Party Scene Continues to Evolve

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.

“Jeff” ’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,” Jeff said.

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,” Jeff 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.


  1. I feel like this piece is not representative of how students are feeling about the party scene at all.

    Ask anyone on campus: the party scene is awful now. There is barely one event a night and the same guys host parties…they just don’t call themselves fraternities anymore. Let’s be honest (and this is from someone who supported ending the fraternity leases at the time), the system worked because there were two groups on campus willing to pay for everyone else and host open events each weekend. Not defending the frats, but I don’t think people (including myself) realized the extent of what would change when the frats disbanded.

    Until the school changes their alcohol and event policy in a significant way and start prioritizing student life, students will continue to feel disenchanted with Swat party life and thats the real truth to this all unfortunately.

    • Yeah but like what did people think was gonna happen?… Swarthmore can’t change their policies. The funding issue is a state law. Like if you didn’t like the frats before then just don’t go? But at least they cleaned up like 12,000 cups of beer a weekend and spent a ton of money for kids in an honest attempt for other people and themselves to have fun. But no… people just wanna see everything burn in the name of “justice” at this school 😒

  2. What we need is a Eugene M. Lang fund for Student Life. Eugene Lang’s estate or whatever donates $100 a week, which we use to buy a keg of Keystone and three boxes of Franzia for a weekly open party, on Thursday or Saturday. $100 means nothing to Eugene Lang (also because he’s dead), but it would completely revitalize the party scene at Swat.

    • You should just hit him up, I’m sure he’s not busy! I should warn you though, he’s a pro-frat guy…

    • As a recent alum, I understand your frustrations and would be willing to chip in monthly to some fund. However, you don’t have to be unkind to a Lang as a person to drive your point, friend.

    • hmm… get rid of the frat Eugene Lang was a member of, which provided parties to the entire campus through their own funding, and then ask him to provide funding for other groups to throw parties for the whole campus. Great plan!

  3. I am only commenting this because it seems like the author isn’t aware of it— this article very clearly centers white people and white experiences. Comparing to a status quo with frats ignores the fact that for the vast majority of students of color the fraternities were never an option for a party space. It’s fine to make an article that centers white experiences or whatever, I would just like to see that the writer (or writers) is/are aware of what they are doing.

    • This I get, but also you have to understand that this wasn’t the concern within the scope of the series of articles tracking the specific scene at Swat, which is heavily white like you said. I believe there could potentially be another article for your point, but let’s not patronize the author…

  4. This is the least surprising news of all-time…what did you think would happen? Someone would magically appear and fund every single thing you do? Money can be exchanged for goods and services, and alcohol is a good that costs money, crazy concept for some swatties apparently. You had two student groups who took all the financial burden and responsibility to throw consistent parties and you forced them out, yet now complain that no one throws parties. Hypocrisy at its finest.

  5. Here me out on this: what if a group of people who love hanging out together and throwing parties decide to chip in and form a budget, say by paying some form of payment or “due” every semester. And this group will still have to adhere to all swat policies, like getting host trained, working with swat team and pubsafe, meeting with OSE weekly, cleaning and providing suitable spaces for events, etc. This way, we have an experienced group of hosts who know the party scene and swats policies inside and out and can provide regular parties to everyone! Hmmm, now where oh where could we find a group like that…

  6. Of course this article was written. Without frats, the Phoenix has no content. The party scene on campus sucked before. Without the frats, it’s even worse. Sorry freshmen, hope you like doing homework on Saturday nights because there’s nothing else to do.

  7. Lol @ the comment about people treating party spaces poorly. Acting like people treated the frats with any bit of respect. Welcome to hosting parties guys! People don’t care and it’s your job as hosts to clean it up. People were so quick to gang up on the frats last spring after attending their parties. Yet none of them were there on Sunday with the rest of the brothers to clean up the mess…

  8. Yeah, I loooooovvvvveeeeeee having parties with ~10 people standing around doing nothing with a milliliter of beer. Yup, it definitely is “evolving” for sure. Maybe, people need to realize that frats were actually willing to spend like $500 a week for alcohol, countless hours cleaning other people’s trash. Plus, they were OPEN for everyone. Take notes: Don’t take other peoples effort and monetary investment into your social life for granted.

  9. The same people that hated fraternity parties did these three things:
    A – Never went to a fraternity party
    B – Believe that getting hammered and high as shit with their 2 friends in their room is “fun” and the kind of “fun” everyone else should be trying to have and
    C – Want to try and tell you that the way “parties” are now is fun, actually like college, and better than before.

    So my question is, does anyone else not see an issue with that? Doesn’t necessarily mean being back the frats, but c’mon, who did you all give credence to? Some hypocrites.

    • First, your comment displays a lack of understanding that people who had experienced harm in the fraternities had to have attended fraternity parties to have had those experiences. Students didn’t build a blind vendetta against the institutions, and its disrespectful of you to erase this.
      If you’re claiming that people hanging out with their friends in their room are trying to tell you how to party, consider the monopoly that fraternities had on social life in previous years; they controlled the space, the music, the theme, etc. That is another form of telling people how to party…

      I think what the removal of greek life has done for this campus has challenged students to take new initiative into throwing/hosting/planning parties that they really want to see! Change is hard and understandably slow, but change is necessary. Culture and expectations must change, and this is not something that should be bemoaned, rather it should be seen as a golden opportunity to make out social scene richer. The comments raised in this article about people treating party spaces poorly and not respecting the work put in by hosts does need to be addressed. Party culture changing means understanding the burden that hosts play and respecting it, but not shying away from that burden.

