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.
Sunlight dimmed as lines of Swatties slowly formed outside of two locations. Music thumped, gradually increasing in volume as people shuffled into rooms filled with socialization, dance, and alcohol. Dry week was over.
During the first we weekend of the year, there were two locations where students could party. One was at the Delta Upsilon (DU) frat house, a more recognizable “party scene” with the lights killed and the air humid from students’ close proximity to one another. The other was at Paces Café, a space with brighter lights and an atmosphere distinct from the DU party.
The party at Paces Café was organized by NuWave, a new organization on campus intended “to create deliberately fun, safe, equitable, violence-free social spaces that raise the bar for every party on campus,” as Morgin Goldberg ‘19, a founding member of the organization, described it in an email.
Attendees have sometimes described feeling at risk or otherwise uncomfortable at the frats as a trade-off for a night of fun, dancing, and drinking—all significant parts of Swarthmore’s social scene. While there are initiatives to reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct at the fraternities, Goldberg noted that incidents still occur.
“They’ve happened to me and a lot of people I know,” she wrote.
In addition to creating a safe party space, “everyone benefits from having two parties to go to instead of one” wrote Louisa Grenham ’19, another founding member of NuWave.
Fraternities currently hold a firm grasp on Swarthmore’s party scene and have been one of the few organizations capable of dealing with the space and funding needed to run a party. This gives them an advantage when it comes to influence over the party scene on campus.
“Right now, only two all-male and mostly-white fraternities have physical, on-campus party spaces that host regular, all-campus parties,” Goldberg wrote.
Why do the fraternities have this advantage over other groups? One explanation is the loss of the DJ fund. Before 2013, any group could apply for DJ funding, which was money intended to pay a DJ that was instead used for alcohol. However, after Swarthmore began to be investigated for Title IX complaints during the spring of 2013, the college made revisions to consent education and alcohol and other drugs policies, which included the end of the DJ fund.
To organize a party, a space reservation and a party permit are required.
“The only issue people run into is money for alcohol,” Grenham said.
NuWave raised their money through donations they collected on the Alternative Party Fund site, which are being used to fund and organize alternative parties throughout the year. Students can submit funding proposals on the party fund’s website.
NuWave’s party was well-attended and remained bustling until hosts shut it down due to police activity on campus. During the party, hosts meandered through the crowd and asked for opinions. They reportedly received positive feedback, with attendees generally feeling safe and included. Some comments were made on how the lights ought to have been completely off. However, Grenham and the other party hosts “decided to leave the lights dimmed because we thought it created a safer atmosphere for people,” Grenham wrote.
Looking towards the future, the Alternative Party Spaces advocates want to eventually influence the way in which all parties are held. Goldberg expressed hopes for a future filled with collaboration between different organizations, with support from administration, and for the unique aspect of the Alternative Party Spaces to become normal and ubiquitous aspects of the party culture.
Featured image courtesy of NuWave.
This article is a very well written idea of what goes on in the minds of party goers. Excellent work painting the scene with your imagery. It gives outsiders a better idea of the social scene at this school without making it sound like your generic frat party nonsense.
First, kudos for coming up with a good idea – a party venue distinct from the frats. Now the question, how do you plan to monitor the law regarding under-age consumption of alcohol? There was no mention in the article.
I’m really glad to hear this! Having Olde Club as an “anti-frat” social venue was a huge part of my Swarthmore experience, and I was saddened to hear that it and Paces had become shells of themselves after the 2013 policy changes. Hopefully NuWave will stick around and grow. It sounds like a really positive idea.