The Collapse of Sarah Lawrence Social Life

What our parties used to look like, and how we can move forward. 

In March 2005, senior class presidents Voltaire Casino and Lora Seery emailed the Sarah Lawrence student body to announce the end of the Coming Out Dance. Beginning in 1989, scantily clad revelry and sexual celebration had filled Bates hall every fall. However, Casino and Seery wrote, “The event has become a massive drinking party, having little to do with sexuality or community.”

“The rapid increase of drug and alcohol abuse has reached a dangerous level and must be curtailed,” the presidents decreed. This message marked an exasperated administrative shift in security policy. The year before, Sarah Lawrence began requiring party registration, increasing tension between worried administrators and students eager to gather. An SLC alum (who started at the school in 2001 and preferred not to be named), said of the 2003-04 changes, “Previously, security’s main purpose was to protect students, and after that their main purpose was to police students.”

This alum describes security in her day: “My first Sarah Lawrence party, I was handcuffed to the banister of AC 6. I had just turned 18. I had electrodes strapped to my stomach, one girl holding my cigarette, because you could still smoke in dorms, and another girl holding a bottle of champagne from which I was occasionally drinking. Security walked in, looked around; there are half-naked people everywhere. I’m an 18-year-old handcuffed to the banister, clearly drinking. He goes, ‘Guys, you got two noise complaints,’ and he looks at me and goes, ‘Are you okay?’ I say, ‘I’m great!’ And so he goes, ‘Have fun kids!’ and he leaves.”

This scenario occurred her freshman year, fall of 2001. For security to shut a party down, they needed to hear three noise complaints from three different people. The year before, sophomores were guaranteed singles and beer was sold in the pub. In many ways, Sarah Lawrence was an enclave of both intimacy and freedom.

The Coming Out Dance and Sleaze Week were legendary affairs. In an article titled “‘Pedophilia Art’ in the Classroom”, Women’s Quarterly reported, “At Sarah Lawrence College during ‘Sleaze Week,’ students were exhorted to ‘tighten their strap-on’ and ‘put on their favorite g-string’ for a dance complete with ‘whatever turns you on.’”  In 2001, a crowd in Reisinger participated in a hands-on female ejaculation workshop (I’ll leave the details up to your vivid imagination).

Earlier that fall, adventurous Nerve columnist Grant Stoddard and his compatriots attended the Coming Out Dance out of “journalistic obligation.” Stoddard’s friend Brian posted photos and commentary, still thankfully alive online. “Okay, so it’s like midnight, the dancehall’s filled with probably close to 800 people (90% women) and all of a sudden, all of the girls start taking off their clothes and dancing around topless and/or naked,” Brian writes on his blog. Scroll down, and you’ll see some “Straight Up Fucking” on the dancefloor.

Even with 2012’s comparatively tame social scene, we still deal with drug and alcohol-related hospitalization. The evolution of administrative priorities, class division, and a general change in college culture (binge drinking has increased across the nation) resulted in the Sarah Lawrence culture we know today..

In 1998, SLC hired former president Michele Myers to better Sarah Lawrence’s reputation and to increase funding. Presumably, donors were wary about giving money to a campus filled with drug and Foucault-fueled sexual deviants.

She didn’t need to do much, until 12 students went to the hospital during the 2002 Coming Out Dance. According to the anonymous alum, this was due to a disruption in the chain of drug dealers on campus. The head drug dealer had one rule: “If you get caught, you say you got your drugs in the city.” This applied to both under-dealers and clients. Simple.

The network functioned beautifully, until Freshman Dealer sold 12 ecstasy pills to his peers. They were cut, a fact he neglected to tell the unsuspecting freshmen. The 12 rolling teens went to the hospital, and each turned on their source. Freshman Dealer, in turn, told on the kingpin of Sarah Lawrence’s drug operation.

This violation of trust resulted in the “Freshman Embargo.” SLC’s coalition of drug dealers refused to sell to any freshman until after winter break. They wanted to teach a lesson then revisit the issue when everyone returned. But, “We woke up one morning to find every tree on campus stapled with a sign that said, “Green is for everybody! Stop the Freshman Embargo!” the anonymous alum says. “It made the school hyper-aware of the fact that there were still dealers on campus, which started another crackdown.”

