Although Worth Courtyard houses several events throughout the relatively warm months — ranging from informal barbecues and football catches to the college’s Worthstock event — perhaps no Worth Courtyard tradition has been more controversial than Crunkfest. The public, one-day (and night), team-oriented, “adult” scavenger hunt, which involves sexual activities as well as the consumption of alcohol, illicit substances and bodily fluids, has elicited several claims of discomfort over the years. As of this year, the administration decided to put an end to Crunkfest. According to Assistant Dean for Residential Life Rachel Head, the deans informed the Crunkfest organizers of the decision earlier this semester.
“This event could no longer happen due to a variety of safety concerns that had recently been brought to our attention,” she said.
While Head declined to elaborate on what these safety concerns were, one anonymous student — who had many friends involved in Crunkfest but did not participate — disclosed that he was woken up in the middle of the night to provide someone with anti-anxiety medicine during last year’s event.
But others disagreed that Crunkfest was, as a whole, unsafe. “Even though it may [have dangerous elements], it’s pretty self-contained and people take care of each other,” said Ari Efron ’16. “Some of the things on the list have inherent dangers that, if people aren’t watching out for, can be a real concern. I’ve heard that last year was the least competition-driven and the most communal, where people were looking out for each other more than trying to win.”
Doriana Thornton ’16, who participated last year and called Crunkfest their favorite experience of freshman year, felt that the environment of Crunkfest was one that made the potentially dangerous activities safer.
“Crunkfest allows some dubious behaviors to go on in a safe, controlled, consent-centered environment, which I think is very important,” they said.
Thornton added that they think some other campus parties pose just as much, if not more, of a danger as Crunkfest did.
A second anonymous student, who never participated in Crunkfest but would have liked to, does not think accusations of danger are a legitimate reason to cancel the event.
“I think that the cancellation of it is oppressive to individual student liberties and only serves to create further distrust between us and Public Safety,” he said. “If the concerns about Crunkfest are due to the illegal or illicit nature of some of the challenges, then a better alternative is to simply demand a modified version of the competition that has no challenges involving illegal activity. This compromise would allow participants to enjoy the experience of Crunkfest without any direct promotion of illegal activity.”
Nat Frum ’16, a student who published an article in the Swat Independent earlier this year that discussed his objections to Crunkfest, is dubious of the school’s reasons for cancelling the event. Calling the event hypocritical in light of some participants’ accusations that the fraternities promote drugs, sex and rape culture, Frum suspects that the decision was more political than caring.
“Safety of the students is obviously a priority and likely had a large impact on the decision,” he said. “However, Swarthmore has gotten quite a bit of bad press over the last year and a half. I tend to view most of the moves the school makes as PR moves — the school is trying to fix its image. That’s why we have seen these crackdowns on parties, drugs and alcohol, the fraternities and now Crunkfest. I doubt anyone, even the participants of Crunkfest, would describe the event as tasteful. However, the school has had no problems with that in the past.”
Former Worth Resident Assistant Ian Lukaszewicz ’15, who was the three Worth RAs played a role in the decision, said that the dorm RAs had discussed the event at length.
“[Crunkfest’s publicity] was something the three Worth RAs knew would be an issue when we first started [our duties] at the beginning of the year, so we discussed amongst ourselves what we wanted to do,” he said. “Once us three discussed it, we eventually brought it up to [Student Activities Coordinator] Mike Elias and Rachel Head.”
While the decision may have been influenced by some students’ negative sentiments toward the event, Efron saw the event as one that had a positive influence on the school.
“It was a really comfortable environment for people to experiment and it really did form a cool community,” he said. “At the beginning of the night all the teams were basically by themselves in their tents, but by the next morning all the teams were in each other’s tents and were all really relaxed around each other.”
Thorton echoed the sense of community described by Efron.
“I felt like I was surrounded by people that wanted to make the event a safe place to explore myself and the way I am related to other people,” they said. “I also feel like I learned how to be fearless in making friends and I gained a lot of very, very good friends from the experience.”
Lukaszewicz explained that the issue was less about the participants and more about the Worth residents — for whom he had the responsibility to support and represent.
“Crunkfest was something that would be unavoidable for anybody living in Worth since it was out front in the courtyard and you needed to pass by it to get to any of the doors,” he said. “It’s unfair to residents that would have been uncomfortable passing that every time they are heading home to their room.”
While Efron understands the potential discomfort that an event like Crunkfest could cause, he said he wishes people could overlook that.
“This is a one-night zone of free expression,” he said. “It’s valid to be uncomfortable, but it would be nice if for one night you were okay with being uncomfortable because people did find this a liberating experience that made them more comfortable being on the campus — just because of the warm and accepting atmosphere it presented.”
Head said that Crunkfest’s organizers were understanding of the administration’s decision and contacted the deans a few weeks ago with a proposal of a new tradition. The deans have decided not to consider the idea for this school year.
“The rest of the spring term is already packed with activities: Genderfuck, Worthstock, LSE, Kielbasafest, Centennial Championships, the Student Dance Concert, BCC and IC awards, etc.,” she said. “It seemed short-sighted to add an additional program to the calendar, especially when proper planning for such an event involves individuals not just from the Dean’s Office but also Facilities and Services, Public Safety and others.”
Elias and Director of Public Safety Michael Hill declined to comment further on the topic.