Our right to party

Michelle Lifson Managing Editor

During my time at Hampshire, there has been buzz  about Residence Life and Housing Staff banning registered parties on campus altogether. I had put that ridiculous thought out of my mind until recently, when the rumor resurfaced in passing: “I heard they’re not going to allow us to throw parties at all anymore.” Pure annoyance takes over my face. Here’s why.

Not all registered parties have to be raging, drunken parties. 

A party needs to be registered if there are more than 20 people present in a mod. If caught with more than this many people in a mod, there is possibility for disciplinary action. Let’s say you’re hosting a dinner party for your 8-person mod, your neighboring mod and some modmates’ plus ones. Will the school not officially allow this anymore? By Hampshire’s definition that’s a “party.” How could they allow one and not the other? There’s almost no way to regulate the number of people in a space—so what’s the point of revoking this privilege for everyone?  Also, when registering a party there is an option to serve alcohol or not. Having the option means that the school is already aware that drinking happens. By selecting “non-alcoholic event” the school is acknowledging that there are sub-free parties. Clearly there is not only one type of party that can be registered.

By the way, Residence Life has no information on their Hampshire webpage about registering parties—the processes, expectations, specific rules—nothing. I’m pretty sure this information would fit perfectly under the “Policies and Practices” section, seeing that it is both a policy and a practice. Nothing even shows up when you Google “register a party Hampshire College.” If it’s on there, it’s definitely not easily accessible.

Banning registered parties won’t decrease a student’s chance of experiencing sexual violence.

I believe one major reason the school would consider banning registered parties is due to instances of sexual violence on campus. This is a very valid reason. Consent is a huge part of our orientation program and a topic that surfaces frequently in discussion. Sexual assault on college campuses is a large-scale problem, with 1 in 5 undergraduate women facing this risk in the US. Nevertheless, many students at Hampshire are well informed about how consent does and does not work. Banning parties is a bandaid to a larger issue. It’s true that there are still perpetrators of sexual violence on this campus—but think about who students could run into off campus.

Lit, a bar/club in Amherst is a prime example of this. One night I went there with 2 other able-/female-bodied friends and many male-bodied people approached us all night with no breaks for us in between. Of course, the same risk of being hit on by someone you just don’t want to talk to is possible at a Hampshire party, but never to the same extent.

I will say it’s quite possible that many students might stop going to parties altogether because of the ban. But there’s just as large of a number of students who wouldn’t stop partying, and might go off-campus because they are looking for something to do. (Which by the way, if people leave campus with their cars, the possibility of students drinking and driving greatly increases!) These off-campus students are not part of our community that places as much emphasis and importance on being informed about consent and sexual assault. The chances of students encountering sexual violence to any degree will increase then, partially because of being uninformed and partially because another place’s party culture will be different than Hampshire’s. Regardless, parties are hardly the only place that sexual violence will occur, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore and perpetuate a larger problem.

A good party will help students feel less isolated on campus.

You know how it goes: once you’re at a party, everyone is your friend. Many people already feel extremely isolated on campus, and banning parties will only increase those feelings. Having parties is a great way for students to interact with one another. It’s a great chance to catch up with old friends that we just don’t feel like we can make time for anymore. Oftentimes, the school hosts sub-free events that are meant to be spaces for students to meet. This is great! And although valuable, these evens don’t always work with students’ always-busy schedules.  However, a Friday or Saturday night is a great time to unwind not just with your friends but also with your peers. It’s a chance to say goodbye to a crazy, busy week and welcome in an even crazier, busier one together.

While the intentions of banning parties on campus is unknown, this would result in more harm than good. We should still be addressing issues of context, sexual assault and isolation—but a party ban is not the appropriate response.

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