Upperclassmen resented freshmen for their immature actions, and freshmen lost the benefit of knowledge from experienced drinkers and drug-doers. How were the fresh-out-of-high-schoolers to know when 10 shots was too much? How could they judge whether their city-purchased E was laced with meth? This division between Sarah Lawrence classes meant increased alcohol poisoning and thus, heightened security.

Sleaze Ball was cancelled after spring 2006. “This wasn’t without reason;” Joe Lazauskas ’10 says, “the Sleaze Ball and Coming Out Dance had consistently produced disconcerting amounts of alcohol poisoning cases, which indicated that, though we like to brand ourselves as crazy naked omni-sexual intellectuals, a lot of us couldn’t really play the role without getting dangerously sloshed.”

Fast forward to 2011. At this fall’s “Back to the Grind” dance party, we blamed the first years’ irresponsibility for the four intoxicated students taken to the hospital. Increased security clearly doesn’t eradicate Sarah Lawrence’s social problems, nor does it improve our reputation in the long run. We’ve always maintained superior, intimate academics, but the social scene has become unappealing.

SLAC’s dance committee has done a commendable job bringing DJs and regular events to the Blue Room; last weekend’s Zombie Prom (hosted by the senior class) was a surprising hit. But the Blue Room and North Lawn can’t be our only venues for play. Other schools thrive through school-sanctioned parties at fraternities/sororities or themed houses. We’ve always rejected any semblance of structure that could be construed as limiting. But some sense of structure allows adventure to erupt between the lines.

What if every Mead Way house took turns throwing parties on Friday nights? They would supply alcohol, music, and decorations. Warren Green could even serve organic vodka. They’d pretend to check IDs (as every fraternity does), and allow security to intrude if the crowd grew over capacity. Otherwise, it’s hands off and everyone trusts that the Sarah Lawrence student community will take care of one another.

In addition, SLAC would welcome a new committee: PHAR. Party Hard And Responsibly. One student from each year is voted onto the board, and they meet to organize party environments in which students can experiment freely and safely, all the while strengthening the campus network and unifying spirit. Yeah, we’re different. That doesn’t mean we can’t be individuals together.

Sarah Lawrence is a small campus filled with smart, creative people. It seems silly that we haven’t figured out a unique solution to an age-old issue. Drugs and alcohol are facts of college life; we’re never going to accept kickball games or movie nights as valid alternatives. Instead of desperate diversion, education and trust are the factors that separate a divisive police state from a symbiotic community.

By creating a positive social scene, Sarah Lawrence will open itself to more applicants, a closer community, and exciting alumni stories. We are a group of high-functioning, game-changing individuals; we deserve to be involved in adventures of every kind, whether we’re frantically chasing down the perfect Goethe quote or playing King’s Cup on Pride Rock.

 

Featured Image: Donna Ida

Ella Riley-Adams (Founder, Editor-in-chief) comes from a small town in Southern Oregon. She enjoys champagne, soccer and swimming in ponds. When not immersed in Sarah Lawrence affairs, Ella works for NYC marketing and tech blog The New York Egotist and The Faster Times. Follow her on twitter @ellarileyadams.

31 Comments

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Ari Jones

    Very cool article— well researched and interesting.
    One correction: while SLAC has put on a TON of dances (many of them big successes) the awesome Zombie Prom was hosted by the senior class (although the DJ was SLAC Live Music series chair Ezra Marcus). Credit where credit is due 🙂

    Also, while I love the suggestion of a forum to discuss “party environments in which students can experiment freely and safely” SLAC simply cannot be involved. As part of the institutional crack down you discuss, SLAC is a programming board funded by the school that cannot sponsor events with alcohol. We cannot even co-sponsor events at which we don’t purchase the alcohol. That is part of the reason we are no longer directly involved with formals. So if the PHAR would actually be organizing events where alcohol would be provided, SLAC couldn’t be involved.

    However, I think the PHAR is an awesome idea and that it should be brough to Student Life.

    That’s just my POV as a current SLAC Co-Chair.

