StuCo Report: Greek Life Referendum Just Weeks Away

Greek Life Referendum

Attendees at last night’s StuCo meeting filled Parrish’s West Parlor as Joyce Wu ‘15 announced that her petition for a referendum on the right of greek organizations to exist had received the necessary signatures–ten percent of the student body. Because she did not formally present the referendum to StuCo, no date has yet been set for the vote.

The petition stated that the referendum will ask: “Do you believe that the presence of fraternities and sororities should continue to be permitted at Swarthmore College?” As of 12:15 Monday morning, the petition had received 182 unique signatures.

The petition did not take a position on the question, instead stating: “No matter your views on Greek life at Swarthmore, if you believe that a referendum should be held to determine its continued presence on our campus, please sign this petition.”

A simple majority of voters will decide the result of the referendum, but one-third of the student body must participate for the referendum to be considered valid, according to the StuCo Constitution.

The referendum appeared Thursday in an email sent to many members of the student body by Parker Murray ’15, who attended Sunday night’s meeting, and it was also circulated on Facebook. Thursday’s edition of The Phoenix included a staff editorial calling for a referendum on the existence of greek life at Swarthmore.

The referendum recalls the 1933 vote by the female student population to ban sororities. That decision was annulled in recent months on Title IX grounds before the group Not Yet Sisters could bring a chapter of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta to campus, said StuCo Co-President President Victor Brady ‘13. Because the upcoming referendum would apply to fraternities as well as sororities, Brady does not foresee that Title IX will be invoked again.

Wu said “The point of this referendum is to push for more conversations around greek life,” and as students quickly learn of the referendum’s existence, those conversations are beginning. Amanda Epstein ’15, who sat in on the meeting, said she believed the College community would need more than two weeks to discuss the vote.

Wu asked if StuCo is interested in helping to moderate campus-wide discussions on the issue. Brady said StuCo is interested, and he suggested that a fireside chat, possibly including Dean of Students Liz Braun, is one option. Wu said she is also looking to hold a collection on the issue.

Constitutionally, the vote, which Brady said will be held electronically through Moodle, must be held within two weeks of the time the petition is formally presented to StuCo. After learning this information, Wu decided to delay presenting her petition until a later StuCo meeting.

Brady said he and Co-President Gabby Capone ‘13 will meet with Braun on Wednesday to determine whether a ban could even be allowed under school policy. Some attendees said that this risked involving the Administration in a decision that they said rightfully belongs to the students under the StuCo Constitution.

“I think there should be a guarantee that the referendum should happen regardless [of what the Administration says],” said Emma Waitzman ‘14, who attended the meeting. Murray, who was also in attendance, asked whether there was a part of the Constitution that says it’s all contingent upon what Braun says.

“No, no!” said Brady. “But it makes much more sense, especially if [the petition] is not going to be submitted for the immediate future, to see what she says, and then if she says it’s not going to do anything and you also want to submit the referendum, then I would advocate against it. But if that’s the approach you decide upon, then that’s pretty black and white.”

In other words, if Wu is determined to bring the issue to a vote, the vote will occur, even if the proposition turns out to have no teeth.

“Maybe I’m being extremely naïve,” Brady said,” but I’d like to think that Dean Braun’s not going to say, ‘I really like greek life so it’s not going to mean anything.’”

SBC Chair Jacob Adenbaum ‘14, who regularly attends StuCo meetings, asked “If another referendum were submitted that said, say, any other group on campus can no longer exist, does the student body even have the power to do that?”

“Again, that’s all part of the larger discussion with Dean Braun on Wednesday,” said Brady. The results of that conversation will be communicated to Wu.

Article II Section 3 of the StuCo Constitution, which discusses referenda, reads as follows:

3.1 Any student may initiate a referendum with a petition with the signatures of at least ten percent of the student body. The petition must clearly state the referendum resolution as it is to appear on the referendum ballot.
3.2 SC may also initiate referenda by approval of specific referendum resolutions.
3.3 SC shall pay all costs of the referendum, excluding the costs of publicizing specific resolutions. SC shall notify the student body of the pending election. The referendum shall be held within two weeks of SC receiving a referendum petition.
3.4 Balloting for the referendum shall be conducted by the Elections Committee in accordance with the procedures outlined above.
3.5 A referendum resolution shall pass if a majority of those not voting “No preference” vote affirmatively and if at least one third of the student body votes.
3.6 Referendum resolutions may not supersede this Constitution.

SRG (Student Resource Guide)

The working group charged with coordinating the implementation of the SRG, a wiki page that StuCo hopes will be filled with information on all aspects of student life, has come up with a rough outline of the SRG. That working group is made up of Student Life Representative Tony Lee ‘15, Student Life Representative Jason Heo ‘15, Educational Policy Representative Rachel Stein ‘15, Secretary Sun Park ‘16, and Capone.

The outline divides the proposed wiki into four categories: “academics”, “the College,” “swat life,” which refers to social activities, and “groups and governance.”

StuCo members will meet with ITS next week to learn what options are available for the page. It remains to be decided how the wiki template will be structured, who will be able view the page, where it will be hosted, and whether the Swarthmore College Computing Society (SCCS) will be involved. Lee suggested that the wiki could appear at the top of the Dash and that students would have to sign in to view it.

StuCo members agreed that only students would be allowed to edit it.

“We really wanted this to be by the students, for the students,” said Stein. “We wanted people to give people honest information.” StuCo members were concerned that oversight from the Deans’ Office, Communicatons, Admissions, and other components of the Administration might interfere with information posted by students.

Stein said that the working group was encouraged by the existence of another wiki, created by the Northwestern University Student Theater Coalition, that showed the feasibility of online student-run encyclopedias.

Stein said the working group’s brainstorming session had come up with a few pages they’d like to see made on the wiki, including “special majors”, “what is screw really like?”, and “is it better to block?” She said that StuCo could get the wiki ball rolling by writing the first few posts themselves. All of their content could later be edited by students.

StuCo will encourage student groups to write pages about themselves come SBC’s spring budgeting process in April.

Student Outreach Coordinator Aya Ibrahim ‘15 said that at the most recent SWATT meeting, which brings together StuCo and members of the administration, the administration had expressed concern that the wiki would simply duplicate information already available online.

StuCo replied that while that may be the case, the wiki will provide clear organization, ease of access, and student control that is not present in current resources. Stein said “the goal is not to reinvent the wheel.”

Lee said he hopes students will refer to the wiki as “the swiki.”

SEPTA Tokens

Contrary to last week’s announcement, the distribution of free SEPTA tokens will not begin until next week. Students will be able to request one roundtrip ticket per week beginning Saturday. 40 roundtrip tickets will be distributed, by lottery if necessary, each Sunday, with no obligation to use the tickets at a specific time. Students who have received tickets many times will be de-prioritized in the lottery.

Brady said that the only remaining task is for the President’s Office to transfer funds from their discretionary budget to an SBC account before Saturday.


StuCo said that the Student Senate will meet for the first time ever after Spring Break or sooner. Each student committee will have a representative in the Senate, and all but four committees have responded so far.

Brady said that the corkboard calendar has been approved and will be going up this week in Shane Lounge. Students will be required to post their on-campus events on the calendar.

StuCo is serving dinner to students in Sharples this Thursday. Dining services will give them shirts. Brady is a size small, he said.

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  1. 0
    Adrienne Rich says:

    “‘You have the power in your hands, you control our lives,
    Why do you need our pity too?’
    Why are men afraid,
    Why do you pity yourselves
    why do the administrators
    lack solicitude, the government
    refuse protection
    why should the wild child
    weep for the scientist

  2. 0
    Alexander Williams says:

    Hi all. Did not realize how seriously you all took this and I recognize nobody appreciates my jokes. I realize I offended people and I am sorry. Obviously I have not raised very many points that are useful and I am sorry for detracting from the serious matter of deciding how to shape your community. I hope that my comments do not influence anybody as they are only offensive and people should not base a vote on an individual’s offensive remarks. I apologize and I will leave your newspaper alone.
    (I hope you all realize precisely why I cannot post my real name, as I do not wish to associate myself with these remarks. It is easy to say offensive things when under the cloak of anonymity, and I regret doing so.)

    1. 0
      Suspicious says:

      It is easy to say things under the cloak of anonymity and disappear. But you decided to try to take it back, because of how it reflected on the frats. I suspect that you are a brother at one of Swat’s frats who wanted to tell us how you felt about this issue, but did so childishly.

      1. 0
        why? says:

        You suspect that because it fits your pre-conceived notions of what brothers must be like. You have no evidence other than your bias and to post this reflects a lack of critical thinking. Shame on you.

    2. 0
      LOL says:

      This is obviously a frat brother and not the original Alexander Williams. He is trying to not shoot himself in the foot any worse. It’s kind of hilarious watching them so desperately trying to clean up their act.

  3. 0
    Alexander Williams says:

    Hi Joyce (and all haters for that matter). I don’t go to Swarthmore. In fact my name isn’t Alexander Williams. I sincerely hope that my argument is not damaging the reputation of the fraternities at Swarthmore, but I do not have the self-control to withhold these thoughts. There is not a doubt in my mind that you love the smell of your own farts. You literally must eat 27 bean burritos and lock yourself in your room for weeks at a time, with a towel jammed under the door to keep the stank in. For there is not a doubt in my mind that you are intoxicated by the B.S. that spews out of every orifice in your body. You only see the negatives of fraternities. And it’s a damn shame. You can pretend that Swarthmore is some island from the rest of the world, but at some point in life you need to deal with handling things that you don’t like without ruining other people’s experience. (As a side note, Swarthmore is a pretty weird place.) Welcome to America. This isn’t communist land where we all hold hands and need to be best friends. If you have been personally harmed then maybe you have a place to talk. But if not, how bout you stop huffing the methane gas that you are perpetually ejecting from your ass hole and suck it up. You don’t like them. Then stay away. Shutting down fraternities is anti-American. Red, White and Blue: these colors don’t run.

    1. 0
      Alexander Williams says:

      Honestly the only point that matters is if you don’t like them stay away. If people are getting assaulted then obviously there need to be consequences. But there is no reason to have a stick up your ass about fraternities simply because they exist. They can have their fun you can have yours. There is no way that having 25 members out of your 500 person class in a fraternity is a detriment to your community.

  4. 0
    Huzilla says:

    “Some attendees said that this risked involving the Administration in a decision that they said rightfully belongs to the students under the StuCo Constitution.”

    Can someone explain to me how they interpret the constitution? All student referendums that pass MUST be enacted?

    So then… if the student population voted to allow people off the meal plan, then the administration would be forced to allow it?

    1. 0
      If you had actually been there... says:

      What was actually meant by this is that involving the administration before the referendum was held isn’t a part of the constitution, so it was confusing why StuCo felt the need to consult with the administration about legality and board stuff rather than just holding it regardless and dealing with all that after it was held.

  5. 0
    A '00s says:

    But that’s exactly my point– I don’t know if something changed in the few years since I graduated, but parties at Olde Club or Paces were EXACTLY THE SAME as parties at the frats– dark, sweaty, loud, and filled with, by and large, the same exact people. In a school of 1500 people, of whom MAYBE a third go out to these parties, that’s inevitable. And, without having numbers on hand, my impression, as someone who spent about time at all kinds of parties, was that there was nothing really distinct at all about the frat “culture”; in fact, I think most of the cases of sexual assault I heard about didn’t happen at frats or involve frat brothers. Which isn’t, of course, to say that nothing bad ever happened at frats– just that in my experience the frat culture was really indistinguishable from the wider drinking/hookup culture at Swarthmore, which kind of makes singling it out as uniquely “rapey” doesn’t address the problem at all, any more than banning Smith & Wesson guns will reduce gun violence if Glocks are still just as easy to get.

  6. 0
    A '00s says:

    So I graduated a few years ago. Wasn’t in a frat. Occasionally went out to them, but can’t say they were my favorite or least favorite places.

    While I can’t comment on the accusations of sexual assault, I’ve heard from plenty of people I went to school with that the administration is terrible at dealing with it. And obviously that’s awful and is a pressing issue.

    But will banning the frats really do much of anything to change it…? At least when I was at Swarthmore (way back last decade), parties happened at Paces, Olde Club, Wharton D, and occasionally Upper Tarble. They were all exactly the same– dark, crowded, sweaty, and loud. For a bystander, especially a drunk bystander, it’s all but impossible to tell if that’s consensual or not.

    But the point is that I can’t, for the life of me, imagine how banning frats is going to resolve the issue of sexual assault, or even improve it much, if at all. What our fine little community needed when I was there, and probably needs now, unless something changed a hell of a lot from when I was there, was strong changes to both the administrative response to sexual assault and the drinking/hookup culture.

    Otherwise, I strongly suspect what will happen is a months-long battle to ban frats/sororities/whatever, a few people jumping up and down about how great this is for Swarthmore the institution, then the quick realization that the same thing that happened at the frats, at least in my experience, happened just as frequently at every party space on the campus.

    That’s not to say that people’s concerns about sexual assault aren’t valid and that it isn’t something terrible that the community should be seriously looking into. Rather, in my experience, this was a problem that was equally prevalent at Peaslee parties, Paces parties, Olde Club parties, or any other parties. And banning frats, whether that’s good or bad for the sense of community, probably isn’t going far at all in alleviating the real problems that are being brought up.

    1. 0
      Hm says:

      It’s very difficult to have an “Olde Club culture” when a different group occupies the space every week. It’s clear that the fraternities, which are the same group of people who share a space, have a distinct culture that involves rape. This is unlike other campus party spaces.

  7. 0
    Bright Idea says:

    With all this debate on whether or not the referendum itself is okay or not…Why don’t we have a referendum on whether or not to have a referendum?

    1. 0
      glen coco for stuco says:

      OMG, and isn’t one of StuCo’s initiative for the semester more late night food?? Kill two birds with one stone!

      All joking aside, this is seriously a good idea.

  8. 0
    Miriam says:

    Hi, everyone!

    Probably some of you reading these comments are as horrified by some of them as I am. Probably some of you are confused as to why people are horrified. Whatever the case is, I want to encourage all of you to come to the SMARTeam’s consent workshops tomorrow. Part of the focus of these discussions will be on the campus culture, and I think it will be a productive way to continue some of these conversations — which seem no longer to be super constructive on this forum — about sexual assault, harassment and violence.

      1. 0
        Joan says:

        Hey! I went to this! It was 1/3 rugby girls and 2/3 fraternity brothers.

        They made a really nice showing, were super respectful and engaged, and overall I was pretty impressed by the men I met that night.

        Mostly, I was very taken aback with how empty the workshops were in general. Must’ve been no more than 15 people in that room. Where was the rest of campus?!

      2. 0
        Silence must be Broken says:

        One think I think is necessary to point out is that one of the largest problems for Greek Life at this point is that they are very non-transparent, and have terrible PR.

        For example, did you know that all pledges (and brothers too) must go through a rigorous consent workshop every year? Brothers have been in contact with SMARTeam asking them how they can have a more open and inviting space, but part of the problem is no one knows this.

        I for one would appreciate leaders of Phi Psi and DU coming out and stating their physical assault and sexual assault policies, as well as examples of what happens when brothers are offensive or insulting on biases of race, gender, gender identity, or sexuality. While it may not be as rigorous as some would like, it is better than the silence speaking louder. I know for a fact that there have been instances of a comment being made, then internally investigated, and all parties involved being sent to a workshop

        Please brothers–come out and show the world your hand so they can stop guessing.

        1. 0
          Marian '14 says:

          ^ I think you raise a great point with this. It would be very nice for the SPECIFICS of these efforts made more public. (For example, why are they not better spelled out in the DU Op Ed?) If we don’t know, we can’t consider that in our dialogue.

