This spring, we’ve seen an increase in events that we at the Phoenix believe legitimately build community, including the intramural softball league, Spring Fling on Saturday, and, we anticipate, the upcoming Worthstock-LSE combined event.
The intramural softball league has transformed the Sunday lawn from a desolate landscape to a welcoming social space for students lucky enough to be outside the library. Not only does the league change the nature of Swarthmore Sundays, it fills a gap in the social scene by creating a place for non-athletes to play team sports. For those who do not play on a varsity team or a club sport, intramural softball is an opportunity to continue (or begin) an experience of being on a low-commitment, low-pressure team. Thirdly, it provides a distinctly dry activity. While many dry events at the college host students who have been drinking substantially before attending, softball is not of this nature at all. Rather than being a dry party full of students who have been drinking, it is a dry event unassociated with alcohol. While students who choose not to drink for moral reasons may not object to being in a room with others who have been drinking, students who choose not to drink because they are survivors of trauma relating to alcohol may have difficulty sharing a space with their peers who have been drinking. Softball is part of a trend of spaces that have no association with alcohol and are distinctly dry social events.
On Saturday, students gathered on Parrish Beach to share dinner. The lawn has probably never looked so collegiate. While there are plenty of warm weekend days when students gather in small groups to be out in the sun, this particular event seemed to facilitate greater integration in the student body. Beach balls were tossed around, slack lines extended, and the big chair relocated several times. Perhaps the great number of students present was drawn out by the smoothie cart and table of snacks available outside Tarble, or, perhaps it was simply the organized and publicized nature of the event that led to the good turnout. Whatever the effective tactic, we commend SGO and the administration for its success in fostering a sense of community through the event.
The re-organization of the LSE-Worthstock weekend is likely to continue this trend of increased dry outdoor social life on campus this spring. In the past, LSE has taken place as a night-time event with no accompanying activities, making it much like any other major party. This year, instead of booking a major act for that Friday night, the college has arranged for food trucks and laser tag (which will take place on Mertz Field) to precede a performance by a secondary act, TWRK. With the allure of food, students are more likely to come out and enjoy the outdoor event not as a late-night party scene but as an opportunity to mingle with peers and classmates in a more authentic manner. Laser Tag promotes a similar dynamic as intramural softball by encouraging students to get outside and interact with one another in a fresh way.
Worthstock itself will host several new events, rather than the usual picnics and music in the courtyard. There will still be music — in fact, the primary act scheduled for the weekend will be performing on Sunday, rather than the Friday typical of the past. Ghostface Killah and badbadnotgood will be performing. Other entertainment will include outdoor activities (the much advertising rock wall, zip-line, waterslide, and inflatable combination). Notably, the event won’t begin until noon, which will perhaps serve to discourage the extremely early day drinking that has characterized the event in the past.
The new Worthstock, Spring Fling, intramural softball, and other outdoor weekend events this spring have encouraged students to interact with each other in new and positive ways. We are hopeful that these changes will continue to bring about the increased sense of community and social life that campus needs.