Future of Party Scene Remains Uncertain

The weekend after the first week of classes has traditionally been a time when one of the fraternities hosts a “disorientation” party. These parties have had a history of dangerous alcohol use, with a track record of hospitalizations that, similarly to Halloween Party or Worthstock, was cause for alarm, which is why the Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards recommended that disorientation be eliminated.

Though the frats are no more, there were still open parties on the night of Saturday, the biggest ones being a party hosted by numerous sports teams in Worth and a S.A.S.S. party hosted in Olde Club as well several closed parties. The path between Willets and Sharples on the night of Saturday, September 7 was crowded with throngs of students wandering between Worth and Olde Club and to various places in between, uncertain of where the main party of the night is located. This uncertainty was a departure from the nights when the frats were the constant mainstays for partiers.

The events of last year, from the dwindling attendance at Pub Nite to the closing of the frats, will undoubtedly serve as the backdrop of the new Swarthmore party scene this year. 

Frat parties have long been an inevitability, a constant offering one could stumble to with the reassurance that they would be there. Pub Nite has also been such a constant option in the past, ensuring that on any Thursday night there were bound to be at least a few dozen partiers in Paces. Over the course of last year attendance at Pub Nite dwindled and organizers encountered funding issues, reaching a critical point at which people could no longer count on Pub Nite even happening, thus driving attendance down even more. 

With the success of the Coalition Against Fraternity Violence and Organizing for Survivors in leading to the frats voluntarily dissolving, these parties ended as well. In general, even before the dissolution of the frats, the year saw a trend towards more private parties, which the creation of new party spaces in NPPR contributed to. On this unexplored landscape some students are blazing trails to forge a revitalized party scene, and masses of students are scrambling to understand the lay of the land.

Among these are Sophie Gray-Gaillard ’20, Fay Blelloch ’20, Maria Ingersoll ’20, and Nicole Distinto ’21, who have taken upon themselves the task of revitalizing Pub Nite, to ensure that at least one night a week (Thursday), there will be a safe and reliable environment for students looking to party in a regular location on a weekly basis. 

Ingersoll explained the problems that Pub Nite has faced in the past, and how the quartet plan to address these issues.

“In the past couple years, Pub Nite has struggled with two things: funding and attendance,” she said. “Funding is hard because we cannot purchase alcohol with any money from the school, and the rules are complicated around soliciting donations at events with alcohol. We really rely on the virtue of our peers to give us the monetary capabilities to purchase that keg of natty [Natural Light] and those boxes of Franzia for each party.”

Gray-Gaillard expounded on the monetary issue, agreeing with Ingersoll:

“Getting enough funding will probably be our biggest challenge this year. However, we hope that with the help of student and alumni donations and a few fundraising events that we have planned, we will be able to bring back Pub Nite in full force.”

Ingersoll explained that the amount of student donated money available to is dependent on how much people donate and when they donate.

 “At this point in time, we have enough money to throw about two and a half pub nites, without removing the funds used to pay for the one this coming Thursday,” she said. “We hope that people continue to donate throughout the semester as we advertise for more parties, so that we don’t have to cancel for lack of funds.”

The Pub Nite committee is currently accepting donations through their Venmo, @pubnite.

In addition to problems with funding, there is also the attendance issue, which Ingersoll explained as well.

“Attendance has dwindled in the past couple years due to one huge factor: the crack down on drinking games,” she said. “This year, we are working closely with OSE staff to get water pong to Pub Nite. We believe that being able to provide alcohol and games (where there is no pressure to drink) in a controlled environment is important to the social scene at Swarthmore because it allows for some level of supervision that is simply not possible when drinking and drinking games are forced behind closed doors in dorm rooms.”

Ingersol’s concern comes up in many discussions about the party space, the claim that increased enforcement at parties coupled with decreased public party opportunities drives parties towards the more insular, private end of the spectrum, where such rules are not enforced.

Gray-Gaillard spoke of this trend as well.

“With the closure of the frats, we are anticipating parties moving into dorm rooms and being closed events,” she said. 

The four organizers are eager to hear opinions and advice from anyone. Gray-Gaillard expressed optimism for the future of Pub Nite, end emphasized its importance as a part of the Swarthmore social scene.

“We are really hoping to offer a safe, inclusive party space for all students at Swarthmore and to carry on the Swarthmore tradition we all love so much.”

The first Pub Nite of the year, a “back-to-school themed” event, will occur on Thursday, September 12, at 10:00 p.m. in Paces.

For many people curious about what the party scene might look like, the first piece of information came in the form a Facebook poll posted by Grace Dumdaw ’21 in the Swarthmore College 2019-2020 group on August 24. Dumdaw’s poll asked “What do you want Swarthmore parties to be like? Feel free to add your own options.” 

The poll garnered almost 600 non-unique responses, proof of the interest in this subject among the 1000 or so members of the Facebook group. The options, which were mostly added to the open poll by other users, ranged from the most popular “a fuck ton of dancing” to “themes that people stick to” to “more spaces for talking, standing” and “things to do beyond dancing.” 

Dumdaw is not currently involved in any official capacity in any initiatives to revitalize the party scene, but she was inspired to reach out to the student body to find out what kind of parties people would like to attend in the future, and plans to throw a “pilot” party based on the information, which she has been planning alongside Inna Kimbrough ’21, Patrick McAnally ’21, and Erik-Stephane Stancofski ’21. 

Like many others, Dumdaw has been disheartened by the state of the party scene and expressed concern with the trend towards private parties. She is hoping to change it for the better and wants to maintain the welcoming dynamics of large open parties.

“There are definitely people who don’t have large groups of friends throwing private parties, people who just want to flail about and dance, and there are incoming freshmen who won’t know upperclassmen and won’t have parties to attend unless we heal Swarthmore’s party culture. Someone has to try to initiate this healing so we can all at least say that we tried.”

The party, “Moves and Grooves: A Disco Dream,” will take place on October 5th in Olde Club. 

“For now, I just want to see how this first party will go. After seeing people interact with this poll, I think I want to see more of a … democratic process in party planning,” said Dumdaw. “I just hope that people from all corners of the campus can just come together to dance their stress away on a regular-ish basis … I just hope people bring the energy.”

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