The first weeks of college for first-years present a haze of new activities, including—despite what the substance-free opening dictates—an introduction to mind-altering substances for some. Being away from home, a first time for many, calls for a night to remember, or perhaps not, by the following day.
There is a sense of expectation that comes with the culture of college dance parties that is only augmented by the potential presence of substances. From popular movies to older students’ stories, there is a stereotype behind college and drinking that is ever-present and recurring.
The substance-free weeks prior to the start of classes are meant to lower the number of sexual assault offenses and contribute to building a strong community without the added pressure of alcohol and drugs for firs-year students. Substance-free begins once the first student leaders arrive on campus in August and lasts through the beginning of September.
During substance-free opening, there were several dance parties that the schools organized to give first-year students an opportunity to meet their 5C classmates. Dance parties have different connotations for different individuals however, ranging from those who think the parties are generally awkward to those who think that even calling them dance parties is a misnomer.
“I prefer the actual dance parties (swing, salsa, blues, etc.), and it doesn’t really matter if you drink at those. You meet people from across the 5Cs in a more intimate setting than a giant, noisy supernova of people,” Kai Fukutaki PO ’17 wrote via Facebook.
Students suggested that the dance parties were a good place to socialize if you liked to party, but that they were not necessarily the best way to meet 5C peers.
“I think it depends on what kind of person you are. Some people are a lot more comfortable meeting people through clubs because clubs group people by common interests. Others have more fun meeting people at parties because there is such a variety of people and a lot going on,” Noor Asif SC ’16 wrote, also via Facebook.
“For those who don’t [have a common interest in partying and dancing] it can get tedious going to parties,” Keara O’Connor PZ ’17 wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
These perspectives suggest that a dance party is not the ideal environment for a substance-free event, but not all students felt that way. Substances were not the main theme of the comments, and several students referenced the social, substance-free environment of the parties, calling attention to the reality that maybe students understand the school-stated purpose behind the dances, a purpose that is definitely not to forget the evening come morning.
“It is a nice way to have a pseudo-party environment to meet people in without the dangers of a real party,” O’Connor wrote. “I think the motives behind the dance parties during orientation week is to provide a safe, school-sponsored environment for freshmen to meet other people from the 5Cs in something other than an academic setting.”
Others stated simply that dance parties were not a good place to socialize at all: “Dance parties aren’t good places to meet people; they’re good places to dance,” Kenny Moran PO ’15 wrote via Facebook.
Students may not agree about the utility of the dance parties during substance-free opening, but history suggests that the parties will continue into the foreseeable future.