Watch: Catharsis and Community

The College community came together in Sharples Dining Hall last night to celebrate perhaps the Swarthmoriest tradition of all: the Midnight Breakfast and Primal Scream.

Held for more than 10 years, the event marks the end of reading week and the beginning of finals. More than 20 staff and faculty members volunteered to serve breakfast — giving frazzled students a proverbial hand on the shoulder and an opportunity to put the books down and engage with staff and faculty in a relaxed setting.

“Anytime you have faculty and staff collaborating to provide a unique student experience, it just shows the students how much we care about them,” says Andrew Barclay, assistant director of student life, who managed the event. “We all understand that this is a stressful time, and we’re here to do whatever we can to get them through it, in a fun fashion.”

The Office of Student Engagement staff oversaw the breakfast, joining faculty and staff volunteers from more than 10 offices and departments to help prepare and serve the breakfast and clean up afterward. Barclay spent the event “running around making sure everyone had what they needed and gap filling wherever possible,” and Isaiah Thomas, assistant director of residential communities, reprised his role as MC of the countdown to the midnight scream.

Earlier, student a capella groups Grapevine, Mixed Company, and Sixteen Feet performed 20-minute sets, as students piled their plates with breakfast favorites and filled mugs with coffee and tea. Students sat on and around tables across the main dining room, soaking up the camaraderie.

“There’s a lot to be said of the food aspect, and the community that can be built around food,” says Barclay.

But everything led up to the primal scream. The tradition calls for students to drop whatever they're doing at midnight to scream for a full minute, and those who can't bear to leave their dorm room or library join in, too, poking their heads out of windows or carrels. It's a cacophony of catharsis.

The tradition “acknowledges that students haven’t slept in weeks — so why not feed them breakfast and let them scream their hearts out at midnight?” writes Brittni Teresi ’19, a psychology major from Las Vegas, Nev.

Beyond a chance for students to blow off steam and for staff and faculty to express their support, though, the event is also a chance for the community to come together before winter break.

“It takes us out of our box and puts us together with staff and students in an unusual, fun, silly way,” says Registrar Martin Warner, who volunteered for the event. “All that makes for a perfect tradition.”

The fun continues this Saturday with Finals Fest 16, featuring a series of events and study breaks with food, games, music, massages, and more. The event is sponsored by the Intercultural Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Office of Student Engagement, Student Health and Wellness Services, and the Office of International Student Services.