In previous years, many students leaving Pub Nite on Thursday evenings have gone to the Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi fraternities to socialize, drink, or cool off before heading back to their dorms.
But for the past two Thursdays, Swarthmore’s fraternities have been turning students away. Their sudden exclusivity is a result of the College administration’s decision to enforce a policy banning parties after midnight on weeknights. While the administration defended its decision to enforce the ban on the grounds that the policy is not new and is in the best interest of the campus community, many students are concerned about the unintended consequences of the decision and the administration’s refusal to communicate their reasoning clearly to the student body.
In an email, Dean of Students Liz Braun wrote that the intent of the party permit policy was to promote the academic success of the student body and that any students who wanted to hear the Dean’s reasoning were welcome to speak with her.
“I would be more than happy to speak with any students that have concerns about our existing policy. I do think this policy is there in order to support all students in being academically successful. If we were to allow parties to go on after midnight on Thursday we would have to have party associates and party hosts who would be responsible for those parties and I worry about the impact that having parties past midnight on Thursday nights creates for not only for those students but for students in the residence halls who are trying to focus on preparing for classes and other academic commitments on Friday,” Braun wrote.
Students, however, questioned whether the decision to enforce the policy would actually make life easier for those studying on Thursday night.
Madeline Williams ’12, an RA in Willets, said that by denying students a popular recreation opportunity after Pub Nite, the change might disrupt hall life and place added burdens on her as an RA.
“I’m concerned about students coming back to the dorms and disrupting the hall environment. Quiet hours in Willets are an issue, and a significant number of students do not attend Pub Nite… I am worried that students post-pub night will come back to the dorms now that late-night party permits cannot be issued,” she said. “It also does place a lot more pressure on the RAs to monitor these students and preserve hall cohesion and order,” she said.
Phoebe Hansen ’12, a DARTeam member, worried that the change would be counterproductive and result in more drinking occurring on campus.
“If the ultimate goal of this rule enforcement is to minimize drinking during the week or on campus in general, I do not think the administration will be successful. As demonstrated this past weekend, the fraternities are introducing a new Friday night scene, [held on a night that was] typically more low-key in the past, to compensate for the Thursday night change,” she said.
Myrt Westphal, Associate Dean of Students, rejected the idea that the administration’s enforcement of the party permit ban will turn Swarthmore into a “three-party-night” campus.
“I don’t think students have three nights to give to socializing. People have papers, lab reports, etc. I don’t think Swarthmore students can afford to go out three nights a week,” she said. And she disagreed with the suggestion that the same level of drinking would go on after Pub Nite regardless of the deans’ decision to enforce the ban.
“If there’s no group impetus to continue partying after midnight, people might know, ok, time to go to bed,” she said.
Westphal said the Deans’ primary concern was for student safety. “We respond to what’s brought to us. If there are hospitalizations, and people are staying up well past midnight, we are going to respond,” she said.
A different worry among students was that the enforcement of the ban would lead to riskier drinking behavior on Thursday nights.
Williams, who is both an RA and a member of DART, said that she worries the decision will encourage unsafe drinking practices. She noted that many dangerous drinking incidents result from irresponsible pre-gaming and expressed worry that, “students might feel the need to “pre-game harder” if they think that there won’t be any options for them post-pub night,” she said.
Tramane Hall, the President of Student Council (StuCo), echoed this point and emphasized that the combination of increased drinking of Friday and more intense pre-gaming on Thursday increased safety concerns.
“You’ve now increased the number of days that parties take place,” he said. “What we’re afraid of is that now there’s an increased risk of things really going wrong.”
Hall was most concerned, however, by the Deans’ failure to announce their decision to the student body.
“I can’t figure out why the powers that be have been so quiet on this issue,” Hall said. Even as StuCo President, he said, “it wasn’t brought up to me. The only reason I knew to bring it up to Student Council was because I’m a member of DU.”
Similarly, RAs were not consulted about or made aware of the change until it had been implemented, although many of them have since communicated with the administration about the issue.
Matt Lamb, the President of DU, said that the administration’s decision not to alert the student body of the change placed the fraternities in the unfair position of having to explain to students a policy they themselves don’t understand. He said that he explicitly asked the administration before the first Pub Nite if an email could be sent out to make students aware of the change in policy, but no email or other form of communication was sent.
Hall, who is also a member of DU, agreed with Lamb. “It’s a little bit unfair that the way this policy has been disseminated puts the burden on us without having the administration first explain the decision and let the student body know,” he said.
Lamb said that he is additionally worried that the administration’s decision will make the fraternities seem more exclusive and less connected to the rest of campus.
“Some of the guys are asking: ‘Why don’t we just have closed parties on Thursday night?’” he said. “It’s too bad, because we enjoy being an open, social space.”
Westphal said that the decision, however, would improve the academic environment at Swarthmore.
“Friday classes are a problem around here. Why is that?” she asked. “One thing people can point to is Pub Nite. People have been burning the candle at both ends for all kinds of reasons, and one of these is Pub Nite.”
“We’re looking for reasonable solutions,” she said, but added that “the administration isn’t going to change the rules to fit the informal culture.”
“Why do we have Pub Nite on Thursday night?” she asked. “Why don’t we have it on Friday night?”