          Additionally, I believe it would be worthwhile for DU, Phi Psi, and Theta to PUBLISH their membership policies in a publicly-viewable place. (If this is already done, I apologize-but again, back to the PR issue. If they are public, I have never seen them.) I’m sure that these regulations exist somewhere, but having them in public would, I think, be a very positive step forward. They should spell out in no uncertain terms:

          a) Circumstances under which brothers/sisters can be removed, and the procedure by which this takes place, as well as the ramifications that removal from a frat/sorority has within the context of the deans’ offices.
          b) Procedure for brothers/sisters to bring a complaint against another brother/sister
          c) The consequences of a brother/sister observing but not reporting infractions against both Greek AND College policy
          d) The procedure for UNAFFILIATED students to bring complaints to the attention of the fraternities, with a particular focus on working with campus groups (SwatSurvivors, SMARTeam?) to develop a system that will better serve the needs of survivors than just “come talk to us about it”

          If you believe that the problem is that people do not know the frats well enough, then help us to better know you and better know your policies and procedures by making this information freely available (and preferably online.)

          1. 0
            Marian '14 says:

            Also I have only just seen the circa 2007 website that DU has. It’s a good start, but clearly needs an update–and I haven’t seen anything comparable for Phi Psi or Theta. However, it does not address many of the specific concerns that have been raised by the referendum discussion and seems ripe for revision.

            But I was still glad to find it!

      3. 0
        It would mean a lot ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        ^ Seconded. Fraternity brothers, I know that some of what has been said over the past few weeks was not fair to you, and I know it may seem like your own community is attacking you right now. Please believe that many of us really do like you and are just unsure and/or afraid because of all the stories that have been going around. If there is a big turnout of brothers at these workshops, I for one will be on your side and believe that the fraternities as organizations are committed to ending some of the problems we see on our campus (which are not exclusive to the frats, I might add).

        On second thought, how about if the entire campus came out to these workshops? Do you really think anyone shouldn’t learn more about consent?

        1. 0
          Miriam says:

          As one of the organizers, my dream is for the entire campus to come to these. We don’t actually have the space for that, but seriously, come one, come all. You all have things to contribute, and we all have things to learn.

    1. 0
      Sara '12 says:

      This graphic was circulating recently:

      It shows the percentage of rapists that are reported, faced trial, jailed, and falsely accused. The article I linked to explains why the actual numbers used to create the graphic are off in several different ways, but the ultimate message is still accurate: false rape accusations are extremely rare, and the bigger problem is the number of rapists who get away with it.

      tl; dr: I really hope not.

  9. 0
    bickerbickerbicker says:

    As a woman who was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of a frat brother, I find some of the comments on both sides of this issue a little misguided. Experiencing sexual assault is nothing to joke about or brush to the side, as some commentators have, but it is also not an excuse to blame an entire group of people for the actions of one individual. I know some frat brothers are sexual assailants, but when I went through my experience, I was lucky enough to have a best friend there for me who happened to be a brother in the same fraternity as my attacker. Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting many more brothers who have been friendly to me every time I have visited the frats. I only told that one friend due to the delicacy of the situation. It is so difficult to talk about experiences such as these because restating what happens means reliving it, with the hope that the listener will understand, but with the expectation that they very likely won’t. This is how it has been for me. So when some brothers ask people to tell them about how they have been sexually harassed and by whom, it is extremely inconsiderate and narrow-minded.

    What makes situations like this even more difficult to handle is the presence of drugs and alcohol at parties that distort people’s perceptions and ability to recognize when “no” means exactly that: “no.” For me, even thinking of openly accusing my attacker has been difficult because I think no one will believe my story. After all, when it is the word of one person against that of another, I feel as though the third party involved will ultimately trust the person whom they know best. In the case at hand, a brother will trust a brother more than what I would imagine is thought of as a presumably drunk girl walking around at a party (trying to think how someone at a party might see me). People are tainted by their subjective emotions and ultimately trust those whom they know more, so expecting that a victim will feel that talking to the brother of a brother will work seems a little far fetched. A real experience simply becomes an anecdote. I am not saying that brothers wouldn’t be open to listening, I’m saying that it is a lot to even ask for, which is paradoxical because speaking up is the way to solve things. Talking to a dean who is 20 or so years my senior isn’t so easy, either, because talking requires some type of trust in the individual and hope that something will be done, which based on the stories of other survivors has not been the case.

    In terms of drinking culture, I think this is a campus-wide problem that requires campus-wide reform on attitudes toward drinking. I understand that the frat houses occupy two out of the very few party spaces on campus, but a question that I continually find myself asking is whether or not the elimination of the frats will eliminate drinking problems on Swarthmore’s campus. Look at the sports teams. I know one sport team’s initiation ritual requires that its new members get drunk, go into a room, and catch a live mouse. Or another sport team has a social mixer in which participants use duct tape to strap a bottle of booze around their arm until they finish it. I’ve even heard of another team that takes six-shots worth of alcohol at once as a pre-Halloween ritual. Or just last semester, the Phoenix threw a party without a permit and someone there got hospitalized. These might be rumors, and words change somewhere along the grape vine, but I’ve seen and heard of these things happening on multiple occasions. I feel like it’s easy to blame a group of promoting drinking culture when they control certain spaces, but just because they control these spaces does not mean that they make people drink while they’re in the confines of those walls. Drinking is a problem that many groups on campus should try to spread awareness on and educate its members in. Swarthmore students choose to drink as individuals, which is why I think alcohol education should be taken more seriously on this campus, especially when a lot of students are in a much different environment than at home or are completely new to the idea of drinking.

    In terms of the gender question, the fraternities and the sorority are troubling in this sense, but creating a genderqueer frarority (?) might be a solution, though seeing as Greek institutions are the problem, this might not be the best solution. But for me, this raises a question as to the validity of sports teams and the gender rules they conform to. Should we eliminate sport teams on this basis? I am not well-versed in gender pronouns or identity, so I’m sorry if I have offended anyone in any way in this aspect, up to this point.

    An argument that I hate that I have heard repeatedly on both sides is that “we are all Swatties, we are above X, Y, and Z.” As an institution, we claim to uphold certain values, but as an institution we are also composed of 1,500 unique individuals with unique life experiences that mold who they are and how they act, which is not to say that people can’t change. What I am trying to say is that Swarthmore is not above societal problems, but as individuals who go to an institution that has very open values, we should try to be more open ourselves to actually listening to one another, recognize the flaws on each side’s arguments, and reach a compromise for the future. Appropriating most of Swarthmore’s problems to an entire organization rather than the individuals who cause them seems unfair to me just as pretending that no one in your organization is at fault for any of these problems. As a sorority sister of color, I really want dialogue, not arguing to bring to light the problems surrounding Greek life at Swarthmore. This has been a lengthy thread, and I know I didn’t address all the points people brought up; there’s no way I could. I don’t know what a possible solution could be seeing as how such delicate issues and very strong opinions surround this whole Greek situation.

    1. 0
      enemy of the good says:

      Why can’t we do something that will do *some good* but not solve all of our problems? First, we couldn’t just discuss the sorority, it had to be all of greek life. Fine its a Title IX thing. But now we can’t just discuss greek life, we have to solve all of rape culture and/or bad drinking culture?!
      This isn’t meant only as a reply to you, this argument has popped up in a number of places in these comments. But if banning greek life would help us in reducing rape culture or bad drinking culture, why can’t we discuss the costs and benefits of baning greek life on its own? Its unreasonable and unproductive to try to solve hugely complicated problems all in one go. If we are going to address rape culture in Swarthmore it will inevitably be in smaller pieces and no individual reform will solve the entire thing.

      1. 0
        bickerbickerbicker says:

        I feel like targeting specific organizations is wrong, though. To me, it’s scapegoating. I find that the discussion on Greek life has been great in that it has brought to light so many of the problems that plague Swat. And I’m not arguing for trying to solve such huge problems through one step, because that is quite obviously impossible to do. These are problems that have snowballed through years and years of passive acceptance and expecting that eliminating Greek life all at once is kind of like expecting a quick solution, in my opinion. I feel as though a lot of people, not you, specifically, think that Greek life is the sole cause or is largely responsible for rape culture, racism, and drinking culture. But I think that sexual assault is a widespread problem that comes as the result of individual actions everywhere on campus, not just at the frats. It is a choice a person makes, not at the bidding of the fraternity they belong to. Eliminating Greek life will not fix the people who commit heinous acts, which is why we need to look at reforming individual attitudes and how they are affected by group belonging, whether it be brotherhood or playing for the soccer team.

        Where I think problems begin is when victims feel as though they are powerless in finding justice for what they have gone through, and this seems to be something that we need to look toward the administration for more concrete answers. In other schools, if a student reports an act of sexual violence, the organization in which said violence was experienced is banned for an academic year. We need to look at the structural transparency for Swarthmore survivors seeking closure and accountability as well as assess whether or not our free-alcohol-for-all policies should continue exist. I feel like free alcohol at parties glorifies Swarthmore’s openness and bolster the pretentious attitude that “Swarthmore is too good for this to actually happen.” One DART meeting during orientation is not enough to educate a student on the dangers of drinking. I know based on first-hand experience. If a student doesn’t know how to handle the responsibility of drinking, bad things are bound to happen and other problems will arise, such as failing to recognize the signs of consent or knowing how much alcohol distorts one’s perceptions.

        1. 0
          quick fix says:

          If we can come to some agreement that Greek life at Swat is somewhat responsible for cultures we don’t like (that is, it’s not not responsible –– that seems uncontroversial), then a discussion of whether getting rid of Greek life is not an unreasonable one to have. If Greek institutions are a little bit responsible, then they’re not a scapegoat, as you suggest. Moreover, given that the problems possible attributable to the greek institutions seem to generate cultures we don’t like and that actively hurt people, it’s not unreasonable to desire a quick fix, even if such a fix isn’t an optimal one, especially since an optimal solution may not be feasibly implemented.

  10. 0
    Andrew Waks says:

    This comment thread is quickly becoming unsustainable.

    I suggest this gets moved to an organized, face-to-face discussion as soon as possible.

    Some preliminary thoughts for a list of things that need to be hashed out:

    1. Under what conditions can a student organization be banned by referendum?

    2. Does Greek life meet the conditions for such a referendum? I.e. what are the harms of Greek life?

    3. What would a student referendum actually practically accomplish?

    4. Is the referendum better separated into distinct questions of discourse/mandated restrictions and prohibition?

    5. Do the qualities that distinguish Greek life justify banning the organization, or may more limited measures like removing privileged access to campus spaces suffice?

    6. Are the negative features of Greek life inherent and unique to the institution, or might they be remedied by education and restrictions targeted at Greek organizations or the campus more broadly?

    7. Does banning Greek life, even if justifiable, actually represent the best way to counteract the negative facets of the culture surrounding Greek life?

    8. What role in this discussion ought the financial implications of banning Greek life play? If those implications ought to play a role, what are those implications?

    1. 0
      Marian '14 says:

      And another concern:

      If Greek life were banned, what measures could be taken to ensure a safe and smooth transition from the current structure of Swat social life into a new, non-Greek system? How can we work together to make the changeover work okay?

    2. 0
      Joyce says:

      Thanks for organizing all the issues that have been raised in this almost-200-comment-long thread into a coherent list, Andrew! You’re awesome. 🙂

  11. 0
    The Bookstore Dog says:

    I know a lot of people complain about feeling comfortable in the lodges and I totally understand their rationale etc but even if this goes to a vote and they remain on campus, how is this discussion (and at some points, attack) of the fraternities going to make members feel?

    If I were in a frat, I probably would feel pretty uncomfortable on campus knowing so many people strongly dislike the organization I was apart of/ the institution I had chosen to associate myself with.

    Seriously, I don’t wanna speak for those guys but i’m pretty sure seeing all this is probably pretty damaging….not to the same degree of some of the experiences discussed in the arguments against, but still.

    We’re all swatties at the end of the day. Arf Arf.

  12. 0
    Spaces says:

    If we want to ban the fraternities for their association to rape culture, we must also reevaluate our stance on drinking culture because, regardless of the person in discussion, alcohol can do a lot to affect an environment and the decisions made in it. I’m not gonna stand here and argue that there is no rape culture in the fraternities. I have plenty of friends in both frats who are good people but it doesn’t mean their spaces don’t play host to things like that. What I will argue is that A, these cases of sexual assault are not only members but students engaging in social events within their walls. If another group on campus had a large contingence of sexual offenders, I can imagine the accusation of them being limited because the instances would be spread out. THe space is a huge issue. Yes, brothers are culprits but it’s not only them.

    And to continue with this, not only does this happen in fraternities but pub nite, olde club, and paces parties as well. If we want to take a big step towards ending rape culture, we would need to really make a motion for drying out campus because these spaces and these events really help promote (through unconscious facilitation) these assaults as well.

    Now this is me being serious. I’m not saying we should definitely keep fraternities. I like brothers but the institution here does seem out of place in terms of popular opinion. However, any discussions of their removal would have to be involved in a bigger discussion in the elimination of “night life” here at Swat as well.

    1. 0
      Finally says:

      A problem with the frats is a problem with drinking culture in general. Rape happens on this campus by men other than frat brothers, at parties other than greek parties, and in spaces other than the frat houses. It happened to me by, in, and encouraged by none of the above. The frat brothers are the only men who stand up for me, protect me, and defend me. They should not have rapists among their brotherhood, and when confronted with that sort of behavior (or those regarding racism and homophobia) I have known them to act accordingly, punishment, probation and being kicked out are things that have happened in the past even if they haven’t been necessary this semester. Rape and sexual assault are problems with many other men on campus, and the hook up culture at Swarthmore encourages the kind of behavior the frat brothers are accused of (sharing the who/what they have dont over the weekend), and given that they do this, so do many other groups on campus–sports teams, groups of friends etc. If this is a problem, then blame hook up and drinking culture which will remain a problem even with out greek life. If this is the problem you want to eliminate find the true source and attack that.

      1. 0
        ... says:

        Never mind the fact that the frats occupy half the party spaces and unlike at every other party space, the frats are occupied by the same group of people. Their party culture operates in its own distinct realm.

  13. 0
    Female Swattie says:

    The objectification of fraternity brothers in the majority of these comments is completely unethical. Have we forgotten that these guys are Swarthmore students as well? They hold a presence on campus outside of Greek life. We share the same classes, dormitories, facilities, and intellectual pursuit as these brothers do. The wrong-doings of a few do not reflect the actions and intentions of an entire group. I understand the severity of sexual assault, but these incidences are not found solely in frat houses. As a woman, I trust that Swarthmore’s policies strictly condemn any and all acts of sexual harassment. There are enough resources within our community to combat these incidences, but we cannot generalize the atmosphere or culture of an entire student organization and eradicate it for such reasons.

      1. 0
        Arjun Vishwanath ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

        Some sort of report done by a group independent of the college (since so many people believe that the administration acts to protect perpetrators, I think an independent group would be considered the most legitimate) to examine the culture of the fraternities, the party culture, and the drinking culture at Swrathmore. I grant that any such report would likely fail to reveal the full extent of sexual assault at the fraternities. However, I think such a report that shows institutional factors within the fraternities and the spaces they occupy as opposed to parties at Olde Club or Paces would be more informative of the *institutional culture*, which is what I believe we are talking about here, than individuals’ experiences of sexual assault. Once again, as I have said repeatedly, I intend in no way to demean or lessen the experiences of those who have been sexually assaulted. But it is not clear to me that there is a direct causal link between the existence of the fraternities and their assaults versus the actions of the perpetrators alone. I don’t dismiss that possibility – I’d just like to see some more evidence that it is institutionally the case.

    1. 0
      conspiracies says:

      “Not separate at all, comorbid. The frats and the administration work to protect perpetrators. No mutual exclusivity here.”

      I bet you think President Bush knocked down the World Trade Centers and Tupac is still alive too.

