Staff Editorial: Reflections on WashU social life

HN Hoffmann

It’s not a foreign sight for anyone who has spent significant time on the South 40: clusters of freshmen and sophomores huddled close together by the Clocktower as Ubers and Lyfts sidle up Shepley Drive to whisk students away to bars and clubs downtown or restaurants in Clayton or the Central West End. Three hours and many Venmo requests later, the same students stumble back onto campus. 

What often results is a resentment toward Washington University’s “nonexistent” social scene. This resentment, especially for people who have not been here too long, makes lots of sense! Seemingly, you have to either subject yourself to racking up bar cover charges, $10 drinks, tips and $80 surge-priced rides home, or stay home. These forms of going out create financial barriers to entry into WashU social life, serving to limit anyone without a rather frivolous entertainment budget. The conditions of many bar- or club-centric nights out in turn frequently exacerbate frustrations: Entry lines can be incredibly long, venues can be overly packed and expectations can be left unmet.

But it does not have to be this way. There is much, much more to WashU social life than the sweaty dance floors of Big Daddy’s and Club Europe. We should all reflect on those other aspects of what it means to be social here and should consider ways we can build on those elements of social life to generate a social experience that is more affordable, accessible and fun for all. 

Particularly given how for most WashU students this is the first full year of an in-person campus, it is easy to grow bitter toward what might seem to be the pre-established standard of campus social life. The thing is that what appears to be a “new social normal” was by no means the convention for many pre-pandemic students. Rather, WashU spirit has existed more in social spaces for students, by students. In many cases, student groups and other clubs provide scaffolding upon which more accessible social experiences can grow. 

Student group membership requirements sometimes shield social oases from public view, but many of these requirements are not strict and do not have any financial components: Friendliness toward the members of an on-campus group will typically result in invitations to hangouts, house parties, mixers and other events. The longer a club has existed, the more likely they are to have recurring shindigs that are just as (if not more) fun than a bar night with a hefty price tag.

If you think you’ve missed the boat — perhaps nothing at the activities fair spoke to you at first glance, or you spent more time than anticipated trying to adjust to in-person academics — know that many clubs are always recruiting and would love to have you.

To upperclassmen: While you might have to sift through the void of the pandemic to recall pre-COVID social memories, it’s worth it to mimic the practices of those that so willingly hosted you in years past. WashU’s social sphere is rather self-dependent and self-teaching; upperclassmen open their doors to freshmen and sophomores, in turn teaching those underclassmen how to host their own events when the time comes. If you’re a current junior or senior dissatisfied with current social happenings, try hosting! While you could go all-out and host the next big function for your social circle, even welcoming a small handful of peers over for a friendly dinner assists in reestablishing a healthy social environment.

And for those of you who do still find the call of a night out in greater St. Louis more endearing than any club-hosted fete, you’re no less entitled to your social experience than the most overinvolved student in the extracurricular sphere. However, it’s important to be conscious of the price tag associated with your outings — understand that not everyone you befriend will be able to commit to pricey dinners, expensive ride shares and the like. 

On a campus that never bursts with school spirit to begin with, and especially during yet another semester without key traditions like WILD, it can sometimes feel quite hard to be connected to others or to feel fulfilled in social interactions. These feelings often become especially magnified around this time of year as days shorten, temperatures quickly sink and we grind through the final weeks of the semester. And that is okay! All it means is that we have to, every once in a while, take a step back to think about how we can contribute to the community’s social experience.

Staff editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of our editorial board members. The editorial board operates independently of our newsroom and includes members of the senior staff. 

Editor-In-Chief: Matthew Friedman

Managing Editors: Jayla Butler, Isabella Neubauer

Senior Forum Editors: Reilly Brady, Jamila Dawkins

Senior Scene Editor: Julia Robbins

Senior Cadenza Editors: Jordan Coley, Gracie Hime

Senior Sports Editor: Grady Nance

Senior Copy Editors: Jordan Coley, Grady Nance

Senior Multimedia Editor: Jaden Satenstein, HN Hoffmann

Senior Social Media Editor: Sabrina Spence

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