After undergoing significant changes in the executive board this past semester, the Student Government Organization is introducing new initiatives in response to student feedback. During last Sunday’s meeting, the group focused on extending the Matchbox hours, curbing strict enforcement of the alcohol policy, and having a closer relationship with affinity groups.
The group announced Sunday that it is very plausible that the Matchbox’s weekend hours will be extended by at least an hour. SGO members proposed changes to the Matchbox hours after receiving complaints about the Matchbox’s closing time of 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, including a Facebook post by Navid Kiassat ’20 asking SGO to push for regular hours.
“I work out in the evenings,” said Lily Posta ’21. “I have a schedule and that’s what I’m used to.”
Anya Slepyan ’21 mentioned that the Matchbox’s evening hours would allow for more flexibility with her workload.
“Since I don’t work out until I’ve done all my homework, the after dinner slot is crucial especially on weekends,” Slepyan said.
Assistant Director of Athletics Max Miller responded to SGO’s request by asking for student testimonials, which SGO arranged through an online form. The group received 360 student responses. Continuing the work of Gilbert Orbea ’19, who pursued the project last year, senator at large Kat Capossela ’21 plans to meet with Matchbox manager Chris McPherson after spring break to discuss details.
According to McPherson, there is a chance the hours will be extended, but it is too early to speak with certainty. He cited the costs of extending the hours as well as the availability of employees as prohibitive factors.
“It makes no sense that the one time during the week that someone actually has time to work out, that’s when the hours are shortest,” said SGO co-president David Pipkin ’18.
In addition to extending the Matchbox hours, SGO began reaching out to Public Safety about the current enforcement of the alcohol policy. According to Class of 2020 Senator Tommy Dell ’20, enforcement of the alcohol policy has become harsher since last year. This change has caused an uproar, particularly from members of the junior and senior classes who are concerned that stricter enforcement will hurt Pub Nite.
“They came into Swarthmore with Pub Nite being a very popular and very well established tradition. [Juniors and seniors] are very upset not only with Pub Safe’s stricter enforcement of unpopular alcohol policies, but also with in general the administration making it very difficult for organizers, and for DJs and for people interested in making Pub Nite very well populated and fun,” he said.
Concerns about the alcohol policy stemmed from changes to the student handbook made in 2014, which included a ban on hard alcohol and drinking games. Dell cited the ban on drinking games as the most unpopular policy with regards to Pub Nite. There have been several recent instances where Pub Safe has cracked down on drinking games at Pub Nite. He also mentioned complaints about stricter enforcement of the rule that defines rooms containing 10 or more people as parties, making them subject to all the rules governing parties on campus.
Pipkin argued that the alcohol policy enforcement at Swarthmore is much stricter than at other similar colleges. As president, Pipkin is concerned with the alcohol policy enforcement and feels it should be less strict.
“If I were to tell my friends who go to other universities about some of the structures we have at Swarthmore they’d laugh in my face,” said Pipkin. “We are still parsing what the actual policy is, but my understanding as the case stands now is that I would like a move in a more liberal direction.”
SGO has taken steps to loosen the policy but has been unsuccessful so far. The SGO co-presidents also signed a petition along with other college students from around Pennsylvania in support of amnesty for students hospitalized for drinking. Although an underaged person who calls an ambulance for their friend receives amnesty, anyone hospitalized for drinking must face the legal consequences which poses an increased risk for foreign students, according to Pipkin.
“I have friends here who come from foreign countries, and if they are caught breaking the law they can be sent back home,” said Pipkin. “Some of those countries are conflict zones, and they can be drafted into their military if they come home from university. So will I call for my friend who’s vomiting? What’s worse? The potential health risk of letting them continue, or potentially being drafted to go fight in someone else’s war?”
While SGO attempts to foster a relationship with Pub Safe, it is also working on developing a stronger relationship with the Black Cultural Center and Intercultural Center. Traditionally, members of each of these organizations elect a non-voting SGO liaison to represent their interests during weekly Senate meetings, but those posts last year were left unfilled and remain empty this semester. According to Pipkin, affinity group members sat in on a meeting last December to discuss student publications, which pushed the groups’ concerns to the forefront of SGO’s agenda.
“They were brave enough to come to our meeting,” said Pipkin, “and if someone has the gumption, if someone takes the time to come talk to us in our space, I think it’s only appropriate to respond in kind.”
SGO is in the process of planning a dinner with affinity groups in an effort to foster mutual understanding and dialogue. Affinity groups suggested SGO hold a workshop on student journalism, which would involve hiring a professional to explore writing in a way that’s sensitive to certain audiences but also respectful of the integrity of the work, according to Pipkin. They also suggested a workshop on campus activism, so students know exactly what they can and cannot do while respecting the rules.
“Last year people were punished for how they did their activism with divestment, and people want to better understand what you can and cannot do within current structures,” Pipkin said.
As the Spring semester gets underway, SGO has made concrete progress with the Matchbox, but remains in the beginning stages of its other initiatives.