        1. 0
          conspiracies says:

          Neither does saying the administration and fraternities are in cahoots to protect sexual predators. Please take the tin foil off of your head.

    2. 0
      Allison '16 ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

      The objectification of fraternity brothers in the majority of these comments is completely unethical.

      Yes. The real problem here is that we are objectifying men. Why does no one ever think of the men?

      1. 0
        J '10 says:

        Someone literally implied that Joyce could maybe get raped if they went on a tour of the DU house. To say that there is bro-pression going on is ridiculous, very superbly true and should be called out if claimed; to say that there are generalizations, exaggerations, stereotypes, projected images being slung about rapid-fire seems pretty accurate and we need to check ourselves on that. I seem to remember I just read a comment that basically said to a self-identified brother: “You know about all the rape that happens and you ignore it, go die and fuck yourself.” I don’t think that’s really useful, and in that way I’m really unsurprised at how some brothers are on the hyper-defensive from that alone (not to say AT ALL IN THE SLIGHTEST that there is not shit the frats need to fucking reform at pain of getting the fuck out otherwise and that brothers should NOT be thinking critically about what is going on here).

        1. 0
          SURVIVOR says:


          1. 0
            J '10 says:

            And, to align myself further, it has become increasingly clear through the course of this debate writ large that–assuming even a minority of accounts are 100% true–a lot of truly terrible things have happened on the grounds of the fraternities and quite possibly with either not enough action (or counterproductive, harmful actions) on their part to respond to these gross acts. I had really not been aware per se that the frats were possibly such a nexus; none of the sexual assaults (sadly not few) I knew of at Swarthmore during my time even tangentially involved the fraternities, so this (and Parker’s story) has made me readjust. This overall discussion is very warranted.

          2. 0
            J '10 says:

            Respectfully, I think Joyce can speak for herself:
            “Thanks for your concern, [poster who made the accusation], but I’m sure [inviting brother] has the best intentions. I plan to find out what I can from touring the house, as well as from speaking to him and hopefully other fraternity members. I’d encourage you to keep an open mind as well — after all, comments like these are really unproductive and only polarize the discussion further.”

            I maintain that it’s implausible and fantasy that Joyce would get assaulted in the house after the public invitation for her to tour it. There are many profound problems with how rape is treated by the US legal system; however, this would be a slam dunk prosecution. This is not going to happen, and I’m also not sure if you are or are not accusing the inviting brother of being a rapist?

            I’m sorry for what I do not know about your own experience.

        2. 0
          J '10 says:

          *to clarify, I mean to say that for “bros” to cry “oppression!” with all the sociohistorical context that entails is ridiculous and it is very true it should be called out.

        1. 0
          Here's how says:

          Okay, I’ll say how. Swarthmore’s official policies may condemn all acts of sexual harassment, but in reality, there are students who have gone to the administration about these problems have been advised not to press charges, to think about their assaulter or rapist’s future and not ruin it, etcetcetc.

          1. 0
            J '10 says:

            … which, to toot a previous comment, is why I would love to see this passion and energy transformed into a movement to reform how sexual assault and harassment as a whole are treated by the administration at Swarthmore, making transparent and efficacious systems to actively police this shit individually and institutionally (which could very well have implication for the fraternities and accomplish any worthwhile goals in that domain). Oh, and provide nurses at Worth who don’t need to refer to a binder to know what they need to do in case of a sexual assault.

            Because even if banning the frats would be a significant good (and I’m not necessarily sure it is, but accepting the possibility and that the perfect is the enemy of the good) people will still get assaulted by non-brothers (or non-sisters, for that matter!) and treated like shit by those who are supposed to help them. And that’s fucking atrocious.

        1. 0
          ... says:

          “There are enough resources within our community to combat these incidences, but we cannot generalize the atmosphere or culture of an entire student organization and eradicate it for such reasons.”

          You’ve clearly never dealt with being sexually assaulted on this campus.

          1. 0
            Arjun Vishwanath ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

            The Gazette comments need not be a court of law, but I treat my vote on such a referendum very seriously, and I think that an “innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applies, especially with respect to the charges of institutional negligence and/or encouragement of sexual assault. Therefore, I find it entirely reasonable for me to search for concrete evidence of a cover up before I consider the frats/administration guilty of such a thing. It sucks that due to the nature of sexual assault and how our society treats it, it’s difficult to determine the extent of institutional behavior. Your quotations are useful, but again, they represent anecdotal evidence versus evidence of an agenda to cover up and protect sexual assault perpetrators.

            I would definitely vote for a referendum to explore the extent of institutional encouragement of sexual assault in the fraternities, but given the lack of such evidence, I simply cannot assess that the fraternities beyond a reasonable doubt are complicit and/or promoting sexual assault and therefore I cannot vote in favor of eliminating Greek life at this time (although my decision is not set in stone).

          2. 0
            ... says:

            Yes I do. I have testimony from literally dozens of people. Here are some quotations:

            “Think about what impact your actions have. Do you really want to ruin the rest of his life?”

            “Sometimes when we’re drunk we remember things differently than the way they really happened. Let’s all take some responsibility here.”

            However, why people seem to think that the Daily Gazette comments are a court of law astounds me.

          3. 0
            Arjun Vishwanath ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

            To “…” (since I can’t reply to that post). I’ve seen this allegation before, and it’s a particularly damning one if true, but I have yet to see any evidence of it.

            Do you have evidence that the administration and fraternities have knowingly and willingly engaged in a cover up of sexual assault incidents?

            If so, I think those are critical details to share. If not, I suggest you stop saying that, since you’re slandering the fraternities and Greek life without cause.

          4. 0
            ...? says:

            Then clearly that is a serious issue completely separate from Greek life if our own campus administration that can’t properly handle sexual assault.

  14. 0
    Jacob Adenbaum says:

    Honestly, I am deeply troubled by the entire idea of this referendum. Contrary to what Andrew said earlier, his formulation of the argument is really much more eloquent than mine, and I really do agree with almost everything that he has said so far in this comments thread. I think that at the end of the day, this question really comes down to one of minority rights against the majority. Although I hardly think that the Frats are a “marginalized” group on campus, they are still a small subset of the campus and are very unpopular in many quarters. I will certainly agree that it seems like there may be reasons to ban the fraternities, but when I look at the results of a referendum, I don’t necessarily know that all of my fellow students have carefully thought this through and decided accordingly. In other words, I am very concerned that the result of a referendum would not indicate that the campus has thought through these issues and decided that the group should be banned — instead, I worry that it will simply indicate that the frats are unpopular, and being unpopular is hardly a reason to ban a group.

    So my question from the StuCo meeting still stands. If the student body can vote to ban the frats, what is to stop the student body from holding a referendum and banning the men’s rugby team, or the ski club, or Hillel, or SAO, or SQU? The fact that none of these groups are necessarily sufficiently unpopular for the student body to actually pass such a referendum is not enough, because we don’t know what the future will hold. For all we know, a few years from now there will be a group that is not structurally problematic, not discriminatory — just fantastically unpopular — and the student body could vote to ban that. If we don’t have some meaningful way of distinguishing between these two cases, then I don’t think it can be appropriate to vote on banning the frats.

    Now all that being said, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some big friend of the frats. I almost never spend time there (and when I do, it’s usually only because a friend has unwillingly dragged me along) and for many reasons I personally feel uncomfortable with the culture that I think the frats do perpetuate. This culture has already been described at length in earlier comments, and any effort I might make to reproduce it won’t do it justice, so I’ll just refer any new readers to some of the earlier posts about the rape culture, etc.. I think it’s entirely appropriate for us as a college community to have a real and meaningful discussion about whether or not it’s appropriate to give the frats a privileged space on campus by allowing them the exclusive use of the two houses (even if they have to pay for it), or to discuss how to ensure that the frats do much more to prevent sexual assault at their parties. However, the idea of *banning* greek life entirely seems to me to be wholly misguided and deeply problematic.

    1. 0
      YST Alum says:

      Yeah, basically a lot of people have never heard of the term “process right” before.

      By all means, kick the frats out (which is probably not going to happen pragmatically for a lot of institutional reasons–I don’t think I’ve seen anyone observe this yet but there’s basically 0% chance the administration would let this happen), but you guys better make a system of investigation by which this (PERHAPS VERY JUSTIFIED) anger couldn’t have been likely turned against gays (and before the misinterpretations come out; me being one of them) in the hayday of “homosexuality is a sexual perversion.” Right now, on the Gazette, it’s almost all anonymous–possibly true–comments that range the gamut from believable to prima facie outlandish, but that can’t be what propels an expulsion forward.

    2. 0
      I don't think so says:

      People have been pointing to a variety of ways of meaningfully distinguishing those cases throughout this comment thread.

      I voice no view as to the comparative eloquence of your comments or Andrew’s, but they both suffer from the same flaw. A can only be a precedent for B if A and B are relevantly analogous. Banning groups with a unique social impact on campus for the specific concrete harms they bring about does not establish that it is generally a good idea to ban any group for any reason whatsoever.

      1. 0
        Jacob Adenbaum says:

        My point isn’t that we can’t distinguish between the frats and other groups. It’s that we can’t distinguish between a referendum on frats and a referendum on other groups. Whether or not there are good reasons for banning the frats, you can’t know whether or not that is the reason that the referendum passed. In fact, it seems to me that if it were to pass, it would be more likely due to the fraternities’ unpopularity on campus rather than a measured and reasoned analysis of their structural problems. And on a deep and fundamental level, if the reason an organization actually gets banned is that it’s unpopular, then we have a real problem, because any organization could fall prey to that.

        1. 0
          I don't think so says:

          Huh? Now I’m just not getting it.

          For one, whether or not the “unpopularity” of the frats is a good rationale depends on the actual reasons the frats are unpopular. It’s trivially true that the frats will only lose the referendum if they’re unpopular, but that isn’t the question. If what you mean is that you think the only way the frats could lose the referendum is because of a lot of people disliking the frats for bad reasons (“We don’t like organizations that use Greek letters in their names”?), I don’t think you give your fellow students enough credit.

          For another, the argument you’re making has ceased to make any sense to me. Remember that any argument of the sort you’re making has to overcome a basic difficulty: you have to show how the consequence you fear (referenda to ban sports teams or identity groups) would actually follow from what you’re criticizing (a referendum to ban the frats). If you think the student body in general has no self-restraint at all, and is just inclined to make decisions about these things crudely based on who they like and who they don’t, then there is ALREADY nothing that would stop the student body from voting to ban men’s rugby or SQU, and this referendum has nothing to do with the question.

  15. 0
    Student says:

    Just a side note concerning the people who say that say that Greek life should be removed because many people do not feel safe in the frats: a lot of people (including fraternity brothers especially) don’t feel comfortable at the pterodactyl hunt, the yule ball, screw your roommate, ML, etc. So why is it ok to get rid of the organizations that host events that appeal to other people not interested in going to a small liberal arts school just to be quirky and maybe a bit awkward? On what grounds can we change the college experience for 120+ brothers and sisters on campus and hundreds of others who use the fraternities as a chance to take a breath in between papers? Some of your responses seem almost as if you just need something to be upset about. Anyone can pledge a fraternity (therefore not exclusive at all) and just saying that brothers sexually harass women in the frats (which may or may not be true) is not a through enough reason to entirely remove these organizations. If you were sexually harassed then report it don’t post on here about how at a packed party someone touched your tit. Probably wasn’t a brother and it probably wasn’t intentional for that matter. Brothers are uncomfortable in some places and events on campus too.

    If you truly have a problem with the fraternities the best solution is not to urge people to vote to have them removed from campus but instead address serious issues appropriately and simply avoid the frats as a whole. Let’s try to keep an open mind, look at both sides of the story and don’t believe everything you hear. Maybe an attempt to hastily remove Greek life isn’t the best way to deal with your own issues, because a lot of people would be thoroughly upset with the social scene at Swat without a little bit of Greek presence.

    1. 0
      Mary Leavitt '18 says:

      Um, ML is not an identity group or nerd event. IT IS A DORM. We have frat brothers, athletes, musicians, engineers, nerds, and many other types of people, just like any other dorm. We have people who party all the time, and people who never party, just like any other dorm. I’ve talked to people of all identities and party inclinations who feel comfortable in ML.

      Try going to a place before you judge it. Weren’t you arguing that we shouldn’t judge people just because they’re in the frats? Judging people because they live in a particular building is even more stupid.

      1. 0
        I'm sorry but I have to ask... says:

        ’18? Has the college admissions process changed that much in the course of 1 year? Can juniors now apply to school two years before the time of their entry? My god things have changed

        (Or do you just happen to be 113 years old?)

        1. 0
          Books says:

          The building we think of as ML is actually one of five original Mary Lyon buildings. Specifically, it’s the Mary Leavitt House, built in 1918. It even says so carved into a big stone pillar out front!

          ~*THE MORE YOU KNOW*~

    2. 0
      Lionel Hutz, Attorney at Law says:

      I agree with this concerned student and his/her/their efforts to speak up for fraternity members that don’t feel comfortable at other Swarthmore events like the Yule Ball, Pterodactyl Hunt, and Screw Your Roommate. Let’s think about the real, legitimately dangerous things that these events encourage for a moment:

      1. Yule Ball: This is a blatant attempt to encourage godlessness and promote the acceptability of the alternative lifestyle that includes magic and sorcery, which are forbidden under God’s law. If we allow Swarthmore students to pretend that they’re in a Hogwarts-like fantasy world, where will this slippery slope lead? Did you even watch the 7th and 8th movies in the Harry Potter series? I rest my case.

      2. Pterodactyl Hunt: Nothing more than a bald-faced effort to justify cruelty toward animals and violence against fellow Swarthmore students. People are rightly concerned about the message this sends.

      3. Screw Your Roommate: This event is objectionable because it promotes costumes and pageantry and the idea that you should get to know another student on a more than superficial level before hooking up with him/her/them. You shouldn’t be having dinner with some scantily-dressed heathen in Sharples, learning about their likes, dislikes, and innermost secrets because these things are not the basis of a healthy relationship. Everyone knows that mutual respect and admiration starts with sweaty, anonymous drunken hookups in the dimly-lit halls of Paces, the Frats, Olde Club, the Mail (Male) Room, like God intended.

    3. 0
      Whoaaa says:

      I’m sorry, did you just conflate fearing that you might be raped and sexual assaulted with feeling uncomfortable because maybe some people on this campus have different interests and social habits? I’m sorry, the magic cards sitting out at ML breakfast aren’t going to rape you.

      Also whooaaa the victim blaming. Check yourself.

      1. 0
        Lionel Hutz, Attorney at Law says:

        If the Magic cards can’t commit sexual assault, why do they need abilities like Trample and Intimidate? Why are the players so concerned about “tapping” that land? Seems pretty suspicious to me.

    4. 0
      Is this a joke?? says:

      How dare you conflate “I feel uncomfortable around sci fi nerds/at formal,dry events/with blind dates” with “I feel uncomfortable with the perpetuation of rape culture and misogyny”? You MUST BE PULLING MY LEG.

      1. 0
        Allison '16 ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

        THANK YOU. When people start getting sexually assaulted at the pterodactyl hunt, I will be the first to sign that referendum. Until then, people need to stop acting like this is a valid comparison.

    5. 0
      everything about this says:

      I can’t even begin to tackle the condescension and arrogance of this comment. “If you were sexually harassed then report it don’t post on here about how at a packed party someone touched your tit.” ??? Being sexually assaulted is WORLDS away from someone accidentally brushing up against you at a party. Way to COMPLETELY negate the very real experiences of survivors on this campus. How is it acceptable to privilege your desire for a more active social scene over the physical and emotional safety of the women you share this campus with? For all those trying to draw analogies between identity groups and the fraternities, this is what ACTUAL marginalization looks like.

      I’ll make do with a short answer: Feeling uncomfortable does not equal feeling unsafe. No one, to my knowledge, has been sexually harassed, assaulted or subject to homophobic abuse at the Pterodactyl Hunt.

