As Swarthmore students are settling in and getting used to their class schedules, a general buzz of both excitement and slight panic has ensued. As weekends free up, students have begun looking for ways to spend their free time.
Many students were looking forward to the Fall Formal, initially scheduled to take place on September 25. In an email to students on September 10, Director of Student Activities Andrew Barclay announced that the event has been postponed.
“Given the high transmission rates in and around Delaware County, and in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the College is limiting certain large gatherings based on a variety of different factors, such as the nature of the event, the venue, the amount of people expected, etc,” Barclay wrote. “As a result, the Fall Formal has been postponed until later this year.”
“SGO was not involved in the decision-making process, [they] were just informed that our Fall Formal was no longer happening on our planned date,” SGO President Ariana Azumatan ’22 and Vice President Ramiro Hernandez ’23 wrote in an email to The Phoenix.
Over the last academic year, the college has been strict about COVID-19 policies, especially regarding large gatherings. Though the college has eased restrictions this semester to allow for larger gatherings outdoors, this is the first time an outdoor gathering, for which Swarthmore doesn’t require masks, has been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Barclay explained to The Phoenix that, although the Fall Formal has been canceled, SGO is still working to ensure that some activities that would have been available at the Fall Formal will still be available to students.
“It is undoubtedly challenging to balance COVID-19 protocol with social events. That said, we organized several events over the first weekend after classes. Some were for specific classes, and others were for the entire student body. We are working with SGO to keep some elements of the Fall Formal in place, namely the food trucks, but this is an evolving situation,” he wrote.
“[SGO is] trying to plan a fun event before Fall break; more on that will be announced by [SGO] soon!” Azumatan and Hernandez wrote.
Barclay commented about the possibility of future SGO-organized events involving large gatherings of students.
“It is a bit too early to tell what we will be able to do for [the] Winter Formal.” Barclay wrote.
Azumatan and Hernandez also wrote about other events in their email to The Phoenix. “As far as we know, no other large-scale events have been cancelled/postponed at this time.”
Some students feel that college has not organized enough events for students to meet each other. Lauren Rohde ’25 wrote in an email to The Phoenix that the lack of organized activities has made it difficult to meet her classmates.
“I’ve definitely met less than half [of] my class so far, and I think having more events for us to get to know each other would be really good for us. The nature of [COVID-19] is that you can’t really have large events, but I still wish I knew more people,” she said.
Since the Fall semester began, many have found it difficult to adjust to stringent COVID-19 protocols, especially now that the college is back to maximum residential status with in-person learning. Between August 14 and September 21, there have been twelve positive COVID-19 test results among students and eight positive results among faculty and staff.
As this situation continues to unfold, some students are reassured.
“[I think cancelling is] probably a good decision,” Rohde said. “But [I] also think students have definitely been doing higher-risk things than a school-sanctioned, presumably entirely masked dance would be … The close contact protocol seems like a lot, but I’d also rather have stricter rules than have to go back to doing online school or be sent home.”