The Pro-Party Party

Viviana Barquet

For some, the decision of which college to attend wasn’t based on academics, it was based solely on an institutions party scene reputation. In some cases, this choice led students to major in easy courses, receive low GPA’s and attend every party on campus. 

“Student expectations, what is in their individual minds, student peer culture, how they interact and university organization,” are the three sources of the campus party culture said Dr. Elizabeth A. Armstrong, co-Author of “Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality.” This fact ultimately leads one to wonder, at an institution, whose entire social and academic environments revolve around Greek Life, how do you keep up?

Armstrong, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, visited Mendel Hall on Oct. 21 to present Villanovans her findings from the year-long ethnography of a women’s floor of the party dorm at an institution referred to as Midwest University. The methodology of Armstrong’s study, which she conducted with Laura Hamilton, consisted of 33 women who were interviewed five times through and beyond college. 

The women involved in the sororities at Midwest University were very much homogeneous: slender, white and affluent, Armstrong said. Her findings showed that middle-class women who were placed in the party dorm suffered from social exclusion and isolation, much like the rejection she felt herself during her stay at the dorm. 

“There was frenzy in the hallways when it was time to go out,” Armstrong said of the women living in her floor. “They were running between rooms, asking ‘Is this ok? Is this too slutty?’”

According to Armstrong, the women were constantly competing for beauty and status. They were hierarchically organized into class, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, nationality, body size and social skills. Those that didn’t fit in were ostracized and had limited social mobility. 

“The parents of one of the girls couldn’t find her name in the commencement because they didn’t know her major,” Armstrong said in her discussion. “Some went back to get a second BA because their first one was useless.”

According to Armstrong, undergraduate socializing was organized around drinking and hooking-up. The access to alcohol was always controlled at frat parties, where freshman women were promised more and better alcohol if they went into a private space. 

“The university is complicit, it allows sororities and fraternities to gain the resources to do this,” Armstrong said of her discovery that institutions push freshmen drinking out of residence halls and into frat houses for liability purposes. 

Here at the University, Armstrong doesn’t see students falling into what she refers to as the “party pathway” because of the rigor of the academics and small size.