Students looking to wind down (or turn up) at parties have a few options to choose from, ranging from big open parties at the fraternities and Paces, to more intimate closed parties hosted in smaller spaces. Recently, the conversation about open party spaces vs. closed party spaces has grown more prominent on campus. This distinction has been exacerbated by an increase of closed parties in NPPR, a decrease in attendance of traditionally open parties such as Pub Nite, and increased alcohol policy enforcement by Pub Safe.
When comparing Fall 2016, Fall 2017, and Fall 2018, there is a decrease in the amount of open parties. There were 40 open parties in Fall 2016, 37 in 2017, and 24 in 2018 — a 40% decrease in two years. At the same time, there were 35 closed parties in Fall 2016, 54 in 2017, and 56 in 2018 — a 60% increase.
One factor that is commonly thought to have contributed to the increase of closed parties is the introduction of NPPR, in which students often host closed events in their apartments.
Andrew Barclay, Director of Student Activities, explained that the addition of this new space has affected the party scene.
“New social spaces have been provided (NPPR Apartments and Lodge 3, for example) that impact the type of A.R.E (Alcohol Registered Events) held on campus. Those spaces are predominantly used for closed events,” Barclay wrote in an email.
Cameron Ricciardi ’19, a resident of the NPPR apartments, gets party permits to host closed parties nearly every Saturday.
He appreciates the appealing party space that NPPR provides, but believes that its unique properties don’t make it conducive to open parties.
“Having open parties there would be strange because it still only fits 40 people so if random people are coming, there would just be a line outside our door,” said Ricciardi. “Instead we can just have closed parties where we know everyone, and that kind of matters to me because when you’re hosting an open party you’re taking on all kinds of liabilities, so I kind of like to know who is at the party.”
Since his first year, Ricciardi has noticed a definite decrease in open parties.
“Basically since my sophomore year at any given time one of the two frats has closed, and Pub Nite has changed in that they no longer allow drinking games,” Ricciardi said.
Ricciardi believes that it is logistically more difficult to host open parties than closed parties. Hosts are responsible for many more people, and usually do not know the guests personally. They must also coordinate with Swat Team and Pub Safe before the event.
“I don’t really have much of a desire to host open parties because you take on so much liability, and you have to provide alcohol that’s really expensive, and I just don’t have the desire to fund a party,” he said.
Yasmeen Namazie ’19, who lives in the same NPPR apartment as Ricciardi, much prefers the home venue to other more public offerings.
“I don’t enjoy going to the frats particularly. I like my own home space. I have more control over the environment and it’s just a more comfortable space for me in general,” she said. “Since the party is in my living space, making it an open party would be quite frankly a nightmare. I wouldn’t have that much control or ability to regulate who was coming in or coming out. I certainly have a degree of autonomy when it is a closed party.”
Namazie explained that the dynamics that exist in these closed parties are distinctly different than what can be found at the fraternities.
“It’s more so a space where I can invite people that I’m familiar with and that I have fun with, and not a space where there’s always that sense of discomfort and distance between who is in charge of the space and who is occupying the space,” she said.
Through her years at Swarthmore, Namazie found herself pushed farther away from open parties and more towards closed spaces.
“My freshman and sophomore years I normally would just go to the frats — or if there was some party at Olde Club or Paces. I [eventually] just reached peak disillusionment with going to those parties, not enjoying the space, and feeling uncomfortable and that’s why I made the shift towards having my own parties,” she said.
Namazie believes that there are issues with the current fraternity party dynamic.
“I think are more pertinent, structural systemic issues to get at with drinking culture on campus that are not addressed in the way that public safety conducts its security measures. I think that we’re certainly at a moment right now where conversations about the frats are becoming hostile,” she said. “Since fraternities have a claim to a permanent space, I think there certainly is a dynamic that other social groups are not afforded. I would like to see the college take that into consideration and start more conversations around that.”
Ricciardi explained that part of the reason that the fraternities have a monopoly on the open party scene is that only they have the funds required to host such events.
“I think generally it’s just that money is required to do this sustainably. To actually provide options every weekend requires constant inputs of money, which only the frats have,” he said.
With Pub Nite on the decline, the most reliable and well-attended open events continue to be the parties hosted by the fraternities. According to Tyler Soutendjik ’20, Vice President of Phi Psi, Pub Safe’s new enforcement of alcohol policy has changed how the fraternity hosts parties.
“Phi Psi fraternity used to engage in drinking games at our pre-games before closed and open events. We’ve adapted to the new alcohol policy by ceasing any drinking games and focusing on the main features of our event production (i.e. renovating our bar area, improving our playlists, etc.),” Soutendjik wrote in an email. “Public Safety’s enforcement of the new alcohol policy hasn’t affected our ability to hold open parties because drinking games were never the most attractive aspects of our events.”
Attendance at both open and closed Phi Psi parties has remained mostly the same for the past few years, according to Soutendjik.
“In general there are less people going out on a given Thursday or Saturday night. As a freshman, there were rarely poorly attended events on either night. This could be attributed to lack of funding or participation in events without drinking games,” Soutendjik wrote.
Andrew Barclay has expressed that these statistics might not be significant enough to draw meaningful conclusions.
“Some of the fluctuation from year to year can be attributed to how active specific student groups are during a given semester,” he wrote.
Barclay also mentioned the return of Parish Parlor Parties as another possible factor that might affect the party scene, providing student groups with opportunities to easily host non-alcoholic events that are open and accessible.
Time will tell conclusively what these changes and fluctuations will lead to, but for now students can continue to frequent open and closed parties with the comfort that they will at least, in some form, remain.