    • Reply August 8, 2013

      Anonymous

      This article could have been written 10 years ago when I was a student at SLC (2003 – 2005). The loneliness and lack of community you describe is what made me and many of my peers transfer out.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Anonymous

    I am absolutely disgusted by this article. To promote wild parties that security doesn’t shut down is irresponsible and, frankly, dumb. Security as they are right now are already pretty lax- sure, they show up to one noise complaint instead of three, but do they ever “crack down” on the students in question? I’ve heard about them and seen them intrude on a party and do very little. The three-noise complaint rule is ideal for party-goers, but what about the people complaining? To put in a noise complaint and have it do absolutely nothing isn’t fair to those of us who choose to spend our Friday and Saturday nights in with friends, watching movies and staying sober before going to bed earlier than 4AM. Some might argue that, because they don’t party, they’re at the wrong school. However, I argue the opposite. Jealous of frat parties? Find a school with frats. Sarah Lawrence isn’t the place for that kind of social atmosphere. Obviously, everyone here shares a common love for intellectualism and deep conversation. But for those for whom partying is just as big a priority, find yourself a party school. Sarah Lawrence administration has made it clear- this isn’t the place for that. By writing this article, SLCSpeaks demonstrates that they want to fuck administration up the ass and change things for what will inevitably be the worse. I’m incredibly disappointed in SLCSpeaks right now- I turn to this site for news about campus, interesting insights on the culture we are all a part of, and well-written work. While the grammar and structure of this piece is good, and it makes a clear argument, I’m appalled that this is out there for students, prospective students, administration, and parents to marvel at. It’s an insult to those of us to whom this article doesn’t apply, and I urge the SLC administration to keep on doing what they’re doing to keep campus safe, despite this attempt at starting some sort of idiotic revolution for the right to party unsafely.

    • Reply April 25, 2012

      Eastern Standard Time

      I have to contest your point, sir or madam. Partying is an integral and indelible part of higher education. It’s simply a matter of checks and balances. To prohibit serves no purpose than to drive it underground. The further underground it goes the more dangerous it becomes. We’ve all heard the stories of kids running to go get “their doctor friend” who’s a first year med student because someone’s O.D.ing on the floor of their dorm room and everyone refuses to drive them to the hospital for fear of being implicated. You will never be able to stop it in any conceivable way. Even in prisons with cavity searches drugs still get in. I’m sure no one wants to see Sarah Lawrence TRY a “crack-down”. Not only would it serve to ruin the tenure of the students in general and everyone would be subject to it, it would never work. Parties will simply get more and more dangerous. Having to be held off campus where there is no safe-guards like security or quick access to medical aid. What’s necessary is a class. Light is the best disinfectant. Keep it open keep it safe. Look at anything from “The war on drugs” to the prohibition era. No attempt has ever succeeded in keeping people from doing what they want. Education has been proven time and time over to be the only effective means of curtailing anything from teenage pregnancy to drug use. Its not a matter of your right to party like a braying jackass. Its a matter of knowing how to party without getting hurt or hurting others.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Ella Riley-Adams

    Ari, thanks for your comment and clarification. I’ve made the credit change for Zombie Prom.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Samantha Felmus

    Ella,
    I’m sorry, but I don’t see a collapse in social life. In fact, many of your arguments in your piece are wrong.
    1) The reason why many first-years are not involved with upperclassmen is because they feel uninvited. In a Vanguard forum on Orientation, Donning, and Conference, one first-year said that an upperclassman on the Green Team told him that life at SLC can get very lonely. This prompted this years Orientation Leaders to think of ways to include Green Team in many of the Orientation events come fall beyond move-in day.
    2) Your article focuses on partying and alcohol use is the blame. While I don’t condemn hard partying and drinking, it is reckless drinking and drug use that causes issues. This year, I’m pleased to announce as an Orientation Leader that we will be implementing more safe alcohol education programming to first-years this fall. That way they can (illegally) drink safe, and we won’t have the issues that we had this year.
    3) SLAC tries very hard to put on programming for all of campus. While we cannot provide alcohol due to our morals of providing alcohol-free entertainment, we want to hear student’s ideas of what programming they would like to see on campus. They can come to our meetings (Weds @ 1:30 in Bates Meeting Room) or e-mail us (slac@gm.slc.edu). SLAC knows that we can’t think for everyone, so suggestions are valued every which way.
    4) The Housing Subcommittee on Student Life knows very well that Mead Way is prime place for partying. But, remember, neighbors happen to live against those backyards. Which is more upsetting, millions of police calls every weekend complaining about the noise or throwing a simple party that doesn’t have to require loud music and rowdy partying? This is why Mead Way houses don’t go up for group petition; it would create a character that would be out of the office’s control.

