of the Deans’ Office. “The contract was updated. The information was available,” said Flowers. She said it did not occur to her and to the Deans’ Office to announce the decision to the student body. “Sometimes you make it more than it is by making a big announcement,” said Flowers. According to Flowers, the Deans’ Office did not think that students would be going to SAC or to SBC to obtain the $50 for throwing a party.

Until SAC members were able to talk about the fee with the Paces management, they were concerned about the implications the non-refundable fee would have about equal access to party hosting. Not everybody would be able to pay the $50 fee out of their own pockets. SAC also questioned the arbitrary amount of the fee.The reworked proposal assures that the number is not an arbitrary fee, providing wages for 4 students, some of whom are on work study. Provided the SBC approves the joint SAC and Paces proposal, Paces will be getting an additional $40 or $80 dollars a week, depending on the number of parties thrown.

Flowers explained the Deans’ Office line of reasoning, saying that they didn’t think one student would be throwing a party, that it would usually be a group where the costs would be split. “Would you agree that everything is free on this campus? It is not like that in the real world. Stuff costs money.” She said that students need to realize that there are certain costs that are needed to keep the space clean. Zac Wunrow ‘14, Booking Manager for Paces, agreed and emphasized the students need to take responsibility when they throw Paces parties.

According to SAC members, Flowers did not tell SAC that the fee had been put in place. One member claims they had knowledge that this sort of change in the contracts might happen, but they only found out about the fee when they were approached by the SBC.

Both members of SAC and some members of the Paces management were frustrated with Flowers not providing them the opportunity to have a three way conversation.

“If I would’ve done it again, I would’ve brought SAC and SBC into the conversation earlier,” said Flowers.

A member of SAC, who works closely with the administration, said that Flowers told the managers of SAC that the fee was not only supposed to serve as a deterrent to students leaving Paces uncleaned, but also as a deterrent to throwing Paces parties in general. According to both members of SAC and students affiliated with Paces, Flowers repeatedly said she would like the space to be used less for drinking, and more as a dry social space.

“It is not going to last if it will continue to serve this dual purpose,” said Flowers in an interview, referring to student health concerns.

“There were tough decisions to be made, the place needs extra TLC,” said Flowers. According to Flowers there have been numerous complaints about the space: the smell of stale beer, cigarettes, fruit flies, etc.

“There’s been a tremendous pressure on us [from the administration] from cleanliness.” said Mallory Pitser ’14, the Paces Business Manager. She added that they had tried to obtain additional funding for cleaning from the Dean’s Office, but without success.

“We’re trying to ease the [weekly] transitions from the raucous party space to Paces Cafe,” said Wunrow. SAC members, however, believe that Paces, is in its current role, is crucial for student social life. “It is our Student Union of sorts,” said a SAC member. It houses both Paces Cafe and weekend SAC-funded parties, organized by groups or individual students. According to the SAC member, there is no other space available for the typical “Paces” party: Olde Club is largely booked, the fraternities organize their own parties and Wharton D basement and Danawell trailer are in residential spaces.

However, the Paces management also wants to advocate for a variety of different events at Paces on the weekends, such as open mics, poker nights, etc., to broaden the spectrum of students attending Paces.


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        Kat Clark ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

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    sorry, do I not spend enough time studying? says:

    When a Mess is Made –

    I am alarmed you don’t find the idea of certain individuals in the Dean’s Office attempting to shape the atmosphere of Swat on the weekends/evenings concerning. Maybe we could just have centrally-planned social events and have fun in the ways the deans think is appropriate? Is that what we pay ~$50k a year for?

    That is more my issue. I don’t really care if the events that take place in Paces are “trashy Paces parties” or Pub Nite or a damn Magic: the Gathering tournament. I care that there are a few people who are making (or attempting to quietly shape) decisions about the kinds of events that take place in our student space just based on their own personal vision.

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    Mr. X says:

    Big Brother strikes again. This is either an actual attempt at deterring student social behavior, the implications of which frighten me, or a sad attempt at sapping money out of the student body. Nobody is going to stop having Paces parties, so whoever that $50 fee goes to has racks on racks on racks. Either way this is some trash. And @Paury Flowers, it doesn’t cost $50 a party to keep Paces clean. Clearly you don’t do your own cleaning.

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    Lang says:

    Is it possible that currently there’s not the necessary cleaning gear provided to Paces parties to clean the space to its hoped for standard after the floor has been exposed to so much tracked-in dirt and liquid? As someone who attempted to clean up after a couple recent parties using what I found (cleaning solutions, buckets, and the rope mops), I found all I accomplished was pushing very dirty, soapy water around with minute amounts of it being picked up and drained by the mop each time, so then when the soapy dirty water dries the gunk is still there.

    That being said, I’m used to using sponge mops, so it’s possible that I was just horribly incompetent and other people with the same materials do in fact get it squeaky clean after Paces parties. If that’s the case, then let it be known.

    This is all just to say that perhaps the issue is more of how to actually get the gunk water off the floor rather than people not making the effort to clean it.

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      Kristen says:

      As someone who has also put in some hours attempting to clean Paces, I’ll stand by what you’re saying, Lang. There’s only so much pushing-around-dirty-water one can do before doubting the effectiveness of the method… Those mops hold onto most of the dirt, so even if you squeeze out a lot of dirty water, there’s way more where that came from.

      What tools do the professional cleaners use when they clean up Paces twice a year? If there must be a fee, can the money go towards buying the right mops to actually get the place clean?

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        Fellow paces cleanup person says:

        I agree with that…except I think that if they want it clean, they already have access to that sort of equipment. EVS has some floor cleaners, do they have any that are ready for replacement? Those would be much more effective and leave the place much cleaner, and not cost too much.

