‘Quaker bouncers’ keep parties in line

HAVERFORD, Pa. (MCT) – It’s after midnight, and the crowd at this Haverford College ’80s-theme dance has reached critical mass: Several hundred students fill the on-campus hall, moving to the music and chatting with friends.

A male student approaches Justin Meyerowitz, 20, who is stationed at the front door: “You’ve got a girl throwing up on the steps.” Meyerowitz rushes to the student, who has her head down and a garbage bag in hand – the result of too much rum earlier in the evening. He radios security officers, who arrive in two minutes and call for an ambulance.

It is another emergency handled by Meyerowitz and his crew, all students at the Main Line institution.

They call themselves the “Quaker bouncers,” Haverford having Quaker roots.

Their job? Monitoring on-campus parties. Their mission? Students looking out for students.

The Quaker bouncers check for identification at the entrance, prohibit students from bringing alcohol in, patrol the halls and restrooms, and serve as a link between the party attendees and college security.

Although alcohol was not permitted at the ’80s party, many students arrived under the influence.

Then-sophomore Jeff Millman, 22, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., started the group in late 2004 after he watched students frantically search for a freshman who had been drinking and taking prescription drugs. She was found slumped in bushes on campus and rushed to a hospital.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t we do that every night – have a group of people who will give up an evening and be sober and look out for other people?'” he says.

He shared the idea with Haverford officials, who liked it.

“It is student based, student generated,” says Tom King, director of safety and security.

Last school year, Haverford had 18 alcohol incidents, which can range from a citation for underage drinking to hospitalization; two-thirds involved hospital visits. This year, there have been 14 incidents.

The idea drew praise from the national Security on Campus, a nonprofit group in King of Prussia. About 1,700 college students die annually from alcohol-related harm, such as car-crash injuries and alcohol poisoning.

“I love it when the spotlight is shined on students who are not getting sucked into the out-of-control drinking,” says Catherine Bath, executive director.

Other colleges have students who monitor parties on campus. At Swarthmore, they are “party associates.” The University of Pennsylvania has “alcohol monitors.” Bryn Mawr employs “party advocates.” Each program works a bit differently. All require training and pay monitors; Haverford’s crew earns $10.25 an hour.

The University of Pennsylvania program, which started eight years ago, employs only graduate or professional students (those in law, medicine or dental programs).

“We find that the distance between graduate and professional students not being direct peers of undergraduates allows for more consistent upholding of university policies,” says Stephanie Ives, director of strategic initiatives.

At Bryn Mawr, training is also required of the hosts and bouncers, in addition to the “advocates,” who make sure rules are being enforced but don’t necessarily stay throughout a party. The number of hosts and bouncers required for a party depends on its size, college spokesman Matt Gray said.

At Haverford, the effort has become so successful that Millman, who graduated in December and now works in financial services in New York City, is trying to get other colleges to try it. He pitched 29 alcohol companies to sponsor a Web site on training bouncers. He also will address 3,000 college deans at a conference in Florida.

How to handle alcohol on campus is a controversial issue.

Some crack down on underage drinking. Others, including Haverford, ban alcohol for those younger than 21, but take a more liberal approach, says King, Haverford’s safety director. A crackdown could force students off campus to drink and discourage them from calling for help if they need it, he says. Virtually all of Haverford’s 1,100 students live on campus.

“We’re trying to find this balance between respect for and adherence to the law with the realization that obviously neither we, nor the police, can be everywhere 24/7 and that students are going to drink,” he says.

The Quaker bouncers work at some parties that serve alcohol – those in student residences – but the host must be 21. The bouncers don’t consider it their job to card the partygoers for age.

Shortly before 10 p.m. on a Saturday in late January, Meyerowitz stands on the porch of Founders Hall, addressing his crew of five bouncers. He equips them with radios, assigns them to posts, and explains that the party is open only to students from Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore and their guests.

“People will try to scoot around you,” warns Meyerowitz, a sophomore from Los Angeles majoring in biochemistry.

He shows them the green dinosaur stamp to give attendees.

About 100 bouncers have been trained in settling conflicts and other issues.

The bouncers don’t give first aid, but have kits on hand for students to use. They won’t initiate physical contact, but they will engage in self-defense.

A busload of women from Bryn Mawr arrives about 10:30 p.m. dressed in ’80s attire, some wearing red, white and blue headbands, “Miami Vice” suits, and oversize sunglasses.

Students must vouch for guests and take responsibility for their behavior. Three people without ID or a friend to vouch for them are turned away early on.

“I don’t have my ID,” another student says, smiling coyly at a male bouncer. “Wait, it’s in my bra,” she says, pulling out the card.

Some students appear to have had alcohol already. Others may have slipped it in. One young woman is drinking from a clear tonic-water bottle, and the liquid is brown. Bouncers don’t allow beer or liquor bottles inside, but let students bring in other containers. They don’t insist on smelling or sampling the liquid.

“We don’t want to be intrusive,” Meyerowitz explains.

Partygoers say they like having the bouncers on hand. “There’s somebody with a more trained eye watching for everybody else,” says sophomore Laura Care, 19, of Long Island.

When the group started, some students felt threatened.

“As they understand more that we’re not an offshoot of some sort of law-enforcing branch on campus, that we’re really there to help them, they like us,” says Susanna Tolkin, 20, a sophomore psychology major.

As the party nears its close, Meyerowitz stays outside with the intoxicated woman as emergency workers prepare to take her to Bryn Mawr Hospital.

The bouncers write a report after each party and submit it to campus officers the next morning. Besides the sick student, there wasn’t much to report.

Sometimes, there are unusual infractions.

A 6-foot-2 male swiped a light-strung, potted tree at a formal event and began to run away with it. Tolkin pursued him.

“I was chasing him across campus,” she says, “yelling ‘Drop the tree. Drop the tree.'”

He did.

The Quaker bouncers saved the day again.