    Again, SLCSpeaks strives to tell view points of current students. However, this article may deter those who were admitted into the Class of 2016 because it says that there is no social life on campus. Bottom line: THERE IS! You just have to avoid those upperclassmen that whine a lot.

    • Reply May 3, 2012

      Anonymous

      “3) SLAC tries very hard to put on programming for all of campus. While we cannot provide alcohol due to our morals of providing alcohol-free entertainment,”

      Is alcohol-free event planning really at the point of being a MORAL imperative? If so…I’m glad I got out of there when I did.

      Part of the character of Sarah Lawrence was always the way in which its social scene pushed the boundaries of social norms. There is a BIG difference between a “Frat party” and a “Red Light Night” despite the similarities of loud music, drugs, and alcohol.

      If you can’t tell the difference or don’t know what the difference is, then that is just further testament to how the social scene at Sarah Lawrence has been truly gutted.

      I could go on and on about hegemony and heteronormativity and the awful trend of Michele Meyers’ J Crew pedagogy…but then…I’d mostly be shouting into the wind.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Anonymous

    this article would be more persuasive if if didn’t provide a very selective version of SLC’s history. I didnt know there was anyone left nostalgic for a school that died years before they arrived. Thank you for presenting some of the highs and lows of SLC in the past decade, but this school has seen many changes since 1926. Why not make the argument that we should go back to an all-girls school?

    Some of us like to pretend there was some grand past when everything was better, even when everything points against that naive revisionism. Pretend as some might, the profile of the SLC student has changed, and what the SLC student wants has changed too. The past will not return.

    Finally, the assumption the author makes that drugs, alcohol, and fraternities are required for sexual exploration and a “better social life” is unfounded and dangerous. One need only look at the contrapositive of this assertion to realize its inaccuracy (I.e. if there is no sexual exploration there is no drug use). SLCs catestrophically low retention rate is a testament to the negative impact drugs abuse already has on this campus. Upperclassmen drug users are not going to reduce drop outs by warning Freshman that their E was laced with meth. Your assertion that SLC students will take care of each other is ridiculous, if we want to help each other we should stop enabling substance abuse.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Jordan

    This article is spot-on. And to the person who commented negatively above me, parties do not necessarily equate with fraternity people and fraternity behavior. At Sarah Lawrence, we’re encouraged to be open and think creatively and analytically in the classroom, to deconstruct institutions and authority, to be independent and responsible, but outside of the classroom, the administration treats us as if we’re not capable of doing so. The ability to have parties that last longer than 30 minutes before they’re shut down by security is crucial to creating a livelier, friendlier campus, where people can stop “sarah lawrencing” each other, actually have deep conversations in fun environments, more consistently, at regular parties, in order to get to know one another enough to make this campus feel less isolating.

    I think this is especially true and we need to create a conversation with the administration about this very issue::: “Other schools thrive through school-sanctioned parties at fraternities/sororities or themed houses. We’ve always rejected any semblance of structure that could be construed as limiting. But some sense of structure allows adventure to erupt between the lines.”

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Adam

    not to be pedantic: they were not serving beer in the pub in 2000… i don’t know when they
    did, but it was certainly before my first year (1999). i remember my don talking about the bar in the pub closing during her time in school – that was in the early 80s.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    EZRA MARCUS

    Amazing article, exactly what needs to be said. Social life on campus has to change.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Uday Keith

    The “Social Scene” problem this article takes up, is first and foremost, a matter of perspective. The problem is understood and conceptualized differently across the campus, and for some students that live week-by-week, there might no be a problem at all. Due to subjective nature of this problem, I don’t think an objective, blanket solution will do justice.
    Yes, the spatial structure of the campus do limit students to the Blue Room and occasionally the North Lawns that make for monotonous experiences. However, I think a way of aiding the “social scene” problem is not to have organized parties, but to make structural changes that allow for the various party scenes across campus to adapt.
    In this regard, I have personally observed a positive change: security. Security, in my engagements with them over the last few weeks has simply interrupted the parties to caution students and let them know a complaint has been lodged. They are not present to crack down and shut down parties, but to check in and make sure everything is “relatively” safe. For example, if they encounter people drinking they simply ask if anyone present in the room is over 21. This procedure is not perfect, but they are making their presence felt, but simultaneously placing greater responsibility on students to handle their own party. This allows for the fun to continue but for students to remain on their toes for any possible irresponsible drinking to whatnot.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Incredulous

    This reeks of people attempting to intellectually justify their desire to get trashed every weekend. Did it ever occur to you that a culture of reckless “exploration,” rampant substance abuse, etc. might not be a good thing?

