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Open Parties Should Be Maintained, Even in Face of Recent Incidents

Over the past month, Haverford students have been confronted with the uncomfortable reality that our campus is not impermeable. No longer is the supposed “Haverbubble” an insulation from the outside world; an influx of party crashings and a recent assault have all put pressure on the concept of the Open Campus.

Recent incidents also speak to a greater issue about the scope of the Honor Code, and how Haverfordians engage with an outside world not bound by the Code. The Gummere party attack was particularly notable in that both parties involved were not students of the College. But that didn’t stop the incident from happening on Haverford’s campus, and it certainly won’t prevent such problems from occurring in the future.

But those incidents can be mitigated with a sensible policy that preserves the Open Campus while relying on common sense. It was common sense that directed Haverford students to expel uninvited guests at recent parties, averting potential conflicts that could have been far worse. It’s common sense that says we should encourage all parties and events to require a quick flash of the OneCard to enter. Common sense says that the simple measure of requiring identification makes it extremely difficult for would-be party crashers to enter.

But contrary to what some institutions believe, the restrictions we need to impose stop and end there. Two weekends ago, a number of Haverford students trekked to Bryn Mawr for one of its most famous (or infamous) parties, “Pem East vs. West.” However, students accustomed to the laissez-faire attitude of most Haverford social events were in for a rude awakening. Upon stepping off the Blue Bus, they were greeted with a concentration of security and bouncer personnel, along with members of the Lower Merion Police Department and EMS stationed on site. The Pembroke arch was filled with a mob of students, all being prevented from entering either building out of concern for capacity restraints. Bryn Mawr decided that it would count the number of students that had entered each building and limit entrance, although Haverford students widely reported that there was ample space for many more. Outside, a frenzy of students faced off against a coalition of Bryn Mawr student bouncers and security officers for over an hour. At one point, in response to alleged “pushing” from the crowd, the Bryn Mawr student bouncers decided to not let anyone but Pembroke residents in for half an hour.

But the fun didn’t stop there. Once inside, several student reported receiving  a sharpie-mark on their wrists after obtaining a drink. The marks were meant to indicate the number of drinks a partygoer had consumed, allowing bouncers and other personnel to restrict students from obtaining more. Yet Bryn Mawr did not appear to be aware that the number of the drinks a hundred-pound person can reasonably and safely consume is drastically different than the number of drinks a two hundred pound one can.

Ironically enough, these rather absurd policies proved to be abject failures by the end of the night. Numerous students were observed to be under the effects of alcohol poisoning, with some requiring hospitalization. And the “no entrance” policy enacted by Student Bouncers resulted in a disorderly mob of students spilled throughout the Pembroke arch, requiring additional Campus Security personnel to be brought in for support. The concept of self-government that Haverford values so dearly was all but abolished, with various college employees being brought in to enforce restrictions. All in all, a large number of Haverford students weren’t even able to enter the party, sullenly boarding Blue Buses back to campus after noting the large line. And the ones that managed to get past the force of bouncers and security personnel widely reported negative experiences in a drastically different party environment than Haverford’s.

The intention of this anecdote isn’t to disparage Bryn Mawr, but to identify an example of what not to do. Out of over-concern for safety, students and administrators at Bryn Mawr ruined what may well have been both a fun, safe, and memorable event for all attendees. But the repercussions for implementing such party regulations are far more broad. The Honor Code and accompanying Alcohol Policy all trust students to be responsible for themselves and others. It is for this reason that Haverford has an excellent track record when it comes to alcohol and party safety, notwithstanding the past few weekends. Students police themselves and their friends at a party, and are widely successful in avoiding dangerous situations that require hospitalization.

Implementing draconian restrictions on party entrance and alcohol consumption completely flies in the face of everything Haverford students stand for. The elimination of the Open Campus is not just the elimination of convenience, but an unmistakable declaration that we do not trust ourselves or our classmates to handle themselves. The Open Campus, in a way, is the incubator that the Honor Code requires in order to flourish. It is the absence of restrictions that form the foundation of the Code; students are free to make poor decisions, but they overwhelmingly choose not to out of respect for the community and the Code. That doesn’t mean there won’t be anomalies or incidents, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the concept of the Open Campus is foolproof. But the mutual dependence of the Open Campus and Honor Code does mean we ought to be wary of enacting modifications that worsen the situation and weaken Haverfordian ideals.

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