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.
The summer before coming to Swat, I attended the Boston summer send-off. My first Swattie interaction was alumni being critical of changes. I stayed long after any other new 2018ers, intrigued by the lamentations of a “school gone down hill”.
This sentiment has not disappeared since I’ve come to campus. I came to Swarthmore fresh-faced and eager to embrace this community. I loved the quirk, the traditions, the people. I still do. I think most Swatties, deep down, love Swarthmore — this is where the criticism comes from. We have high expectations for our academic environment, and we know that Swat should be able to meet them.
There was a time when I kept hearing the question “why can’t we have good things?” The upperclassmen I talked to seemed to sense a distinct shift between an old Swarthmore and a new Swarthmore. Talking to upperclassmen and alumni I noticed that age seemed proportional to disappointment. They reiterated that the best of Swat’s “softer side”, the social aspects, were being lost. My perception was that Swat was moving away from its niche of weirdness to a more mainstream ideal with big university designed policies accompany these changes.
Seniors said they had sensed this for a time, but my class, 2018, was the first group of incoming students that seemed fundamentally astray from previous classes. Is 2018 truly more athletic, more generically attractive, more outgoing than previous classes? Who knows. What I do know is that being a sophomore I’ve only heard tales of Crunkfest, Genderfuck, Paces parties, and the heyday of Olde Club. Instead, I’ve experienced new alcohol policies, a hotel being built, class expansion before dorm construction, the demotion of the Welcome Play, restrictions on PE credit, and freshmen-exclusive halls.
As an OSE intern, my job was to support Swatties outside the classroom, aka provide fun opportunities to de-stress and alternatives to alcohol-fueled activities. Unfortunately, the shortcomings of such efforts was obvious when a friend of mine did not even know what Friday Fun Day was.
My time with the OSE was amazing. We had a lot of fun planning foosball tournaments, SwatOberfest, Holi, Chit Chaat, and the casino themed winter formal and people seemed to enjoy them. Mike Elias worked hard to attain ample funding for campus wide dry events and to streamline the funding process for individual groups to host events.
I fully agree with the statement that life at Swat “necessitate more stress relief than one organization can provide, and everyone de-stresses in their own way.” The lack of diversity in event options and stated “regulation” forces forced people to seek out their own fun beyond campus. Unfortunately, this leaves those who can’t afford such regular excursions with very few options. Likewise, the alcohol policy was no different in disproportionately affecting students who cannot afford to have a personal store of liquor.
This problem is more than just one organization, and it’s greater than the sum of the policy changes. It has everything to do with flawed communication between administrators and students, about not getting answers to our questions.
Why doesn’t LPAC work the costs of the annual welcome play into their normal budget? Was this hotel the best use of money, especially when families coming for graduation will still be short on housing? Doesn’t it make more sense for that building to be a dorm and ML to become a hotel? Why is there a moratorium on groups approved to give PE credit? Shouldn’t we be making it easy for people of varying athletic ability to be active in whatever way they choose and attain their PE credit?
I came to Swarthmore because I loved that it was a community where people were invested in their time here. It wasn’t just a 4-year stepping stone for people to pass through. Because we love Swarthmore, we need to be asking these questions. Asking why something is a priority over another. Asking who is making these decisions. Asking if our voice is being heard. Or, why nobody is answering?
Swarthmore is our home, and each class has a right to be critical. In the words of Dr. Marboli, “the universe doesn’t give what you ask for with your thoughts, it gives what you demand with your actions.”