    But besides that, this article is attacking a straw man. What exactly is so “unappealing” about the SLC social scene these days? I haven’t witnessed security “policing” parties. They are still very lax and flexible about regulations (especially the open container policy). Large on-campus parties with free-flowing alcohol surely exist – and they frequently go into all hours of the morning without a single visit from security. And the PHAR proposal – isn’t that exactly what SLAC does, organize safe party environments?

    This article paints a vivid picture of the past, but ultimately fails to even distinguish what has concretely changed. The only changes I can deduce are both slight and for the better. (Does anyone actually want our campus venues turned into orgies? Or for the school to permit the illegal distribution of substances? I don’t see why the school needs to sponsor irresponsibility and law-breaking.) I agree with a previous poster, this article is some bizarre form of faux-nostalgia.

  • Reply April 22, 2012

    anon

    You want every mead way house to throw parties on friday night? What about the other houses on campus? Or Hill? That isn’t a sustainable life style.
    If you want organized parties like that- TRANSFER and join a sorority, you party obsessed freak.
    For a school so small like SLC, especially one so focused on academics, the party scene can be hard to have. Most students go to Fordham or NYU parties on the weekends anyway. There is no reason to lighten security. In fact security is pretty relaxed anyway (so long as you have your id they don’t care what your doing).

  • Reply April 22, 2012

    anon

    If your trying to be a journalist or a writer of any kind learn to check your facts. Its not that hard to go to the SLC archives and look at things like when the pub stopped serving beer. It’s embarrassing that a fellow SLC-er doesn’t know our schools history!

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Class of 2009

    I admire your historical research — we need more of it to explain where the college is today — but there are some shortcomings. A few points:

    -Michele Myers was an anti-party president at the college she presided over before Sarah Lawrence: Denison. She banned frats, and apparently students lit couches on fire in protest. You can’t understate her influence and this article pretends it was the students who started drinking heavier.

    -Liability. You are ignoring a major reason security sends students to the hospital, whether they are truly at a dangerous level of alcohol consumption or not. They want to reduce liability (and to their credit, to avoid a student dying of course). Students pay the hospital bills, so there is hardly incentive not to send students there with a happy trigger finger. In 2006, I knew students who had gotten to the hospital only to have doctors tell them they can walk back to campus.

    –The idea that drugs are a natural part of college life is highly presumptuous. There are plenty of people who don’t try E or do cocaine. I would say the majority.

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Mitchell

    Great work, Ella! I have to say though that I don’t have that much of a problem with my social life. I know a lot of complainers who detest their social life but never make any effort to drink or socialize. I don’t think you’re one of those people, but those people exist and are a massive issue. Security sucks. I’ll also say that I went to a high school that threw fetish parties, so I probably need to be bored right now. So I probably have no basis to comment. Great article, though!

    • Reply April 25, 2012

      Ari Jones

      I agree Mitchell, I think the people attacking Ella are off base. It seems more like you (Ella) were trying to present the views you have heard others expressing and come to some constructive suggestions.

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Anon

    Because of things like this, Sarah Lawrence students coming into the school assuming that the social scene is going to suck. I have been to many parties that haven’t been shut down. SLAC events CAN be pretty fun – look at how many people turned out to things like the super bowl party and casino night. The problem, I think, is that there’s some sort of stigma attached to going to school events. It’s great that DJs and bands have been coming to the Blue Room, but the turnout is always smaller than it should be. As for reckless partying and drug use – isn’t that just a fact of college life? The arguments about social life here are just going in circles: there’s not enough to do there’s not enough to do. Then stop whining and just throw your own party! Christ SLC.

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Schandelle (Shea)

    Very nice article; I can tell you did your digging.

    Still, I can’t help but think the juxtaposition of past and present is a bit unfair; many of the regulations in place are irrelevant to student actions (dorm smoking, pub liquor, nudity, even (and perhaps especially) the amount of security now at parties). The tightening of these regulations has come more broadly from Bronxville law and the Yonkers Police Department, both of which we on campus abide by. If you want more info on that – as explained to me via Larry Hoffman/Paige Crandall/etc. via being on senate, feel free to email me.

