NuWave Brings New Wave of Parties to Swarthmore

NuWave, a new social organization centered around throwing safe, inclusive, and consent-oriented social events on campus, began to host parties at the start of this academic year. The group aims to offer students alternatives to traditional parties held at the  two college fraternities.

Morgin Goldberg ’19 and Louisa Grenham ’19, two of the founders of NuWave, spent a great deal time at the two frats on campus during their freshman year. Although they often enjoyed themselves, they believed that the male-dominated culture was not as inclusive as it could be.

“The frats are a specific kind of party, a specific kind of culture … my experiences in the frats haven’t always been positive. I think that’s true for a lot of people. A lot of it isn’t necessarily from actual members of the fraternity, but it’s an environment that breeds that. It’s an environment that breeds a sort of lack of respect,” Goldberg said.

According to Grenham, it became more difficult for groups other than fraternities to host social events with alcohol  after the termination of the “DJ fund” in 2014. This fund was relatively accessible to students, who could get money from the college, ostensibly for a disk-jockey but usually spent on alcohol.

“No one’s gonna go to a party where there’s not alcohol, whereas the frats always have a space, and they always have people who are 21, and they always have money for alcohol,” Grenham explained.

Despite some problems raising money, NuWave has been able to throw two parties, the “2020 Birthday Party” held on Saturday, September 3, and the “Interstellar Party,” thrown last Saturday in cooperation with the Tri-Co dance group Rhythm n’ Motion. Both parties received funding from the Alternative Party Fund started by Priya Dieterich ’18.

Dieterich is currently working on publicizing the Fund, which prioritizes parties thrown by women, people of color, and queer and trans students. Although NuWave and the Alternative Party Fund are distinct organizations, they have collaborated to make alternative party spaces on campus, such as those thrown by NuWave in the past few weeks.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s crazy that these two things kind of came to be concurrently and were influenced by each other,” Goldberg said. Dieterich expressed similar sentiments.

“I think NuWave is going to be a huge resource for people who want to throw those parties … and then if they need more support, and they need someone to help them out, we [the organizers of the Alternative Party Fund] can refer them to NuWave,” Dieterich said.

Both NuWave parties were held at Paces Cafe, located behind Essie Mae’s in Clothier Memorial Hall. Notably, Paces is a space that is available for use by any group of students on campus, and it has historically been a popular location for many non-fraternity parties, as well as weekly Pub Nite.

As their mission emphasizes, Nuwave employs a series of techniques to ensure that the environment in which the parties they throw are safe.

“One, it is framing the space; it’s saying: ‘No, this is the expectation of the space, this is how we’re setting it, and if you do have a problem with it, you don’t have to come.’ But the other part of it is deliberately creating a space once you’re there that has that [built] into its conception,” Goldberg said, “So we have signs up that remind people about consent.”

According to Goldberg, psychological studies have shown that reminders about consent actually trigger your awareness of it. She also believes that sometimes, everyone needs a reminder.

“People can’t see themselves doing harm, but people do harm, so it’s important to be reminded of your capacity to do harm … that’s why we have signs, we have people that are walking around [reminding others],” she said.

In the future, NuWave is looking to get its active members trained in bystander education and consent education. The organization has also created a “feedback form” in order to gauge the experiences of party attendees.

“We want to know … does it feel like these are all people that you’re partying with, does it feel like there’s weird gender dynamics happening, do you feel that you know and are safe around all the people that you’re dancing with, or do you not?” Goldberg said.

“I think all those things matter, and I think we’re trying to break down what a party is, and we’re trying to look at all those dynamics and look at how they’re shaping people’s experiences.”

Despite the hard work of putting together the parties, the group believes it was a success. The “Interstellar Party” hit the maximum capacity of roughly 120 people.

“The actual organization has been stressful at times, but there’s always been a lot of passion behind it, a lot of fire behind it,” Grenham said. “ … [T]here have been so many people who have been so grateful.”

However, hosting a different type of party does pose some challenges.

“I think there needs to be a lot of adjustment in how people understand party spaces, and what really surprised me was how uncomfortable some people are with having a party space that [was structured differently from] what [students] knew,” Grenham said. “That’s as simple as having a woman control the alcohol. That’s as simple as leaving some of the lights on so you can see people’s’ faces.”

In the near future, NuWave hopes to establish an executive board of members and start regularly throwing parties twice a month. In the long term, however, Grenham hopes to redefine the classic structure of a party.

“I think one of the things we’re trying to do is really rethink how you think of a party … [P]art of it is that you have to see that person as a hallmate or a classmate or a peer, not just a random person you’re hopefully never going to see again in case you do something weird, because there’s no accountability there,” Grenham said.

Goldberg believes NuWave is an organization not just for social event planning, but also for social change.

“I don’t think it’s silly that it’s a party space, or a movement about parties, I think those things both reflect dynamics that are existing in a broader scale and also they have the capacity to affirm or subvert them within that and then go outwards,” Goldberg said.

NuWave next party will be held on Oct. 1 in collaboration with the Kitao Art Gallery, and applications to become a member of the group are due Friday, Sept. 23.

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