THE QUAKER BOUNCERS: Pacificist remedies for wild & crazy parties
Jeff Millman '07, a mathematical economics major, went to a campus party in '04,“where some girl almost died.” It was a case of binge drinking, a weird 21st century permutation of the hallowed college tradition of American undergrads getting loaded and acting foolishly. . .In the latest wrinkle on U.S. campuses, however, large amounts of booze are imbibed in shorter time-spans â€” the infamous“21-for-21” ritual, for example, where â€” to celebrate your majority â€” you start slugging away at whiskey, gin, vodka or beer, sometimes mixing them, until you literally black out.“No one actually gets to 21 drinks, of course," â€” you'd have to be Tiki Barber's size to even reach 9 or 10, Millman laughs:“It's just the idea of drinking a lot” [that seems to have current American undergrad appeal.]“Why that's the aim is an interesting question.” In European countries like France or Italy, there isn't much mystery or sense of rebelling against“a ban” in drinking, since kids take wine with meals from young ages â€” so it's less a problem. U.S. college drinking these days appears to have some connection to emotional repression â€” manifested in other ways, too: the feckless“Valley Girl” upward lilt of speech patterns heard across the land in middle to upper middle class venues â€”“I don't know whether to take my chem class or go for a pizza,” a girl or boy will intone identically into their Razors, tripping over some grassy quad. . .Premature anomie?
Actually, at Haverford, drinking is less a problem than it is at other schools. But at the time Millman encountered the prostrate girl, he was concerned enough to want to do something about it. At that first party, people were just standing around, not wanting to get their fellow students into trouble by calling Safety & Security or the cops, not recognizing the signs of danger â€” paleness, swooning, slow or fast heartbeat . But the more he thought about it, the more he felt something should be done by students themselves â€”“It seemed a natural extension of the ideas in the Honor Code.” (The girl was eventually taken to the hospital and saved.) Millman was concerned, however, that there wasn't any direct undergrad way to deal with the new phenomenon. So he and Phil Edmundson '08, a Philosophy and Latin major, got the idea of forming a group they at first called“The Club,” to monitor parties and dances and picnics in non-intrusive ways that wouldn't get students' backs up.“We kind of hung around, working the door, trying to keep non-trinity [Swarthmore/Bryn Mawr/Haverford] students out. . .for some reason, most of the trouble seemed to come from students from other schools.”
“Quaker Bouncers” or QBs don't engage in any physical restraint, don't have power to arrest, and in fact just call Security or 911 if they encounter real trouble .“We pretty much ask for compliance â€” like if we see someone coming into a Student Council dance or La Fiesta or something, carrying a bottle, we ask them to give it up or leave it outside [whereas at â€˜private parties' in dorms or apartments, students are allowed to have alcohol]," says Justin Meyerowitz '09, a biochemistry major, currently a Co-Captain of the QBs.“But if they refuse or start to become belligerent, our policy is pretty much â€” fleeing!” Thus the ironic "â€˜Quaker Bouncers."
Their strength is their age and credibility as fellow students. Typically, four of them will work a party or dance, two on the door, to try to screen non-Haverfordians/Bryn Mawrters/Swarthmore-ites, two near any rear entrances, to spot students who may be crashing or harboring booze or drugs. The lead QB on the door has a two-way walkie-talkie with which to hit Security, Emergency Services, or the Lower Merion or Haverford PDs in case of serious trouble. Everyone else is connected on closed-circuit phones so that they can clue each other from different locations on whom to watch, or approach with a suggestion to surrender drugs or pills, or else leave the scene. Students who are known to the Bouncers (first and last names) aren't required to show identification, but everyone else is. QB's are allowed to defend themselves, but rarely have done so.“Mostly we just call in Security, who are literally on the spot in 30 seconds to a minute-and-a-half. They're older and bigger, and so tend to project more authority,” Meyerowitz says. (Actually the Security team is also loath to engage physically, and mostly call the real cops, who are not.) But such incidents are rare at Haverford â€” Corporal Brian Murray of Safety & Security has been on campus for 10 years, and has only been involved in one“wrestling” match, when an inebriated student from a non-trinity school grew belligerent at a lawn party on College Lane, and was reluctantly“pinned down” until the P.D. arrived.