    6. 0
      Genderqueer Concern says:

      I’m surprised that no one has raised the point about how greek life inherently reifies the gender binary. Student claims “Anyone can pledge a fraternity”, but this is clearly false. Genderqueer people and others who do not all into the gender binary are not allowed to join either a frat or sorority (not to mention people who are gender fluid). Why do these institutions have to be gendered in this way?

      1. 0
        Tori '13 says:

        for reals though i have made the comment about people who do not identify as male or female so many times. and no one in the frats or the sororities have ever seriously addressed it. I am concerned.

    7. 0
      Concerned Brother says:


      It’s great when our own Greek life members say things that are more idiotic and damaging than anything our opponents can say. If you’re that inept that you think any of what you just said is a valid argument, then just keep your opinions to yourself. For our own sakes. I can’t even deal…

      You need to really think about what it means to be a part of Greek life at this school, and more importantly to be a member of the Swarthmore community.

    8. 0
      Oh really? says:

      “…don’t post on here about how at a packed party someone touched your tit. Probably wasn’t a brother and it probably wasn’t intentional for that matter.”

      You don’t know anything about the circumstances under which brothers have assaulted, demeaned, and otherwise violated members of this community. I know that it’s hard to hear, but LISTEN to the feedback, rather than assuming that your own interpretation of the world is correct. I was there. You are not.

      (And by the way, I shouldn’t have to justify myself, to you or anyone else, but just so you know: the “groping” I have alluded to earlier in this comment thread under this pseudonym was a PHI PSI BROTHER’S hand inserted into my underpants. So if you think this is some misinterpretation of an awkward tit-brush you really need to get over yourself. Did it never occur to you that someone might use “groping” rather than a more graphic description of what happened, so as to avoid being triggering to people who have survived worse assaults? Did it ever occur to you that perhaps this choice of words was a deliberate attempt to avoid placing undue focus on my own story? Some people actually think about the things they write on the internet, you know.)

      All of us are telling you so that you will understand that these things happen. People have complained that working through the deans is insufficiently transparent. So why not listen when people are raising the issue directly?

      If you don’t understand that my sovereignty over my own body outweighs your right to have a certain type of social scene, then you really need to rethink your priorities.

      The fact that members of the Swarthmore community do not understand the difference between right and wrong is not a matter of me needing to “deal with [my] own issues.” It is a matter of concern to everyone.

      You aren’t the only person who thinks that the Swarthmore party scene can be inadequate. I am someone who goes to Penn parties. I am someone who visits friends at other colleges with a more active social scene. I have attended frat events at colleges besides Swarthmore, and found that the overall tone and atmosphere of those events to be both more respectful and safer than those at Swarthmore.

      Something is definitely lacking from the social scene at Swarthmore: a responsible approach to hosting wet parties. And if that responsibility has repeatedly fallen to campus organizations which are not up to bearing that burden, then we as a community need to reconsider whether it is appropriate for those groups to continue to wield so much control over social events at Swarthmore.

    9. 0
      Sara '12 says:

      Yeah, not liking the same things as other people is not a comparable experience to things like sexism, racism, or sexual assault. I’m not taking a stance on whether those things happen in frats, but people’s reports of personal and anecdotal experiences of those things can’t be countered with that particular complaint.

      So take another look at any of the various comments that discuss why the “but frats are marginalized” argument doesn’t fly.

      Also take another look at comments that address why many survivors do not come forward so that you can see why placing the onus on survivors for making sure spaces are safe is totally inappropriate.

  16. 0
    Student ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What’s more likely: that survivors among us came in all “hmm, I hate frats, so I’m going to lie about being assaulted to get rid of them,” OR

    “When I was at a frat party, I was assaulted by a brother, and now I see that they can be dangerous and unhealthy, so I want to shut them down”?? The answer is pretty freakin’ obvious!

    Also, being occasionally mocked and/or judged within the confines of Swarthmore for an identity you assume, ie a frat brother, is NOT the same as being marginalized for an identity you cannot control, so please stop comparing the two. The majority of the frat brothers will graduate Swarthmore for a world that’s a lot like the world of frat culture: where victim blaming and silencing of survivors is rampant. For many marginalized groups, Swarthmore is their respite from a world that does not care, a world that silences their voices and perpetuates their oppression. If you have to deal with a bit of attitude because you are part of an organization that oppresses others, that’s not even close to actual discrimination or oppression.

    I was not in favor of the sorority, but the frats are clearly the bigger issue. I thought a decent middle ground would be making the frats coed. That way, if/when assault gets reported, there would be people in positions of authority in the frats who were not largely straight white dudes, people who would actually respond and take action, not mansplain on a DG comment thread.

  17. 0
    Andrew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This comment war has gotten out of hand. One commentor described the fraternities as a “marginalized” group on this campus. This is not only totally inappropriate, but also an inaccurate way to describe the Frats’ situation. However, they have a fair point that students on this campus make assumptions and sweeping statements about the frat brothers. Their treatment is nothing close to the treatment that actual marginalized groups receive, but that doesn’t make it okay that they are being stereotyped and mocked by members of the Swarthmore community.

    That being said, if these accusations about sexual assault are true, I am deeply disturbed and I hope that both the administration and fraternities will work together to launch an investigation into this issue. Above all this should be our primary concern. Nobody should have to feel unsafe on this campus.

    I hate seeing students fight like this. We are all Swatties, and we shouldn’t be at each others’ necks. I know that this issue means a lot to people. Your passion shows that you really care, but we should use this energy to build bridges and discourse surrounding this problem, rather than attacking one another.

    Thank you all for your passion. I hope that we can solve this.

    1. 0
      Joyce says:

      Thanks, Andrew. I’m just going to echo here what I said on a Facebook comment thread: this thread is full of real Swatties saying real things. I can’t say I’m enjoying this process, but if this is what “dialogue” is going to look like…I’d rather it emerge now than later. It’s interesting to see what people come out with when they get to be anonymous. It’s useful in a different way. It’s definitely not good for my emotional health (or that of others, I’m sure), but it is very informative. And I’m not being partisan here — this goes for everyone.

  18. 0
    You Fuckin Idiots says:

    Don’t mention any identity groups cause last time I checked we can’t change identities, people choose to be in frats…its a choice don”t make such comparisons


    Shut the fuck up before I embarrass you

  19. 0
    Anonymous says:

    As a brother in Phi Psi fraternity, I’d like to address some of the false claims being made regarding our fraternity. I think a lot of assumptions are being made based upon general stereotypes of fraternities in the US. It honestly seems like some folks posting on here watched ‘Animal House’ a few too many times.
    1. Rape Culture/Misogyny – There have been numerous comments on this board saying that the fraternities have rapists within our organizations and actively know whom these members are. As far as I’m concerned, this is libel against the institution of Phi Psi. We have not had even one case of sexual assault or sexual harassment brought to us in years (By a student or a dean). If a case were ever brought to us, we would immediately deal with the brother because we would NEVER want to harbor anyone whom we know to engage in such behavior. In fact, I would urge students whom have a complaint of any sorts to not be ‘intimidated’ and to speak up to an officer of Phi Psi, whom I can guarantee you would treat your matter with the utmost importance and respect, and are much more friendly than you might imagine. Secondly, if you’ve ever been to Phi Psi on a thursday or a saturday night. The parties primarily take place in one main room of the house, that is very well lit, in which folks stand around, socialize, and drink. It is not a party space like paces or Olde Club where you’re packed into a tight space, dancing with tons of drunk people, and are susceptible to getting groped or harassed. Phi Psi is a much more open and well lit space, and one which brothers’ are actively watching over to make sure that things stay in line.

    2. Exclusivity – Phi Psi is a group that anybody that identifies as a male on Swarthmore’s campus can join, all one has to do is approach an officer about joining. We put up about a thousand flyers around campus during our rush period (at the beginning of the fall semester) to urge people to come and check out Phi Psi for themselves if they are considering joining. To be honest, we usually don’t get good turnouts because people tend to have false notions of Phi Psi based upon the exaggerated claims that they hear in publications like the one’s published by the Phoenix and DG. I can say from experience that almost every person that shows even marginal interest in Phi Psi will get offered a bid to join Phi Psi, regardless of ethnicity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, financial standing… In addition, almost every one of Phi Psi’s events over the course of the entire semester are open to the entire campus as well as TRI-CO, and they are FREE to attend. We have one alumni banquet a semester and one formal a semester that are closed events. Aside from that, every Phi Psi event is open to the entire campus and funded fully by Phi Psi fraternity. Now I’ve been to a lot of fraternities at colleges over the nation, and I’ve never seen one fraternity come close to the level of inclusivity that Swarthmore Phi Psi has in regards to it’s college community. Not only is every single member of the campus allowed to come to pretty much any event, but their entrance and drink are free. We don’t charge $4 to fucking enter our establishment a la Pub Nite.

    3. Dues: Since Phi Psi is an organization that receives no money from the school, and since we have to pay large annual rents on our house, we have to collect money from members in order to operate. These dues are $250 a semester, and almost all of the money that doesn’t go into paying for the house goes into throwing weekly parties that are open to the entire TRI-CO. If someone wants to join the fraternity but cannot pay the dues due to financial difficulty, we have a strict policy of exempting them from dues. We currently have numerous brothers whom are not paying dues as a result of financial difficulty, and this policy is open to all whom are considering joining Phi Psi fraternity.

    4. Homogeneity/Racism: If you have taken the time to actually meet the brothers at Phi Psi, it is not a homogenous group by any means. People generally classify brothers as homogeneous because they are generally tall, athletic, and rather good looking, but that doesn’t mean that a very wide array of socio-economic backgrounds, personalities, and ethnicities aren’t represented. I for one, am certainly not white and am not an athlete and did not come from a particularly privileged upbringing. That is merely anecdotal, but I’ve never felt unwelcome for a second in the years I have been at Phi Psi. Among Phi Psi’s 47 current members, almost all major ethnicities (Whites, Asians, Latin Americans, African-Americans, Indians, international students) are well represented. Not to mention that brothers come from an array of socio-economic backgrounds. If you want to look at homogeneity, groups like ABLEE, DESHI, Hillel are far more homogeneous than Phi Psi.
    Don’t assume things about Phi Psi without taking the time to find out for yourself. Such generalizations disrespect many Phi Psi brothers and are largely false.
    – I urge all those who haven’t given Phi Psi a shot to come down and visit the house Thursday or Saturday night. You may even find you have a nice time.

    1. 0
      Critical Reader says:

      “People generally classify brothers as homogeneous because they are generally tall, athletic, and rather good looking, but that doesn’t mean that a very wide array of socio-economic backgrounds, personalities, and ethnicities aren’t represented. ”

      Heh. I see what you did there.

    2. 0
      Monsoon says:

      THANK YOU. You have just expressed eloquently what I got out by just shaking my head in exasperation. I am personally against banning Greek life but comments like those by Anonymous are making me want to reconsider my stance.

    3. 0
      Oh really? says:

      “It is not a party space like paces or Olde Club where you’re packed into a tight space, dancing with tons of drunk people, and are susceptible to getting groped or harassed. Phi Psi is a much more open and well lit space, and one which brothers’ are actively watching over to make sure that things stay in line.”

      Really? Because the last party I went to at Phi Psi, it was dark, too loud to speak, and wall-to-wall packed.

      And I was groped not once but twice.

      When people tell you what they have experienced at your hands (quite literally) you need to LISTEN. We aren’t saying “I hear people get groped.” I am saying that I was groped. So get your head out of your ass and do some soul searching, instead of assuming that you know better than we do. You cannot claim ignorance as a valid excuse.

      1. 0
        Hoover says:

        What does telling any one person to get their head out of their ass accomplish? The referendum deals with Greek life as a whole and last time I checked, no single person was the spokesperson for all Greeks on campus.

        “We aren’t saying “I hear people get groped.” I am saying that I was groped.”

        I’m sorry that someone touched you inappropriately without your permission, but is that even what the issue is here? In a dark dance floor, the person who groped you could have been anyone. Even if it were a member of the frats, the referendum is against Greek life on campus. Do you think this person felt entitled to grab you without your permission because they are a “brother” in the fraternity house you were partying in or that this behavior was brought about or encouraged because of their Greek life involvement?

        I’m not trying to make light of this action of how uncomfortable it might made you feel in the fraternity houses. I just think its a stretch to use this anecdote based on where it took place as support for why Greek life fosters rape culture.

        1. 0
          Check Yourself says:

          Hoover —

          It doesn’t matter that you aren’t ” interested in most of [your] “brothers’ social lives, ” or don’t know “the intimate details of each of their sex lives.” No one is asking for testimony of any fraternity member’s personal lives. Sexual harassment IS NOT part of someone’s “sex life.” Assault, rape or threatening behavior NEVER EVER falls into the category of someone’s “social life.” I DON’T CARE what you meant by those phrases. The serious issue at hand here is the blithe casting of abhorrent and revolting behavior as part of a person’s private affairs. It is your responsibility as a member of a club that controls party spaces to be aware of the things going on in the shadows. Saying “I didn’t know about it because I don’t know all the brothers..” or “I don’t know everybody’s private business…” or something along those lines, as you have, is moronic. Protect your house.

          1. 0
            rape culture makes the baby jesus cry says:

            Also, Hoover, are you seriously comparing feeling uncomfortable because you don’t like a musical act at Olde Club with feeling unsafe because of the risk of sexual assault?!?!?!?!

          2. 0
            rape culture makes the baby jesus cry says:

            Hey, Hoover,

            There’s a lot to unpack in your comment, but I’d like to focus on one part in particular:

            “Ideologically, any sexual assault or student feeling uncomfortable in a community that prides itself on tolerance and compassion is one too many. But the reality of the situation is we have 1500 students on campus, and all of them have a choice to engage in activities that involve alcohol.”

            Engaging in activities that involve alcohol is not an explanation for sexual assault. It just isn’t. Yes, lots of instances of sexual assault involve alcohol. But lots more don’t. And even if alcohol is involved, that is never ever ever ever an excuse or a good enough explanation. People who “engage in activities that involve alcohol” do not and should not expect to be assaulted.

          3. 0
            Hoover says:

            “The serious issue at hand here is the blithe casting of abhorrent and revolting behavior as part of a person’s private affairs.”

            Is that how you you interpreted what I wrote? All I said was that I wouldn’t know about transgressions unless I saw them in person in which case I’d like to think I would physically step in and stop it. You can characterize it as “moronic” but inquiries about sexual assault tend to not come up in casual conversation in any friend group, that isn’t a characteristic unique to “frat culture”. And it certainly isn’t because I feel a need to “protect my brothers” or that I am somehow indoctrinated by the fraternity to place the well being of my brothers over my own sense of what is right and wrong.

            “Protect my house?” I am. I’m saying that I don’t think Greek life at swat perpetrates “rape culture” or has a systemic problem with bigotry. There are jerks all over campus. Someone who wants to vote an organization out of existence before proposing any sort of open dialogue (initially)…kind of a jerk in my book. That’s just my opinion. Not the opinion of DU. What I’m trying to say here is that oftentimes, people here on campus are going to disagree. Hell, lots of you guys after reading this will click on that little “thumbs down” button. More power to you buddy. You go right on ahead. That’ll show me.

            I’ve read a lot of these comments from both sides of the referendum and it just seems like there is a lack of common sense when it comes to basic social behavior in how to act in new surroundings.

            Swatties in general tend to frolic exclusively in their own friend circles. Nothing wrong with this. It just isn’t very conducive towards seeing an argument from the other side. People that are uncomfortable in the fraternities: has it ever occurred to you that if you’re at a party, it couldn’t hurt to take a little time out of your “busy social calender” to maybe meet a few of the hosts. Perhaps that gesture, however small, would make the guest and the host feel more comfortable with the social dynamics at the party.

