Swarthmore students will be returning to the dance floor for the SGO Spring Formal, otherwise called Swat Prom, on Saturday, March 26, at 10 p.m. The decision to bring back the formal comes amid a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, now allowing alcohol-registered events to take place. The initial COVID-19 restrictions resulted in the cancellation of Fall Formal during the Fall 2021 semester, as the college tightened its policies to limit large gatherings in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
Many students are excited over the return of campus traditions, especially as some fear that COVID-19 has erased many of those deeply-held traditions. In an interview with The Phoenix, Juna Saito ’25, who plans on attending the Spring Formal, explained that, while students must still be mindful of COVID-19 in their everyday lives, it is still possible to hold events and activities in a safe way.
“As much as I recognize COVID as an issue that should be taken seriously, I think that at some point we will have to return to normal even with the threat of COVID still hanging over our heads. If we can learn how to do that safely, then that would be fantastic,” she said.
Other students, like Cedric Christensen ’24, acknowledged that although it might be difficult for students to experience what Swarthmore was like before COVID-19, they appreciate that students are working hard to rebuild the traditions and events that bring the campus community together.
“I’m not sure if there’s ever going to be a true return to normal, and I’ve never had the opportunity to really see normal since I was still in high school when COVID started, but I think that it’s a good sign that people are starting to engage in collective activities on campus outside of academics,” he said. “COVID has undeniably done damage to the campus culture, but it’s great to see that students are willing to put time and energy into organizing these events to try and rebuild. I hope that events like this and Worthstock receive as much backing as possible, both from the student body and from the administration.”
The yearly formals hosted by SGO have historically taken place in Upper Tarble, but the upcoming formal will now be located on the third floor of the Matchbox. Because most parties are conventionally held in Paces or in a more centrally-located area on campus, students expressed confusion that the Spring Formal would be held in the Matchbox. Nevertheless, Christensen tried to imagine what SGO formal planners had in mind when they chose the Matchbox as their location.
“I was definitely a little surprised when that space was announced. I imagine that it’s a challenge for the organizers to gauge the attendance of the event, so I get why they might have had to go with the Matchbox to balance having the right sized space while also juggling COVID restrictions,” he explained.
Some students like Saito explained that even though the Matchbox is not usually used for dances and parties, it might provide a good environment for students to experience a traditional school dance.
“I’ve only ever been [on Matchbox third] for balance tests, but it feels like high school where dances happen in the school gymnasium. I personally never had that experience, so it will be funny if it ends up feeling like the movies,” she said.
Despite confusion over the location choice, voices within SGO are hopeful that the Matchbox will provide a change of scenery and have benefits that students might not otherwise experience. In an interview with The Phoenix, SGO Senator-At-Large and Student Life Committee member Olivia Marotte ’24 commented on the potential benefits of holding the formal in the Matchbox.
“Matchbox third is a sleek and spacious location which will allow for plenty of dancing,” she said. “Although some have expressed surprise at this choice of location, I believe that its positioning at the edge of campus will allow for students to detach themselves from academics and other mundane activities and be able to fully enjoy their experience at Swat Prom.”
The Spring Formal will feature many activities, including dancing, music, photo booths, and more. Marotte explained that throughout the planning process, SGO is working hard to ensure that the formal is fun and inclusive for all.
“SGO members have all been contributing to a collective playlist for the event. There’s no music theme, but we will be playing all of the Swarthmore fan favorites, as well as songs that may not be included in the typical Swarthmore party scene. We’re trying to be inclusive in our music choice and all our activities that we have planned for the night, as Swat Prom is open to all students,” Marotte explained.
Regarding the inclusivity of the event, Saito commented that she is grateful for the ability to attend events that all students are invited to participate in, but she believes that holding the formal outdoors may make the event more inclusive to students who do not feel comfortable in an indoor party environment.
“With the fact that we’re a small school, I like that we have school-wide traditions that anyone can partake in,” she said. “I personally would be more likely to attend if it were being held outdoors because the Prom could still happen but include those who feel less safe in a party environment indoors.”
To clear up any confusion about the dress-code for the formal, Marotte explained that although students are encouraged to wear formal attire, there’s no official dress code; students should wear whatever they feel most comfortable dancing in.
Christensen explained that he plans to dress formally for the occasion, wearing a brown suit, black tie, and white dress shirt. Saito, on the other hand, is undecided on her attire but is thinking of wearing a long dress that she has left over from Halloween.
As students begin their preparations for the formal, many are reflecting on their times at Swarthmore dances before COVID-19. In an interview with The Phoenix, Andie Kapiloff ’23 explained that the last formal she attended was in the Spring 2020 semester, and she is looking forward to revisiting the experience of pre-COVID-19 student life.
“I’m so excited to relive my Swat formal glory days again,” Kapiloff reflected.