We have just passed the midpoint of October, and there has not been one mention of Bocktober. In fact, it seems like Swarthmore has completely lost its “Bock-culture.” Over the past three semesters, the pandemic has caused the student body to fracture. Though the college ostensibly attempted to give students a level of academic rigor and engagement remotely, it was unable to carry the spirit and culture of Swarthmore College through students’ Zoom screens and email inboxes. Many sophomores had not stepped foot on campus before this semester, and the few that did roamed a campus absent of upperclassmen, normal social spaces, and in-person interactions between students. As a result, many of Swarthmore’s traditions and culture have faded away and are at risk of disappearing altogether. We, The Phoenix Editorial Board, would like to remind the student body of some traditions that have slipped through the cracks of COVID in hopes that we can invigorate those who remember to bring these Swarthmore customs back into the lives of students on campus before it is too late.
First and foremost, let us remember that our current definition and experience of social interactions do not reflect how things were in the past and could be again in the future. We have become so used to talking to each other through screens and microphones that in comparison, current life on campus is as free as can be. It is important to note, however, that our student body is still far from connected. Before COVID, the campus had well-attended events like movie screenings, Parrish Parlor Parties, and plenty of arts and crafts activities (remember Bob Ross Painting Parties?). Now, few such open and dry events are even scheduled, and attendance is dismal. There are close to zero opportunities for inter- and intra-class-year interactions outside of classes, labs, and sports practices.
Another integral aspect of the college was Swarthmore’s meme culture. The (now-archived) Facebook meme page Swarthmore Memes for Quaker Teens was consistently active and reliable as a source of inside jokes that connected Swarthmore students and served as an effective portal for new students to join the community. Jim Bock memes, plans to storm Parrish, and jokes about GAs eating the compost were crucial aspects of the campus lexicon. The page served as a vertebra in the backbone of the student body’s sense of community. Now, many incoming students don’t use Facebook as a platform, and the upperclassmen who used to pass down Swarthmore’s quirks and character through the page have mostly graduated.
What once were annual events that students anticipated are also now absent. Worthstock, the McCabe Mile, and Crum Regatta, for example, have not occurred in over two years. Even juniors in the class of 2023 have yet to experience a single Worthstock, and within a year, only super seniors will have. Additionally, the college’s annual Halloween party in Upper Tarble used to be one of the largest on-campus events every academic year. Halloween is in two weeks, and since the cancellation of Fall Formal, there has been no announcement of a replacement event.
Even the little things that are missing make a big difference. For example, gone is the much-loved evening coffee cart in McCabe, to which hungry students used to swarm while taking study breaks. Additionally, until The Phoenix relaunched last week, no on-campus publications that typically produce print issues had printed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Our list of campus traditions that we miss is likely lacking; the involuntary omission of what were once beloved routines is, too, a product of COVID. The bottom line, however, is that Swarthmore can offer so much more to its students in terms of a cohesive campus community. Though it is true that COVID restrictions still limit us, other colleges have employed their resources to create COVID-friendly facilities for campus-wide activities. Even if we cannot salvage the entirety of the college culture of the past, let’s strive to create new and better traditions that can link us all closer together. The Pterodactyl Hunt is coming up this weekend and is the perfect opportunity for us all to dip our toes into the past and experience what Swarthmore was like two years ago.
What is the status of “The Graduate” screenings? I imagine they are under threat not just from COVID-19, but from ambient cultural factors as well. Plastics!