            I’ve been to Olde Club on nights where a musical act has played that isn’t really up my alley. Sorry to any Olde Club enthusiasts that read the Daily Gazette. It’s just not really my scene and I thought it would serve aptly as an example. Naturally, I usually don’t know very many of the people there and feel slightly uncomfortable, this is of course relative to how I would feel at DU on any given night. At this point, I have a decision to make in terms of how I’m going to deal with that. With a few shots of liquid courage (optional), I can probably engage in conversation with a nearby swattie on if they’re enjoying the band or this particular night out. Maybe they’re receptive, maybe they’re not. However, Swat really is an amazing community when it comes to how open other swatties are to discussing their interests and sharing their experiences. More often than not, I feel more at ease after having engaged in my surroundings.

            Is this to say that people aren’t going to have negative experiences at a site where alcohol is served? No. I get that. And some of these anecdotes, particularly Parker Murray’s have been eye opening for me in terms of portraying a “Swat” that I didn’t know really existed. Not to take away from it, but that account is an isolated incident and when its put forth by a school publication when a referendum discussion is ongoing, I can’t help but feel that public perception in many ways is trying to frame all members of Greek life in that light. That being said, it’s an effective piece that has contributed to raising awareness and brought about dialogue on an issue that obviously many members of the college community feel passionate about. I have been a proponent of open dialogue on Greek Life from the beginning (see my first comment on this thread, if you care to). It stands to reason that brothers of Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon would react differently if a similar situation were to occur now. So in a way, whether this referendum officially comes to pass or not, change is already happening for the better.

            But at what point does dialogue fail to be constructive? This is Swarthmore college. Ideologically, any sexual assault or student feeling uncomfortable in a community that prides itself on tolerance and compassion is one too many. But the reality of the situation is we have 1500 students on campus, and all of them have a choice to engage in activities that involve alcohol. Last time I checked, Swarthmore admissions is based off of high school academic pedigree and social activism with an occasional “on campus” or alumni interview. In short, it’s not a very full-proof process for vetting out “jerks”. I’ve become much more tolerant of opinions and lifestyles since I’ve come to Swat and I owe that in part to my experiences in my fraternity. Are there jerks in the fraternities? From reading these anecdotes, it certainly seems like it but that doesn’t prove that its a systemic problem or that Greek life is the institutional cause behind it.

        2. 0
          Oh really? says:

          I know who groped me, and it was a Phi Psi brother. (Same brother twice, because apparently somebody never learned that NO MEANS NO.) The idea that brothers are “watching over” what happens in the frat houses to make them a safe party space is ridiculous. My comment was in response to the very particular assertion that the frat houses should somehow be above reproach because groping, etc. doesn’t happen there. If we’re having a conversation about the association between rape culture and the fraternities, and somebody says “But nobody gets groped in the frats,” then this is very much the issue here. People are complaining that they’ve been in the dark about what other brothers have been up to. So let’s point our flashlights into those corners, you know?

          The point is that people have spoken up repeatedly about the association between Greek life and rape culture, and people have repeatedly ignored, denied, etc. My own point is that NO MEMBER of ANY GREEK ORGANIZATION should be sleeping easy with the idea of their association with greek life at this moment.

          People are coming forward and saying what has happened to them. If you weren’t the one who did it, great! That’s awesome. Good for you for not being a rapist, a groper, a rapist, or any other sort of abuser.

          But you should be wondering how you’ve made it this far without realizing that your “brothers” are.

          No, one person does not speak for all members of Greek life. But you should be wondering why you’re choosing to associate with someone who has spoken this way.

          1. 0
            Oh really? says:

            Hoover, it won’t let me reply to your comment directly. But my flashlight comment basically just meant:

            A lot of comments on this thread are saying either a) the assaults that people have mentioned aren’t real or don’t happen, or b) that they didn’t know certain things happened.

            I can’t really do anything about the first one, because willful ignorance is not a reasonable stance. You people can go to hell.

            But with regards to the second one: I find many of the reactions to be quite understandable. The sudden realization that a fellow participant in a student organization has done something reprehensible is a shocking one. I can understand if, prior to looking at comment threads like this one, you were unaware. But to all of the fraternity brothers who did not know before now that assaults happen, that groping happens, etc… Now you do. People shouldn’t be so comfortable making sweeping assumptions about what does or does not happen in frat houses.

            And if that understanding is not the FOUNDATION of every internal and external conversation the frats have moving forwards, then you’re less reasonable than I gave you credit for, and you can go to hell too.

          2. 0
            Hoover says:

            I never said that. I wouldn’t go so far as to make such an extreme statement. I was simply replying logically to what you had had wrote previously.

            “People are complaining that they’ve been in the dark about what other brothers have been up to. So let’s point our flashlights into those corners, you know?”

            Could you elaborate?

            “But you should be wondering how you’ve made it this far without realizing that your “brothers” are.”

            I joined DU a long time ago. While I do feel loyalty towards the fraternity as a whole, I don’t think this should come as a surprise to you that I’m not really all that interested in most of my “brothers'” social lives. *Just between you and me, some of them are still 18 year old freshmen who have dreams of grandeur of what could have been living it up at a big time party school for four years. What a bunch of losers!

            Excuse the levity in my second response, my first request for you to elaborate is serious.

    4. 0
      Hesitant to get involved, but... says:

      Hold on everybody, why would approaching the fraternities or their members directly be the best way of dealing with allegations of rape? That is just asking for more problems. There are much better avenues for reporting/dealing with sexual assault allegations/claims/reports. So “Anonymous”, don’t claim that fraternities are open to fielding and dealing with allegations of rape and sexual assault. And “Liar”, if you say you talked to a brother about an assault and nothing came of it, that doesn’t mean that fraternities are intentionally harboring rapists or protecting sexual offenders. Imagine yourself as the leader of a student group to which a similar complaint was made: how do you think you would handle something like that if you had no training or responsibility to handle such serious and meaningful issues?
      Phi Psi and DU are not responsible or even able to do anything about allegations made against individuals who also happen to be fraternity members. That is a job for the administration and the police. Fraternities here are nothing more than social clubs; loose organizations of individuals. Sexual assault cases are best handled by those whose job it is to do so.

    5. 0
      To the Lady with a Personal Vendetta says:

      If this was a court of law, or if your argument was being reviewed by any objective 3rd party, your argument would be determined to have absolutely no credence. There is not even one documented instance of what you say happening, not fucking one, not even of sexual harassment, let alone rape. You can’t accuse an institution of perpetuating RAPE and actively concealing evidence of such RAPE without ANY (even a shred) of evidence to back your claims, that is a very serious accusation which you seemingly don’t understand the magnitude of.

      Secondly, at Swarthmore, if you look at these discussions, it is very obvious that fraternity members are more marginalized than almost any other group on campus. Why do you say fraternity brothers are not marginalized? I personally find that a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re a group of large males. But that has absolutely nothing to do with fucking being marginalized on this campus. In fact, I would argue that fraternity members are stereotyped, grouped together, and discriminated against as much as any other group on this campus. Just look at the things said about fraternities (as a single entity) on this forum or in articles written in the past 2 weeks. Swarthmore is a haven for liberalism, and is one of the most progressive communities in existence. Thus, members of racial and sexual minorities are not confronted with discrimination on Swarthmore’s campus on a daily basis, however fraternity brothers do confront such discrimination. No other student organizations see there organizations sanctity threatened, and no other student organizations and are accused with ZERO evidence to back such accusations.

      Also your statement is strongly misled about Phi Psi harboring ‘assailants’ which you imply to be of a sexual nature. There is one member of Phi Psi who has been previously suspended from the Swarthmore College for assault (against another brother mind you, and not sexual in any way), and he was allowed back into the school after a semester, so we allowed him back into our fraternity after deciding that he had paid his dues for the damage he had caused.

      “I am a woman. I know your rapists…One rape is too many and you (Phi Psi) have had many more”
      – To say that Phi Psi has had many rapes is a very bold claim and one that incites a lot of anger in many people because you have just called every member of an institution a rapist or someone who is complicit with rape. I’m sorry, I don’t accept personal anecdotes which seem to be based upon personal vendettas against a particular institution.

      1. 0
        '13 says:

        Granted I haven’t finished reading but I just want to say that being “marginalized at swarthmore” vs. being marginalized, that is, systematically and culturally and institutionally marginalized. are not the same thing.

      2. 0
        Charles Evans Hughes '95 says:

        As a fraternity brother I’m very concerned with the tone and content of this posting. It sounds like you’re completely out of touch with the issues at hand. If you don’t understand how to approach a serious issue like sexual assault (hint: patronizingly addressing your post to ‘lady with a vendetta’ is not the right way) then please keep your comments to yourself. You not only make them feel justified in their criticisms of our attitudes towards sexual assault and rape culture, but also hurt and offend people who are genuinely trying to do good on this campus, even if I would dispute that the fraternities should be their primary focus, as opposed to something like the Administrations policies.

      3. 0
        Sara '12 says:

        So, sadly, the original Derailing for Dummies seems to have vanished.

        Luckily, there’s a partial reconstruction of a 2010 version of the site available here.

        I recommend a close reading of the following bit:

        But That Happens To Me Too!

        “In attempting to communicate with you, the Marginalised Person™ may bring up examples of the sorts of daily manifestations of discrimination they face. Many of these examples seem trivial to Privileged People® but clearly reflect the way the Marginalised Person™ has been ‘othered’ by society. ‘Othering’ is a system of social markers that defines ‘Us’ and ‘them’, neatly and conveniently categorising people into their appropriate places within society. It’s a way of defining a secured and positive position in the world by stigmatising ‘others’. In other words, it’s the process of dehumanising anyone different to the Chosen Privileged.

        The Marginalised Person™ you’re dealing with has been subjected to this ‘othering’.

        This means that their body is viewed as public property and the personal, intricate details of their lives and being are perceived as free information.

        You must nod patiently as the Marginalised Person™ tries to gain your understanding of the many complicated and subtle ways this othering impacts their lives until they come across a point that seems particularly grating for them. Then you must say ‘oh, but I experience that too!’

        …What this demonstrates is your total lack of understanding of what ‘othering’ means in a practical sense. You’re ignoring the way your life is otherwise entirely immersed in a state of absolute privilege and revealing the fact you fail to comprehend the process of objectification and marginalising they go through all the time. When you are Privileged®, ‘similar’ experiences simply do not happen on an equal footing because they do not otherwise reflect marginalisation. This obliviousness is highly insensitive and trivialising and will definitely cause them to grind their teeth!

        But it’s also an important step in affirming your privilege: Privileged People® are accustomed, after all, to it being ‘all about them’. Not used to simply sitting back and listening to othered people’s issues, Privileged People® like to be the centre of attention at all times. It reminds them that they are important. By doing this, you will feel good about yourself and send a crucial message to the Marginalised Person™ (yes you really can diminish their experience by making it all about you, all the time!).”

      4. 0
        Marian '14 says:

        Did it ever occur to you that what you are calling a “personal vendetta” might better be characterized as a rape?

        Although I have had more bad experiences with DU specifically than with Phi Psi, I am hurt by your words. We’re not dealing with “anecdotes” here. We are dealing in real experiences. And just because you don’t like what you are hearing does not automatically give you the right to discredit what people are telling you about the violent and coercive nature of the experiences we have had with brothers of both Phi Psi and DU.

      5. 0
        Whoa. says:

        I’m confused as to what you mean by lacking “even a shred” of evidence for sexual misconduct. Several posters have already come forward referring to their own experiences at the frats, or to the testimony of others in groups such as SQU. Are you asserting none of that is credible? I find it offensive that you use such a condescending tone with people sharing their experiences of (like: “…that is a very serious accusation which you seemingly don’t understand the magnitude of”).

        I am incredulous that you think that “fraternity members are more marginalized than almost any other group on campus.” Really? You have not only the school supporting you, but the institutions of your respective fraternities. You have control over two buildings on campus, you have a large degree of control over the social life on campus, in regards to parties. Furthermore, why do you think, and what gives you the right to assert, that “…members of racial and sexual minorities are not confronted with discrimination on Swarthmore’s campus on a daily basis, however fraternity brothers do confront such discrimination”? You TRULY believe that you are more likely to face discrimination for being a frat bother, than for being a racial or sexual minority? No.

        There is a difference between being part of an organization experiencing criticism from people who feel wronged or who disapprove of it, and being persecuted. The two are not equivalent.

    6. 0
      anon ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

      Are you saying all identity-based groups are for marginalized people? Will the people in SAO or Hillel tell you that they feel marginalized, and that’s why they are exclusive? I don’t think so. First of all, that concept is fairly offensive to members of identity-exclusive groups who you call “marginalized” that don’t feel that way; you’re generalizing that sentiment among those people.

      More importantly, the reason why groups are exclusive based on race or gender identification is because the group wants to attract a body of people with similar identifying characteristics. I join SAO or I join Hillel to meet other Asian or Jewish identifying students, and we bond over our identities. If a fraternity exists with a principle of bonding around the male identity (which is, we all can agree, a major aspect of joining a fraternity), then how is that different? Not everything in life is about being marginalized versus being privileged.

      1. 0
        Um says:

        First, to my knowledge, Hillel isn’t closed.

        Second, identity-based groups aren’t generically about “bonding around” an identity. A frat isn’t a space for men (any interested men) to go to when they want to talk about their experiences being men or to organize around male-specific issues. If it were, it might be more analogous to an identity group. But it would still be an imperfect analogy because closed identity groups tend to correspond to groups that are marginalized (which of course doesn’t mean, contrary to your suggestion, that every single individual within the group feels marginalized at Swarthmore or elsewhere.)

    7. 0
      Also Not Joyce ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

      “In fact, I would urge students whom have a complaint of any sorts to not be ‘intimidated’ and to speak up to an officer of Phi Psi, whom I can guarantee you would treat your matter with the utmost importance and respect, and are much more friendly than you might imagine.”

      And the mansplaining has begun.

      Let’s go through this again: Survivors don’t come forward because they feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Saying you’re friendly and respectful is a lot different than actually being an ally. And putting intimidation is quotes clearly communicates that you don’t know how frightening going up against an institution like the frats can be. Rape survivors have to deal with dismissal, disbelief, and outright hostility. Why should they believe you, the brothers/friends/peers of their attackers will be different?

      I leave you with this: Survivors don’t owe you ANYTHING, especially the benefit of the doubt. That’s something you have to earn, and it can be lost at anytime.

      1. 0
        Hoover says:

        Once again, the comments section of the DG proves to be useless in fostering any progressive dialogue.

        I won’t speak on behalf of DU or any other fraternity members, but I personally found the reasons listed for the referendum surprising.

        Obviously this issue has struck a chord with the campus at large and there seems to be a need for dialogue but I can’t help but feel the phrasing of the referendum threw accusatory punches and then tries to settle for verbal mediation.

        It just seemed a little unreasonable to request a student group to answer questions/accusations about a problem that until recently, most members did not know existed. Like the previous poster has mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be much of an official data set to draw from since the victim could for a variety of reasons not come forward. The consequence of this action, through no fault of the victim, is unfortunately a lack of communication about an issue that apparently a large part of campus deems a problem.

        I didn’t know any of these things were really an issue, or at least as exclusively pervasive within the fraternities to be an institutional problem. I am sure I am not the only member of Greek life that felt this way. I’m sure this fact coupled with a referendum proposal with accusatory language certainly caused members of Greek life to get on the defensive. Regardless of how this dialogue came to be brought about, I’m grateful for it and hopefully the Swarthmore Greek community at large can address these issues satisfactorily and cooperate with the rest of the student body to improve campus life. At the same time, I hope the student body at large can remain open minded and educate themselves on different aspects of Greek Life as a whole on campus and try to refrain from passing judgement based on extreme anecdotes.

