Alternative social space opens with successful events
By Michelle Deloison Baum
Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Since its opening in September, Sarner Underground has been a venue for social events including concerts and a dance party co-hosted by Student Assembly, Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority and Chi Heorot fraternity on Saturday. Friday Night Rock also hosted both its concerts this term — featuring the bands Dum Dum Girls, Kissinger, M.A.K.U. Sound System and Biscuits and Gravy — in Sarner. TOAST, a band of Dartmouth students, also performed in the venue on Oct. 5.
The opening dance party was hosted to better publicize Sarner as a social space, according to Student Body President Suril Kantaria ’13.
“We felt that having a party in a coed social space that is co-hosted by Greek organizations would be an excellent way of introducing Sarner not only to the student body as a whole but also the Greek and non-Greek community,” Kantaria said.
Many students are not yet aware of Sarner’s location, according to Student Assembly marketing committee chair Tara Roudi ’15, but students who have attended events in Sarner said they like the venue.
“I didn’t know it existed, but I’m pumped that it’s there,” KDE member Katherine Cima ’14, who attended the Saturday party, said.
KDE social chair Hannah Kuhar ’13 said that the party was promoted by the Assembly to introduce the space as an alternative to the Greek scene. The event was publicized through emails, Facebook and a promotional video that received about 1,500 views, according to Roudi.
First-year cluster representative Thomas Wang ’16 said that the dance party helped acquaint students with the space.
“I was on front door duty, and when people were walking in they were looking around like, ‘Wow, what is this?’” he said.
The party was co-hosted with Greek houses to overcome the “stigma associated with non-Greek social events,” according to Roudi.
Wang said that Greek involvement was used to help increase attendance at the event.
“People don’t judge events by how much fun people are having but by how many people are there,” he said.
The party was a “moderate success,” with around 150 people attending it throughout the duration of the event, Kuhar said. KDE member Sandi Caalim ’13 said that the dance party drew a range of students, including unaffiliated students, minority groups and freshmen. Caalim and Cima both said that Sarner seemed like an ideal place for dancing.
“They had these awesome disco lights, and it kind of felt like you were in a Euro club,” Cima said.
The opening party set a precedent for future collaborative events and redefined the social scene of a basement, Kuhar said. She also said that future events similar to the dance party would help the space construct its unique identity.
Stephanie Barnhart ’14 said, however, that having Greek houses host the event defeated the purpose of providing an alternative space.
“I thought it was kind of strange because the whole point is to get away from the Greek scene and that just seemed to be reaffirming it,” Barnhart said.
Friday Night Rock general manager Alexis Monroe ’13 said that she considers Friday Night Rock, which will continue to host concerts in Sarner, an attraction for people interested in live music and socializing with friends rather than a direct alternative to the Greek system.
“I think the whole idea of an alternative social space is misguided in that the whole ‘alternative’ implicitly gives more power to the mainstream,” Monroe said.
Luke Murphy ’13, who attended the Friday concert, said that Sarner’s success will depend on students’ demand for a non-Greek space. However, he noted that he appreciated the space as an opportunity to branch out from social events at Greek houses.
“We do enjoy the frats and sororities but senior year, it’s fun to explore different options,” he said.
Special Programming and Events Committee chair Ayda Ramadan ’13 said that alcohol should be provided at the events to “compete with the frat basement.”
Friday Night Rock and the opening party both served alcohol, but strictly to students who were over the age of 21.
“If you are under 21 and not in frat and still want to drink — you are missing out,” Sam Gardner ’15, a member of Friday Night Rock, said.
While Friday Night Rock has been hosted in Fuel since the group’s inception, its concerts have been held in Sarner since the beginning of the term, according to Friday Night Rock member Ankan Dhal ’13. SPEC, which receives its funding from the Undergraduate Finance Committee, increased Friday Night Rock’s funding, partly to maximize use of the larger space that Sarner provided, Ramadan said.
“The space reminds me of a Greek house basement but cleaner and better kept,” Ramadan said.
Gardner said he was pleased that the administration listened to Friday Night Rock’s requests for a quality sound system and space.
“I always thought that the only way to have a concert on campus was to be in really packed Fuel with it being really hot, so it was really nice to be able to dance without being worried about heat stroke,” he said.
Dhal said that while he misses the intimate environment that Fuel provided, he appreciates the extra space for more crowded events.
“I think it’s a good balance if you have the crowd so you still get the energy going on and people are dancing on stage with the band, but you can still go in the back and take a breather,” he said.
The Assembly plans on collaborating with more campus organizations to make Sarner a place where students feel comfortable socializing, according to Kantaria.
Staff writer Amanda Young contributed reporting to this article.