Roasting smores, screening a horror movie, seeing the Fairly OddParents and even a spotted lanternfly: Halloween was a particularly busy day in a semester marked by strict regulations and Zoom meetings. Although traditional Halloween celebrations on campus are not possible because of the Garnet Pledge, the Residential Assistants on campus wanted to make the best of the holiday and the festivities that come with it. Their solution: Screw.
“Screw Your Roommate” — more commonly known as “Screw” — was moved from its usual home on Valentine’s Day to Halloween night in order to give first years and sophomores on campus a chance to experience the tradition.
In addition to the traditional dinner at Sharples, various Halloween-based activities were set up around campus by the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), independent of Screw. Friends and dates were not limited in their options across campus, whether they wanted to indulge their sweet tooth or get their Halloween adrenaline pumping.
Students could take advantage of pumpkin painting and leaf printmaking under Parrish Tent, an outdoor screening of Jordan Peele’s Us on Clothier Lawn, a pizza giveaway donated by Renato’s and Swarthmore Pizza, a costume photo booth contest along with socially distant group photos, a firepit by Sharples that offered the chance to roast fresh smores together, and finally, a silent disco on Parrish Beach.
Hannah Watkins ʼ21, an RA in Willets, organized the event. (Watkins is a CJ editor for The Phoenix and was not involved in the production of this article).
“I decided to move [Screw] because I worry about the feeling of isolation that freshmen are experiencing, and also the fact that this year’s freshmen are on campus without upperclassmen,” Watkins said. Watkins told The Phoenix that she wanted to let the freshman go home with a memorable Swarthmore experience.
“I first had the idea back in September, when I was thinking about things that the freshmen were missing out on. I was thinking about how Screw Your Roommate already involves costumes, so why not do it on Halloween?” Watkins said. “I wanted the freshmen to go home and have at least one cool, weird college tradition that they had participated in during their time here. “
Watkins sent information about Screw in an email on October 14, then followed up a week later on the 21st. In order to participate, students would be required to fill out a form with necessary information such as their pronouns, hobbies, and their romantic preferences. Because people on campus have no roommates, the RAs organizing Screw used these forms to pair students together. The costumes, usually picked by the roommates to match with their dates, were chosen by the students themselves, and their date was told what to look for.
Due to the small number of on-campus students, there were some logistical problems. 168people signed up, which, though a lot, made pairing difficult.
“When you factor in the diversity of sexual orientations and genders, it was a huge organizational challenge to make sure everyone who wanted a romantic date actually got one. Interests and hobbies were second to getting the date that you wanted, and there weren’t enough people to make sure that everyone both got the date they wanted and compatible hobbies and interests,” Watkins said about the pairings.
Miranda Kashynski ’24 found that she spent most of the time before signing up for Screw thinking about whether to choose a romantic or platonic date.
“I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, so I did not have to think about whether or not to sign up,” Kashynski told The Phoenix.
Her costume, a cow onesie, was something she already had with her and did not require much planning. Kaszynski saw quite a few memorable costumes on her platonic date.
“Someone was a spotted lanternfly … I definitely saw the Fairly OddParents, so that was cool. There were a lot of kids in food costumes … [and] I had a friend who was Neville Longbottom.” she recalled.
Madeline Clay ʼ24 requested to be matched romantically with a woman and found that her date had very little in common with her on the form; the information about each person’s date was given to them when they were told to make a dinner reservation.
Other students, even those who requested dates with people of the opposite gender, also had some issues with compatibility. Though some students ended up matching with peers who were one or two grades above or below them, they agreed that it was still a pleasant experience.
Shadae Chambers ʼ22 was matched with a first year student.
“We had a good conversation. It wasn’t awkward at all … he just wasn’t my type per se,” Chambers said.
Clay found that a lack of common interests with her date did not equate to a less meaningful connection during their time together. In fact, she did not think that it had any ability to detract from her markedly positive experience.
“I loved my date … I had a great time. I mean, it goes to show that just because you don’t have a whole lot of interests on the Google Doc in common, [it doesn’t mean your date will go badly] … I think she’s really great, and I’m really happy that we got set up,” Clay said.
Her successful Screw match led to an enjoyable conversation after dinner.
“I knew that there were a lot of events going on, but, pretty much, we had dinner and then hung out a little bit,” she said.
All things considered, Chambers reflected positively on her experience with Screw that Halloween night.
“I wasn’t expecting [the College] to have something so big for Halloween, so it was actually a good night … I had fun.” Chambers told The Phoenix.
When asked whether or not she would participate in an event like this again, she responded that she would. Similarly, Clay had a great night.
“It was awesome. It was one of my favorite nights on campus since I’ve been here, not just because I had a really great date but also because the energy on campus [felt more] … like a normal college day as opposed to [the] COVID modified college [days],” Clay said.
Clay said that she would remember Halloween night fondly.
“It was a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t for a romantic connection, it’s just really cool to have the opportunity to meet someone who you normally don’t run in the same circles with …”
Kashynski shared a similar sentiment, expressing that she finally felt a sense of community on campus like never before.
“It was cool to see everyone, at least on campus, gathered in the same place, because I think up until that point we hadn’t had a gathering like that,” Kashynski said.
To her, it felt almost akin to what she expects a normal, non-COVID college experience to be like.
“[Sharples] was full, everyone was talking to each other, looking around the room, looking at people’s costumes … I had never seen the room that full or loud and excited. A little taste of what Sharples hopefully usually is,” she said.
Watkins herself visited Sharples Halloween night to see Screw in progress and was welcomed by the lively aura.
“When I walked through Sharples, it was full of conversation for the first time I’ve heard all semester, and it almost felt normal. It was a really good feeling,” she said.
Overall, though the absence of a friend setting up the pairs led to some complications in finding others with similar interests, Screw Your Roommate 2020 was a success, and a chance for students to experience a Swarthmore tradition and have a rewarding experience evocative of that normal college life to which we will one day return.