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Reports of Saturday Night Assault lead to Criticism of Administration, Concern for Genderfuck

April 6, 2011

Shortly after midnight on Saturday night, a Swarthmore student and a friend of his from the University of Pennsylvania were attacked by a group of at least six teenagers. The two students were hospitalized overnight, though neither student was gravely injured.

The college administration’s response to the incident has received criticism from the campus community for being delayed and incomplete, and the possibility that the attack was motivated by homophobia is especially troubling to some students given the upcoming Genderfuck party.

The Incident

The two male students were returning from a party where each had “drunk a little bit,” according to the Swarthmore student. He told the Gazette that he is “sort of involved” with the visiting student, and that the two were openly showing affection toward one another while walking across campus.

As they reached Mertz Field, a group of “high school kids” came up to them and asked the students for alcohol. At least five males and one female approached them, though the students were unsure of how many there were, and were not able to provide details on their appearance.

The Swarthmore student said that he asked them three questions in response to their request for alcohol: “Are you high schoolers?”, “Are you ville rats?” and “Are you underage?”

When the group responded affirmatively to all three questions, he said he wouldn’t give them any alcohol. One of the group then struck the Swarthmore student.

“Sort of out of nowhere, one of them hit me in the head and I went down,” he said. He was then hit in the jaw repeatedly.

His UPenn friend was also knocked down. The teenagers “kicked him and stomped him in the head and neck.”

After the teenagers left, the students were able to get to Worth Health Center. The Worth staff informed Public Safety of the incident at 12:30 am, according to Director of Public Safety Owen Redgrave.

Officers were dispatched immediately, and Swarthmore Police were also informed. Both arrived to the area around Mertz Field and Magill Walk within minutes.

A search of campus proved fruitless. The two students told the police that they did not think they would be able to identify the perpetrators if they were found.

Meanwhile, other officers took statements from the two students and brought them to Springfield Hospital, where they received x-rays and CT scans. After staying in the hospital overnight, the students were brought back to campus.

Rafael Zapata, Assistant Dean and Director of the Intercultural Center, was on call for the weekend. Zapata told the Gazette he received a call on Sunday morning about the events and contacted the Swarthmore student, leaving him a voicemail on his cell phone and following up with an email “offering support.”

The Swarthmore student met with Zapata on Monday morning to discuss the incident. At this point, the administration became aware of the possible connection of the incident to the students’ sexual orientation.

The student had not discussed this aspect of the incident with neither Public Safety nor the Swarthmore Police before that point. Chief of Police Brian Craig did not know about this connection before the Gazette spoke with him on Tuesday morning.

The deans discussed the incident Monday afternoon, and the student met with Dean of Students Liz Braun on Monday evening. Braun said that the primary goal of the Dean’s Office in this kind of situation is “supporting the student in what they need.” The student said that he felt he did receive the administration’s support.

“In general,” he said, “it was handled pretty well” by all involved.

Both he and his friend “are on the same page, in that we’re really tired and just want to stop thinking about it,” he said.

The Swarthmore Police are now taking the lead in the investigation into the incident, with support from Public Safety.

“At this point,” Redgrave wrote in an email, “we have very few leads.”

The police’s main strategy at this point is to “listen for any talk amongst high school students about this,” according to Craig, and to wait and see if any information turns up.

“Sometimes information comes from strange places,” said Craig.

A Hate Crime?

“There were no [homophobic] epithets” uttered by the assailants, according to Zapata. He said, however, “it’s a reasonable conclusion” that homophobia probably played a significant role in the violence, “in light of the context.”

Any kind of serious violence is very rare in Swarthmore. Craig said that events “with the technical classification of assault” happen in the borough or the college “maybe twice a year,” usually involving “people known to each other,” often family members. (A robbery at gunpoint did occur on campus two years ago.)

But when there are any kind of “negative experiences” with those outside the campus community, said Redgrave, they almost always “involve individuals being under the influence of alcohol and/or attempting to gain entrance to parties where alcohol is being served.”

The assaulted student said that while the attack did involve teenagers trying to obtain alcohol, he felt that his perceived sexual orientation may also have come into play. “I can’t imagine them attacking a guy and a girl, two girls, [or] two guys they thought were straight.”

In his nine years at the college, Zapata says that “this is the first time this blatant kind of violence” has occurred.

Adam Bortner ’12 sees this event as “the latest in a disturbing pattern of verbal and physical assaults motivated by anti-gay/homophobic bias.” In a letter he wrote to the town paper The Swarthmorean last summer, he described incidents where teenage boys repeatedly verbally harassed him.

He told the Gazette that these interactions with local teenagers are not rare.

“When I share my story with friends and peers, sometimes other people will respond with similar experiences.” A friend of his had a soda dumped on him after being harassed by local youth.

Bortner believes that a resolution to these issues must come at least in large part from the local community, particularly the school district, as well as from the college. In his letter to the Swarthmorean, he wrote, “Community leaders and parents, please make it clear that bigotry and hate speech are never acceptable.”

“It’s easy to be lulled into a sense of false security and to buy into the myth of Swarthmore exceptionalism,” he said. “’Oh, that doesn’t happen here.’ As much as we talk about the Swarthmore bubble, we are not isolated from pervasive social issues like homophobia.”

In the weeks following his letter, a group formed to discuss these issues. Calling themselves the Swarthmore LGBTStraight Network, they “have had up to 20 people from Swarthmore and neighboring communities, representing various organizations, constituencies and walks-of-life,” according to Alison Masterpasqua, a McCabe employee and a member of the group.

They are meeting Thursday to “formulate a response to this disturbing event. […] The network’s intent is to find ways we can partner with community groups to raise awareness and counter just such attitudes and actions as occurred on campus this past weekend.”

Braun agreed that community awareness of these issues is “a good thing to lift up,” and something that she plans to discuss in her regular meetings with the mayor’s office and other branches of the town government. But she warned that the problem does not lie exclusively in Swarthmore.

Braun pointed out that Swarthmore is one of only a few towns in the area that do not enforce curfews for minors. (The nearby town of Folsom, for instance, instituted a 9 pm curfew for minors in 2006.) Because of that, Swarthmore is “a draw for high schoolers from a number of different towns.”

“We have no way of knowing if these perpetrators were Borough residents,” said Redgrave, “and we should not assume they were.”

Communication with the Community

Within an hour and a half of the attack, several RAs had sent out emails reporting a violent act had been committed against a student on Mertz field and urging their halls to be careful.

Yet there was no official communication of the incident to the student body until around 5 pm on Monday, when Public Safety sent out a bulletin via email saying a student and his friend were attacked near the Septa underpass by five individuals. It stated that they were treated by Worth for “minor cuts and abrasions.” The email was written by Redgrave, and approved by Braun before being sent out.

The Swarthmore student who was assaulted called this announcement “whitewashed.”

He said it implied that the attack “was further off campus than it was, sounded like it was a less thorough beating than it was, and made it sound like we just went to Worth and that was that, as opposed to spending all night in the hospital.”

The student added that although he was “frustrated by the announcement,” it was “not that surprising” that some of the details were wrong. Both victims “took hits to the head” and were “in shock” during the process, and so their reports were probably somewhat confused.

Other students who knew about the incident were outraged both by the content and the tardiness of this email. Zapata said that he “got tons of emails” about it, as did Braun.

Some of those emails “were measured,” said Zapata, “saying ‘Look, this is disturbing.’ Others said, ‘This feels like a cover-up.’”

Redgrave said that the email was slow to come because Public Safety “believed the incident represented an isolated crime.”

Swarthmore police and Public Safety officers “conducted a comprehensive search of campus,” said Redgrave, which “provided assurance that the perpetrators were no longer on campus.”

One RA in particular wrote an email response that ended up being forwarded around campus. He wrote that “public safety’s inadequate announcement [did] not address the true nature of the incidents that occurred on Saturday night.”

The RA said he “found it indefensible that the administration failed to report to all of you that these students were injured significantly, and that there is some possibility that they were targeted due to public expression of their sexual orientation.”

Redgrave said that Public Safety was not aware that the attack might have been a hate crime until late in the day on Monday.

Braun added that before sending out announcements, it is important to “make sure we do have the right facts.”

In terms of the email’s content, “For a number of reasons, often unique to each case, Public Safety cannot provide all of the details. Most often those reasons relate to the gathering of information in an ongoing investigation, substantiating facts, and not risking a compromise of the investigation — either our own or an outside law enforcement entity,” said Redgrave.

He chose not to comment on the specifics of why the severity of the assault and the students’ hospitalization were not mentioned in the email.

After seeing Redgrave’s response, Miriam Rich ’11 said that she “still cannot comprehend Public Safety’s initial assessment that this incident was not relevant to share immediately with the whole campus community. Even without being aware of the potentially homophobic context, a violent assault on-campus that leaves two students hospitalized is definitely the kind of thing that we should know about immediately.”

She added that she is “also still concerned that the initial Public Safety report displayed a disturbing pattern of altering and omitting key details of the case in a way that tended to minimize and trivialize the severity of the assault.”

Several students reported that they or their friends felt unsafe or uncomfortable after hearing about the incident, especially without any official word from the administration.

On Monday evening, Braun met with the student and discussed the incident, including his concerns about the announcement from Public Safety. She decided to send out another announcement, this one containing more details and some factual corrections, informing the community about the students’ hospitalization and that they had been openly showing affection towards one another before the attack.

Braun ran the content of this email by the student before sending it out.

Most students said that they appreciated this email greatly. The assaulted student in particular said that he was very grateful for the corrections and letting the community know much more about what had occurred.

Bortner said that he was “relieved” that Braun had “provided more of the story and more important information.”

Rich noted that she “appreciate[d] the content of the letter Dean Braun sent on Tuesday,” though she was still “baffled and distressed about the long delay in sending it.”

Redgrave said that in the aftermath of this incident, Public Safety is “carefully reviewing [their] protocols and believe we need to establish a more consistent approach to such incidents to make sure our community is aware of such crimes in a timely way.”

They also plan to work more closely with the Dean’s Office to make sure that announcements are “coordinated and reflect our combined knowledge of the incident.”

“Our first priority,” Redgrave said, “is always to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, and staff.”

Braun agreed that serious incidents like this one provide the important opportunity to “go back and look at our protocols, whether it’s around communication or our response.”

The Crisis Protocols Committee will be discussing this at their next meeting, which Braun believes is later this week. This review is “first and foremost” on her mind.

“The College needs to ensure,” said Braun, “that we have the right things in place to make sure that we can respond as quickly as possible” in the future.

Looking Forward

Public Safety is “looking to step up their patrols through the end of the semester,” according to Braun. In the long run, Braun said the administration will need to “make sure we have the right amount of resources” allocated to Public Safety.

Redgrave wrote that in particular, “the area where this incident happened will receive higher scrutiny.”