        1. 0
          Um says:

          I think your comment illustrates part of the problem.

          You wrote:

          “I didn’t know any of these things were really an issue, or at least as exclusively pervasive within the fraternities to be an institutional problem. I am sure I am not the only member of Greek life that felt this way.”

          In fact, you suggest, you had no idea any of this was an issue until the referendum came up, even though (as you seem to acknowledge) it appears to be a concern a lot of the rest of campus has about the frats.

          Why do you think that is?

          And please don’t say, “Because no one has brought it to our attention.” We know, as many commenters have said, that people have.

          1. 0
            Um says:

            I think you’re reading rather more into my comment than there was there. I didn’t say that you were at fault for anything. I said that your comment illustrated part of the problem: lots of people have this concern about the frats, but, according to your comment, this fact surprised you and presumably other members of the frats. I (actually, sincerely) want to know why this is.

            My view is that it probably reflects an institutional failure on the part of the frats (an institutional failure, not a moral failure attributable specifically to you) to be sufficiently responsive to a complaint a lot of people have made over a substantial period of time. But maybe I’m wrong.

          2. 0
            Hoover says:

            “In fact, you suggest, you had no idea any of this was an issue until the referendum came up, even though (as you seem to acknowledge) it appears to be a concern a lot of the rest of campus has about the frats.”

            Yes, I am acknowledging it because it has been brought to light by the referendum.

          3. 0
            Hoover says:

            “Why do you think that is?

            And please don’t say, “Because no one has brought it to our attention.” We know, as many commenters have said, that people have.”

            I don’t know. I would assume it is because I am not an officer in the fraternity nor an employee of the school that is trained to deal with these situations. But from your tone, it seems as if it is somehow my fault that I am surprised by the referendum. I don’t even know how many brothers I have in DU, much less the intimate details of each of their sex lives. Do you ask members of other student groups you’re involved in if they have sexually assaulted someone during casual conversation? Maybe its hard for you to give me the benefit of the doubt, but I ACTUALLY didn’t know because NO ONE has brought this to my attention until now. Now that it has come to my attention, I am definitely in support of having constructive dialogue on this topic. I simply stated that I was surprised that so many members of the campus community felt this way. I don’t understand why you had to address that comment in such a way as to push blame onto me as if I should have good reason to have seen it coming.

      2. 0
        Sara '12 says:


        As soon as I saw the scare quotes around intimidation, I was going to post something along these lines.

        More support for Also Not Joyce’s comment, from RAINN. Pay especially close attention to the last two:
        – 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
        – 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
        – Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
        – 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance

        Further support: the rampant problem of victim-blaming.

        So…the intimidation is real. Stop using quotes to delegitimize it.

  20. 0
    Arjun Vishwanath ( User Karma: 3 ) says:

    I generally agree with Andrew Waks’ overall argument, and I want to rephrase it in such a way that I think can elucidate the thought process (I think) the student body should consider when voting on the referendum.

    I think that the fraternities and sorority inherently have a right to exist as other groups, such as SAO or SQU for example, do on campus. No one challenges these groups’ right to exist, even though they represent a minority. There is an inherent right to assembly, kind of in the way that we’ve assembled free societies.

    Of course, this right is not inalienable. If the fraternities engage in institutionally unacceptable behavior, we can legislate such behavior or even ban such groups altogether. The analogy at the governmental level is that racial discrimination is forbidden in hiring, which impinges upon employers’ freedom, but we’ve determined that racism is unacceptable as an institution in this country.

    I’ve seen a few arguments against Greek life, and someone should feel free to mention others if I’ve forgotten them. They are the perpetuation of sexual assault and racism, exclusivity (in terms of gender and admission) and dues.

    I’ll address sexual assault first, since it’s probably the most important argument against. There is, as Joyce said, anecdotal evidence of numerous sexual assaults taking place at the fraternities and/or by fraternity members. She says, however, that “Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency on the parts of the fraternities and the administration, I do not have hard data on the explicitly discriminatory and violent behavior of frat brothers in the frats. I do, however, have anecdotal evidence, which may not be persuasive enough for you — but it exists.” This may be a semantic issue on my part, but is your lack of hard data from the administration and fraternities due to a lack of transparency, or simply because such hard data does not exist? I think it’s the latter, although I may be wrong. If it is the latter, then you’re falsely accusing the administration and fraternities of covering up evidence in order to continue the perpetuation of sexual assault, which is a weighty accusation which I’m not sure you can back up.

    Look, I don’t mean to make less the sexual assaults that have undoubtedly occurred at the fraternities. But I have a few pertinent questions. First, will eliminating the fraternities reduce this behavior? If there are people who are interested in sexually assaulting others, they have opportunities to do so regardless of whether the fraternities exist or not. The main question then is do the fraternities institutionally support sexual assault? And is there evidence that the fraternities support/allow sexual assault in a way that Olde Club or Paces doesn’t? I think these are the key questions with respect to sexual assault.

    I can’t really speak much to racism, but I know the fraternities and sororities have members of color. I’m aware of racist things that have been said in the fraternities, but again, this is the key question: Do fraternities institutionally support and encourage such language? I truly doubt that those member saying such things would not be saying them if they were not in a fraternity but were rather hanging out with their friends in their room.

    The college condones exclusivity based on identity in several different areas, and to criticize this instance of it is hypocritical unless you believe it should be eliminated everywhere. For instance, there are groups requiring self-identification as LGBTQ, Asian, and other categories. There was also an email that went out a few weeks ago about a sexual assault prevention class that is only open to those identifying as women. To disallow the fraternities and sororities to be exclusive based on gender identification is hypocritical. As for exclusivity in admission, friends I have in Phi Psi have told me that anyone who wants to join is free to do so. The pledging process can be done without alcohol, so choosing to drink is truly a choice.

    Finally, on the issue of dues, I believe the fraternities do provide financial relief for those who cannot reasonably afford to pay their dues. It is also reasonable for the fraternities to charge dues considering they must rent the buildings and pay for alcohol at their parties which are open to the campus.

    In terms of my own position, I’m fairly neutral in terms of my self-interest. I’m not involved in Greek life, but I have friends that are. I don’t think that the elimination of the frats would alter my life in any meaningful way. However, I just don’t consider the arguments for the elimination of the fraternities compelling enough for me to override their right to exist otherwise.

    I just want to add that many of the things I have said above are based on my own knowledge of the fraternities and sorority at Swarthmore, and I welcome correction if I am mistaken in any of my factual assertions.

  21. 0
    Student '13 says:

    Regardless of how I feel about the frats, I have serious concerns about how eradicating Greek life on campus will affect Swarthmore’s endowment. In the past, Greek alums have donated significant amounts of money to the school, with buildings such as Sharples, McCabe, and Hallowell bearing the names of their Greek donors. Greek alums continue to contribute a disproportionately large amount of money to the school. So much so, in fact, that when the colllege eradicated the football program in 2000, donations dropped so significantly that Swarthmore’s plan to move away from financial aid loans and towards grants was stalled (most of the football players were also Greek alums). While the football team was a massive drain on resources, and its elimination may have resulted in long-term savings, the Greek system does not work this way. The fraternities pay rent on their houses, and do not receive any funding from the college beyond SAC funding for a few parties a semester, which often does not cover even the full cost of the event. Swarthmore College actually makes money from the rent paid by the fraternities, which goes towards arboretum and facilities upkeep. Upon graduation, these Greek alums go on to donate a great deal to the school, making possible things like financial aid grants, facilities maintenance, and educational enrichment. Accordingly, my fear is that eliminating these Greek institutions on the basis of their “exclusionary” and “elitist” practices will serve to make the entire institution of Swarthmore College more exclusionary once it finds itself unable to offer sufficient financial aid to students. While I believe that it is absolutely appropriate to discuss the impact Greek life has on campus, it is also pertinent to consider the relevance of Swarthmore alums, who exert an immense amount of influence on the college endowment. While I understand that we cannot always make decisions on the basis of economic benefit (see the climate change divestment effort!), I do not think trading in Greek life in exchange for a potentially cash-strapped institution is worthwhile. Many Greek alums make possible the financial aid offered to domestic students, and I would be loathe to see this disappear.

    1. 0
      alum says:

      May I point out that Swarthmore is not YOUR community alone. Alumni do have a stake in what happens at the school, and they care about the institutions that made their experience at Swarthmore positive. If they didn’t, they would have no reason to donate.

    2. 0
      Uncomfortable with the focus of that argument says:

      I have to start of by saying I know little about how the college’s finances actually work. I do like your point about the danger a lack of funding would create for the college as a whole to be inclusive. That said, without actual numbers, I don’t think we can assume the role of our two fraternities is so large that eliminating them will jeopardize Swarthmore’s admission and financial aid. I find that implausible, whereas you find it very plausible; neither of us has actual data.

      Much more importantly, I am very uncomfortable with the notion that financial concerns should figure into this debate. Allegations of promoting rape culture, misogyny, excessive drinking, and so forth are what really matters. I have no interest in going to a school that is slightly cheaper but makes me feel unsafe. I feel that there is no amount of financial benefit that can cancel out the immorality of even one sexual assault. The debate should focus on issues like that, rather than on the college’s finances.

      Furthermore, I am bothered by the idea that wealthy donors should be the ones who have the say in decisions that affect OUR community, the community of people who actually live here. That seems analogous to “lobbying,” at best. If a donor’s priority is their fraternity and not the school community as a whole, do we really want their money?

      (And I am sure the administration is already looking after their financial interests well enough, and will need no convincing to follow the most profitable path. It is up to the community to focus on values rather than finances.)

    1. 0
      Student '15 says:

      I’ve been trying to stay out of this debate for as long as possible. However, I want to make it very clear that I have TRIED to have discussions with Greek life members and administrators. I set up a meeting with a group of people affiliated with Greek life only to have it cancelled on four different occasions. I sent emails with lists of concerns and nobody responded. While I did not start this petition, I did sign it. I have not been able to uncover a better way to initiate discussion. Please do not say that it’s the student body’s fault for not having discussion. We’ve tried. But discussion is a two way street. Of course the gag order by the frats around speaking to anyone about the issue doesn’t help anything.

      1. 0
        Need for Reflection says:

        While I acknowledge how frustrating these rebuffs may be, it is my understanding that the administration is largely responsible for all the re-scheduling and delay. It was the administration, not Greek representatives, that were dragging their feet when attempts to organize large-scale discussions were launched last year. That being said, I do not think threatening to vote student groups out of existence is a constructive way to encourage them to participate in a dialogue. I fear that this will only make Greek institutions more defensive and sensitive, as now any comment or action made on their part can be used against them. If students sincerely want to facilitate a respectful dialogue, it probably isn’t best to start by imposing a sense of dread. This is not to say these discussions should not occur; rather, they should not occur with one side’s head in a guillotine, offered the chance to say a few last words before they get the axe.

        1. 0
          Joyce says:

          Need for Reflection — since MRW and Student ’15 have already given great responses to your petition-as-guillotine point, I’m just going to respond to your comments about the administration and Greek representatives.

          All I know is that every dean I have contacted to has responded to me, while the Theta representatives are the only ones who have responded to the email I sent out to all leading members of each of the Greek organizations. I am also in touch with Isaac in DU (through this comment thread, not through the email I mentioned), but I have yet to make contact with anyone in Phi Psi. I don’t know why that is, but it’s definitely not because of the administration.

        2. 0
          MRW says:

          I completely disagree. Until the very existence of the frats was called into question by the circulation of this referendum, the level of transparency and public discussion surrounding Greek life was woefully inadequate. Institutions don’t change unless they are forced to by some outside force, be it evolving norms, outside boycotts, or yes even threat of elimination. Without the referendum, or some other existential threat to the organization, the frats have little to no incentive to come out of their perceived bunker and engage with the broader campus community about grievances real or imagined.

          In the last week alone I’ve seen more discussion about the effects of Greek life at Swat then I have in the past 3 years, including the supposed campus discussion that happened last year around the creation of the sorority. I credit that to the work of Joyce, and I think the campus is in her debt for forcing the issue. While I personally will vote no for the reasons Andrew listed, I think the conversation the referendum sparked is a victory of sorts, and if the conversation results in positive institutional reform then its even better an outcome.

    2. 0
      Joyce says:

      As this set of meeting notes states, the petition has not officially been submitted to StuCo yet, and it’s not 100 percent certain that the referendum will take place in its current form. The idea of the referendum, if understood properly, does not hinder dialogue at all. Also, I have asked and asked and asked and have received no constructive responses: what would you (and not just Mr. X — I mean anyone) see as a better way to push for dialogue?

      1. 0
        Andrew Waks says:

        Have one referendum calling for an open forum with mandatory attendance from Greek leadership. This forum will include discussions of the problems with Greek life on campus. It will also include opportunities for proposals of restrictions or demands of Greek life: participation in educational forums, increased volunteering, specific transparency reforms, better internal structures for handling reports of sexual violence, etc.

        THEN, after this full discussion is occurred, after you’ve given Greek life a chance to fail or succeed at these demands… have a referendum (I guess) about abolishing Greek life.

        1. 0
          Joyce says:

          Andrew: Superb idea, and I don’t think we need to call for a referendum to have the type of forum you described. That’s what’s in the works right now, and that’s why I’m holding off on submitting the petition to StuCo. Again, if anyone is interested in being part of the planning committee for these discussion events, please email me at jwu3 and/or come to Kohlberg 334 at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday night (2/21).

    1. 0
      Democracy says:

      Diversity at Swarthmore — tolerate everything but intolerance. PLEASE stop pretending that frat brothers are marginalized. It’s straight up offensive.

      1. 0
        Irony says:

        The problem with your response is that no one has sufficiently proved intolerance from the fraternities. Instead, year after year fraternity stereotypes are perpetuated, and cease to meet reality. Who’s really being intolerant?

        1. 0
          Irony says:

          What proof do you need? Every article lists dozens of accusations against the frats. Ask numerous people on campus. Ask ABLLE. Ask SQU. They will remind you of the concrete instances of discrimination, intolerance, harassment, and violence that have come from the frats.

          1. 0
            J '10 says:

            Why is this not instead a referendum about reviewing and reforming how the administration deals with charges of sexual assault and harassment, the student justice system, resources available to survivors… and making more safe and structured ways of reporting and cataloging sexual crimes on campus (WHEREVER they happen), et cetera? I perceive that as being a more salient and cross-cutting set of issues, as probably the majority of rape has nothing real to do with the fraternities (i.e., acquaintance and friend sexual assault). Couldn’t dealing with overall issues of sexual assault on campus–and creating systems through which to deal with these crimes more justly–do the most good to help survivors of sexual assault and do as much prevention as is possible?

            Further, I think that many folks (from fraternity brothers if indeed it is true as claimed that the administration does NOT circle back to tell them about problems of assault stemming from fraternity parties, to probably the petition organizer herself) would agree that the existing institutional support system for survivors is in some important ways poor and counterproductive. It was when I was on campus, for all of my own friends who had the misfortune of dealing with the system.

            Creating a more coherent (more transparent?) and just reporting system could also establish a more externally valid evidence base with which to justly deal with institutions on campus–whatever they may be–in which sexual assault seems to be especially prevalent, including forced reform and possible expulsion. Maybe we’d even be surprised to find pockets of problems outside of the “usual suspects.”

        2. 0
          Survivor says:

          Way to silence those who have experienced way worse than intolerance at the frats. Way to fail to acknowledge that you might not have your solid “proof” of violence at the frats because victims are too intimidated to report said violence. Way to completely remove all the agency that the frats have on their side. How about more transparency from the frats about all the rapists they know of and don’t kick out?

          1. 0
            What? says:


            I have experienced intolerance from organizations on campus other than the fraternities. I have experienced “way worse than intolerance” at other organizations and parties hosted by non-Greek institutions. I have friends who have experienced similar things-at non-Greek institutions and parties and at the hands of non-Greeks. However, no one is calling for a referendum for those institutions. I don’t believe that we can simply abolish things that we don’t agree with. I believe that we need to fix the situation and create a better environment. Dialogue- PREFERABLY IN PERSON- should be the first step.