    Regardless, I think PHAR or Mead Way pseudo-greeks would be an interesting idea to pursue. Really though, the class presidents are supposed to be essentially the PHAR board as is, and Mead Way houses are tiny for such potentially big events. More over, they are closer to residential areas (Ever wonder why we can’t open blue room windows? Noise complaints from Bronxvillians).

    At the end of the day, we’re a small school getting larger than our capacity for structural expansion, nestled in a quaint community that goes to bed by 11, even on weekends. The “collapse of social life” is more of a bursting at the seems which is being kept in by security instead of information (note that the first-years never got their alcohol-awareness training due to the hurricane).

    The question you seem to raise, in that context, is does it need to be curtailed at all? Why can’t it burst responsibly? As a co-chair for QVC (which throws Sleaze Week) since my freshman year, here are my thoughts:

    I’ve hosted 3 Sleaze Balls as of last night. None of them have been broken up, shut down, or resulted in hospitalization. All of them have, undoubtedly, included plenty of inebriation and sexual liberation. I think you can Party Hard and Responsibly on campus as it is. I think it just takes a minute (or a month) for the responsibility to kick in. Moreover, I think making more paperwork to do so would be frivolous – SLAC has been doing tremendously and other organizations are definitely playing their part. This year’s Senior Class President’s have also been avid about providing free booze at a number of events for seniors and the of-age student body – and I think most if not all of them have gone off without a hitch (though I’m not sure).

    The social scene this year is the best I’ve seen yet. There are more events and significantly more attendees. This is well-written, pretty well-researched, but is what it is, an opinion piece. Contextualizing so much of the past simply takes focus on the reality of the present. To me and most people I know, that reality is a great party scene for academics and non-academics alike.

    Cheers,
    Shea

    • Reply April 25, 2012

      Ari Jones

      I totally agree.
      I think administration should address the roles of RAs more closely. I know that I was personally very disappointed with my RA and felt cheated out of floor bonding experiences because she didn’t do her job and throw events. Not that she was supposed to provide liquor or throw crazy parties, just provide a place where people could get to know each other. I think it would be really awesome if RAs were required to do this more often and were held more accountable for this responsibility.

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Elias

    I think that this article and the comments bring up a lot of good points, but personally I’m a little annoyed that people think that this is that much of an issue. Security here is really very relaxed when compared with a lot of other schools. I’ve been in dorm rooms elsewhere, drinking casually, when I have been shushed for simply saying the word “alcohol” out loud. My friends were legitimately frightened that people walking past would report them to security. Here, I’ve been at many parties where security has literally walked in, seen the alcohol, and then either simply given a noise complaint or asked everyone to leave. My name has never been asked for, and I have never felt that security is out to get me or my friends to stop us from drinking. I honestly think that we have a good system here at SLC: people who want to party and drink can, in a relatively small and mature environment, and when it becomes disruptive there is a noise complaint and the party is alerted or shut down. I don’t have any problem with that. The drug culture is also fairly safe, and I think that one of the most important features I’ve seen is the respect of people who choose not to partake: no one really seems to care. There is always an amount of peer pressure, but compared to something like a frat we are practically docile when it comes to converting those who don’t come in to school having experimented with drugs already. As far as I know, there haven’t been major concerns with people being taken to the hospital since the first few weeks of school, so clearly learning has been going on in regards to alcohol tolerance. There is an active drug and alcohol culture at SLC that anyone has the choice to participate in or not, that has clearly been somewhat successful at alcohol education this year, and that does not regularly feature people getting handcuffed to bannisters. These things are a blessing. Let’s not complain.