Braun said the College will also need to “continue to educate students about what they can do to be proactive in their own safety,” something “this community already does a really nice job of.”

Concerned that the attack did have some connection to the students’ sexual orientation, many students, including the one who was assaulted, have expressed fears about safety at this weekend’s Genderfuck party (the party formerly associated with the Sager Symposium).

Braun said that the Dean’s Office had already been working very closely with the organizers of the event, as well as the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART) and the Party Associates (PAs), to “make some improvements to the overall security of the event.”

This work, including relocating the party to Sharples (to reduce concerns about safety while moving between venues) and a “real increase” in the number of PAs who will be present, took place even before the events of last weekend.

A Facebook message sent Tuesday by one of the party’s organizers reminded attendees “to please be mindful of your surroundings and to look out for one [an]other. […] In committing ourselves to creating safer spaces for all students attending the party, I hope we can also work to create safer spaces for all expressions of identity on and off campus.”

As for the Swarthmore student involved in the incident, he said that he hopes “people will be safe” for the party. He plans to attend, as does the UPenn student, who is “actually super-pumped to come back for Genderfuck.”

Nick Gettino, Angela Meng, and Will Treece contributed reporting for this article.

  • Niki ’11

    I apologize that I'm not going to fully address my sympathy and outrage on behalf of the student that such a violent and terrifying was committed against him or the disturbing way the administration handled this incident including failing to properly check in with the student.

    I wish to address safety on this campus. It is terrifying that the campus is lit to be pretty and not to provide safety. It is dark in several highly trafficked locations locations including Magill walk, the ramp at the end of the library stairs towards Mertz, the area between Mertz and DK… In some of these area there simply are no lights or the range of the light projected does not reach from one light to another. There are absolutely no lights on the way to PPR unless one wants to walk near the street.

    I don't know how outdated or useful the blue-light system is in the age of cell phones, but I only know of one machine that I believe to be part of a blue light system.

    I am a senior and I have to say that I've only rarely ever seen a public safety officer patrolling the campus at night. My main interactions with officers, particularly at night, have been when something needed to be unlocked or someone called to request transportation.

    Several times I have been verbally harassed by (I'm assuming) local kids/teenagers, the most recent approximately two weeks ago. Maybe this was because I was wearing a "provocative" knee length dress with a sweater. I have several female friends who have had similar experiences. Having experienced minor verbal harassment, I cannot even imagine how terrifying it must be for this student to be the victim of a crime with probable homophobic motivations.

    Out of this crime, I hope that security is stepped up on campus and that the safety of students becomes a higher priority. Even though our college is located in what may be considered a "safe" neighborhood, obviously it is not safe and this is unacceptable.

    Thank you,

  • huzilla

    Hey Administration,

    Good job with the cover up. There's news cameras outside my window.

  • num

    I don't think this incident required an /immediate/ notification to the whole campus (are people saying this saying we should have gotten text messages!?). There is no point in causing fear and panic, potentially violating the privacy of the victims, and potentially making the case harder to solve, when there aren't real safety benefits to an alert. Gunman on campus: immediate alert. Homophobic kids itching for a confrontation maybe possibly on campus but almost certainly not anymore: I'd say no alert. The facts of this case do make it sound like an isolated incident. I hope that when the administration reviews its protocol, they understand that if emergency alerts are regularly sent out for things that pose no immediate danger, they end up creating an environment of fear and panic. And they also make alerts less powerful in the event of a real emergency.

    Public safety's decision to wait seems reasonable, and I think that reasonableness is a much better standard to hold public safety to than some sort of "better safe than sorry" maxim that I'm sure someone will bring up. "Better safe than sorry" is not a path we should go down with campus security, at least in my opinion. Be careful what you wish for.

    The attack definitely did require a public notification that a serious crime occurred, and we received this in a somewhat timely manner. If it is true that public safety was trying to cover this up, then that is a serious issue. I don't see evidence for that, but then again I don't know much beyond this article.

    The public safety email does make the attack seem less serious than it was, but I wouldn't jump to a conclusion that they did this on purpose. According to the facts in this article and in the emails we have received, it sounds like the victims were somewhere in between "knocked around" and "badly beaten" on the "thoroughness" scale of beatings. The email alert made it seem like "knocked around." But these are subjective descriptions and it is not public safeties job to judge the extent of injuries. The key facts included in Dean Braun's email that public safety definitely should have known by the time they reported the incident were that

    1. The attackers continued to beat them when the students were knocked to the ground

    2. The students were treated at the hospital for their injuries

    The Magill walk/ Mertz field seems like not a big deal at all to me, just a sloppy description. The report makes it clear that this happened significantly within the borders of campus, and that's what matters. Magill walk does not include the walkway to the tunnel.

    Overall, I would say public safety handled their reporting in a ham-fisted way that failed to communicate the gravity of the incident, but I don't think they have done anything that has put the safety or health of students at risk. Cut them some slack.

  • No conspiracy theories please

    There was no cover-up.

    Administrators surely knew that the details of the event would spread, so not only would attempts at a cover-up have immediately failed (as supposedly they did), but attempting a cover up would have been *very* costly.

    Can you imagine the headlines?! "Liberal Swarthmore sweeps hate crime under rug."

    Let us be sensible about this terrible event.

  • blinks

    While I sympathize with the students involved, could it be possible that they were attacked, in part, because they called the high school kids "ville rats"?

    Hate Speech and Bigotry are unacceptable, but it goes both ways. Clearly the kids shouldn't have been on campus, but there are ways to avoid confrontation that we can all work on.

  • night owl ’11

    Niki '11: I at least see the Alpha Centurion (and before them AlliedBarton) guys walking around regularly at night. Actual Public Safety officers do tend to be driving and not walking around, though.

  • yo

    Saying that calling someone a ville rat justifies getting the shit beat out of you is idiocy. Town-gown condescension may be a problem, but really, just shut the fuck up.

  • yo

    Also, thanks Swarthmore for upping the surveillance culture on campus without actually making me feel safer!

  • Miriam ’11


    I would argue that the testimony of fellow students is tending to show that harassment and homophobia by teenagers from the ville is not an “isolated incident.” But I do appreciate your point about not wanting to create an “environment of fear and panic.”

    Here’s the thing: the first Public Safety report (the one that I maintain disturbingly denied the gravity of what happened) came almost 40 hours after the assault initially happened—-late Monday afternoon to let us know about an assault that occurred Saturday night. It came out only after multiple people—including myself, multiple RAs, and at least one professor—met with, e-mailed, or called the deans to express our concern that the campus had not yet been notified of what happened. What were they waiting for? They were not waiting for permission from the student to contact the campus community, because he had already indicated not only his permission but his preference for them to do so. They were not waiting to get the details of the report factually accurate and complete (or if so, they failed), because the report did not present factually accurate and complete details.

    Particularly on a small, close-knit campus such as ours, going so long without hearing any official communication from the administration means that many of us knew about and were discussing what had happened long before we were able to receive assurance or clarification. This resulted in some people hearing distorted rumors, and also in many people—myself included—feeling terrified and distressed not only that such an incident could have occurred, but also that apparently something so tremendously significant to me and my friends was not even on the administration’s radar as a relevant campus concern.

    Then there was the nature of the Public Safety report itself. I appreciate the difficulty of issuing a concise, accurate report on a complicated situation but, besides from the fact that they gave themselves plenty of time within which to work on getting it right, the report was riddled with errors, inaccuracies, and omissions that, without exception, tended towards minimizing or trivializing the severity of what happened (didn’t mention the students were hospitalized; didn’t mention that the heads and necks of the students were punched, kicked, and stomped on after being knocked to the ground; made it seem like the assault happened further from the center of campus and closer to the train station than it did; underreported the number of assailants; didn’t mention the potential homophobic context of the attack). While, in isolation, some of these inaccuracies or omissions would be understandable, it’s hard for me to convince myself that such a strong pattern is a coincidence; I’m particularly disturbed to learn from this article that the deans signed off on this notice, since I know they had been made aware of every detail just mentioned by this point.

    I am not someone to engage in “conspiracy theories” regarding the Swat administration. I genuinely love Swat, think this is a fantastic college in most respects, and in general feel incredibly safe and supported on this campus. But something disturbing happened in this case, and I think we should call them on it.

  • Rowen ’12

    Thanks for writing the article, DG!

  • Aaron Kramer Vs Kramer

    Grow some balls Swarthmore

  • Will ’11

    I would argue that they should have used the emergency notification system because they didn't know where the perpetrators were. A simple heads up or FYI (or even just a warning email) within a few minutes would have been entirely appropriate.

  • s

    why is it that campus is more outraged and galvanized to action by the timing of an email from public safety (whose judgment of the safety risk proved accurate, by the way) than by the myriad ills that are clobbering the world all around us?

  • s

    it is appropriate for us to be disturbed, troubled, distraught, etc–and galvanized to action–by the despicable homophobic event that occurred on campus. what discourages me is that people can't find more constructive things to do about it than criticize the timing of a p-safe email.

  • what All Business would say

    See I don't mess with ville rats, cuz ville rats be bitch.

  • cautious

    I am perfectly ready to believe that this attack was motivated by homophobia but do we know for sure that it was? I don't think the evidence that this has not happened to anyone else is sufficient to conclude that homophobia was the primary cause. This does not mean that it was not the cause, simply I don't see it as certain that it was.

  • two things

    1) Usually, comments on Gazette articles remain within the Swarthmore community. Since this has (started to) become a local/regional news story though, I would caution everyone that the audience of our comments might have changed. At the very least, we should take that into account.

    2) From the evidence the article and emails present, a somewhat objective view makes this an awful, condemnable event of violence directed at two students, who are homosexual and refused to provide teenagers with alcohol. These posturing teenagers, it appears, made no homophobic comments.

    What I fail to see is how this story has turned into a 'despicable homophobic event that occurred on campus.' If there is no further evidence that is being withheld from us, I simply do not understand how this event comes to be perceived as a hate crime.

  • Shilpa

    I, like Niki, have experienced sexual and verbal harassment from teenagers and kids in the Borough. Though we can't be sure that teenagers from Swarthmore committed the assault, I agree with Adam that there need to be community and school initiatives to address homophobic and sexist behaviors.

    And lighting on campus really does need to improve, in addition to the increased patrols.

  • blinks


    I find it far more likely that the kids got angered about being called ville rats than two guys being affectionate.

    Not all the bad in the world comes from homophobia, so you can SHUT THE FUCK UP.

  • NI

    I think it is totally warranted to expect a more instant public response or warning when these sorts of things occur. Didn't we get emails and texts much sooner when there was an armed intruder in one of the dorms and when the robbery occurred? This is a violent crime. Students should be made aware as soon as humanly possible if there are people who have attacked others on campus, especially if p-safe doesn't know where they have gone. A detailed description is not necessary right away, but a warning should be.