            You also believe that the fraternities should kick out the known rapists in their houses. I agree. However, why hasn’t Swarthmore as an institution expelled them already? I know for a fact that the school knows about the rape culture and has confronted it in meetings with the aforementioned “rapists.” Still, however, they attend our school (this includes non-Greek rapists- yes they do exist).

            I agree that there needs to be discussion concerning the nature of Greek life at Swarthmore. However, before we point fingers at the fraternities for not stopping the rape culture, I think that we should question our deans and the people making decisions. If we want to call for transparency, there are many places, other than and along with the fraternities, that we should apply it too.

          2. 0
            not an excuse. says:

            To “this is the problem”, the administration not providing reports of sexual assault to the fraternities is NOT AN EXCUSE. As it stands now, the fraternity houses are spaces that belong to the fraternity members and it is their responsibility to make sure that everyone who uses that space knows unequivocally that harassment and assault are absolutely unacceptable. While you may not be able to deal with each specific case, the fact that there are cases (and this is not up for dispute) should lead to some proactive reevaluations of why they’re happening and what can change (maybe starting with a primer on how subtle but serious rape culture can be). You owe it to the women who are your friends and peers on this campus. You ARE your brother’s keeper.

            Also, not everyone who is sexually assaulted or harassed feels comfortable reporting to the administration, especially given their dismal track record on dealing with sexual misconduct. I would argue that most assaults, especially those involving intoxication or individuals in the same social circle, probably go unreported.

          3. 0
            Anonymous '14 says:

            To This is a problem: You’re lying. I have talked to fraternity members. They know about the rapes and the rapists. In addition, at their weekly meetings they keep a tally of who’s done what with girls during the week. They are not repulsed by rape culture like you say as it has come to their attention on a number of occasions.

            As a survivor, I can say that while I agree that fraternities are not the only place I feel unsafe, they play a really big role in feelings of insecurity. Given that the frats make up half of the party spaces on campus, I’d say that it makes the most sense to address them first as part of the issue with party culture.

          4. 0
            Andrew Waks says:

            RE: Another Survivor

            Thank you for sharing your experience.

            Do you think there’s a risk that the hyper-focusing on Greek life as the source of problems with Swarthmore’s drinking and sex culture might obscure the need for larger educational and institutional reforms for the WHOLE campus meant to avoid such incidents?

            I worry not only that we’re missing a larger social problem, but also that the approach being taken here is “throw out the offending institution,” rather than first work to educate, reform, and restrain. I’m not sure what the application of that philosophy to other areas of social life looks like. Either we end up being really inconsistent in our approach to sexual harassment/violence, or weekends at Swat get a whole lot less fun as we start banning parties left and right… or banning certain groups from throwing parties when their event is marred by sexual harassment. Not only does that suck… it also means we just keep responding to single incidents or locuses of sexual problems rather than dealing with the fact that we all live in a rape culture, a sexist culture, a transphobic culture REGARDLESS of whether the frats are around.

            I’m not saying the problem isn’t pushed along by some campus institutions… what I’m saying is that I think it’s a people problem first and and local-institutional problem second. Focusing on the local institutions may miss the much deeper psychology that needs to be combatted.

          5. 0
            Another Survivor says:

            While I wanted to refrain from commenting on this article on the topic of sexual harassment and other acts of violence, I would just like to add the prospective of how if we’re working towards creating a safer community in general to not only target greek life, but the entire party culture and social life at Swarthmore.

            From my experience (and I will only speak from my experience, each experience is obviously different) that I have been sexually harassed/assaulted at other venues hosted by other student groups (groups who are chartered/advertised as safe spaces for students with that identity.) I personally (remember, only my experience) do not feel uncomfortable at frats, however I do feel uncomfortable attending parties held by certain groups now from my experiences. The point of bringing this up is if we are going to address the goal of creating a safer social life on campus to not forget that greek life is not the only place where it happens.

          6. 0
            This is the problem says:

            The fraternities NEVER hear about these reports of sexual assault, ever. The overwhelming majority of frat members (and I would imagine sorority members too) are thoroughly repelled by the pathological behavior you speak of.

          7. 0
            Irony says:

            There is an unfortunate disconnect between these events and the administration reporting the events to the fraternities. This doesn’t allow the members to carry out reasonable disciplinarian actions. As for unreported incidents, there is really nothing anyone can do for retribution aside from proper education to ensure subsequent events do not occur.

            It’s also unfair to marginalize a group of people based on the actions of a couple individuals. A question raised earlier was “would you actually mitigate the problems that seem to exist in fraternities by abolishing them?” I think the answer is quite simply, “no”. These morally offensive people would still exist at Swarthmore.

  22. 0
    The Iceman says:

    “SBC Chair Jacob Adenbaum ‘14, who regularly attends StuCo meetings, asked “If another referendum were submitted that said, say, any other group on campus can no longer exist, does the student body even have the power to do that?””

    Kudos Mr. Adenbaum, at least somebody seems to be using common sense.

    1. 0
      Joyce says:

      I have never and nobody I know of who is affiliated with the petition has ever denied that any other group couldn’t be removed through referendum. I do think, however, that a petition for such a referendum would not receive as much support as this petition has.

      1. 0
        Jacob Adenbaum says:

        Joyce, that’s the trouble that I see here. I explain in more detail in a comment farther down in this thread, but I’m concerned about the fact that it seems like this will turn into a referendum on the popularity of the frats, not on the important issues.

        If the only thing stopping the student body from disbanding a group on campus is the fact that the group isn’t horridly unpopular, then we really don’t have a very reliable system. What if 10 years down the road, attitudes change and suddenly the tango club becomes unbelievably unpopular? (I’ll ask you to suspend your disbelief that anyone could dislike the tango club for a moment here). Let’s even presume that they manage to make some plausible sounding arguments about why tango club creates structural problems for the rest of the school, and they decide to hold a referendum. Should the student body be able to disband the tango club just because it happened to become unpopular?

        I should note that I don’t mean to suggest that your arguments for why the frats are problematic are wrong. In fact, there are a lot of things that you’re saying that I agree with. I always worry when I make these kinds of process arguments that I run the risk of obscuring the real harm that greek life can inflict — particularly on people who are marginalized by the gender binary and, more importantly, on victims of sexual assault. These are real problems that I think need to be addressed. But I *don’t* think that a campus-wide referendum on whether or not we should allow greek life is the way to do it.

    2. 0
      Charles Evans Hughes '95 says:

      What if we had a referendum on whether or not Swarthmore College tuition should be free? Can we do that? I bet more than half of the school thinks tuition should be free. After all, we’re currently a financially exclusive organisation.

      1. 0
        Not financially exclusive says:

        Actually Swat really isn’t a financially exclusive institution given that it meets 100% of demonstrated need through grants.


        1. 0
          Charles Evans Hughes '95 says:


          Swarthmore’s Admissions process is not needs-blind to international applicants.

          Demonstrated need is not necessarily always applicable: the Phoenix ran an article last semester about a student who was unable to pay tuition, and consequently attend Swarthmore, because her father’s earnings disqualified her from financial aid, but he was unwilling to fund her tuition.

          Swarthmore does a better job than most with regards to financial aid, but to claim that it is not financially exclusive is naive, and discounts the very valid financial struggles that some students (myself included) have had to deal with, because the cost of attending is extortionate if the college doesn’t recognise your particular situation.

          And yes the analogy was not precisely applicable, but then again it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously. Rather it was intended to express my sentiment that even if more than 1/2 of the student body wants something, it doesn’t mean it should be so.

          1. 0
            Dumb says:

            If the analogy was a bad analogy then it’s point doesn’t hold true. It was a false comparison. You also fail to acknowledge the history of Greek life on this campus.

        2. 0
          It's financially exclusive in the way that the frats are socially exclusive says:

          Swarthmore says it demonstrates 100% of financial need, yet there are people who feel uncomfortable paying Swarthmore’s HUGE tuition costs and thus end up going somewhere else because it costs less.

          Likewise, the frats explicitly state they are open to 100% of students but b/c they are the frats some people feel uncomfortable and don’t go.

      2. 0
        Bad Analogy says:

        Seems like a bad analogy to me. The removal of a student group is not the same as removing tuition charges from Swarthmore. Student groups are regulated by student council whereas tuition is not. I believe that is regulated by the board of managers.

        Again, I think it’s important to look at historical precedents. Sororities were removed by referendum 80 years ago so it seems as if a referendum would be an appropriate channel for seeking to remove Greek life.

  23. 0
    Andrew Waks says:

    Fully aware that a StuCo report is probably the wrong place to bring up this conversation, but I don’t really know where else to do so.

    Unless it’s possible to identify some truly unique feature of Greek organizations that separate them from other student activities, I think the idea of holding a referendum on whether to allow Greek life is unacceptable. Moreover, such a distinction would need to either explain a) why some structural, non-substantive, feature of the organizations distinguishes them (the fact that they charge dues, for instance) or b) their substance is so antithetical to Swarthmore culture they uniquely deserve the censure of the student body (explicit discrimination would qualify here).

    So, here’s why: holding a referendum on whether to allow Greek organizations operates on and institutionalizes the principle that the majority of the student body ought to be able to decide whether a subset of students are allowed to create or maintain an organization based on their shared interests. This seems extremely anti-democratic. Imagine 1950s Swarthmore— even in our liberal bastion, I imagine that a referendum like this in response to a student who desired to make an LGBTQ-related organization would result in the defeat of that organization. We might suppose that we have no need to worry about this happening— after all, Swarthmore is progressive and would never do such a thing! But,

    a) I don’t know what social movements/identity groups will emerge in the future. I can’t know with any real certainty that our supposed progressive mentality will condone such future organizations (or that our progressive mentality will be maintained at the same level it is today).

    b) Most students probably think that a conservative club, for instance, is bad for college life— it attracts a less progressive student body and probably fosters values to which most Swarthmore students object. However, it seems clear that we would not want to stifle free thought by giving the progressive student body the prerogative to ban such groups.

    As such, it is not the job of the majority of students to decide whether a minority of students can form an organization. We cannot be confident in our everlasting ability to make such decisions well. Nor is is proper even in this case to restrict the free association of those interested in Greek life.

    This seems to rule out calling for a referendum premised on the fact that we don’t like the culture of Greek life. Unless Greek organizations are engaging in explicitly discriminatory or violent behavior, their abstract objectionability doesn’t seem like good grounds for a referendum. I don’t think we have any basis for thinking the Fraternities are or the Sorority will be discriminatory or radically dangerous in such a manner.

    Alternatively, we might object to some structural feature of Greek life as a reason for a referendum. For instance, Greek organizations charge dues— we might object to any organization that demands dues for participation. A few thoughts:

    1. A referendum ought, then, be to prohibit organizations from charging mandatory dues so as to not wrongly single out Greek life. Any referendum targeted at just Greek organizations cannot be justified under the structural argument, as it then ought to just be this general referendum. Particularly as illustrated by the discourse occurring around campus, the Greek-targeted referendum falls into the unacceptable “bad culture” justification I explained above.

    2. I’m pretty sure lots of organizations charge dues, e.g. social dues. Maybe I’m wrong, and these are regularly waived for those unable to pay. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case universally, however. That means we should either abandon the referendum for consistency’s sake, or have a more general referendum on required club dues.

    3. If this is really our problem, we should just demand that the sorority and fraternities do what I’ve suggested before to some of the sorority leadership— maintain high dues in order to create a scholarship system whereby any applicant to the sorority who demonstrates financial need has their dues waived. The higher dues for members able to afford participation would subsidize other members. This process would, of course, have to be set up to maintain as much anonymity as possible. That, however, is an implementation problem I’m sure creative Swarthmore minds can solve, and which gets us out of the problem of dues-based exclusivity.


    1. Gender: Yeah, Greek life probably promotes bad ideas about gender. So does the conservative club or many religious groups. See my first argument: not a proper justification for allowing a majority of the student body to ban them.

    2. Parties/Social Life: Still not a good justification. But also… maybe other clubs should raise money and host more competing parties? And if Greek parties are really so pernicious for social life and people don’t want them… how about organizing a boycott? If the boycott is ineffective, that just means we were wrong to think students didn’t want this sort of social life.


    Look, I’ve never stepped foot in the Fraternities. I never will, either. That’s because I think Greek life is pernicious. Yes— I think it creates a worse campus, promotes bad values, etc (let me add a note that everyone always makes and is true: criticism of the institution doesn’t amount to criticism of all the people in it— there are good people involved in the fraternities and sorority and they are my friends and I like them). I also think that’s probably true of conservative organizations and some religious groups. That doesn’t mean I think it’s my right to sit on my progressive high horse and band together my fellow left-moralists to legislate against the existence of those groups. I’m not sufficiently confident in my own moral authority or in the future strength of progressive institutions to want to institutionalize a principle of majoritarian student control over free association on campus.

    So yeah, there’s my two cents. This might be the only possible position capable of offending all camps: Greek life is bad, and so is the referendum. Bring on the hate!

    I should also add that I’m totally open to hearing arguments for why Greek life is in fact explicitly discriminatory/awful in ways that distinguish it from other clubs that promote “bad ideas.” After all, I’m no fan of Greek life and would love to feel morally justified voting for the referendum… just like I wish someone could convince me it was okay to eat meat because it’s oh so delicious but oh so unethical.

    I just think that’s a pretty high bar to meet.

    Finally— I obviously think opening up campus-wide discussions about how to make Greek life healthy and inclusive is awesome and should happen. That, to me, is very distinct from the goals of the referendum.

    1. 0
      The Not So Slippery Slope says:

      Andrew, Jacob, and anyone else making this argument,

      No right is absolute – even the right to associate. Often, rights come in conflict, and communities must make decisions about how to prioritize different rights in different situations. Comments sections in countless articles have shown that many Swarthmore students feel much more unsafe going to parties hosted by greek organizations. Given that these organizations play a large role in defining our campus culture, many are forced to refrain from participating in a significant part of campus life. This seems like a serious conflict that our community must address.

      Your slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy. If the school decides to ban greek life, that does not mean that any other group should feel threatened. Do any other groups have anywhere near as much influence on our campus culture? I don’t think so, and insinuating that student body would stop groups from meeting that don’t have a serious “pernicious” impact is wrong.

    2. 0
      Two responses says:

      1. It seems pretty obvious to me actually that fraternities and sororities are structurally different from other groups on campus. Nobody is talking about a group of women on campus starting a chartered club dedicated to certain social activities; were a group to do so, I don’t think anyone would object. (Likewise for a group of men.) But fraternities and sororities have a more extensive, more entrenched, more permanent presence in the social life of a college campus than ordinary campus groups. That’s why colleges don’t, in fact, regard them in the same way; that’s why (as I understand it) the sorority had to get approval from the deans and the Board of Managers; that’s why some colleges just ban Greek life outright, while otherwise being tolerant of various student organizations. And students don’t generally regard them in the same way either. Lots of people make decisions about where to attend college in part based on the presence or absence of Greek life on a particular campus, even if they have no interest in participating directly in it.

      2. More deeply, I’m not sure I agree with your argument that it is generally inappropriate to make decisions about which groups are and are not welcome on campus. I think I agree that there are certain reasons that would be inappropriate grounds for such a decision. We wouldn’t want to ban Swarthmore Conservatives because that would be discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint, and Swarthmore ought to have some commitment to freedom of expression. Likewise, it would probably be inappropriate to ban a group on paternalistic grounds (“X religion is stupid and encourages people to behave in foolish ways, so let’s ban its campus group.”) But I’m not sure why we should embrace the general principle that it is wrong to oppose the presence of a student group on the ground that it has social effects on non-members (independent of the effects of its expression) that we find to be harmful. And while I’m not sure what the specifics are of your view of Greek life, if you really believe it’s “pernicious” I assume you actually think that such harms exist.