  • Reply April 23, 2012

    Rob Cook

    I think the discussion of Sarah Lawrence’s historical context for partying is a wild goose chase. Times have changed, and it would be a very difficult task to figure out exactly how or why. I think this article provides an interesting image of the Sarah Lawrence of yesterday, but if we want to figure out what to do today, a realistic assessment of space is necessary. We all could have gone to Bard, or NYU, the former in the middle of nowhere and the latter in a loud, bustling metropolis. But we all consciously chose to go to college in a quiet, suburban environment where many very different students are crammed onto a small amount of campus space and we’re surrounded by sensitive and conservative neighbors. I for one would not give up my education for the world, and have found few of my friends at NYU enjoyed their academic experience as much. But I would like to be able to hang out and get loud with my friends. I disagree with those who say “go to a party school if you want to party”. Fundamentally, however, we cannot disrespect either our neighbors or students who need sleep. I believe the key to this resolving this situation lies in an aggressive expansion of quiet and substance free housing. This may sound counterintuitive, but by really addressing the issue of quiet housing we could find a way for everyone to enjoy their experience here. If we made a bigger point of convincing people who are unsure if they can handle loud environments to opt for quiet housing, they could always go to parties if they end up wanting to, and if not, they could stay at home. We could then restrict noisy housing to areas that would not offend our neighbors, I’m thinking Andrews and Slonim are probably furthest from Bronxville residents. This way, more people have the option of quiet housing and there would be smaller designated loud areas on campus that security, without the burden of noise complaints, could treat with less sensitivity. I wish I could suggest something to deal with binge drinking, but I think this is a more general problem across american colleges.

  • Reply April 24, 2012

    Enoch Riese

    I read this article and initially thought it was well-argued and well-researched. Even though I have no problem with my social life here, I know people who speak very loudly about not enjoying theirs. On second glance, though, it becomes worryingly clear how anecdotal much of your evidence that things have gotten worse is.

    I think that these are just a few loud voices coming from people who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own fun. As far as I can tell, the only thing it takes for the blue room dances to be fun is for people to actually go to them. When attendance is low, the dances aren’t fun, when they’re packed, they are. It doesn’t seem to take anything more than that; the music is rarely different, and very few of the people who go pay any attention to the themes. In that case, the success of our current party scene relies not on looser monitoring, but on students’ tolerance for waiting a few minutes for a party to get good and their trust that their fellow students will join them in their efforts towards fun—neither of which I would say are particularly present on this campus. I don’t blame SLAC at all when the dances aren’t good. Instead I blame my friends who complain that they are bored and there’s nothing happening. Just because you didn’t get handcuffed to a banister and electrocuted on your first night at SLC doesn’t mean you couldn’t have been, and it certainly doesn’t mean that security would have intervened if they’d seen it. I’m sorry you didn’t make friends with the people who brought their electrosex equipment to campus. Maybe if you’d wanted that, you should have brought your own.

    Further, I’d like to spend a second discussing the pictures of the 2001 Coming Out dance that are “thankfully” still alive on the internet. Did you look at them? You should. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a group of off-campus assholes who came to Sarah Lawrence for the night to gawk at women and take pictures of themselves groping strangers and their friends. There’s no evidence in the pictures that the party is better, more fun, or even better-attended than ones we throw now. Aside from the one picture of people having sex on the floor, I saw nothing I admired that couldn’t currently happen at a Sarah Lawrence dance, and a couple of things I’m really glad to think don’t happen. And that isn’t because I’m a prude, it’s because this guy dedicated most of his photo essay to pictures of him grabbing the ass of a scantily clad woman he doesn’t know, and the way he talks about it doesn’t make it sound like he’s saying, “isn’t it awesome that the people here are really free and comfortable to consent to sexualizing contact from strangers.” It sounds more like he’s saying “aw, yeah! Drunk sluts!” and not in an excited-about-reclaiming-the-word-slut way. I wish I could say that we’ve lost that atmosphere to our parties, but I’m not even sure we have.

    The toplessness and other nudity can still happen on campus. It’s true that I’ve had security ask me to put my shirt back on when I’ve taken it off at the blue room, but all I had to do was say no. If they had pushed, I would have let them know that I am acutely aware of state law and campus policy on this issue, and that they had no right to make me. That they mentioned it to me at all is a training problem rather than a policy problem. As for g-strings and strap-ons, well, I wore one of those things to the BDSM-themed Sleaze Ball, and I certainly saw a preponderance of the other.

