Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Saturday evening at about 10:50 PM, the power went out on the Swarthmore campus.
Director of Maintenance Ralph Thayer told the Gazette in an e-mail that “the exact cause remains a mystery. The College is served with a 33,000 volt line which powers a few large power consumers in the area. Our utility Philadelphia Electric Company developed a problem in a section of the line, tried to back feed the line to bypass the problem and created another problem which caused the line to go down for about three hours. It’s about average in terms of length of time.”
Thayer continued, “Only a few key functions of the campus are fully supported in the event of a power failure,” including Sharples, the Heating Plant and ITS. Party spaces aren’t one of those crucial functions, but a large number of students didn’t let that stop them.
Emma Ferguson ’10, one of the organizers of the Nacht Cabaret in Paces, said that “Luckily for us, a few of our acts were acoustic anyway. We ran those, which included some great guitar playing and a short play directed by Sam Goodman, and then ended the party when it became clear that we’d be in the dark for a while. I doubt that we’ll reschedule; it’s hard enough to get all those acts in one place just once during a semester!”
President of Phi Psi Benjamin Young ’09 told the Gazette that during the 70s Party, “People were surprisingly calm when the blackout occurred… more people kept coming to the party despite there being no power. People brought flashlights and we attached an iPod to a portable stereo and the party was still a big success. When the power finally did come on, there was was so much energy in the room that everyone who stuck it out for the end of the night had a great time.”
Joanie Jean ’11, who organized the SOCA party in Olde Club, said that at first, “everyone pretty much stood around in confusion for an hour – we tried the fuse box, called public safety… the funny thing was, the whole time we’re standing there in the dark people kept arriving! Whole crowds showed up at Olde Club during the hour as if they expected SOCA to somehow miraculously produce music in the dark.”
That’s when they remembered that the BCC had backup generators. “The DJ agreed to stick around for a while longer and everyone called up their friends, and all of a sudden it’s a BCC house party. I think everyone who had heard an inkling about the SOCA party showed up at the BCC – it was ridiculously full… I may venture to say it was the best party I’ve ever been to during a blackout. That, and the only one.”