Alcohol-related hospitalizations, calls decrease

photo by Bobby Zipp '18

Over the course of the last semester, changes made to the college’s alcohol and other drugs policy have noticeably affected campus life at Swarthmore, particularly as it concerns the party scene and the number of alcohol-related incidents. Introduced in August 2014, the new policy was modeled after those of peer institutions, and included a ban on hard alcohol at registered parties, as well as the adoption of a medical amnesty policy.

Several students expressed concerns over banning hard alcohol, as students continued to consume it in more dangerous ways in unsupervised, private spaces.

“Truthfully, whether it’s party-provided or bought on one’s own, people are going to get their liquor either way if that’s what they want. The difference is that people may pregame faster and in larger quantities before they go to a party to ensure they’ll be satisfied for the duration of the night,” Jasmine Rashid ’18 wrote in an e-mail. She did agree, though, that providing unlimited amounts of hard liquor was also dangerous and could lead to overindulgence.

Phi Psi President Ian Lukaszewicz ’15 agreed, noting that the fraternity’s biggest concern was the potential for students to abuse “pregames,” since there have not been mixed drinks available at fraternity-hosted parties since the policy changes.

“We were afraid that students may drink more in their rooms before coming out to make up for the lack of hard liquor at parties,” he wrote.

Former Delta Upsilon President and member Trevor Shepherd ’15, however, did not notice an increase in the number of intoxicated students arriving at DU this past semester. Despite his concerns, Lukaszewicz did not see visibly large changes at Phi Psi either.

According to Beth Kotarski, the director of student health and wellness services, the number of alcohol-related visits to Worth Health Center actually decreased from 11 in the spring of 2014 to 6 in the fall of 2014. Mike Hill, the director of Public Safety, wrote in an e-mail that the number of alcohol-related incidents that Public Safety officers responded to in fall 2014 decreased as well, though he did not provide data related to hospitalizations.

Enforcement of the college’s new drug and alcohol policy has remained as ambiguous as in years past, though. Lukaszewicz, Shepherd and Rashid all agreed that the college strictly enforces the ban on hard alcohol at registered events, but remains lenient on other policies, like prohibiting drinking games.

When asked how they felt about the drug and alcohol policy changes in general, many students had mixed feelings.

“If the school decides to ban alcohol, parties will move into rooms to hide them. I think that the same activities will occur no matter what the policy is. However, I do think the previous policy allowed for more of a team effort between the school and students to safely drink, whereas now, there is more of a divide,” Madeline Conca ’17 wrote in an email.

“It is hard to tell what the overall effect is on campus. I think the new policies have made events and parties on campus safer, but students are going to drink no matter what. Hopefully the policies will help them do so more responsibly,” wrote Lukaszewicz.

What is certain is that as a result of the new policies, it has become much more difficult for clubs and organizations to acquire alcohol funds for parties. This lack of access to funds has altered the types of spaces where wet parties are typically held, which organizations host them and the number of attendees at each event.

While Pub Nite organizers managed to continue the Thursday tradition via a September GoFundMe campaign, other would-be party throwers have had difficulties raising funds. It appears that over the course of the semester, the fraternities have steadily become more integral to the social scene as other spaces have become less prominent. More importantly, there have been fewer parties in general.

According to the Social Affairs Committee’s weekly Weekend Events emails, seven parties were held at the fraternities all semester, compared to four at Paces and five at Olde Club. There were also two registered parties in Wharton, two in Worth and one in Alice Paul.

Chris Capron ’15, a member of SwatTeam, said the party-goer traffic was less concentrated in spaces that had previously been popular.

“Previously, Paces and Olde Club were bigger party venues, but now AP 1st, Wharton basement and the fraternities are seeing more traffic,” Capron wrote in an e-mail.

Shepherd said that the fraternities definitely saw an increase in attendance at events they hosted this past semester. According to SwatTeam member Emilio Garza ’16, fraternity events typically drew 175-200 guests, whereas about 150 students have their ID’s scanned at Paces and Olde Club parties. On at least one occasion, the limited amount of parties contributed to crowd control issues at the fraternities, with DU and Phi Psi receiving approximately 600 and 500 ID swipes, respectively.

“I think the biggest change in the rules was regarding the school’s ability to fund alcohol at parties. Because the school can no longer do this, there seemed to be fewer bigger parties outside of the fraternities. The fraternities were the only places hosting events every Thursday and Saturday,” Shepherd wrote in an e-mail.

Lukaszewicz agrees that fraternities have become a larger part of campus life as a result of the changes to the alcohol policy.

“I think the fraternities have mostly maintained their roles on campus, maybe with a slightly larger role than they have had in the past,” Lukaszewicz wrote. He also noted the fact that there were noticeably fewer and emptier parties at Olde Club and Paces this semester. Both Shepherd and Lukaszewicz welcomed and encouraged the increased traffic to the houses, and said that it did not cause any undue stress or pressure.

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