    So I’m not really sure what it is you think we’ve lost, exactly. Unless it’s the female-ejaculation workshop, in which case I’d be happy to run one next year.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Anonymous

    Okay there are a couple of things I want to cover. First off, I think a lot of people are missing the main point of the article. It’s not arguing for crazy parties with no security, it’s arguing for a safe partying environment. I took time off after my first semester, and in large part, it was due to the social scene. I was disgusted by the number of people going to the hospital every week, and the “whatever” attitudes many students had about it. Or, on the flip side, the total knee-jerk reaction of “alcohol is the enemy” (much like a comment above). As Ella stated, drugs and alcohol are an inevitable part of college. I’m not saying that everyone will partake in using these substances, but they’re going to be in the social scene wether you like it or not. I really appreciated a lot of what this article had to say. During my time at SLC I felt like being shit-faced was the only way you’d have a decent social life, and that’s really not okay. And I believe that’s what this article may be hinting at when it says the “collapse of social life”. I loved my friends, and I loved going to the blue room, but it wasn’t fun when I was calling an ambulance, or the dance was shut down after 20 minutes. Social events began getting canceled, or people decided that the only way they’d have fun is if they weren’t sober. I’m not saying use this article as an excuse to get trashed, and I’m not saying ban all things illegal. It’s a part of life, and it’s most definitely social. For all the people criticizing this article saying things like “go to a party school of you need to drink” or “go join a sorority”, I think it’s immature and neglecting to see the big picture. SLC students are incredibly creative, talented, and diverse, and we deserve a safe place to party just like any other school. You can’t say SLC isn’t a party school because honestly, it is. We study hard and we play hard. I think the challenge right now is finding the balance. I want to bring back all school events because they’re an integral part of the collee experience. However, I think that students need to see these events as more than just an excuse to get trashes. That’s where I think the social scene has crumbled. These events are meant to create some of the most memorable parts of our college years, and it’s sad to say that a lot of people are too focused on getting fucked up to remember them. I thank this article for being honest about the substance abuse in the SLC social scene, and I think that a lot of the ideas could really help. One of the things I felt was missing from SLC  was that sense of all school community. While I firmly believe we should keep our excellent academic standards, I also think there should be a safe way to let loose. Thanks Ella for getting the conversation going on this topic! 

  • Reply April 29, 2012

    Voltaire Casino

    I remember when this happened. Interesting read.

  • Reply April 30, 2012

    Graham Jenkins

    So much of the degradation of the social scene at SLC is a reflection of the gradual dilution of the classes into much less interesting people (and my class is certainly not exempt). Sarah Lawrence got a little less weird every year. I don’t know if that was due to the scaling back of aid or what, but the more normal kids seemed to start there, the lamer everything got.

    The lube slide and the Coming Out Dance had their year right before I started. One year of sleaze ball. And all downhill after that.

    The problem with all of these “alcohol-free” parties and events is that that shit is LAME. No one’s going to go without getting hammered first, but when we all drink in our dorm rooms we often go too hard, too fast so we can make it down to the blue room before everything shuts down at 2. Or earlier. Without a safe place to drink, it’s hard to drink safely, and a culture of zero tolerance doesn’t help anyone develop an appreciation for drinking good liquor or beers or what-have-you or just safely experimenting.

    We’ve clearly only just started to learn our lesson that Puritanism and Prohibitions cause way more problems than they solve. And Sarah Lawrence has a long way to go.

  • Reply October 24, 2012

    Stephen Ira

    I just came back to this and read it again and wanted to say again that it’s just really well done.

  • Reply January 7, 2013

    anon

    i am an slc alum who got to attend the last coming out dance my freshman year, and the meyers crackdown pretty much kicked off after that year. but the unfortunate thing about it’s being canceled was more about losing a tradition and part of the school’s culture and rather than concern about having one less party to go to. even without the coming out dance, and with security around to rock the boat we still had a pretty good party culture.

    the coming out dance and the rest of the examples at the beginning of the article depict a creative student body searching for ways to explore each other and their community, which historically produced a unique brand of fun that was present at slc bc of the people who went there and the philosophy of the school.

    i think it seems a little bizarre to try to institutionalize weekly parties. it sounds like the opposite a scene where people are getting creative and doing things that are a little bit crazy. but ultimately, it’s those things that become part of the school’s progressive and zany culture, which is what SLC is (or used to be) all about.

    it seems like complaints about security might just be an excuse for a lack of creativity. in other words, when it comes down to it, who is really stopping you from having fun might be you.

  • Reply January 7, 2013

    SLC anon

    who needs parties when we could just spend our entire time on the SLC anon live journal?

  • Reply August 8, 2013

    Anonymous

    This article could have been written 10 years ago when I was a student at SLC (2003 – 2005). The loneliness and lack of community you describe is what made me and many of my peers transfer out.

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