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        @F says:

        It’s not about deterrence. The assumption is that the students will leave the place a mess, so now there is $50 (or ~$35– it’s been reduced since the negotiations between Paces and SAC) to pay students to clean up.

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    Tramane Hall says:

    And I want to clarify, by lack of transparency I am speaking about administrative transparency.

    I think groups should be held accountable for their irresponsibility and the Paces Cafe staff shouldn’t have to clean up anyone’s mess. If a group can’t handle the responsibility of hosting an event, they shouldn’t have the privilege. I just don’t think that enforcing an additional fee is the best means of holding groups responsible.

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    Jo says:

    A few comments.
    1. Why is it hard to hold paces throwers accountable? You have 100 dollars of THEIR money. If they don’t clean it appropriately, DON’T GIVE IT BACK. It can’t be that hard contacting people, we all have email.
    2. It would be easier to clean Paces after a party if there were more materials for it (the cleaning). The few times I’ve had to clean up after a Paces party, I felt like all I was doing was moving dirt from one corner to another. The mops there are gross – or were, last semester.
    3. Cleaning is such a vague term – are there guidelines for what’s expected? I think just posting those would really help ensure that people know what’s expected. Could make a big difference…

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    Tramane Hall says:

    My problem with this, without even addressing the lack of transparency, is that the implementation of any fee is ultimately going to be costly to the student body at large, which is unfair.

    There are usually 3 events held in Paces Thursday-Sunday. If we’re charging a $50 fee for each event held in Paces, that comes out to about an additional $2k or so/semester that SBC will have to fund SAC in order to cover these fees. That additional funding will either have to be taken from other student groups funded by SBC (club sports?), or it will have to be calculated into the student activities fee which is set annually by SBC. So is it really fair that students, who may or may not utilize Paces Cafe, will have to pay more money to compensate for another groups irresponsibility?

    I think there should be no fee, and if the hosting organization does not clean up to whatever standards set forth by the Paces Cafe staff, then the $100 deposit should not be refunded, and that group should lose it’s party hosting privileges for the remainder of the semester, or even the year.

    Ultimately, this would allow the staff to be compensated for having to clean up another group’s mess, and groups that depend on holding events in Paces for publicity, fundraising, etc. would suffer the consequences of their irresponsibility by having their hosting privileges revoked.

    In no way is it fair to have the student body foot the cost of this new fee (be it through redistribution of SBC funds or a higher Student Activities Fee), especially when we already pay so much for what little social life we have.

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    When a Mess is Made, It Needs to Cleaned. PERIOD. says:

    To: Sorry, do I not spend enough time studying?

    I think students need to get off their high horses and realize that this isn’t part of the alleged “attack on student life” going on at Swarthmore. Hell, I consider my social life to be pretty decent here. To be frank, I don’t think most Swarthmore students even know how to be creative with their so-called social lives here other than hold trashy Paces parties on the regular. I think what the Paces Management Team and SAC are doing in conjunction with the Dean’s Office is great. I don’t think that it is too much to hold students accountable for cleaning their party spaces properly.

    Swarthmore is not a Utopia.

    Sure there are things that could be improved, but I find the current changes to Paces a great step in the right direction. Why were there no complaints in the past when there were only two Paces directors that spear headed Paces without informing anyone about their actions? Transparency is crucial, yes. But I think that this is not an issue of student transparency, but rather of administrative transparency.

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      Mr. X says:

      Nobody is arguing that Paces does not need to be cleaned. People are just pissed off that there is now a $50 non-refundable fee. The point of the article as well was to highlight the lack of transparency in what was being done, not exactly the “what” that was being done. I agree though, you make a mess, you clean it. Fee is bullshit though.

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    Accountability says:

    :Would you agree that everything is free on this campus? It is not like that in the real world. Stuff costs money.”

    Wow. Everything isn’t free in the real world? I had no idea! It’s nice to know that the Administration is willing to compromise the principle of equal access when we have been and can implement it just because it’s not present in the “real world.”

    “The contract was updated. The information was available,” said Flowers. She said it did not occur to her and to the Deans’ Office to announce the decision to the student body. “Sometimes you make it more than it is by making a big announcement,” said Flowers.

    Does she think we’re stupid? Maybe students should be scrutinizing contracts but such a change in the contract needs to be made public and Flowers knows it. She obviously didn’t send out the e-mail because she knew that students would be rightfully upset about it. Now we get to question the fee itself AND the implementation which completely lacked any sort of transparency.

    There are a lot of issues and I think that the article does a good job of bringing them to light. We need to think about what kind of social spaces are important to students and how we can optimize what few social spaces we currently have. I don’t think that leaving this type of decision-making to a dean who’s not even willing to send out an e-mail announcing changes is the way to go and I hope that these issues start to get addressed in an active and transparent manner.

  9. 0
    KL says:

    I find Paury Flowers’ quote quite illuminating. “Would you agree that everything is free on this campus?” Well, yes, that’s the basic premise of Swarthmore social life. As the admissions office likes to trumpet, we’re a “cash free campus” because everything is paid in advance (and thus paid by financial aid for those who can’t afford it) via the student activities fee. It is disheartening that the Deans’ Office doesn’t want to support equal access for students of all financial means.

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    sorry, do I not spend enough time studying? says:

    sort of tired of this not-so-invisible hand guiding the social scene on the weekends and even weeknights – I am kind of wondering what more they want from Swatties, who work incredibly hard to contribute positively to the College, academics, everything. Should we all lock ourselves in our rooms after classes and study until bedtime? Until strategic planning works out the new student space called for, we are stuck with the dumpy little room in the back of Tarble… so please let us (as a student body, instead 4 co-directors + a dean) use it as we please. I don’t see why that’s too much to ask.

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