When students arrived on campus this Fall, the status of Swarthmore’s open party scene remained in limbo after the disbanding of fraternities on campus last spring. Now, halfway through Fall 2019, students seeking public parties can find them at Olde Club or Paces, on most Thursday or Saturday nights.
According to Andrew Barclay, Director of Student Activities, there have been a total of 87 parties as of October 26. Of those parties, 31 have been closed wet parties. 32 have been open, public parties hosted by students, eight of which have been wet. OSE has hosted 24 dry parties. The trend towards students hosting closed parties in NPPR apartments also persists.
Open parties are events that all students can attend. Closed parties can be held for a group of students or members of an organization. Wet parties are alcohol registered events that require advance registration and approval of a College Alcohol permit.
In Fall 2018, there were 24 open parties and 37 in Fall 2017. There were 56 closed parties in Fall 2018 and 63 in Spring 2018. The number of open parties held this Fall has already surpassed the total number of open parties in Fall 2018.
Sam Sheppard ’21, a Swat Team member, believes that the party scene that has emerged in the absence of fraternities is better than it was in past semesters because of the shift to more closed parties.
“I think that this semester people are more and more internalizing the fact that if we want to have a thriving party scene at Swat, you know, you need to put the effort in so we’re seeing more and more closed parties that people are throwing for their friends now and people are just tired of being at the mercy of whoever’s going to be hosting that week,” Sheppard said. “Like I said, that has led to a lot more diversity in the party scene on campus now. And it’s like no location is really monopolized when it comes to the party for the week.”
Rose Ridder ’20, Director of Swat Team, initially thought that there would be fewer parties this semester but found that more students were taking initiative to host parties and collaborate with Swat Team.
“Right off the bat, it was clear that we would have parties every night [of the weekend]. Groups were communicating to make sure that they were providing those parties — and really dynamic parties,” Ridder said.
Ridder also believes that the number of parties on-campus is largely influenced by the first-year class in a given year.
“Freshmen have a huge impact on parties and I don’t think they realize it. And each year is super different… It kind of goes in waves,” Ridder said. “One year will be very calm and won’t really go to parties and the next year a lot [of freshmen] will go to parties.”
While not all students attended fraternity events, some students find there to be a lack of parties held regularly on Thursdays and Saturdays this semester.
Maddy Dorr ’21 doesn’t attend parties frequently, but wishes that there were open parties held more consistently and that there were a centralized way for students to find out about them.
“The party scene has definitely gotten worse because they aren’t as regular and nobody knows where they [parties] are or if they’re happening,” Dorr said. “I want it to be an option [to go out every weekend].”
However, students taking on the responsibility of hosting parties face both organizational and financial challenges.
Andrew Huynh ’20 hosted a closed Spooktober party in Olde Club on Halloweekend and treated his closed party as open.
“It was closed in the sense that they weren’t any open permits and there was no Swat Team but like I wasn’t going to kick anyone out,” Huynh said.
Huynh found that the lack of funding for alcohol at his party was an obstacle.
“I think the only kind of concern is sometimes it’s hard to get people to a place if you don’t provide alcohol,” Huynh said. “But you can’t ask people to pay for alcohol because it’s Pennsylvania laws. And if you don’t do that, there’s no real other sources of funding.”
For some students, securing funding can be an important aspect of throwing a public party. For others who have thrown public parties, the logistics of hosting a party can also be challenging.
Grace Dumdaw ’21 hosted ‘Moves and Grooves: A Disco Dream’, a dry public party, with Inna Kimbrough ’21, Patrick McAnally ’21, and Erik-Stephane Stancofski ’21 on October 5 in Olde Club. Dumdaw and her co-hosts struggled with containing the crowd at the party.
“You don’t really know what’s going to happen during the party. Setting up was fine and I had my co-host. We all set up the lights and the strobe and music and stuff. And it was going really well. At one point, I went upstairs and I hadn’t looked at the crowd. I looked back down, and it was packed and it happened really quickly. I don’t think we were prepared for that,” Dumdaw said. “It was just really hard to control a crowd of that size, especially with the equipment [for having a band perform initially] that was involved.”
According to Dumdaw, the challenges of cleaning up and taking down equipment after a band performed were caused, in part, by how students interacted within the party space.
“I don’t know if it’s asking a lot from Swat students to be conscious of the party and the party spaces whenever they’re like, bringing in alcohol and just throwing stuff on the ground or like having bodily functions everywhere,” Dumdaw said. “Just be aware that there are other people just trying to have a good time and some people are sober … listen to the people throwing the party, listen to Swaudio, listen to the hosts, just like having that [and] everything will run more smoothly.”