    I also want to direct attention back to Niki's comment above. The campus community and administration consistently ignores needs for better lighting and more effective campus security. I have been routinely harassed by Ville rats with both homophobic and sexist comments. [These incidents frequently occurred when I lived off campus. Take the shuttle if you live in PPR/ML/Strath; the rats will be out more as it gets warmer.] Like Adam (in the article) and Niki suggest, I do not think this is rare. Previously I've brushed off these incidents as fairly harmless as far as harassment goes, but clearly they have the potential to escalate. I really hope that the administration takes this attack as a call to fix our lax campus safety measures instead of, for example, building a gazebo.

  • Christine Ernst

    This is totally horrible, but I honestly can't say I'm surprised. I've been cat-called more walking the streets of Swarthmore than any other place I've been (including small towns in Mexico, Jordan, West Bank, not to mention New York, D.C., etc.). I've also had ville teens spit at me (missed, thankfully) and generally menace/follow me. The situation is ridiculous and needs to be handled aggressively by parents, schools and local law enforcement. In other cities loitering groups of young people are watched if not dispersed by the police; and while I'm not generally a fan of getting juveniles any closer to the criminal "justice" system, a little bit of healthy fear would do a world of good.

    As for the cover-up…how is it that everyone is outraged that the email about this incident didn't get sent out /fast enough/ while no one complains about the fact that sexual assault never gets reported to students at all? I always found it extremely disturbing that I had to hear about sexual assaults through the grapevine – especially when a fellow student had been accused of sexual assault by more than one person and was still on campus. The double-standard (no one needs to know fellow students are getting raped, but getting beaten up is something everyone can get indignant about) doesn't shock me from the administration, which is notoriously bad at handling sexual assaults, but I am surprised to see that students aren't mentioning the issue. Could it be that this incident is ok to discuss because the perpetrators are not Swarthmore students? Would sexual assaults committed by ville residents get more coverage? And before someone says it, I don't buy the privacy concern argument – it is perfectly reasonable to ask that the school anonymously report sexual assault allegations to the student body. It might actually encourage people to be more careful.

    Anyway, rant over – thanks to the DG for a comprehensive, well-written article!

  • OY

    …So as long as no one *says* anything homophobic (or the perpetrators, who clearly suffered head injuries, have not said that they said anything homophobic) this can't be a hate crime? Did you guys miss the part of the article where Adam explains that homophobic harassment of Swarthmore students is pretty commonplace in the Ville, or where the victims of this crime state that they don't think it would have happened had they not been perceived as gay males? It seems clear to me this attack was motivated by the relationship between the Swarthmore and UPenn student, not the two calling the kids Ville rats or refusing them alcohol, the latter two of which I think happen on this campus on a fairly regular basis.

  • MS ’12

    Christine, your last paragraph is spot-on and exactly what I was going to say. I agree that the incident should have been reported more quickly and more accurately, but this is hardly the biggest problem with current campus safety as others' comments on here suggest as well.

  • Yes

    Yes, I have to agree with "two things". Perhaps we are overanalyzing this. Maybe it was not an act out of homophobia, maybe it's just because they are "high school students, underage, Ville rats" asking for alcohol. From that perspective, their actions are not really surprising, as they seem to have no sense of moral compass or deeper thought or compassion or common sense or perhaps even a heart. All I see is stupidity, intellectual and moral, especially moral: the sad state of America's teenagers. What will their futures look like? Is this the true side of humanity? Does this incident beg an even deeper philosophical question of the importance of having a moral compass, of having leaders and role-models to look up to, of having a religion that opens you up and guides you in understanding each other?

  • Miriam ’11


    I am a bit confused as to how my conviction (and subsequent action on behalf of that conviction) that my college should respond in a timely and adequate manner to a deeply disturbing incident—one that has personally affected me and my closest friends—demonstrates my lack of concern for larger global ills? Failing to address this incident, or attempting to minimize it (and again, I would like to stress that I do appreciate Dean Braun’s Tuesday letter despite my concerns about its tardiness), sends the message that the people entrusted with our safety and well-being at Swat do not acknowledge the gravity of what happened. This lack of acknowledgment has implications both in terms of its potential connection to how relevant policy is reviewed and executed, and also in terms of the community values and priorities that are communicated to the student body. I can’t say for sure that Dean Braun would not eventually have sent her important and informative letter if people had not been “galvanized to action”—if RAs, concerned students, professors, friends of the victim, and the victim himself had not communicated to the deans that they found both the lack of campus-wide notification and later the trivializing campus-wide notification to be unacceptable. I hope that she would have, but, in either case, I am proud of all the brave and insistent members of the Swat community who were “galvanized to action” by what you refer to so disparagingly to as “the timing of an email.” Thanks, guys—it makes me proud to be part of this community.


    As the victim himself is the first to acknowledge, there is no way to conclusively prove that the assault was motivated by homophobia. However, given the context—that the two men attacked were openly expressing their affection, and that local teenagers have a history of homophobic harassment—it seems very relevant to consider and discuss this potential aspect of the incident.

  • Argos

    So Phi Psi has proven itself in the past to be a good place for high school students to get alcohol, and I, along with several other people, have heard kids in the ville talking about how they like to go to the frat houses to get hammered.

    It might be a good idea for the frats to not lure people onto campus.

    I don't expect to be terribly sheltered on this campus, and usually have my guard up anyway for what I deal with in the Outside World (which goes a lot further than just rats), but it's nice to get a bit of a break on campus.

    And for the most part, it is extremely safe here, but when there's a gang of yahoos outside of Hallowell making sexually threatening comments to everyone trying to get into their dorm, it'd be nice to get a better response from public safety. (Does that shit still happen, Hallowell people?)

  • uncertainty

    – Oy
    You may be right. Homophobia may have been the cause. This does not mean that it was the cause. We have correlation but only possible causation.
    For me this means that
    1) we should be concerned about homophobia.
    2) we should be more aware than usual from here on out and especially over the next weekend.
    3) We should not be angry that the administration, public safety, or anyone else is failing to respond to a hate crime (although one could criticize the response overall) because it is not certain that it was a hate crime… Although it could have been.

    Right on with the lighting idea Niki.
    Might be hard to put lights on the way to PPR apart from on the street seeing as that would mean putting lights in the middle of the athletic field.

  • cautious

    Miriam, I think we are in agreement that it is not certain but wholly possible, perhaps even likely, that this was motivated by homophobia. I just get nervous when the community reacts strongly based upon conjecture (although with support) rather than facts on something as serious as a hate crime.

    I also have trouble knowing exactly what "openly expressing their affection" means so have trouble assessing my own opinions. I have lived in communities where cuddling, holding hands, and occasionally kissing people is not seen as a sexual or affectionate act. This is to say, if the two victims were holding hands I would be more skeptical of the homophobic motivation than if they were making out with loving passion. Yes, I know this should not matter but perceptions, especially in this case, are important.

  • s

    miriam and all
    i do not wish to suggest a lack of concern for larger global ills on the part of anyone in particular. that would be very presumptuous of me indeed. i do mean to needle the community about whether there are more pressing issues raised by this incident than public safety's handling of it. i hoped to suggest that we should concentrate on those.

  • Robespierre

    This isn't just about whether or not the attack was singularly and solely motivated by a hatred of gay people. It's a question of whether it was a factor at all. Even if the immediately precipitating context was not that the students were gay, but rather that the minors were frustrated about their inability to get booze (first at a frat party and then after accosting this couple), that the victims were gay could have primed the situation to go as it did. That is: it's possible that they would attacked a straight couple or two straight guys or two straight girls if they had rebuffed the teens, but that the victims were gay could have made it more likely the situation proceeded as such.

    What if the teens think that gay people are going to hell or God hates them or they're biological aberrations, so they didn't think as hard about lashing out? What if the victims' being gay just made them more acceptable targets for more nebulous reasons, because, what the hell, they're the fucking Other, so I'm angry because I'm not drunk and I'll beat them up because they're Not Me and it's easier for me to let that impulse out against Not Me? (But, maybe, they might have paused if they were more like them?) What if they thought: "Because these men are gay, they are [weaker/less likely to fight back]?" All three? More? All of these are unacceptable.

    We don't really know for certain whether sexual orientation was a significant factor, that is true, but given the feelings of the victim, other incidents within Swarthmore, and societal attitudes at large, it seems cause for legitimate concern.

    (And, for what it's worth, I also once had a chorus of teenage boys on bikes shout "fag" at me by Renato's, and have been around for the same toward friends of mine, straight and queer. It's funny that I've witnessed more weird verbal assault and threatening actions from teenagers in Swarthmore during my time there than I have living in a major city.)

  • Robespierre

    @cautious: It's possible that, if motivated by any gay-hating, the teens would be more likely to respond from a solely anti-gay perspective against making out vs. hand-holding or the like. However, given the (anecdata alert) proclivities of ignorant American teens (and people) to generalize anything even _remotely_ "effeminate" to "gay," I think "affectionate hand-holding" would definitely lead to "gay" and not "maybe they are just friends expressing platonic affection as per their different cultural milieu and norms." These minors don't seem like particularly enlightened folk either way. (Sorry to be a bit aggressively glib here; reliving high school traumas all over with this one.)

  • yo

    Hi Blinks,

    Thanks for the input, Ville Rat!

    But honestly, the idea that it's only a hate crime if the reasons why you're assaulting someone are vocally articulated is ridiculous.

  • OY

    Robespierre– That's exactly the point I wanted to make but had trouble articulating because maybe I shouldn't be on the DG in class. Maybe it's because this is making me live high school trauma as well, but I'm also unwilling to assume that homophobia wasn't a factor here. It's possible it was not the cause, but it is so likely to be a factor that I'm assuming it was.

  • Hadley Roach

    How is it that, after every public (or semi-public) violent incident, Swarthmore manages to seize the opportunity to tout how “rare” such violent incidents are? The time to congratulate ourselves for being a safe community is not directly after an assault–which means it’s probably never the time. I don’t think I’m being hysterical when I say:

    1. All violence is serious. All assault is major. Whether it’s “blatant” or quiet, indoors or outdoors, covered by NBC or taken to the CJC or never made public–it’s a big deal. Thanks especially to Christine Ernst for reminding us that undiscussed, unreported assaults happen all the time here. So it’s a little scary to hear so many authority figures voicing surprise at this “isolated,” “uncharacteristic” incident, and thereby ignoring all nonpublic, non-publicized acts of violence.

    2. Regarding the attitude that we’re “not THAT kind of community,” what the hell kind of community is THAT, and why aren’t we THAT, and why isn’t the faultless borough of Swarthmore THAT either? Let’s unpack THAT.

