Swarthmore is a challenging place academically. We all know this: we grumble about it, we take pride in it, and we chose to come here because of it. As students, we expect to put in the long hours, become a little too comfortable with living in libraries, and get that nerdy enjoyment out of our favorite classes. Despite this, or really because of this, it is equally important for the campus to have a healthy work-life balance, and for a lot of students that involves unwinding and going to a party with friends on the weekend.
However, due to several new (and old) college policies, this can often be more challenging than is perhaps fair to students. For the first two weekends of this semester, all Alcohol Registered Events (AREs) — which are most often parties — were outright banned. All Swatties support concerns such as safety, ensuring individuals do not overdrink, and making students (especially first years) feel comfortable at social events. But the solution of simply banning parties for the first few weeks is not a fair or sensible one. Students are back on campus after a long summer, seeing friends and catching up, and trying to make the most of those rare couple of weekends when it doesn’t yet feel like you are behind in classwork. Going out to a party to celebrate these things should be easy and accessible. It should not be some secret activity in a dorm basement with everyone listening out for the dreaded, and often inevitable, PubSafe knock. Importantly, such underground, unregistered events also increase the likelihood of overdrinking and unsafe environments.
Moving beyond those first two weekends, party access on campus is a persistent problem due to Swarthmore’s small size and administration restrictions. While there are many reservable areas in and outside of dorms, parties in these spaces are not allowed to run later than midnight, per OSE rules. The cut-off is an even earlier 10 p.m. for the NPPR deck and terrace, and in a new development, events in Worth courtyard (a traditional Swat party space) have been prohibited over noise concerns for the surrounding residential area. It is understandable that students not out partying do not wish to have the music taste of the masses filtering in through their windows when trying to sleep, and, in all honesty, many students don’t wish to party in the lounge of their hallway or be the reason other students are kept awake.
The solution to this problem is party spaces located away from dorms, of which we do have two: Paces and Olde Club. All of last year and continuing through the beginning of this semester, Olde Club has been closed for renovations. Paces is usually available for reservation, except for this coming weekend when it is unavailable due to its current temporary function as a storage space. On your average weekend, this leaves only one option (Paces) for every student group at Swarthmore looking to host a party that is permitted to run to 2 a.m., and this coming weekend, not even that one option is available.
The OSE is very open to talking with students to try and work towards a compromise that still allows parties to be hosted past midnight, and we really do appreciate the staff for this. But these week-by-week solutions do not address the underlying problem: Swarthmore does not provide students with enough options to host campus-wide AREs over the weekend. There are many buildings on campus with the capacity to host large events; steps just need to be taken on the side of the administration to make these available to students. The issue does not seem to be of particular high priority for the college, despite its importance among large sections of the student body.
Discussions of mental health and finding the right work-life balances are rife on the Swarthmore campus. For many students, their preferred choice of relaxing and de-stressing after a week of Swat classes is to have a few drinks (if they are of age) and go out dancing with their friends on a Saturday night. However, the current web of OSE and handbook rules effectively make indoor campus-wide parties almost impossible to host, or at least these hurdles make it seem that way. We understand the need for reasonable restrictions and compromises, but it currently feels like the scales have been tipped further than is fair from the interests of students wishing to party on a Friday or Saturday night. Perhaps it is time for a bit of a rebalancing.