Over one hundred debaters will be descending on the Swarthmore campus this afternoon for Peaslee’s annual novice tournament, which features mostly freshmen. Last year the novice tournament party resulted in three citations for underage drinking (for students from the University of Maryland and Princeton) and significant vandalism, including one student who urinated on a door.
Last year’s spring tournament, for veteran debaters, went off without any problems. That said, Peaslee is changing party policies this year in order to prevent a repeat.
Alex List ’09, Housing Director for the debate society, says that the vandalism “created a bad reputation for us on campus… it clearly did have an effect because it was harder to find housing this year than ever before.” She reported that “even freshmen had heard rumors about debaters.”
Similar incidents have happened at other schools, but List explains that “Swarthmore is renowned on the APDA [American Parliamentary Debate Association] circuit for the quality of our parties.” At larger schools, “they just take us to a bar or another party on campus… they also put us in houses or off-campus housing, so there’s not as much damage caused to private property.”
Swarthmore’s permissive alcohol policies also clash with students who don’t necessarily understand our alcohol culture. List explains that for the novice freshmen debaters, “this is often their first experience at a place with moderate alcohol policies… it’s a unique social situation for the freshmen to be in. They’re trying to impress the older members of their teams and they’re away from their home campus so they think there won’t be any consequences.”
In order to keep students safe, List said, “we’re not going to have hard alcohol… we’ll have beer, wine coolers, Bacardi Breezers and things like that.” The party will be staffed with extra PAs, and “you cannot come into our party if you are already drunk… we’re emphasizing communication and I need to know everything that happens.”
The housing policy has also changed so that teams will take responsibility. “We are assigning specific schools to specific halls, so by default you are responsible to any damage caused in the hall.” If the individual responsible cannot be determined, the responsibility falls to the debate team, which will have to pay damages plus one hundred dollars.”
Lastly, “we have a one strike policy, so if you cause any problems you can’t debate with us again… we’re very serious about this and we really don’t appreciate them disrespecting our campus.”