Penn is no longer the place Playboy called the No. 1 party school in 2014. Given the controversial social policies (#NotMyEventObserver) adopted by Penn as a result of the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community, we knew that this Fling would be different. What I didn’t expect was how much SPEC and students would contribute to this change.
The increased social stringency by Penn makes gathering for that classic collegiate scene all the more difficult – windows are covered by trash bags and students shuffle like escaped prisoners through metal cellar doors to give the illusion that there is no traffic at a given house.
As parties move further off campus and free options are less and less reliable, students turn to off-campus events in ever-rising numbers. I’m going to attribute the Pool Party popularity to Dean Furda gracing the door with his presence (I mean, come on, how could you not want to be there?), but it seems that clamor to get to off-campus venues generally gets higher by the year.
A friend of mine who is at Penn as an exchange student asked me a couple of weeks ago which party he should get tickets for, because he hears that’s what you need to do now. That “need” drives up the price, leading these events to be prohibitively expensive for many, and the social policies necessitate them being available to as few people as possible. This is the first year I’ve had to request to be invited to Facebook events about Fling gatherings.
So, with the proverbial dogs at our heels, students should use our creative acumen to salvage all we can out of our landmark weekend, right? SPEC doesn’t seem to think so. SPEC’s decision to move all events to Penn Park, to cut nearly half the student events, and consolidate the entire thing to one day was, apparently, meant to “bring back the glory” of the ‘70s.
I listen to Sweet’s “Peppermint Twist” cover while I get dressed before going out and unironically own a pair of white jeans — I will never not be a fan of bringing back the glory of the ‘70s. But when I think about what made those scenes they spoke about — “those photos of the Quad filled with people, and people jumping off the stage, and having fun” — so good, “ample walking space” isn’t exactly what comes to mind. That’s what the Penn Park change is. It’s management.
What made ‘70s Fling glorious enough to want to bring back wasn’t that it was well-managed, but that it was loud and in your face and people believed in it; it was essential to capping off the year at Penn. Now it’s a one-day event featuring very few student groups in a place with no special centrality to campus. It’s Magic Gardens without an open bar.
And students have clued in. The negativity around Fling that has been on parade leading up to this week is palpable. Just because you don’t like the headliner doesn’t mean Fling is ruined.
I personally think cupcakKe has a cheap shtick, her music isn’t good, and she shouldn’t be on the roster. But I’m excited for Fling. I live on 40th and will burn two shots’ worth of calories hiking to Penn Park. But I’m excited for Fling.
I understand why there is pessimistic skepticism leading up to the “Fling of the Jungle.” The criticisms about the negative effects of Penn’s increasingly heavy social policies are well-founded, and SPEC has done what I feel is a less-than-commendable job justifying doing away very suddenly with many hallmarks of the tradition.
That said, Fling was never really about the rules or the SPEC events. The student-level changes are a response to a fear that faith in Fling is dying out, and the administration-level ones to a fear that our unchecked social freedom will burn Philly to the ground and MERT the entire Class of 2021. If we want Fling to continue to be special, we need to prove these fears wrong.
If Fling to you means going to all the clubs, do it. If it means rolling house to house sampling the finest Natty Light West Philly has to offer, do it. If you just want free food from the vendors, do it. But do something.
This Fling will be different, but reacting to that fact by disconnecting from the experience entirely is the one way to ensure that the “glory days” don’t come back. Rules and management aside, Fling is about celebrating the finale of another year in whatever way is most enjoyable to us.
DYLAN REIM is a College senior from Princeton, N.J. studying philosophy and political science. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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