    3. As one of the probably dozens of students walking unescorted across Mertz field at midnightish that night, I would have appreciated a text letting me know to stay inside–or at least to be vigilant. I also would, more generally, appreciate doors that lock and a campus that doesn’t turn into a batcave after sunset. If we actually want to think about making the campus safe rather than arguing that it’s already safe, those might be logical places to start.

  • ugh

    I'll unpack it for you Hadley: street crime is extremely rare here, but people are irrationally afraid of it because of our TV crime news based ideas about danger and criminality.

    What you and others are doing, effectively, is fear-mongering about street crime in a sheltered suburban community. Don't you realize that that is an attitude that plays a large part in creating and maintaining very real social divisions and material inequalities between "dangerous" "urban" communities and the suburban communities that "we" must keep safe?

  • ugh

    …you are not only advocating the standard "tough on crime" position at a really basic level, you are also implying that a community can be made "safe," that there is some level of pure safety which we must always seek to attain. No grey, only black and white, safe and unsafe.

    Swarthmore isn't a completely safe place and this assault shows that. No place is completely safe. But we are safe enough, at least for street crime. The point about non-public crime is important, but that is a very different issue in terms of what can and should be done to prevent violence.

  • The Sensible One

    From the facts of the incident, this assault would not qualify as a hate crime. There is no reason, other than speculation, to believe that the sexual orientation of the students was a cause for the violence perpetuated against them. As stated, no homosexual epithets were used. Thus, in a court of law, it is well within reasonable doubt that homosexuality prompted the assault. No prosecutor would ever approach the case as such, nor should they. There is no evidence.

    Clearly these were violent and nonsensical high school students. However, I am not one to take an insult lightly, and I imagine "ville rat" is quite an insult and if I was addressed as such I would take great offense. Words have a powerful effect and we must be conscious of how we use them, especially when insulting irrational people who do not have the intellect to respond in a non-violent manner.

    There is no excuse for an attack of this nature. But the facts do not indicate homosexuality was a motivation for the assault. Let's all try to use common sense here.

  • OY


    Why are you assuming that the law is clearly the best judge of morality and will give us clear answers as to whether or not this crime was motivated by hate? It probably would not be useful to cite all the laws that privilege straight people over queer people here, but let me assure you they do exist. The law, the justice system, is mostly an obstacle rather than a protector of people of my identity (which, yes, includes queer). So, no, this crime will likely never be prosecuted as a hate crime, but there is no reason to not react viscerally, defensively, strongly, to the homophobia that likely was at least a factor here. There is no systemic violence or oppression against ville rats– from what I can tell, they are largely privileged white kids with too much time on their hands. You imply that being a called a Ville Rat is an excuse for their violent behavior, which is absolutely ridiculous and offensive. Words have a powerful insulting effect, yeah, but so does getting beaten to the ground after being affectionate with your partner. [Also, way to be ableist by implying that those with low IQs are inherently violent.]

  • hmmmmmm

    I have trouble seeing the correlation between installing more outdoor lights/hiring more contracted security guards to patrol campus 24/7 and campus "safety." I think budgeting more lights and paid walkers (without fair wages/benefits) instills a feeling of safety for some, but I'm curious as to whether these measures actually do make a horrific event of this nature less likely.

    As a community, I think we can propose more effective means to prevent violence on campus rather than amplifying certain features of a much larger systemic "security culture." A culture that could quite possibly obstruct or threaten a truly unique and independent lifestyle afforded to students at Swarthmore.

  • exswat

    @Sensible One: Just because it was not *the* motivation doesn't mean it wasn't a factor. I don't think the attackers were carefully weighing their reasons for committing the attack.

    @ugh: Every community should strive to make itself a safer place. Just because we strive to make Swarthmore safer does not mean we find it acceptable that there are some "non-safe" places. And nobody said anything about other "dangerous" "urban" communities being naturally unsafe–in fact, many people here have noted that they are harassed more here than anywhere else. Hadley's point was that there is no "THAT kind of community," that the Swat administration should not celebrate how rare instances of violence are but should fully report them even at the expense of our "safe" suburban reputation. Hell, ESPECIALLY at the expense of our safe suburban reputation.

  • Just Sayin

    There's a lot we don't know about what happened Saturday night, and, quite honestly, there's probably a lot that we may never know. We may never know whether or not it was actually motivated by homophobia. We may never know who the high schoolers were. We may never know if they were even from the town of Swarthmore.

    I think focusing more on what we can do know is what's important. I think having community and school initiatives (at all local high schools) about homophobic/sexist behavior is a wonderful idea, and it would still be a wonderful idea even if what happened Saturday night wasn't motivated by homophobia. Other people have mentioned better lighting, seeing Public Safety walking around more, better communication from the administration… I think this is what we should be focusing on. Just because it may have actually happened a different way doesn't mean that we shouldn't take these initiatives anyway.

    What happened Saturday night was so unfortunate, and I'm not trying to make it seem like not as big of a deal. But I think arguing over what we may never know isn't going to get us anywhere.

  • The Sensible One

    if anyone can explain why they believe hate was a part of this attack beyond just speculation i will be happy to entertain your view. But where is there any evidence of homophobia? It is just speculation. People blowing this situation out of proporation as a hate crime do more to disparage the queer movement by consistently making any event or wording which can be construed as homophobic as vehemently homophobic, which makes it harder to distinguish between cases that are truly motivated by hate and those that are not, and thus diminish the former's significance. And what is an "abliest"? Do you mean enabler? I'm not enabling anybody. Instead I'm proposing conflict resoultion. Don't insult people unless you can back it up. Have you heard of the phrase fighting words? Ville rats be fightin words.
    Let's pretend this happened at Fordham. Would the students have called their accosters "ghetto kids"? I don't think so. Just because kids are white and priviliged doesn't mean they aren't violent. I'm not sure you understand that.

  • In summary

    There are two ways in which a crime can be a hate crime. The general usage, "a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward a member of a gender, racial, religious, or social group." and the almost identical legal definition, "a crime that violates the victim's civil rights and that is motivated by hostility to the victim's race, religion, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender."

    This could be a crime motivated by hate. While we can guess, assume, believe, and even be right about this being a hate crime, the probability of the legal classification is important because it impacts the response, reporting, potential prosecution, and response to the event.
    There is very reasonable doubt that this is a hate crime. As such, it would be unlikely to be considered a hate crime in a court of law.
    Let's put the issue of hate crime or not to rest by saying that this is a crime, a violent assault, on two members of our community that may have been motivated by hate and or may have been exacerbated by other factors including name calling, irrationality, bad behavior, etc.

    I understand that the view that the administration should have responded faster. We have established that some would have liked to receive a text and others are glad they did not. I think we can all agree that the public safety bulletin was not as complete or accurate as it should have been and might have been better if it was sent out a few hours rather than a day after.
    Most people seem to feel that Dean Braun's email was more complete and a better way to address the issue. This too could have been sent out earlier but was not so long after the incident, in my opinion, as to constitute a travesty in itself.

    There have been calls for increased security and increased lighting. The lighting makes a lot of sense. The security also makes sense but may have significant downsides as well.

    There has been no cover up. It would have been irrational and misguided to attempt one and there was not one. There have been meetings in the administration about this since the incident and there will continue to be meetings about this. Some of these will surely result in direct and immediate action and others will address longer term issues.

    I would like to voice my support the victims and encourage everyone to continue to be aware of these issues. I believe that administration could have done better but have had a full and continuing response to this issue and did so in a reasonable (although not ideal) time line.

    People will disagree with part or all of my assessment and that's great because that is what this forum is all about. Before moving forward, what else should the administration do / have done that has not already been batted back and forth repeatedly? This is a good forum for thinking through potential policy changes.

    I hope everyone will look out for each other and continue a positive, critical, and constructive community response to this specific incident and the issues it highlights now and into the future.

  • thanks!

    While we're at it, lights on the way to woolman/kyle too… it's dark and kind of scary… and it's really only a matter of time before someone gets hit crossing that road…

  • OY

    "Sensible"– clearly we're going to disagree about the societal vs. personal nature of homophobia (perhaps it would be better to say "heterosexism" so as to imply a widespread assumption of heterosexuality as the Norm and Right and Good instead of implying an actual fear or hate of queer people) and what the role of the activist queer community is at Swat and at large. I think I'm done engaging in this discussion with you.

    As for ableism, Google it your friend. Here's a good, quick read:

  • alex ’11

    @The Sensible One

    I think I speak for more than a few queer students on campus when I say that I'm more than a little miffed by your comments.

    People experiencing fear/anger towards the possibility of a homophobic assault taking place on campus are in no way "disparaging" the queer movement. Your condescension, only compounded by a monicker which hints at your belief to be the only one capable of thinking, well, sensibly, is the evident form of disparagement of queer people I see. (well, except those on the delco times website)

    You're right. We don't know for sure the motivations behind the attack. Thanks for that. It is this lack of certainty which makes the situation that much scarier for queer people on campus. In a space where we usually (perhaps naively) feel totally at ease, we have been reminded of the very real possibilities of violence that still exist for expressing our identities. As someone who lives in the ville and has been called a faggot on my way home on more than one occasion, I can tell you that my concerns are motivated by life experience and not just the simple, all-too unclear facts of the situation at hand.

    If what makes you most angry about this event is that people might be conflating assault with a hate crime, or violence with homophobia, then perhaps you aren't as sensible as you think.

  • AM

    Props to OY and alex.

  • l

    While I would like to have been notified about the assault more quickly and more accurately, I am glad the college didn't use the emergency alert system. All the evidence suggests that the teenagers had left campus and were thus no longer a threat to anyone. It's not as though they were armed – they were just aggressive, probably intoxicated high school kids. I am sympathetic toward the victims and surprised that this event occurred, but six obnoxious people does not constitute a campus-wide threat.

    I am also skeptical that all these proposed security measures would actually do anything besides make people feel better. Sure, some areas of campus could be better lit, and this is probably a good suggestion. But Mertz field is definitely not one of those places, unless you're proposing giant floodlights. And I don't think lots of roaming public safety officers would be particularly effective or desirable. The problem is less the lack of security than students' assumption that the campus is 100% safe when it isn't. Like most Swatties, I walk around dimly lit parts of campus at 2 am because I'm more concerned with taking a shortcut than my safety. I think as a general rule Swatties take their safety for granted, and this very occasionally leads to negative events (I'm thinking of common actions like letting pretty much anyone into dorms, propping open doors, leaving your laptop sitting out in public, etc). This is not to blame the victims: obviously you don't deserve to be attacked for being somewhat incautious. Rather, I want to suggest that the expensive and likely ineffective security changes will probably do less to improve your safety than taking more precautions.

    I'm interested in the case of unreported sexual assaults. Obviously, this is really troubling, and I know this occurs at many (most?) colleges. I'd be really curious to hear what the administration has to say about this and if there are any other colleges that have a good system in place that we could implement.

