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The Scarlet & Black

Harris parties: coming back or a remnant of Grinnell’s past?

Artist+GoldLink+performed+in+Harris+Concert+Hall+on+May+6%2C+2016.+Following+a+hiatus+due+to+the+pandemic%2C+Harrises+returned+last+semester%2C+but+may+now+be+at+risk+once+again.
Alberto Vazquez
Artist GoldLink performed in Harris Concert Hall on May 6, 2016. Following a hiatus due to the pandemic, Harrises returned last semester, but may now be at risk once again.

By Mira Diamond-Berman
diamondb@grinnell.edu

Before COVID-19 dictated the safety of indoor events, College-sponsored Harris parties often became the major all-campus event of a given weekend. The COVID-19 pandemic has made Harris parties seem to no longer be an option, at least for now, and in the meantime, there is still the opportunity for outdoor all-campus activities. Still, the disappearance of the parties has changed the College’s weekend culture and are missed by many third- and fourth-year students.

Harris parties would start every Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. in the Harris Center; the early birds could get pizza while it lasted and later arrivals could show up until closing time at 1 a.m. Anna Brew `22, who was originally in the class of 2021 but took a year off, said she enjoyed Harris parties her first three years.

“It’s just like a really fun way to like unwind on a weekend. I know people have mentioned that they feel like there is not a lot to do here and I feel like that can fill that up,” she said.

Student at a Harris party on Halloween in 2014. Photograph by Jun Taek Lee.

Each party had a theme that was chosen and hosted by a student group, often based around a kind of music, style of dress or costume, or time period.

“I thought Fetish Harris was really fun to just to see what everyone dressed up as … there was lots of school girls, some like librarians, there’s some dads, like the guys used to dress up in floral shirts and be like Hawaiian dads,” Brew said.

On Sept. 18, the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a glow-in-the-dark party on Mac Field to provide an on-campus party option for students.

“I wanted to make sure the glow in the dark party happened on Mac Field because initially, most parties were off campus and the whole thing with the off-campus situation was, like, the Grinnell police were being a little more out there and then a bunch of students have been caught,” said Aditya Nair `23, SGA all-campus events chair. “This poses a liability risk and a safety risk for these students and because of that partying on campus would be a lot more safe than partying off campus.”

Nair prioritized having an outdoor Harris, but said it was difficult to organize due to the lack of All-Campus Events Student Safety (ACESS) staff, student workers who have historically overseen Harris and Gardner parties and acted as advocates and liaisons for students in interactions with Campus Safety or healthcare workers. SGA is waiting to run another outdoor party until ACESS are available for the event.

“They [ACESS] already have extensive training and then they are there to make sure things are safe, people aren’t consuming substances, etc. But then since they aren’t organized at the moment, since it’s something the administration does and not students themselves, right now we don’t have these volunteers or these people,” said Nair. Once SGA and the administration reestablish ACESS, he said these outdoor parties will be much easier to organize.

There is also hope that coming Oct. 1, the administration will change the current COVID-19 protocols regarding indoor events.

Currently, groups of students have been approaching Nair with ideas for all-campus events in attempt to bring back campus culture.

“They are booking slots for certain events in the coming weeks so I can organize the logistics behind these events whether it’s lights, sounds, stage set up, etc., for them,” said Nair. “A student group recently had a pool party sort of thing on Mac Field.”

Despite the efforts by SGA and other student groups to organize weekend activities, Nair said that it is still difficult to cultivate a campus culture and bring back the traditions since half of the school lacks a pre-pandemic Grinnell experience.

“At this moment it hard to define campus culture because we have two whole class years that have not experienced Grinnell traditions,” he said.

The lack of Harris parties also limits students’ opportunities to meet new people.

“I think there was a lot more mingling of humans in general,” said Brew. “It was fun it was a way to hangout and get some dancing and get the wiggles out.”

 

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