Not all students who host public parties, however, face challenges with clean-up and set-up. Clayton Meyer ’21 and Gidon Kaminer ’22 [Kaminer is a Phoenix writer but was not involved in the production of this piece] co-hosted the “(21st night of) SEPTEMBER” party on Sept. 21 in Paces.
Meyer and Kaminer first started brainstorming for the party in the summer and planned on having a wet party in September.
“I think we definitely wanted to have alcohol there [at the party] and there’s part of the reason Gidon wanted me to be the co-host,” Meyer said. “I paid it [the alcohol] out of pocket. I mean, ideally, it would be cool if I could get my money back, but it was like boxed wine and beer so it wasn’t too big of a problem.”
For Meyer, the party hosting process ran smoothly. Both cleaning up and working with SwatTeam were straightforward, according to Meyer.
“I think it was, it [hosting party] was less intensive than I expected it to be. Because I was kind of expecting that our time to be watching everyone like a hawk to make sure that everybody was okay,” Meyer said. “There was definitely a sense of if something goes wrong, it’s kind of on us. But we could still hang out with friends and have a little bit of fun while we’re responsible because Swat Team was there to help us out.”
Meyer believes that the process of becoming certified to host a party, setting up, and cleaning up should not deter individuals from hosting parties.
“I guess I would say if people were, you know, worried that it [hosting parties] would be like a lot of work, I would encourage them [to do so].”
Currently, the only regular open wet party on campus is Pub Nite, which has remained a mainstay of the Swarthmore party scene. Pub Nite, which is hosted by the Pub Nite Committee and is occasionally co-hosted by other student groups, is typically held every other week.
Sophie Gray-Gaillard ’20, a Pub Nite officer, cites athletes’ dominance of the party scene as one of the reasons she decided to become a Pub Nite officer.
“So parties have been thrown a lot by like athletic groups and mostly like male athletes [and] athletic teams. And I know that pub in the past has been really associated with mostly like athletic teams and we [Gray-Gaillard and Ingersoll] are two NARPs [non-athletic regular person(s)] …” Gray-Gaillard said. “So we’re really trying to open it up to more people. Honestly, that was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to work with hosting pub… I know I’ve definitely felt ‘like great, another [instance of] men throwing parties or frats throwing parties.’”
According to Pub Nite officers Gray-Gaillard and Maria Ingersoll ’20, wet Pub Nite will be held every other week due to funding constraints as well as logistical complications involved in planning a public wet party.
Even though Pub Nite faces these limitations, according to Gray-Gaillard, turnout for Pub Nite has increased since last spring.
“Last spring, the turnout was pretty poor. I’d say like across the board … For the Pub Nites that we have thrown and the pub that Pride Committee threw, there’s been great turnout …” Gray-Gaillard said.
Ridder, who was a first year in Fall 2015, feels that Pub Nite is no longer as well attended as it was in her previous years at Swat.
“My freshman year, Pub Nite was the place to be. It was fun. It was lively. It was such a varied group of people. It really did capture a sampling of Swarthmore. Now, people don’t understand what Pub Nite was,” Ridder said.
Prior to policy changes in Fall 2014, students utilized a ‘DJ Fund’ to get funding designated for DJs and party supplies. This fund was often used by students and groups to purchase alcohol. After the college eliminated the ‘DJ fund’, the financial burden of purchasing alcohol fell to students.
While Pub Nite is, in part, funded by the college, none of the money that the Pub Nite committee receives can go towards purchasing alcohol for the event. According to Ingersoll, the committee has to think of different ways to fundraise because of laws regarding the sale of alcohol in Pennsylvania.
“… we have to be really careful about the ways in which we fundraise because the state of Pennsylvania as well as Swarthmore, have complicated rules around when you can ask for donations at an event in which there’s alcohol because we [Swarthmore] don’t have a liquor license…so we can’t sell alcohol and we can’t ask for donations at events with alcohol, because it looks like we may be trying to sell alcohol and we also can’t use any of the school’s [funding to buy alcohol] …” Ingersoll said. “So it’s complicated to find and come up with creative ways to fundraise.”
Pub Nite committee accepts donations through Venmo and has fundraised by having students Venmo for participating in dry Pub Quizzo and for song requests.
Dorr also expressed frustration with the fact that the responsibility to purchase alcohol for open parties falls on students.
“I don’t want Pub Nite to die and someone should fund it. Who can fund it besides Swat?” Dorr said. “Clearly, students aren’t stepping up to the challenge [of funding Pub Nite].”
According to Ingersoll, donations are still needed to ensure that Pub Nite can continue throughout the rest of the semester. The next Pub Nite will be held November 14.
As the semester progresses, only time will tell what will occur to the party scene at Swat.