    As a side note: lots of people have stated that they have been repeatedly verbally harassed in the Ville, even more so than in large cities. This likely has a lot to do with what parts of Philly or NY you travel through – you're probably more cautious and don't visit the "bad" areas at 2 am. There are several places in and around Philly where verbal harassment and catcalls are far more common, and usually a lot more threatening. Swarthmore should definitely try to step up security, especially for kids from neighboring towns with curfews, but there's only so much you can do about obnoxious, rude adolescents (many of whom are not actually "ville rats," which I think is a pretty condescending and elitist term).

  • Stevie Y

    Ville Rats,

    Stop asking us for alcohol, it's not that hard to get it yourself.

  • Argos

    L –
    So I'm from Philly and while most (really, almost all) of the queer-bashing I've taken in my 21 years has occurred in my hometown, it's also occurred in otherwise "safe" and thoroughly populated neighborhoods in broad daylight with plenty of people out in public watching. You might have a point about the 2am bit…maybe if that shit had gone down after dark, I'd have come out of it a tad worse for wear and/or dead.

    Anyway, the issue here is not that people were "rude", but that they were violent. Though I doubt anyone enjoys being verbally harassed, most people, especially queer people, are used to it being a part of life. Rudeness is not the main problem here.

    Incidentally, are we just going to grumble and bicker among ourselves? I feel like we should be standing up to this a bit more, though as of now my best idea is a non-violent vigilante justice squad, which might not be terribly practical.

  • ayeee

    Why are people demanding more accuracy and more expediency in being notified about this incident? It seems to me that there is an inverse relationship between the two.

    Let's engage with the real complexities of (1) this attack and (2) homophobia, preferably not on the Daily Gazette comment section. But let's not stereotype the assailants when simultaneously protesting stereotyping. That puts us on the level of behavior of the people we are complaining about, with the only difference being that we have more 'big words' to throw behind our emotionalized reaction.

  • l


    I'm absolutely not suggesting that queer-bashing and verbal harassment don't happen in "safe" places like Swat – on the contrary, I think it's pretty clear that they do. No place is perfect and a lot of my argument is based on the mistaken belief that our campus / the larger community is completely safe. I was attempting to point out that the anecdotal evidence about homophobia and sexual harassment in the Ville is an unfair comparison, as most Swatties would not walk around North Philly alone at 2 am but wouldn't hesitate to do the same thing here. I don't think we need to or should be as obsessed with security as students at a more urban university, but that doesn't mean we can't be a little more cautious.

    You're right, rude wasn't the best choice of words. My point was more that there's not too much you can do to prevent obnoxious, drunken, probably homophobic teenagers from being violent without increasing the police force and enforcing curfews. I think these are issues we face on a wider level and are not at all exceptional to Swat. I guess it just seems like people are bitching about the administration instead of thinking of ways to prevent this kind of assault in the future. Honestly, I can't think of a good way to stop this kind of behavior – and I'm pretty sure if I knew how to 1) stop people from being assholes, 2) end homophobia and sexism, and 3) end violence, I'd get a Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not sure your justice squad is such a bad idea…

    @ ayeee,
    I agree that we shouldn't vilify teenagers who live in Swarthmore. Many of them are kids of our profs and probably really awesome people. I think calling them ville rats is rude and makes us look like the elitist liberal arts students everyone seems to think we are. Obviously, there are at least some violent and obnoxious teens, but I don't think we should be so eager to extend that label to everyone.

  • Swatty

    The students need to realize that some act with a certain predjudice against some of the people who live in Swat. The students can be rude, obnoxious, and unforgivable. I'm an 18 year old girl who grew up in swat and I've had college creepers. The point is you can just put all this blame on Swat kids. Especially when alot of kids are also coming in from local townships cause you can get booze there. Also, how coulld you not get a look at the faces but have time to chit chat?

  • _

    One factor which has not yet been mentioned is how the group selected their targets. I would think that if someone did have issues about homosexuality and had a modicum of intelligence, they might plan a situation which would look like something else.

    What was the alcohol plan supposed to be, if legitimate?

    It isn't feasible for a random pair of people to realistically be able to obtain alcohol for minors, even if they were not concerned about legal liability — Swarthmore is a dry borough, the places at which alcohol can be obtained are at least several miles away, and at midnight there is nowhere which is open to even be able to get alcohol anyway.

    Not only that, but you can't generally fit around six people who want alcohol plus two people on campus into most vehicles even if said on-campus people have vehicles. Since neither of the two groups are known to each other, it seems unlikely that the around-six would trust the two with the money for the alcohol even if the two had the means to obtain it. And it would not be possible for the six to obtain the alcohol without someone who was a) of legal age (assuming a roughly equal class size, there is roughly a 1 in 4 probability that any given random Swat student is of age in the first place) and b) had some means of obtaining alcohol at midnight.

    The frat situation is new to me, but if the alcohol is the desired target, why weren't the around-six-people trying at the frats? As far as I know, there are not presently any frats near Mertz. This whole thing doesn't make sense.

    Also, while I think it was rude and wrong to use the term that was used, I also don't understand anyone who feels that violence is justified, as some here seem to enjoy implying without admitting. The term was wrong. The attacks were wrong. Surely this is easy to see?

  • A

    #59: I think they were probably asking the students to get them alcohol from a party or the like, not to go legally obtain it from a store. (Any Swat student could pretty easily obtain at least some alcohol at midnight on a Saturday night, if they wanted to.)

    I heard that there was a group of kids turned away from Phi Psi not that long beforehand; they were probably upset and leaving from the frats when they ran into these students.

    Another thing that I've thought about: the kids replied yes to the question "are you ville rats?" Would Wallingford/wherever kids say yes to being ville rats? Doesn't that at least hint that some of them are from Swarthmore?

  • exswat

    @59 and 60: You guys are giving these kids way too much credit for intelligence. @59, I find it highly unlikely that they "selected" their targets, or even that any of their actions were premeditated at all. They seem to have tried to get into the frats, failed, asked the first person they saw to get them alcohol from the party, failed, and taken out their frustration/inferiority complex/anger at being called Ville rats on the immediate source of it. They couldn't beat up the PA at the party, but a couple of kids in the dark who they may have perceived to be gay and who they may have perceived to have insulted them by calling them Ville rats, were an easy target for rage.

    @60, like I said, maybe they were insulted by the term Ville rats. Or maybe they didn't understand what it meant, or didn't hear correctly. Or maybe they lied. I really don't think we can read too much into it.

  • Confused

    Can someone explain to me how and why this is getting construed as an attack motivated by homophobia? Is there any evidence for this at all, or is anything bad that happens to queer people automatically borne of rampant homophobia?

  • mgg

    @ Confused, I think Robespierre explains it best in comment 30.

  • Confused

    Respectfully, I don't think he explains it well at all. All he said was "given the circumstances, the ville rats probably thought they were gay." That's still zero evidence for homophobia or a hate crime. I'm not saying that there was no homophobia in play, I'm just confused as to why everyone seems so convinced in light of next to no evidence.

  • Spurned Intellectual

    Disclaimer: I DO feel sympathy for the victims of this weekend's attack. My comments in no way seek to belittle the trauma that those individuals experienced. If anyone even suggests that moving forward, I will DG you into submission because it is a lie, it will be a cheap shot, and I will not tolerate people seeking to delegitimize others' comments by casting them as "apologists" or any other term you can cook up. That is what happend on the DG when we as a campus community TRIED to talk about rape, and I hope that we as a campus community can be better than that.

    @alex '11:

    I appreciate the perspective you seek to offer, but I would request that you represent your own views, and not decide to speak for the seemings of a queer community at large. Others have offered comments in a similar light, but you specifically identify yourself as an agent of queer thought on campus. So I am responding to you.

    As someone who is not actively part of the queer community by choice rather than lack of fit, I don't feel most threatened by the potentially homophobic elements of this crime. What scares me and others I generally know the most is that this crime took place on Mertz field, rather than say outside of Strath or by the Coop, or where have you. The threat to campus safety I think far overrides the concerns that are posed by conjecture (even if the latter are legitimate).

    More in general:
    I suppose what I am trying to indicate is that I think @The Sensible One has a point (even if s/he didn't say it) in that we have legal standards in this country, and to use legal language one must contend with their definitions. In this country, we have "hate crime" legislation with a burden of proof. Just in that guilt or innocence have legal definitions, so does the act in question, assaulting two students. I don't seek to construct some counterfactual, or to undo support for two members of the Philadelphia-area student population, or even to suggest that homophobia is not an issue in Swarthmore or this country. All I seek to establish is that when using terms, be sure not to conflate whatever moral meaning you might choose to inject into those terms with the legal definitions that exist. For the sake of clarity, and also a recognition that the United States recognizes the rights of the accused and treats all citizens with the respect and fairness deserved when in a court of law. And to @OY, I think to say that having an evidentiary standard is just another example of straight privilege is insanity on face. There ALWAYS needs to be a standard of evidence and a threshold for law and its ability to encroach on peoples' lives. As a gay man I couldn't agree less with your assessment of our legal system.

    But let's move even beyond that, and look at campus security. As a sophomore I lived in PPR, and I routinely walked home alone at 4AM from Parrish. Now, I felt totally safe, but it was also 4AM. That notwithstanding, a few things. The few times I called for public safety transport, I was told to wait half an hour or so. How big is this campus that a ride home when it is 20 degrees outside should only be possible in 30 minutes? But on top of that, in my experience most of the people patrolling late at night in their public safety vehicles are rather rude, and I've even almost been hit by those vehicles before. They are reckless, and they don't take into account my safety even when nothing is happening on campus. Then consider adding lights to campus. I don't see how that would help given that a public safety officer would actually have to get OUT of a vehicle in order to come help someone in distress. I agree something must be done, but I really don't know what that needs to be in order to get public safety to actually make us feel safe, rather than just watched. Whenever I walked home at 4AM I always kept public safety's number at the ready-to-dial on my phone, just in case, and I always wondered if they would bother even getting to me if I needed them.

    In summary, I don't think, as a gay man, that I am being outrageous by suggesting that we either have a legal or a moral discussion, but not both, and that when making accusations people ought consider the language they use as to not conflate the two. I think that while this event is scary, it has profound consequences for many groups, not just the queer community, and flagging yourself as a bastion of queerness doesn't legitimate your comment further. I also don't think group affiliation is ok in this context given that there is no unified base, that people are free to think as they so choose. I think that people are spending too much time arguing over whether or not it was a gay bashing and how quickly the email was sent out, and not enough time talking about how public safety can be turned into something that we as a campus can trust and rely on.

    Hy heart goes out to the victims.

