Of all of all the Swarthmore traditions listed in The Student Handbook, the "Screw Your Roommate Dance" probably attracts the greatest percentage of the the student body. "It's been going on as long as I've been here, and I came in 1988," said Dean Ted Goundie. "It's always felt like an institution; everyone always talked about it."
The February 17, 1989 Phoenix reported, "Everyone had been in an uproar for weeks. The whole social structure had been shaken to its very roots. Phone calls had been made, arrangements had fallen through. No one could agree on anyone. No, this wasn't the realization of Marx's prediction of a social revolution...It was time for Swarthmore's annual "Screw Your Roommate" Dance.
But compared to such traditions as the Crum Regatta and May Day Celebrations, "Screw" is a relative newcomer to Swarthmore. "We didn't have anything quite so creative," said Prof. Pieter Judson, who attended Swarthmore in the 1970s. "We hardly had dates in those days. It would have seemed way too formal."
Dave Allegeier '86, who chaired the Student Social Committee during his time at Swarthmore, told The Phoenix about the beginning of "Screw": "It began in the spring of '83, which would have been my freshman year. Some members of my class had heard about it from another school, and decided to try it at Swarthmore. Since then, it has happened, I believe, every year, which would make this the 14th annual 'Screw Your Roommate' Dance".
"Schemes were always elaborate, with public humiliation being a piece of it," said Goundie. The 1986 Halcyon reported that the student Band Rx played at that year's dance.
"People collected at such diverse locations as Tarble, Parrish Parlors, and Kirby Lecture Hall. But Sharples drew the biggest crowd with approximately 900 people between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m," The Phoenix reported in 1989. "Sleeping Beauty ate her apple and was kissed by her Prince Charming to wake up to a cheering crowd. Little Red Riding Hood made her appearance on a table. Romeo serenaded Juliet in the lobby with sweet (iambic pentameter) words of desire. An embarrassed woman had to ask if someone wanted to score in the basket hoop around her waist.' And then campusconversation returned to "The meaning of life and how to save the world."