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.
Despite the tightening regulations on parties and alcohol consumption, public safety records document a general increase in the number of alcohol related incidents at major parties over the past four years.
Alcohol-related crime incidents have doubled during the Halloween Party, one of Swarthmore College’s largest social events between 2012 and 2015. Disorientation, an annual party held in the second week of the fall semester, has shown a significant increase from 0 to 6 in the same time period.
What has changed at Swarthmore over these years?
Over the past few years, Swarthmore’s drug and alcohol policy has undergone changes both in print and in interpretation of the Student Handbook. Most recently, the 2014 Handbook added a ban on hard liquor at registered parties and engagement in drinking games, drawing criticism from students.
Michael Wheeler ‘16, SwatTeam manager and a former Party Associate (the precursor to SwatTeam), spoke about the party scene he experienced as a freshman. “Parties used to be in the basement of Olde Club and Paces. You would just walk in and there would be drinks out on the counter available to everyone,” he said. Now, most parties are in the fraternity houses and alcohol is served over the counter by party hosts.
Yet, the official restriction on the allocations of funds for alcohol has not changed. Similar to rules on underage drinking, both the 2012 and 2015 student handbooks state that no college funding can be used to purchase alcohol.
However, until last year, school funding was allocated to the organization of parties and the purchase of alcohol. Laura Hyder ‘16, a senior class president and Pub Nite organizer, said that upperclassmen purchased alcohol under “DJ money,” officially allocated for hiring a DJ. As funding dried up, it has become difficult to purchase even cups and cheeseballs, and Pub Nites are crowdfunded by the Swarthmore community, she said. As a result, fewer parties are held at Olde Club or Paces simply due to the lack of funding.
For example, alterations were made to parties on Halloween night. Students are now unable to reserve rooms for parties during Halloween, as SwatTeam staff are only available to supervise the two main parties at Upper Tarble and Mary Lyons. The school administration left it to the RAs to decide whether they would allow students to throw smaller parties in dorm lounges. So while students are able to hold parties in lounges with the permission of RAs, it was far more difficult to organize than prior years.
Many students who may otherwise not go to parties on a weekly basis go to this Halloween party to enjoy dancing with their friends in costumes. The number of intoxicated students is far higher than on Saturday parties, where there are an average of one or two reports.
“There is definitely a stronger culture of pregaming,” Wheeler said. Before, when alcohol consumption of underage students was more lenient, students would go to parties simply to be with friends and drink the beer provided there, he said. Now, more students pregame to get drunk for the parties.
Hyder also said that because it is more financially challenging to hold parties in Paces and Olde Club, there are fewer alternatives for students who want to listen to different music and socialize in a scene other than the fraternity houses.
The alterations in alcohol policies also include the change in education regarding alcohol consumption. In 2012, the college provided a presentation by the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART) during freshman year orientation, while in 2015 there was an additional online course administered to the students.
Hyder noted that despite the heavier restrictions on alcohol consumption, she has not noticed any significant difference in the Swatties’ relationship with alcohol. “The biggest change is that it has become better for the school liability wise, and it is good that the school is thinking more about issues surrounding alcohol,” she said.
The one thing I will say is that as a freshman in 2009, we had to do an online alcohol course.