  • l

    @ Confused,

    Obviously no one will ever be able to definitively say the assault was motivated by homophobia, especially as there's very little chance the police will find the perpetrators. Without this evidence, I don't think we can call it a "hate crime," since that's really just a legal term. But there are several reasons to think that homophobia was in play:

    1) The victims seemed to think that their sexual orientation was part of the reason they were attacked. Now, they could be mistaken, but they might have picked up on subtle or not-so-subtle cues from the attackers. As several people have pointed out, language isn't the only way to communicate your homophobia, and the students might very well know from experience how to recognize prejudice and hate when it doesn't announce itself.

    2) In the broader social context, homophobia is responsible for a great deal of violence and abuse. Yeah, it's possible that sexual orientation had nothing to do with it. But it is at least as likely that two guys being openly affectionate prompted violence. I don't know any statistics on this, but it seems like beating people up for not buying you alcohol is pretty unusual, while beating people up for being queer is not uncommon.

    Ultimately, the whole discussion of "was this homophobic or not?" is somewhat irrelevant, because we'll never know. All we can say is that there's a fair possibility the assault was motivated by homophobia, and that this makes lots of people feel unsafe. We're not prosecuting anyone here; we don't need to follow the same legal standards of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Even if we're completely wrong and it was just about alcohol or name-calling, how is using this event to explore fairly widespread queer-bashing (as illustrated in the article and comments) harmful?

  • -1

    If the problem is ville rats coming to campus in order to procure alcohol, perhaps we should open a liquor store in the town of Swarthmore, and lower the legal age of purchase to 15. This would eradicate the need for ville rats to attempt to infiltrate the fraternities in their search for alcohol. If this isn't viable, perhaps some socially-conscious swatties would be willing to go stand outside Strath haven high school and distribute handles of bankers club to students who look violent or homophobic.

  • SD

    1. Don't rely on public safety, party advisers, or the police to keep you safe. Don't entrust them with your safety. I would really like to see Swatties take a more active role in their safety. Don't misconstrue this as me blaming the victims, I am completely outraged by this crime and will not tolerate it.

    2. Everyone should carry pepper spray. There are some sprays that visibly tag the target meaning that those kids would be in serious trouble right now as they should be. In terms of legality, any key chain unit is legal in all states. NJ has a 3/4 oz. limit, but that's not a problem with the key chain size models. Fox Labs Mean Green retails for $15 fyi.

    4. Everyone should carry a whistle.

    5. The student handbook currently bans guns and knives, I'd like to hear if any of you support changing this. In a situation like Saturday night's attack, the purpose of such a tool would be to diffuse the situation not to stab or shoot someone.

  • alex ’11

    @Spurned Intellectual.

    No, I didn't say I spoke for all queer people, only some (a few of whom live with me and shared my feelings.) No, I didn't say that this was only a concern for queer people on campus. I was merely trying to offer an explanation as to why some of us are particularly concerned. The fact that your own aren't rooted in your queer identity doesn't mean that others who might have experiences in Swarthmore of homophobic violence and/or taunting can't have specific, context-related concerns. I spoke in terms of my own life experiences and connected that to a larger experience of queerness @Swarthmore.My experiences appear to also intersect with the those of several women (queer or otherwise), who have also had to endure degrading comments on their walks through the ville.

    And No, I wasn't even asking that we suspend the legal interpretation of what a hate crime is, but rather that we not jump down people's throats for speaking about the possibility of one.

    I was responding to a post that decried people's legitimate concerns as somehow undermining their own larger political objectives, objectives the poster seemed wholly disconnected from.

    I'm sorry if you felt I was trying to speak on your behalf. I wasn't.

  • SD

    I can't count, *facepalm*

  • Spurned Intellectual

    @alex '11

    I never claimed you sought to conflate those two definitions, moral and legal, hence my move to a more general comment or critique.

    And on a rereading, I concede that my interpretation of your comment as representing the views of all queer people is incorrect, and I apologize.

    To be clear though, you don't know what my identity is, or whether or not being gay is a primary part of my identity. I would say that it is a very important aspect of my person, both corporeal and otherwise.

  • Ms. Frizzle

    omg misunderstandings, Mr. Intellectual… Alex '11 wasn't saying that being gay wasn't a primary part of your identity ~generally~, but establishing his reading of your comment by saying "your own [concerns about the situation] aren't rooted in your queer identity" to distinguish context of where his and some of his friends' worries are coming from.

    Class dismissed!

  • Phil Chodrow

    Following up on SD's comment on self-defense, I'd also like to point out that the Swarthmore student body DOES offer opportunities for students to learn how to defend themselves against violence. Sensei Rick Berry 6th Dan and Diana Patton '13 1st Dan teach regular classes in Aikido, open to all Swarthmore students, and the Swarthmore Martial Arts Club offers training both in traditional striking arts and practical self-defense. Anyone who wants to learn more can email me.

    Echoing SD: No, I am not blaming the victims, and no, I am not taking advantage of a disgusting act of violence for promoting my groups. But I, like SD, hope that this tragedy will help Swatties learn to be more attentive to the personal safety.

  • Confused

    @ l

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree with much of what you said, but I have issues with your second statement. I think that, given the "activist" environment that Swarthmore breeds, we're very quick to slap an "-ism" on anything that we don't like. Taking a stand on anti-gay issues in the broader world is one thing, but attributing homophobia where there is no evidence of it is what bothers me.

  • no guns, please!

    First of all–This was a horrible occurrence, I'm very sorry to both people affected by the attacks. I also want to establish that I don't think that they could have or should have changed their behavior in order to prevent the violence they experienced.

    @SD, @ Phil Chodrow

    I can understand where you're coming from in terms of self-defense. Behaving in a safe manner is important. The fact of the matter is, encouraging students to further violence either by pepper spraying their would-be attackers, using martial arts, or "diffusing the situation" with a gun or a knife is a really scary prospect.

    For one thing, I'm not sure how a gun or knife would "diffuse the situation" if it wasn't going to be used. I think encouraging an environment in which kids feel like they need to be armed in their own homes (Yeah, Swat is our home during the school year) is sad and unnecessary, and, frankly, really frightening to me.

    Carrying around weapons or using martial arts is dangerous because it creates the potential to escalate a physical confrontation. If you're being attacked, bringing out a weapon only serves to create an even more hostile situation.

    I completely agree that Swarthmore NEEDS to be more forthcoming with information about violence on campus. I'd be interested in having a discussion about how to get that to happen here.

  • Phil Chodrow

    No guns,

    I share your concern about "further violence," but I think your comment reflects a (fairly common) misconception about how the martial arts work. In particular, martial arts are NOT for "escalating" violence. Rather, every single traditional martial art is about ending violent situations in an efficient and just way.

    In relation to this, every competent martial arts instructor who claims to teach self-defense will also offer insights on conflict resolution. The thing that martial artists want to avoid most is using their art. You will NEVER find a respected martial artist "beating someone up" unless absolutely and strictly necessary to protect themselves or another.

    There's the philosophy. Here's a study:

    In conclusion: guns and knives may increase violence, and I share your concern there. But martial arts don't. Please keep these in different categories.


  • Adriana Massi

    "Disclaimer: I DO feel sympathy for the victims of this weekend's attack. My comments in no way seek to belittle the trauma that those individuals experienced. If anyone even suggests that moving forward, I will DG you into submission because it is a lie, it will be a cheap shot, and I will not tolerate people seeking to delegitimize others' comments by casting them as "apologists" or any other term you can cook up. That is what happend on the DG when we as a campus community TRIED to talk about rape, and I hope that we as a campus community can be better than that."

    I'm really glad you feel like people should receive a "Get Out of Jail Free" card when you agree with them, but this thread's comments are full of victim-blaming, conflation of an insulting term such as "ville rat" with hate speech in an effort to erase the very real possibility of heterosexist/homophobic violence in this attack and, well, a general erasure of the different challenges/violences QUILTBAGGP folks face.

    You can make valid points and ask real questions in a post that also engages in rape (or any other kind of) apologism, but you are going to need to take accountability for what you do that's hurtful as well as what you do that's right.

    I honestly can't engage with any of this thread further because I am a) furious, b) actually concerned about my safety in a real way for only about the second or third time at Swat, c) "They that have ears, let them hear," basically. I apologize if you feel like it's a cheap shot (that I don't have the energy to keep going with this), but I feel like deliberately tagging a lot of commentary and conversation aimed at and discussed around rape apologism that happened as "delegitimizing" is also a cheap shot.

    My email, as ever, is

  • R

    This comment thread makes me very, very angry. I have no doubt that it was spurred by homophobia. I have no problem with calling the ville rats ville rats, especially when they go around BEATING PEOPLE UP!! If a large group of scary looking kids came up to me in the dark and asked for alcohol, I would probably be freaked out. I would think they were targeting me because they saw me as a small woman, and therefore vulnerable. And they probably would be. Maybe he called them Ville Rats because he felt threatened.

    And OH MY GOD PHIL!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Do you think that saying you aren't using a horrible incident to advertise your group means that you aren't using a horrible incident to advertise your group? Because CLEARLY you ARE. In fact, I hope you are doing that, because it would be far preferable than insinuating that we have a responsibility to take these classes because of the scary homophobes trying to beat us up. When OBVIOUSLY, there shouldn't be scary homophobes shouldn't be wandering around campus beating us up!

    And what you have to say has NOTHING TO DO with making the victims feel better/safer. This thread, I feel, should be about what we can do to overcome this trauma that our student and our campus community has experienced. I just feel pissed off when I think of the person who was attacked reading these threads, and realizing what INSENSITIVE IDIOTS he goes to school with. I hate you guys. And I seriously hope he doesn't read these.

  • justsaying

    If somebody accosts you at midnight, you more than have the right to call them 'ville rats.' Stop apologizing and force the locals to get their kids under control.

  • anon

    Doubt anyone would have a gun (I would disregard that suggestion). A pocket knife could be used as a deterrent. I think the best option would be pepper spray, preferably with a dye. Non-lethal, marking, and a severe deterrent. Best part about it, anyone can use it. Crack it out and then run away.

    About escalating a situation, well to be honest I would rather "escalate the situation" with some pepper spray then end up in the hospital or worse.
    (also getting jumped by ville rats ain't the same as getting mugged at gun or knife point.)

    I've been practicing martial arts for well over a decade now and I must say that you cant just show up to a class and know how to defend yourself in an actual fight.

  • Ali

    @SD: "NEVER point a gun at something or someone that you don't intend to shoot at. As Jeff Cooper would say 'Don't point a gun at anything you are not prepared to destroy.'"

    Remember your NRA firearm safety rules, my friend.

    Also, Aikido is great, but I always thought that self defense should be an option for our Phys Ed credit. I don't really want to grapple with anyone; I just want to learn how to kick them someplace delicate and run away.