Justin and Chris DeAngelo '08, a history major and the other Co-Captain, were drawn to the Bouncers from watching them operate:“Everybody [students] was acting irresponsibly, most weekends,” Meyerowitz remembers,“but these guys were acting responsibly. I'm not saying everyone was binge-drinking, but most of them were drunk.
“The QBs were calm. They talked trouble down. They reported to Security but they weren't into getting anyone in trouble...And what I realized was that a citation from the police and a $120 fine wasn't going to serve as a deterrent [for comfortably-fixed Haverford undergraduates], but good examples from these QB guys were. . .So I joined,” and gradually rose to equal rank with DeAngelo. (Founders Millman and Phil Edmundson are on the Quaker Bouncer board and still participate, but are semi-emeritus figures now.) There are between 60 and 70 active patrolers at any given time, who'll rotate working 3 Â½ to 4 hour shifts at parties and dances (for minimum pay), up to twice a week. Sponsoring groups like the Ultimate Frisbee Team will split costs with various College funders, like the Joint Student Administration Alcohol Policy Panel (JSAAPP).
There was a large initial reaction to the Bouncers on the Go-Boards: Some students felt the new“exclusionary” rules create an atmosphere of xenophobia, but Millman invited critics to talk with him and the other QB's about their concerns â€” if an outside student was known and“sponsored” by trinity partiers, he or she could get in. Older students, who'd thought party policy was fine as it was before the QB's came along, accused Millman and company of being direct products of the Joint Student Administration Alcohol Policy Panel, and“spies” for Security â€”“Which is nonsense,” Millman asserts.“We cooperate with S & S to let them know what's going on and to call for help if we need them, but we [QBs] are not JSAAPP's bitches,” he told the Bi-Co News. There was one weekend in which three students were reportedly rushed to area hospitals for alcohol distress reasons, and the QBs maintain that was the genesis of the group.
Perhaps the most infamous incident so far occurred at Gummere in March, 2005. The above-named Ultimate Frisbee Team sponsored a party to celebrate games played on campus in the Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. Spencer Walters â€˜05, a co-captain of the team, estimated for the Bi-Co News at the time that approximately 50 to 55 of the 100 partiers in attendance were non-Fords. One of them, un-named but variously reported as being from Vassar or Bryn Mawr,“decided”, according to Millman, that“the uniform of the day was â€” nothing!” So partiers entering Gummere's basement party space encountered a nude male who was totally blitzed grabbing at people's crotches, writhing and making sexual remarks. The Bouncers called S & S, who in turn called Haverford Police. A fight of sorts had broken out between the Vassar/Bryn Mawr dude and a Haverford guy who thought V/BM was a lout . According to one source, the Haverford student broke a beer bottle near the nude, and flying glass cut his back. The Haverford student suffered a swollen eye. Another observer reports the nude fellow's head was cut, too. In any case, everyone refused medical treatment.
Peter Blessington '07 felt the nude's behavior had started the trouble, but also felt the reaction against him was too harsh.
The incident was a bellwether, however, and at a“Screw Your Roommate” dance at Founders in 2004, the QBs turned away eight non-trinity people at the door, and removed three individuals who'd snuck into the hall by a back entrance.“We'd begun policing ourselves,” Meyerowitz observes,“a first step toward maturity.” For perspective, there were 33 liquor law violations in 2003, though only six arrests; 31 LLV's in 2004 with 22 arrests; and 27 LLVs in 2005, with arrests down to 16 â€” the first full year of the Bouncers' operations, and the latest year for which figures are available from S & S. Eventually, Millman says, the QBs hope to move on to“roving” efforts to prevent property loss and date rape incidents, and are even considering exporting their ideas to other venues. . .â€œHey, if it works, use it, right?”
Meanwhile, naysayers persist, on the Go Boards and elsewhere:“These â€˜student leaders' are only there for their resumes. If it was truly up to students, we wouldn't have these stupid policies. . .”