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The Administrative Lapse That Enabled First Drunker

What’s up with Apartment 19? Are administrators allowing it to be used as a party space or not? In the case of First Drunker, it turns out the answer was not always clear.

Last March, former Dean of Student Life Michael Martinez notified the community in an all-student email that Apartment 19’s basement would face restrictions as a party space. “Due to safety concerns, [HCA 19 Basement] will only be available for gatherings of no more than 35 individuals,” wrote Martinez in an all-student email.

Dean of Residential and Community Life Nate Diehl explained that the occupancy restriction “focused on student safety, and also sustaining and maintaining the space.” Diehl cited incidents where equipment in the basement had been damaged as well as concerns about being able to safely accommodate upwards of 100 people during parties.

But members of the men’s lacrosse team – several members of which occupy the first floor in Apartment 19 – hosted one of the first open parties of the year in Apartment 19’s basement on September 7.

“Men’s Lax worked long and hard this summer on 19 to improve the #firesafety just so that we could welcome you all back this year after that brief hiatus in the spring,” read the Facebook invite for the party.

First Drunker, as the party was called, drew significantly more than 35 attendees to the apartments. At points, dozens of people spilled out onto the grass in front of Apartment 19, drawing a noise complaint from neighbors in Ardmore. Multiple students were transported to Bryn Mawr Hospital by ambulance that night; the hosts of First Drunker reported that some of these students had attended their party.

Remnants from past social events and the Basement’s fire extinguisher

So what happened to the 35-person limit? It seems that the party simply fell through the cracks. Brendan Narko ’20, a member of the men’s lacrosse team, recalled how he had reached out to Diehl by email on September 5 about hosting the party in Apartment 19’s basement.

“I know there were issues last year, but can Apartment 19 be used as a party space this year?” wrote Narko. “I thought I would check with you first before anything happened.”

“You are welcome to host in HCA 19 basement,” Diehl replied by email. “With that said, you alluded to the multiple issues last year. Please spread the word and be mindful of your responsibilities as party hosts and maintaining/cleaning up the space.”

Parts of the basement have become a storage space for extra furniture and speakers.

Without any mention of an occupancy restriction by Diehl, Narko and the other party hosts took this to mean that ResLife had lifted the 35-person limit.

In an interview, Diehl clarified that restriction placed by Martinez had in fact never been lifted and remained active at the time of the party. However, he conceded that he hadn’t mentioned that fact in his emails prior to the party because he assumed that it would have fewer than 35 attendees.

“I try not to assume what the students consider a party. Especially having worked in ResLife now, sometimes a party is in a Leeds common room and it’s 15 people, where a party is 150 people down at HCA,” said Diehl. “I was under the assumption that the restriction was still in place and that students were aware of that.”

Believing that their party had a green light from the administration, the hosts connected with the Resident Student Liason (RSL) for the apartments, reached out to Quaker Bouncers, and registered the party on Engage Haverford. According to Sophie Jackson ’20, another Apartment 19 resident, the registration form indicated that the party would have between 140 and 160 attendees.

So why did the obvious contradiction between the party registration form and Apartment 19’s basement restriction not raise any eyebrows? “I actually didn’t see the form come through,” explained Diehl. “That wasn’t ResLife, because I wasn’t at the time on Engage yet.”

Diehl pointed to turnover among the deans as one reason for the lapse in oversight. “Dean Martinez put those sanctions in place and is no longer here, and so I think that there was some confusion in general,” said Diehl.

After the party on Saturday brought last year’s safety concerns back to the forefront of ResLife’s attention, Diehl arranged a meeting with several Apartment 19 residents—including Narko and Jackson—to clarify that the 35-person limit remained in effect. According to all parties, the meeting included discussion of how to make Apartment 19 a safer space going forward.

Given that a varsity team threw most of the parties in Apartment 19’s basement, Diehl and Narko agreed that residents need to work across the athlete/non-athlete divide among students. “I know there have been many issues in the past, [but] myself and all the other 19 residents are trying to make the space more accessible,” acknowledged Narko.

A piece of litter was found on the basement’s concrete floor.

Narko urged students to reach out to him. “Any feedback at this point is positive feedback. If people want to contact [me] personally, with any complaints or issues or anything that they want to see be done differently in 19, I’d be happy to answer, anytime.” For the moment, the men’s lacrosse team currently has no plans to host any open parties in the basement.

Photos by Kate Silber ’20. Captions written by editorial staff.

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