  • Phil Chodrow

    A few clarifications:

    R, you are technically correct. I should have said what is true: I am “exploiting” the tragedy to advertise my group, because I earnestly believe that doing so is one way to better individual safety. Altruistic exploitation, if you will. I have no qualms about this.

    Of course, you are also right that no one has a responsibility to study the martial arts, and it would indeed be ludicrous of me to imply that. What is nevertheless true is that studying the martial arts is one way to take increased responsibility of one’s physical safety. This is a good thing to do.

    No, there shouldn’t be scary homophobes wandering around campus beating us up. The fact is that there apparently are, sometimes. The other fact is that there are proactive measures that students can take to guard their personal well-being. The study of martial arts is one such measure.

    anon #80, I don’t mean to imply that studying martial arts for a week will make you impervious to physical assault. Yes, there’s a good amount of commitment which goes into making techniques effective. Just like anything else, becoming proficient in any of the arts takes time. I apologize if anything I said above suggested the opposite. I do maintain that a student who spent a year or two in, say, the Aikido classes would significantly enhance his/her ability to defend his/herself. I also agree with your thought that pepper spray is one fast and simple way to achieve some measure of personal safety. Of course, both pepper spray and the application of martial arts have their particular limitations.

    Ali, the strategy of “hit and run” has its distinct virtues, but is not completely satisfying as a self-defense strategy. The most obvious problem is that this way of doing things is not a versatile—this level of force is perhaps justified against, say, “a mugger,” but maybe not a drunk friend. And making the decision as to what level of force is justified in the heat of an escalating situation will be difficult at best.

    Also, in general, there’s not really a “trick” to defending yourself, as though particular techniques just work. You do need to train your body and mind to react properly. Self-defense classes can do that, but I would assert (with experience, without proof) that, in general, established martial arts traditions tend to be much better for this kind of conditioning.

    Finally, a bit of clarification: Aikido is not really about grappling. Indeed, Aikido isn’t about fighting—rather, it’s about ending fights before they begin. In one-on-one situations, this usually ends with the attacker on the floor, in some sort of joint-lock, having never had the opportunity to “fight.” The would-be victim then has the option to call for help or to inflict damage to the attacker, and can make this decision in a relatively sober way. This is good self-defense, from practical and legal standpoints, and reflects the fact that Aikido was designed to fend off untrained violent attackers.

    I hope that this has addressed at least some concerns and obscurities.

  • Carlos Estevez

    Phil, you've clearly overstayed your welcome.

  • wow, did you read that whole post? Props.

    @ R in #78

    I too am upset by all this. I truly do respect your feelings but don't know how to convey this without eye contact and active listening.

    I would like to point out that you have said you "have no doubt that it was spurred by homophobia." You then follow up by saying if you were targeted it would be "because they saw me as a small woman." To me this indicates that there may be many reasons that someone might be targeted.

    You have also said that
    "what you have to say has NOTHING TO DO with making the victims feel better/safer. This thread, I feel, should be about what we can do to overcome this trauma that our student and our campus community has experienced."

    I believe this perfectly highlights a very important point! There are, I think, two discussions happening on this thread simultaneously which are interacting with each other in an unproductive spiral.
    One conversation is about how the community does and should feel about this incident and how to address the affect of the situation. This is a valuable conversation and one that should be had.
    The other conversation is a technical discussion about how to improve the situation moving forward and address the circumstances of this horrible incident. This second discussion may or may not address the legitimate (and predominantly shared) feelings about the situation and have a focus on showing support for the victims.

    I have yet to read a post that, to me, truly shows that anyone here blames the victims. I think people having the second discussion form are very clear (most of the time) that they think that this is a travesty and that we should make every effort to stop this from happening again.

    Please believe me that if I felt that anyone was blaming the victims I would be the first to criticize them. I admit that I have skimmed some of these comments but I have not spotted such a post yet.

    On the affect side, I support the victims, the kids who perpetrated this event whether or not they are local residents are indeed worthy of the name "ville rats." Other kids may not deserve this title and we should be careful not to paint all local youth as bad. Some of them are even siblings of Swarthmore students and I have had lovely conversations with some of them. I have also been called names and hit in the head by snowballs by some of them and to them I give the name ville rats or "Vill Ins). I want to show support in any way I can but this support does not extend to not assessing this in an not affect based manner.

    On the understanding and helping to make this not happen in the future here is what I have to say. I have been working hard this week to make pragmatic steps to make this campus safer. I have gotten emails from people who commented on this thread raising concerns about helping to make, for instance, the gender f party safer. There are pragmatic things that can be done moving forward. Improved lighting would be good. Pepper spray could be good. Martial arts could be a good way to improve personal safety but is clearly not practical for everyone or in the short term. You could sign up to be extra community safety. There are lots of things that we can do. Pleas, if you here a practical response that ignores the emotion of this situation don' assume that the person suggesting it lacks the emotion or compassion needed to feel outraged and saddened by this. Also, please don't attack people for suggesting real changes. Attack the changes if you really don't think they are good but don't attack the person. Further, come up with some more ideas yourself.

    On a personal note I am sad that after writing a post like this I feel completely uncomfortable about writing my name at the bottom of this. Don't get me wrong, this is not because I am scared to stand behind my positions. It is because I don't want to be assumed as an uncaring, insensitive, mean person who attacks victims of assault. If you know me you can probably figure out who wrote this and you know that this would be the last way almost everyone would describe me. So, no name, but I will be checking back here more so if you want to address my arguments please do, I just won't let you address me in person about who I am.

    With caring and pragmatic moves forward

  • Same person as #84

    Carlos Estevez

    That's way out of line. I am personally insulted by your dismissal of Phil. Who do you think you are? If you completely disagree with his assessment of martial arts or anything else then address the argument. If you don't want to hear about how martial arts can be an effective means of self defense then just skip the comment. I only got to a yellow belt in my life time but my brother has a black belt in some form (Can't remember the name). The lesson they learn first is to roll when they fall. The first several weeks are all about how to avoid conflict and get away from the attacker. If you are truly suggesting by your insulting Phil that avoiding conflict is bad then, well, I just don't know what. (Note, do not even pretend to conflate this with me saying that this is suggesting that if the victims are in any way responsible for not escaping the attack. I obviously don't think that. Funny how I feel it necessary to clarify).

    Dismissing Phill is completely rude. And does not support any position that would be in opposition to him.

  • Carlos Estevez

    Same Person as #84

    What do you mean by 'out of line?" I would be willing to dialogue with you on this platform if you could clarify your points.



  • seriously?

    whoever you are, carlos estevez – get the fuck out of here. please.

  • Same Person as #84

    OK. Out of line would be calling Phil and Autistic Nerd (unless he chooses to self identify as such).

    What about plugging a brand of pepper spray? That off topic?

    Sorry, that was my emotional response.
    I think asking you to address his argument is clear. If you chose not to then don't insult him as this is simply unnecessarily mean.

    My points about martial arts were to suggest that it can be a good thing to learn for the purposes of self defense. No further point.

    What I mean to say by "And does not support any position that would be in opposition to him." (note, there should have been a comma instead of a period before "and" which I understand made the sentence confusing) is that moving forward it will be very difficult for me to take any argument you put forward seriously because I now have, as a base line assumption of you, that you are very rude at least in the context of this thread. You may be very nice in other contexts.

    By my note I mean that I do not in any way blame the victims for what happened.

    I don't know what "Applause" means but I don't think it addresses my argument or reduce your rudeness.

    There are many ways to discuss an assault on campus. As I said before, we can address the feelings and/or we can address practical ways that Swatties can make themselves safer. I think Phill has done both and is deserving of respect for that, even if someone disagrees with them.

    So, there it is, the start of a dialogue. I am happy to clarify anything else or respond to arguments.

  • Spurned Intellectual

    In response to #77 specifically:

    I don't get a "get out of Jail Free" card, and I would appreciate it if you were slightly less sanctimonious about your position relative to that of others. I never said "Ville Rat" was hate speech, nor did I conflate it with homophobia. Interestingly enough, I said nothing that even hinted at faulting the victims in this scenario. I rather simply stated that morals and laws are different, and should be discussed as such. And then I talked about how much Public Safety sucks in general. So I appreciate your willingness to direct plenty of claims my way in direct response to my making it clear that I sympathize, even if the accusations you make have nothing to do with me or the positions I posited. Nothing that I said belittles the importance of hate crimes or homophobia. I simply think that as a campus there are ways to come together and rally for things like better safety on the whole, and that this isolated incident, while horrid and very likely homophobia-related, is a cry for attention for more than simply GLBTQ issues.

    As such, I don't need to account for my apologist claims, as lo and behold I did not make any.

    I want to leave you with one thought, as this will be my last post on the matter. Swarthmore College is a wonderful environment wherein students are schooled in the art of thought. How unfortunate it is that in so doing the campus community summarily silences people who dissent. I think the best example of late was the DG discussion on rape, and if you look to all of the people who spoke in favor of having legal distinctions between types of rape (one of many legitimate positions in an ongoing debate about the specificity of law and its application that broadens beyond simply the scope of discussing rape), they were simply told they were wrong, and then were called rape apologists, even if they expressed quite clearly that they felt rape to be horrible as well. You, Adriana, were among those who silenced others. Ad Hominem attack is a rather low form of response, is it not? If you want to argue and debate, do that. But don't get angry, call someone a bad name, kick and scream, and expect me or anyone else to agree with you on face. It is totally legitimate for others to agree with you, obviously, but I hope, for the sake of this institution and it's students, that people are not being swayed by your trite, insulting, dismissive, diminutive tone.

    -Spurned Intellectual, wearing his low hangers

  • Adriana Massi

    I quoted only one part of your post because I was only interested in unpacking one part of your post.

    "I never said "Ville Rat" was hate speech, nor did I conflate it with homophobia. Interestingly enough, I said nothing that even hinted at faulting the victims in this scenario."

    Interestingly enough, I never accused you of any of these things. "This thread's comments" was the subject of that sentence. I also did not accuse you of apologism. Right now, you seem to have a vested interest in doing away with any accountability to the words you commit yourself to (although, you don't seem to commit yourself, considering you use a pseudonym). I gave you my email because I feel this thread isn't the place for this dialogue, and you're free to exert your personal agenda with me privately.

    The rest of your comment simply demonstrates (as did your last) that you have not actually read / understood the thread in question, as these discussions have been had there and addressed with the people actually participating in that thread.

    If you want to talk about a trite (?), insulting, dismissive, diminutive tone, you might want to check yourself. The occasional archaic idiom in your language seems an attempt to read as authoritative.


  • Bob Dole

    Hey everybody,

    I know that usually DG threads tend to get blown up and get all crazy and shit. That's what the DG is, to a lot of us. But in this one case — a very specific, and admittedly very frightening case — can we all stop going at each others' throats about their terminology, or their alterior motives, or whatever?

