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Fall Screw: Making a New Swarthmore Tradition

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On Saturday, Oct. 23, kings and queens, pirates, frogs, the sun and moon, Daphne and Fred, and many other creatures and characters all dined in Sharples on blind dates. The much beloved Screw Your Roommate tradition was back in action, but this time it happened the week before Halloween rather than on Valentine’s Day. 

During Screw Your Roommate, roommates or friends set two people up on a dinner date and coordinate a couples costume for them to wear. At the time of the date, the Screw dates meet outside Sharples with all of the other couples and try to find their matching half in the chaos. Once they pair up, they sit down for a meal together. 

Residential Assistants piloted Screw in the Fall 2020 semester to allow first- and second-year students to experience the tradition before most of them left campus for the rest of the academic year as per the college’s COVID-19 regulations. 

This year, Fall Screw returned, with the same goal of introducing people after a year and a half without all students being on campus. On Oct. 6, students were first informed through the Swarthmore 2021-2022 Facebook group that Fall Screw was returning. Alana Ballagh ’22, one of the Screw organizers, posted a screenshot of a fake tweet from rapper Lil Nas X that read “come to fall screw your roommate. oct 23 @ 5:30 pm. meet on sharples patio.”

In an interview with The Phoenix, Ballagh explained her rationale behind organizing Fall Screw this year with her friend Lydia Churchill ’22. 

“Lydia and I are both seniors who weren’t on campus at all last year, which meant when we came back to campus this year, we realized how few people we know/recognize,” she said. “We joked that we could meet new people if we hosted Screw and then realized it was actually really doable to plan.”

In an interview with The Phoenix, Churchill expressed the same sentiment, explaining that hosting Screw would be a good way for other students to branch outside of their close friend groups to get to know other students. 

“Alana and I thought it was a good entryway to having a conversation with someone outside of your circle, as well as meeting others along the matchmaking process,” she said. 

Ballagh explained that Screw involved some planning and approval from the administration. Overall, everyone was optimistic throughout the planning process. 

“We talked to Sharples and OSE just to make sure everything was approved. The only thing was Sharples had to plan to have paper plates,” she said. “Both OSE and Sharples staff were super supportive and really excited! They were excited that students would have the chance to meet one another.”

In an interview with The Phoenix, Frannie Richardson ’23, explained that she had fun on her Screw date dressed as a king and partnered with a queen. She also said that having Screw twice a year was a nice tradition that she hopes the school will continue. 

“I like the idea of having two opportunities to do Screw. There wasn’t the pressure of this one being during Valentines day so it was more lowkey,” she said. 

Richardson believes that the reason Screw is such a well-loved tradition at Swarthmore is because it can help everyone meet someone new. 

“A lot of Swatties can be quite shy. I know I was definitely that way,” she said. “This was the first time I even considered doing Screw and I was really glad I did it. It’s just like a fun, cute, low-key way of getting to know someone new.”

In an interview with The Phoenix, Nataly Rodriguez ’24 also described her experience participating in Screw dressed as a sun who found her moon. 

“I got to meet someone new,” she said. “I think it’s a nice tradition and I think it speaks to what students at Swarthmore are like.”

Churchill emphasized that after over a year of inactivity on campus, reintroducing the tradition of Screw that Richarson and many others find important would not only reconnect the Swarthmore community but also secure the livelihood of long-held Swarthmore traditions. 

“The main driver for Fall Screw was to create an opportunity, through a beloved tradition at Swat, to connect the community,” she said. “[Alana and I] both felt pretty strongly [about] the importance of passing down institutional memory. Again, only half of Swarthmore had ever done Screw, and we did not want that to get lost in the cracks.”

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