      • @Your Name: Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.

  10. I don’t think the school understands exactly what they did by taking the fraternities away. The school is damaging students mental health by not allowing anything fun to happen. It is not reasonable to expect students to go through the grind of academic life and have nothing fun to do. On top of that, fewer people are going to apply to swat now and the quality of students will decrease. I hope someone sees this and attempts to change something.

    • Maybe though.. just maybe… did you ever think about sexual harassment survivors that have to deal with traumas that they experienced in frat houses? I think Netflix has some new shows for “fun”.

      P.S. quality of students does not equate to quality of parties? Am I missing something here?

      • Love that replacement, we’ll just use all our free time for Netflix! What a suggestion, should have thought of that… that will be so satisfying!

        And you have the progression backward:

        1. Good, well-rounded student body who likes to party once or twice a week is stripped of a decent way to do so.
        2. Well-rounded, fun students start to drop out. Reputation as lamest school on the east coast grows, less applicants apply.
        3. Many top applicants who may have applied in prior years no longer apply, academic reputation declines. Acceptance rate jumps to 30%.
        4. School festers into liberal cesspool. Student body grows less and less impressive, parties suck, students suck.

        There was probably a better way to lay this out than numbers but maybe you still get the point, Netflix.

  11. As a freshman, I really hope this school figures something out or brings the frats back. The party scene is terrible and I will transfer if nothing happens here.

  12. Honestly the social life at swarthmore is effectively that of a boarding school. I have told every prospective student that has come to me not to go to swat. This isn’t out of spite, this is out of genuine concern. I am understanding that college is a big decision. I am understanding of the fact that if someone can go to a different school, leave with comparable job prospects, and actually enjoy themselves, then they should. Swarthmore needs to understand that transfer rates and/or enrollment is going to impacted if nothing changes.

    Either that or this place is going to fill up with even more wackos that a normal individual wouldn’t even think of associating with.

    Swarthmore is not “special”, swarthmore is not “different”, swarthmore is turning into an actual joke.

    • Calling your fellow students ‘wackos’ for not wanting to party in a fraternity environment and claiming that you, as a ‘normal individual[s] wouldn’t even think of associating with’ them is no way to foster good a social scene.

      Your dismissive attitude towards social prospects is what is turning this college into a ‘joke’; take this open environment as an opportunity, stop alienating yourself from your community!

      As a ‘wacko’ I’d be happy to talk with you about it but seeing as you dont want to associate, its hypocritical to call us ‘wackos’ the problem.

      • I wish I could downvote this but it’s at 0… look, you’re so brave for using your real name, but I think you’re showing off. You want to be seen as the authority on fostering a good social scene. That’s fine, clout is cool. But I’d like to clear this up. For the sake of explaining, let’s define “normal people” as socially outgoing people who attended fraternity parties, and “wackos” as the other students who don’t prefer traditional college parties.

        Formerly, the normal people had their big parties and enjoyed going to them. These were normally at a fraternity. The wackos were always welcome to come to these parties, but chose not to, maybe because they were intimidated by them. Which would be pretty normal, given that the wackos are generally more introverted. They did not offend the normal people by not going to the parties, but we’d come to find that they were in fact offended by the normal people. Note that the wackos wielded the power to throw their own parties, but rarely chose to do so.

        I’m going to skip what happens in the middle here because my take on it would potentially be seen as insensitive. But what do I know, anyway? I was only at 95% of frat parties these past few years, I’m sure you’ve walked by the frats a few times and heard stories and have a much better grasp on what they were up to. Fast forward…

        Now, the normal people are frustrated because they don’t have parties to go to. They’re limited to small, closed parties, which have been spun by some wackos as actually being more inclusive than the old parties. Which is simply not true, the inaccuracy of these claims cannot be overstated. And the wackos are happy because now the normal people have to party like them. So basically not at all. Excessive binge drinking and increased drug usage ensues around campus. The wackos are in the same situation but for some reason very satisfied, and half the student body wonders how their final four years of freedom has come to this.

        Hope that clears up some of these frustrations. Sorry for referring to your perceived group as “wackos” but us normal people have it really tough right now. This place sucks lol.

  13. Oh so gathers the comments of the disgruntled party bois of Swarthmore. Maybe rather than commenting on this harmless piece of work, actually think back about why all these parties were banned in the first place. Love all.

    • Party bois matter too, Stephanie. Though I think it’s clear that it’s not just a select group of white, privileged, male “party bois” who are posting these comments, given some of them have 100+ upvotes and virtually all others have 0. I know upvotes aren’t everything, but it’s crystal clear that these frustrations stem from more than a group of “disgruntled party bois”. “Disgruntled student body” seems more appropriate.

      It’s difficult to reflect on why these parties were banned in the first place since the real events that were shared at the onset of this anti-frat movement have become convoluted with about 100 or so false/grossly exaggerated events.

      Lastly, your tone is very condescending, and for that I will be hiring Swatties named Stephanie no more. And I encourage other party bois to do the same.

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