    These are PEOPLE that got attacked, not just statistics or banners for a cause. And maybe we should all step back for a minute and remember that maybe they don't want to become the next firestarters, and that they need some privacy and some care and would really just like for all this to blow over.

    Can we do that? Can we let this fade a bit? Leave the students alone, and stop bitching at each other about it. Bother the administration, or form a club, or something.


    PS I apologize for not being my usual irreverent self, but sometimes y'all get to me with your fancy intellectual terminology and your vitriol and all that nasty business.

  • Phil Chodrow

    #84, #85, and #88, your words are insightful, and the ones directed toward defending me are kind. Thank you.

  • we can read


    Who was it who conflated ville rats with hate speech. You may be right. I just missed it. Direct me toward it and I assure you I will join you in your outrage that anyone said it was hate speech.

    I'm sorry, I just think there are a lot of intelligent people reading these posts and if we understand different things from them it does not mean that everyone else is wrong in their understanding of what is written… Sometimes authors are unclear, sometimes readers are mistaken. Personally, I agree with Spurned Intellectual's reading as it is how I would have interpretted what you and others wrote. I would be thrilled to hear your clarification.

    Also, "I gave you my email because I feel this thread isn't the place for this dialogue, and you're free to exert your personal agenda with me privately." Bwahahahahahaha. Do you think you have no agenda? You are very much sharing your personal agenda on here as well. Allow others to do so… Especially when their agenda is on topic and relevant.

    But hey, you are going to disagree. At a certain point we hit a wall in discussion and have to say that we have irreconcilable differences. I hope that when we reach that point you are not sad and angry. I also hope you don't think that it means that those who disagree with you are bad people.

  • we can read

    Sorry for the extra A in your name… Apparently I actually can't read 😉

  • concerned grad

    I have no idea whether the victims' use of the expression "Ville Rats" is even partially explanatory (causally, not rationally) of the assault in question. And yet, the very possibility that it is suggests to me that the Swarthmore community might do well to find a more friendly way to refer to teenagers from the ville.

    Note the semantics of the expression in question. The question asked: "Are you ville rats?" Clearly the teens weren't being asked whether they were prone to criminal behavior, or whether they were worthy of moral condemnation. They were being asked whether they were /teens from the Ville/.

    Imagine what it would be like to be a teen from the ville, and to see the expression "ville rat" — which, as I hope is clear, means nothing but "teen from the ville" — occur 32 times in this thread, and only periodically between quotation marks or in indirect speech. What sort of impression would you form of the student body?

    Is this the sort of image that the student body wishes to cultivate? I personally am somewhat embarrassed at the thought that people outside the community will read (some of) these comments.

  • m

    Seriously? You got from this thread that the biggest issue of concern in the relationship between Swat students and teens from the ville is the use of the term "ville rats?" (not a flattering term, to be sure, but in the same genre as "mall rat," "gym rat", etc., none a particularly incendiary term with anything like a history of institutionalized discrimination or bigotry attached to it) I personally think college students are not the ones who should be fretting about what image they are projecting in a relationship in which they are habitually sexually harassed, screamed hate speech at, spit on, and otherwise routinely harassed by groups of teens from the ville (this all entirely apart from the incident this weekend). I think the town of Swarthmore, and not the college, might be the ones who should be embarrassed by how this behavior reflects on their community.

  • concerned grad


    "Seriously? You got from this thread that the biggest issue of concern in the relationship between Swat students and teens from the ville is the use of the term ville rats?"

    I did not say that. Perhaps you inferred it from the fact that this issue is the one I wrote about. Surely not a licensed inference on your part.

    "Not a flattering term"

    I'm glad you realize that. It's all that's relevant to my argument. That such an 'unflattering' expression should have as its referent any and every teenager abiding in the Ville does not make Swarthmore students appear very fair-minded.

    I'm intrigued by your suggestion that the terms "mall rat" and "gym rat" do not have a history of institutionalized discrimination or bigotry attached to them, but I don't see what it has to do with anything.

    "I personally think college students are not the ones who should be fretting about what image they are projecting in a relationship in which they are habitually sexually harassed, screamed hate speech at, spit on, and otherwise routinely harassed by groups of teens from the ville"

    Obviously, this is all unpardonable conduct. The use of the expression 'ville rat' is *not* equally unpardonable. But what's your point?

    The Swarthmore community should attend to its safety more closely than it should attend to its public image. And yet, its public image is important, too. Just ask the Development Office.

    "I think the town of Swarthmore, and not the college, might be the ones who should be embarrassed by how this behavior reflects on their community."

    I never suggested that the Swarthmore community should be embarrassed by how this act of violence reflects on it. I said that I personally am embarrassed that some of the comments in this thread should be associated with Swarthmore College.

    I do, however, think that habitual use of the expression 'ville rat' casts the student body in an unfortunate (and perhaps haughty) light.

  • OY

    we can read–

    The Sensible One, #37, was the first to conflate "ville rats" with hate speech.

    In general, I would like to say that this thread has made me disgusted with the Swarthmore Community because of:

    1.) all the victim blaming, subtle and overt
    2.) all the suggestions that we stick to facts and not attend to people's real fears in light of this incident
    3.) Phil Chodrow advertising his campus group and derailing a serious conversation with paragraphs about his hobby.
    4.) Carlos Estevez calling Phil an autistic nerd.

    I don't feel safe at Swat anymore, and I'm not just talking about fear of the ville rats.

  • geez ’11

    Victim-blaming is completely reprehensible and never okay, whether it is done subtly or overtly. But I hope that we all can recognize that merely pointing out that the term "Ville Rats" can be incendiary is not an act of victim-blaming. At the college, we tend to refer to all teenagers living in the town of Swarthmore as "Ville rats". In our minds we have inadvertently grouped together the normal, peaceful kids with the groups of teenagers who loiter and act aggressively towards College students. This grouping is not a good thing, as I am sure that it leads many teenagers from the Ville feel they are being stereotyped and looked down upon by Swarthmore College students. The last thing we need to do is increase tension between town and gown, especially in light of this incident. Perhaps these teenagers wouldn't have been provoked to attack had they not been labeled with a term that undoubtedly is offensive and demeaning to them, regardless of the intention behind the victims’ usage. This is no way excuses the teenagers’ behavior. No matter how hateful the words, nothing justifies the response of physical violence. But I think that ‘concerned grad’ has a point when they suggest a reconsideration of the terms we use to discuss the teens in the Ville. Repeatedly referring to all Swarthmore teenagers as “Ville rats” makes our college community look hostile, petty, and elitist to both those teenagers we are speaking of and to the outside world observing our discussions on the Gazette and other public forums.

  • we can read

    Oy, if I thought for one minute that people on this campus are like you suggest in your comments I would be scared too. Thankfully I don't and I'm not.

    In regards to the use of the term "hate speech" in Sensible one's comment #37 I am afraid I will have to disagree with you. I reread in three times and could not find the term hate speech. In case I missed it I then did a word search using the search function and found that the only use of the word hate in comment #37 was "hate crime." I then search for "hate speech" and I found it in the body of the article itself, in comment number five but there it is less then clear that the author means that the use of "ville rats" was hate speech. Every other instance of the words "hate" and "speech" grouped together as "hate speech" was in accusations of people saying that they were the same and then in the valid denial that hate speech is what is meant.
    The words in #37 were "insult" which means "to treat or speak to insolently or with contemptuous rudeness; affront." Which is not "hate speech" which means "speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation." Indeed, "ville rat" is an insult, as indicated, but not hate speech. While you might reject the definitions ( realize that if you do you are saying something different than what the population at large believes the words mean.

    I would now ask you to point me to where someone has said that the victims are to blame.

    I'm truly sorry that you no longer feel safe on campus. If there was anything I could do to change that I would be fully in support and work toward making you feel safer! In fact, I am working very hard to do so but maybe in ways that you will not notice at this weekend's party. The only thing that I will not do to help you feel safer is to not speak my opinion and to call things out that I think are incorrect and unproductive. So, what would make things better?

  • what?

    "all the suggestions that we stick to the facts and not attend to people's real fears in light of this incident"

    for someone that is mightily misrepresenting what other people say, that kind of use of language is hilarious. sounds exactly like something i would expect to hear from people fearing gays.

  • we can read

    @ What
    I can't find that quote using the search function for the comments and articles. Could you direct me to the comment number so I can understand that whole context and fully appreciate what you mean?

    I think I agree with you but because I don't know which comment you are responding to I can't actually understand exactly what you are saying.

  • Really.

    I think it's really telling that nobody has responded to the simple question of where the "victim-blaming" is in this thread. Just another buzzword that Swatties love to throw around when it's completely unnecessary and irrelevant.

  • Rachael Mansbach


    I think that the "victim-blaming" is coming up as an accusation because the discussion of whether using the term "ville rats" could have incited the kids to violence is a tricky one. The difficulty is that, without care, saying that the cause of the kids' violence was that they were called "ville rats" can imply that the victims are to blame. ("Oh, it's their fault because they were insulting the kids!") I don't think that's what the people who were saying that were intending to say, but I do think that it could be read that way, and therefore the discussion of the use of the term "ville rats" is a very dicey one. The difficulty is that the discussion of the appropriateness of the term "ville rats" in a vacuum is a perfectly reasonable one, but in the context of a thread in which those high school kids viciously assaulted two members of our campus it makes people (like me) a little uneasy.

  • D ’11

    On the comment sections of other (non-Swarthmore) publications, there is a *lot* of victim-blaming going on, particularly around the "ville rats" part but also with the showing affection part.

    (Reading those comments has been a real shock to me about the opinions of the people who live around us, though I suppose I shouldn't be, because most of the commenters were probably shouting slurs themselves when they were teenagers.)

    Looking at those comments and some of the comments on this thread, there are definitely some striking similarities which had me, at least, read them as also participating in some victim blaming of their own.

    As Rachel said, the discussion becomes pretty tricky in this context.

  • Poet

    The search for truth
    is never without anger
    never without exposure
    never without pain
    That is the price we pay.

  • we can read

    @ D '11 and Rachel

    I think you guys have really good points. I really don't think that the people who have been talking about the "vill rats" name calling aspect are intending to victim blame (evidenced by their frequent explicit statements to the contrary) but I do see how it could be seen as the firs step down that road. I don't think the language used is a rational for violence or that it is in anyway diminishing the complete fault of the attackers. I believe what has been suggested is that it probably did not help the situation.

    I think victim blaming in other forums is a terrible thing and one that we should all work hard to combat. However, I hope that people do not take what is said from outside groups and individuals and apply it to the Swarthmore community / become scared or angry with the Swarthmore community.

    Thanks for having reasoned discussion and helping move this forward and improving my understanding.