Students adjust to college’s new party policy

webDuring the first weekend of the semester in which party permits were officially issued, the college saw large unofficial dorm parties and overflowing fraternities. This year, no party permits were issued the weekend following substance-free week. Part of the reason for the week-long delay on party permits was that more time was necessary to train the new SwatTeam, according to Student Council co-president Jason Heo ’15.

Some of the most notable changes to party policy include a ban on hard alcohol at registered parties and alcohol paraphernalia, including drinking games like beer pong. In addition, funding changes will mean groups or organizations throwing parties will have to shoulder some of the party ndependently. Many believe this will diminish the number of parties held in spaces such as Paces and Olde Club if organizations are unwilling or unable to cover costs. Mike Elias, assistant director of student activities, did not respond to questions regarding the funding changes and their implications.

This weekend, Phi Psi fraternity’s annual Disorientation quickly filled to capacity while a long line of hopeful partygoers waited outside. SwatTeam and Public Safety ensured that nobody else entered the building once it was full. Ian Lukaszewicz ’15, Phi Psi’s president, said he thought the event went well, despite fears that students would pre-game too hard given that there was no hard alcohol at the event. He also expressed that this was a concern for future events.

“In the end, it seemed like those students who did pre-game Saturday did so safely and responsibly, and we hope it stays that way,” Lukaszewicz said.

Phi Psi will continue to receive party permits on Thursday and Saturday nights, and Lukaszewicz said he was not concerned about parties in other spaces becoming less frequent. Both fraternities have always funded many of their own parties.

Delta Upsilon (DU) also received a party permit for September 13. The fraternity ceased to let students in at a certain point during the night because SwatTeam was not prepared to deal with the number of students in DU. Trevor Shepherd ’15, president of DU, said that the fraternity would be working with Mike Elias to resolve this problem in the future.

Shepherd also had reservations about new funding limits.

“I worry that the changes will limit the amount of parties occurring on a particular night … potentially caus[ing] overcrowding at the spaces that are throwing parties and lead[ing] to increases in dorm drinking,” he said. “While I feel that all of these changes were made with the best of intentions, I am concerned about the unintended negative consequences that could decrease student safety.”

He did note, however, that these concerns were mainly a product of speculation at this point in the semester.

“I [hope] that our campus will be able to safely and successfully integrate this policy without drastically increasing drinking in dorms,” he said, adding that DU has a close working relationship with Elias and that the fraternity is committed to providing the safest possible social space. DU will also continue to receive party permits on Thursday and Saturday nights.

However, party spaces such as Paces and Olde Club have long provided a separate venue for those who do not feel safe or comfortable in the fraternities, or for those students who are simply looking for more than one party to attend in a night. In the event that these parties are no longer a constant alternative to fraternity parties, many students may find themselves with few options.

The lack of sanctioned party spaces may have already resulted in some of the predicted side effects. On the night of Sunday, August 31, as substance-free week ended, unofficial parties broke out in Wharton and Willets.

When asked if he was seeing more drinking this year than in his previous years at Swarthmore, Lim said he was.

“I definitely think that there are more kids that are partying regularly [this year],”  he said, although he acknowledged that “this is my first year as an RA… It’s definitely something that i am more conscious of which may cause … [a] perceived increase in drinking on my end.”

Lim also commented on the observance of the new rules on the Sunday night that ended substance-free week.

“There was hard alcohol. I didn’t really see much drinking paraphernalia. Things like funnels are not really in use here. I’ve also seen modified versions of water pong to fit under the current policies,” he observed. He noted that the hard alcohol was in the hands of students over the age of 21, and that he ultimately shut down the party when he saw that “it was clear that it was no longer a small social gathering.”

Lim believes that the first weekend of parties at the fraternities was an indication of the potential dangers of the new policies.

“I’ve never seen a line at Phi Psi like there was this past Saturday and I definitely think it would be a good idea to open up other party spaces for safety reasons,” he said.

In her email detailing Swarthmore’s alcohol and party policy changes, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Development Liliana Rodriguez stressed that the changes were based on policies at comparable schools to Swarthmore, such as Amherst, Bowdoin, Colby, Colgate, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Pomona and Williams.

A transfer student, now a junior, from Colgate College, who preferred to remain anonymous described some of his experience with the school’s party and alcohol policies. Calling the relationship between the students and school authorities “adversarial,” the student detailed that campus officers would often arrive at small dorm gatherings looking for underage alcohol use. Students caught drinking underage received a citation, met with the dean and had to enroll in an alcohol health course. He also described the pregaming situation as “dangerous.”

“We weren’t allowed to drink on school property, so a typical freshman-year night involved surreptitiously pulling from a Nikolai handle in a dorm and then trying to get into bars downtown,” he said. “People would try to load themselves up for the rest of the night before they left.”

Because binge drinking is such a prevalent issue, the school has its own small hospital with an emergency room at the base of campus. Like Swarthmore, the school also has a total amnesty policy in regards to hospitalizations because they are so common.

Singer Horse Capture, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, said that students at Dartmouth get around the hard alcohol ban by simply not registering their parties. Parties that are not open to the general campus do not have to be registered, although there is no person limit. Many fraternities follow this method as well, and spread knowledge about the party by word of mouth.

“Pregaming is a huge thing here, and [I think] one reason we have a binge drinking problem here is because people have pregaming parties with shots and so then people are already drunk when they go to parties,” she said. “[Hospitalizations] happen every weekend.”

When informed that Colgate was one of the schools used as an example for Swarthmore’s alcohol policy updates, the Colgate transfer student expressed shock.

“[Colgate’s] was a notoriously horrible system and no one was happy with it,” he said.

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