Campus Bars Are Spreading and Skidmore Needs New Nightlife
Photo by Lorenzo Brogi-Skoskiewicz
Skidmore nightlife has undergone significant changes over the last few years. Seniors look back on their freshman year and remember large numbers of off-campus parties all over town. The drinking scene downtown was more diverse, and the Pony Club, the old organization for arranging downtown social life, had far fewer events than what is arranged now.
This year, the Hotwalker Club takes to Facebook about four times a week to promote the evening’s event. It typically rotates between a small number of downtown bars willing to host Skidmore-only events. Hotwalker has quickly monopolized the Skidmore social life by appealing to students who were tired of dancing and contending with ‘townies’ when they were trying to enjoy evenings with friends.
Hotwalker Club has also risen at a convenient time. Off-campus parties have declined due to pressure from the athletic administration and the Saratoga Police. In 2013, Skidmore’s Men’s soccer team had their season canceled because of reported hazing at off-campus residences. Due to this incident and others, the athletic department has been able to successfully scale down sports team house parties. In addition, the Saratoga Police, over the course of 2014 through 2016, came down hard on Skidmore parties that overflowed into city streets. Students renting houses in town were threatened with arrest if noise complaints continued. All of this is not to mention the tragic accident that was Michael Hedges death by drunk driver as he was walking to an off-campus party on a poorly lit street.
Students have, by choice or by force, spent more time on campus or downtown at bars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Despite more students staying on campus, the number of events has declined. Falstaff’s, the old college pub, used to average a few events a week. Clubs regularly hosted dances and other events on Friday and Saturday nights. The performance club Lively Lucy’s has also scaled back its operations. Add student reluctance to host parties at their on-campus apartments because of aggressive noise enforcement by campus safety and it is easy to understand why Hotwalker Club events have now become the go-to.
Not all students are happy with the changes, though. Many complain about the singularity of options and long for different types of events beyond the same 200 people dancing in the same bar to the same DJs. And for those students who are under 21 or do not have admissible fake IDs, they are left only with the small Northwoods or Sussman pre-games. More students also complain about inconsistent taxi service and their astronomical rates. Taxi services in Saratoga typically charge Skidmore students $3 a person and will uncomfortably load up a minivan with 10 students, raking in $30 for a 1 mile trip. A New York State Assembly approval of Uber could improve this situation, but it does not solve fundamental issues of student safety off-campus.
Fallstaff’s offers an already existing venue for campus events. The issue, however, is that it lacks booze. Many colleges, both large and small, have reintroduced college bars to their campuses. The Washington Post reported that many University-operated bars closed in the 1980s when the drinking age was increased to 21, but there has recently been a resurgence. Worried about risks to students brought on by excessive off-campus drinking, schools such as St. Mary’s College, George Mason and even the religious Georgetown University have opened college bars. On campus bars foster safe environments for students to have fun, have club events and create bonds with their college community.
The Skidmore News has written previously on reintroducing alcohol to Fastalff’s but those arguments have not acknowledged the current moment going on across campuses nationwide. Skidmore has the opportunity to join a host of institutions nationwide that have realized a campus bar offers a safe and enjoyable environment , which improves campus climate and is attractive to prospective students. With dwindling options for nightlife, Skidmore should embrace this easy solution.