    3. 0
      Joyce says:

      Andrew — thanks so much for weighing in so thoughtfully and in such detail. I’ll try to address all the points you made in your comment. For future reference, you can also post comments on the referendum website, but Andrew Karas is writing an article on this that’s due to come out in a few days, so that might be a non-issue.

      I definitely understand your argument around the type of precedent that the referendum would set. However, you also say that explicit discrimination would qualify as Greek organizations’ substance being so antithetical to Swarthmore culture that they uniquely deserve the censure of the student body. Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency on the parts of the fraternities and the administration, I do not have hard data on the explicitly discriminatory and violent behavior of frat brothers in the frats. I do, however, have anecdotal evidence, which may not be persuasive enough for you — but it exists. Furthermore, the fraternities have undoubtedly had a uniquely strong influence on the student body in a way that Swarthmore Conservatives, a group you mentioned several times, does not. They also each have their own individual buildings in which alcohol is permitted, unlike any other group on campus.

      I’m personally not comfortable on making comments about your ideas around mandatory dues until (a) I know what other organizations, clubs, and teams charge them at Swarthmore and (b) I know what they go towards at the fraternities and sorority. If any representatives of organizations could help on this front, that would be great. From this limited perspective, however, your ideas do sound good and I’m definitely open to giving them more thought once I have some more information.

      I see your point around Greek attitudes around gender not being a substantive argument for banning fraternities and sororities, but I’d like to hear what representatives of Swarthmore Conservatives and religious groups on campus think about your argument. Again, from a limited perspective, I’d push back on the idea that any of these groups partake in rape culture and misogyny in the way that Greek organizations do.

      On many weekends, other clubs host as many competing parties as they can. Unfortunately, there are only three non-fraternity party spaces, and Wharton D basement barely counts as a party space. A boycott is a good idea; thanks for the suggestion.

      Finally, I reject that I’m “[sitting] on my progressive high horse and [banding] together my fellow left-moralists to legislate against the existence of those groups.” Even if this wasn’t your intention, it reads like a direct attack against me, since I started the petition, and I’m hurt and offended. I don’t see how it’s moralizing to help give voice to people who have been verbally assaulted, physically attacked, sexually violated, and otherwise victimized in the fraternities. I don’t see how I’m acting holier-than-thou for wanting to get rid of an institution that you agree is “pernicious”. Frankly, I have been unbelievably scared and anxious every minute of the last five days because I know that so many people disagree with me, but I’m going ahead with it anyway because I believe that what I’m doing is right and that I also have people behind me. You can disagree with me and try to persuade me otherwise, but please don’t make any more ad hominem attacks.

      So back to the point: I truly believe that I am creating a place for students, not in any guise as “lefties”, or “progressives”, or “moralists”, but simply as people, to make themselves heard. I guess you disagree with the method I have chosen, but I have and know people who have tried conversation in previous months. Someone I know tried last year to arrange meetings with members of the extension committee, Not Yet Sisters representatives, and deans regarding the sorority issue, but ended up never being able to have those meetings despite trying so hard. I freely admit that I do have a personal investment in the idea of eventually eradicating Greek life, but even if that doesn’t happen, a referendum is by far the most effective tool for promoting and pushing dialogue. I know that the idea that the referendum is totally separate from the campus-wide dialogue I’m trying to promote is running rampant around campus, but to me the two are inseparable.

      If you (or anyone else) would like to contact me personally or discuss this face-to-face, my inbox is always open — just email jwu3.

      1. 0
        alum '12 says:

        i have anecdotal evidence that SQU should be disbanded for the same reasons you think Greek Life should be disbanded. And this is a serious comment.
        The only time I have ever felt uncomfortable speaking my mind at Swat was at a SQU meeting. And, the only time I have been sexually assaulted was at a SQU party.
        Yes, these experiences changed the way I viewed SQU while at Swat, and made me not attend SQU events. But, just because those events affected me, and they were caused by people in these groups, does not mean the group itself should be disbanded. The problem with the frats, or at least people’s stereotypes about the frats, is a lack a transparency from the administration when it comes to the report and punishment of students who are violent and sexually abusive. This creates an environment where rumors and stereotypes run rampant, and referenda are proposed without adequate information about the things you are accusing frats of doing, and how groups are regulated within the college.

        1. 0
          Joyce says:

          Wearing my SQU Board member/IC intern hat: I am so saddened to hear about your experiences, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the current SQU Board. I’ve already discussed this briefly with another SQU Board member and we will be discussing this incident at our next meeting in order to make future SQU events as safe as we possibly can. While we can’t take back what happened to you, we will do our best to prevent anything similar happening in the future. Thank you so much for being willing to share your story.

          Putting my petition hat back on: your situation was not analogous because I am not advocating that the fraternities be disbanded simply because people have been sexually assaulted by fraternity members at the fraternities. I really need to stop replying to DG comments and get to bed now, but I’m sure you can read some of the other comments on this page to get an idea of what arguments I do have to back me up.

          1. 0
            alum '12 says:

            Thank you, Joyce, for your concern. To elaborate more on on eof these experiences: At a SQU meeting early in my Swat career, I was asking questions about queer life at Swat, and was interrupted, yelled at, and disrespected because my thoughts on a specific subject did not align with what the majority of SQU believed. Because I hadn’t been indoctrinated in the politically-correct queer culture at Swat, I was treated as an ignorant outsider. I think we can see this same experience when we look back to the initial discussions of Greek Life started by MC Mazzocchi last spring. Again, we can see that queer culture can stand on its high-horse and prevent discussions between queer and straight people.

      2. 0
        Ummm. says:

        Joyce, I’m concerned that you feel unsafe on campus for having an opinion. I’m not in the frats, but I feel safe in saying no one here will hurt you for having an opinion (no matter how wrong it may be).
        Furthermore, you undermine your argument against Greek life by seeing hatred and intolerance everywhere you turn. It certainly looks (though I am not suggesting it–there isn’t a correlation here) like the issue is not with the frats, but with you. Please try framing your argument better if you want to win your fight.

        1. 0
          Maya ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          I’m actually surprised that you would say something like that, considering that you just attacked her for having an opinion.

          Joyce is trying to stand up for something she believes in. She’s doing it openly and, as someone who was in her shoes just a few months ago, I know exactly what kind of negativity, rudeness and just general SwattieSnark she’s getting from people right now. That takes courage.

          You, personally, should be ashamed of hiding behind a name like “Ummm.” to leave a rude and unconstructive personal attack on a well-written article.

          Furthermore, please research the definition of the word “suggesting.” Because what you did is more than suggesting that you place the blame on Joyce. Saying something equivalent to “no offense” doesn’t actually make what you’re saying any less mean.

        2. 0
          Joyce says:

          Ummmm: I have already been hurt for my opinions by people on campus — not just around this issue, but around others in the past. Obviously I’m not talking about being physically hurt, but Swatties are a lot less sensitive than you seem to think they are when they get riled up. Please try getting called, among other things, “misguided” and “twisted” for standing up for what you think is right and then come back and talk to me about nobody here hurting anyone for having an opinion. If, on the other hand, you were talking less about the campus climate and more about concern for some perceived oversensitivity you see on my part, I’d ask you to please think carefully about being so dismissive of people’s emotions.

          Also. I do not see hatred and intolerance everywhere I turn. I see it where it is. I speak out about it where I see it because it is there. As I said in a comment further down in this thread, I did not launch this petition because I have some kind of delusion that the Greek organizations are evil and out to get me. There are almost two hundred members of the student body who also see the hatred and intolerance where I see it. And almost a third of them signed the petition anonymously, which, going back to your earlier point, leads me to believe that they too are scared.

          Despite everything I’ve said above, I would still like to hear any suggestions you have around how I could frame my argument “better”. Please feel free to email me at jwu3, or if you don’t feel comfortable with me knowing who you are, you can comment anonymously on this website. You have the option to comment without anyone but me seeing it, so you can make use of that if you wish.

          1. 0
            Joyce says:

            Excuse Me — you’re right. I apologize for putting words in the mouths of the people who signed the petition, and I take that statement back. That said, I don’t think a referendum should happen without dialogue, and I urge you to reconsider the idea that I’m somehow “misrepresenting” what I’m doing by encouraging open campus conversation.

            To Ummmm: you might still find some of the comments by some of the people who signed the petition, as well as comments by people on this thread, useful in finding out about the intolerance that you seem to think only I see.

          2. 0
            Uh... says:

            You literally signed a petition saying that you wanted a referendum to vote on the existence of Greek life. If you’ve got any confusion over what that’s about, then you’re not a very critical reader…

          3. 0
            Excuse Me says:

            While I applaud your perseverance in the face of epithets like ‘misguided’, I have a serious problem with this comment. You originally stated on your petition website:

            “No matter your views on Greek life at Swarthmore, if you believe that a referendum should be held to determine its continued presence on our campus, please sign this petition.”

            Please do not then attribute the following feelings to all those who signed your petition:

            “There are almost two hundred members of the student body who also see the hatred and intolerance where I see it.”

            I’m really starting to get concerned about the direction this thing it taking. I think it’s been misrepresented from the start as a dialogue and I sincerely hope my signature is not going to be misused…

      3. 0
        Andrew Waks says:

        Okay, here’s the big reply:


        I don’t think anecdotal evidence is enough to justify removing a club from campus. I do, however, think it’s sufficient to warrant a demand for increased transparency and investigations into the selection process for the fraternities and the sorority. If a more formal evaluation reveals objectionable discrimination, then it seems appropriate to ban Greek life.

        Alternatively, you may be arguing that the institution itself is not discriminatory, but rather that it fosters certain values and norms that lead to discriminatory and aggressive behavior by individual members of Greek organizations. This is probably true. I think there are a few problems with basing a ban on this, however.

        First, my comparison to other groups seems apt here. I think, without a doubt, that groups aligned with conservatism or the Republican party contribute to misogyny and discrimination (because the movements they promote are linked to those ideas). I don’t think this sort of ideological and norm-creating link can justify their removal from campus absent institutional practices acting on the discriminatory ideology, for the reasons I discussed earlier.

        Second, it seems better to demand changes and engagement from Greek organizations to counteract these behaviors. For instance, the fraternity assistance in the Clothesline project is a great example. It counteracts the negative aspects of Greek life without threatening the entire institution, and takes people who may have already been partially geared towards negative behaviors and works to transform them, rather than leaving these beliefs unchecked and having people retreat into more informal echo chambers. We can leverage the institutional bonds of Greek life to force an echo chamber for bad ideologies to become more open and accepting and thereby transform people, rather than having the same associational connections form between students with these negative tendencies and reinforce bad beliefs and norms in a more covert manner.

        Just generally, it seems like the proper solution here is to demand that the fraternities engage more in activities, education, and events meant to counteract the negative aspects of Greek life. Banning the organization just leads to the same people associating together, in private, with less ability to counteract the negative perspectives and norms their association might create.


        So, I still don’t think exerting undue influence on campus life, even when coupled with the promotion of bad norms, is sufficient to merit banning the institutions. At worst, this is an argument for either banning alcohol from the fraternities or for forcing them off campus.

        I was going to make the argument that they pay the college for the spaces (thus undermining the claim that they are receiving some arbitrary privilege), but that seems to just bolster the claims of financial exclusivity— it’s only through their exclusive dues that they are able to afford those spaces. I think, however, this just goes back to the issue of dues… and I agree that the college should not implicitly endorse a financially discriminatory system of group membership. I think that requiring Greek organizations to institute robust financial aid mechanisms would solve this. Presumably, any other group that wanted to could institute a similar arrangement and rent a space from the school. Except that there’s a limited supply of such spaces.

        My last paragraph of rambling should indicate that I need to give some more thought to the issue of special party preference emerging from financial exclusivity and the inertia of historical preference (the latter referring to why even if they had the same financial basis as other institutions they still have privileged access to the limited supply of group spaces).


        I think I pretty much covered this. There are better ways of solving this problem than banning the organization. At least give them the opportunity to adjust their payment practices.

        Also, I think you’re right that requiring transparency on how dues are collected and spent is a no-brainer. This should obviously happen and anyone who thinks otherwise is silly. THAT relatively minor ad hominem I will take ownership of and defend.


        Why not create a referendum that conditions the existence of Greek life on the participation of Greek leadership in an open forum or series of forums to discuss ways of reforming the institution? I can tell you that I would sign on to that referendum with great excitement— and I presume that at least some substantial portion of the 80 upvoters on my comment (too bad this isn’t Reddit… I want to accumulate karma!!!) would agree as well. Tying the existence question to the discussion/restriction question quite possibly weakens the ability to get a conversation going.

        Generally, I think I’m just more inclined to support open dialogue and policies meant to make Greek life a more inclusive, healthy, and productive part of Swarthmore life. Rather than forcing pernicious groups into more exclusive forms of association, we can use the institution of Greek life to force those who most need education and engagement on issues of inclusiveness, equality, and kindness to participate in the relevant forms of education and reform.

      4. 0
        Isaac Epstein '14 says:

        Hi Joyce,

        You seem to have some misunderstandings and in some cases a lack of knowledge about Greek life at Swarthmore. I really wish you had gotten in touch with any of the brothers of Delta Upsilon (or Phi Psi) with questions before you took the rather extreme step of calling for a referendum, if only so that you could make a more informed argument when you eventually called for a referendum. Regardless, I’d like to personally extend an invitation to you to take a tour of the Delta Upsilon house one day this week if you are interested and have the time (it’s not that big). Better late than never, right! I hope I’d be able to give you a better sense of our house and history and how we view our position on campus. I’ve resigned myself to people having a negative opinion of Greek life at this school, but I see no reason for any opinion to be uninformed on a campus which thrives on the dissemination of knowledge. Feel free to get in touch with me at (or drop by, I live downstairs in Willets 229).

        Isaac Epstein ’14
        Co-Social Chair
        Delta Upsilon Fraternity

        1. 0
          Crepe says:

          That doesn’t sound horrifying at all. Being a female enemy alone in a frat house with potentially a group of rapists. Sounds like a great day to me!

          What the hell is touring a frat house going to prove anyway. That is completely idiotic.

          1. 0
            Joyce says:

            Thanks for your concern, Crepe, but I’m sure Isaac has the best intentions. I plan to find out what I can from touring the house, as well as from speaking to him and hopefully other fraternity members. I’d encourage you to keep an open mind as well — after all, comments like these are really unproductive and only polarize the discussion further.

        2. 0
          Joyce says:

          For the sake of transparency, I’m just letting everyone know here that I responded to Isaac by email and that we’re going to meet later this week.

          Thanks, Andrew, for another well-thought-out response. You took the words right out of my mouth in terms of the role Greek organizations play in the normalization of misogynistic and queer- and trans-unfriendly actions. I disagree, however, that the fraternities don’t perpetuate a white-dominated racial hierarchy. Again, I only have anecdotal evidence, i.e. stories of racist epithets used by brothers in the houses, but I don’t see what other evidence I can provide. (Anticipating the counter-argument that there are brothers of color in the fraternities and sisters of color in Theta: having people of color participate in an institution does not mean that that institution is not racist.)

          Finally, jumping off of what Anon and Also Not Joyce said: I’m not lying or making things up out of some twisted personal vendetta against Greek organizations. I’m trying to provide a space for people who do feel too intimidated to speak to do so. I think the 60 or so people who signed the petition anonymously would agree with me.

          1. 0
            An (un)likely story says:

            “Each week at meetings, fraternity brothers go around and state what they’ve done with different women on campus. That is an institutional ritual that blatantly objectifies women and potentially encourages assault.”

            Why on Earth am I supposed to believe such an uncorroborated yet beautifully apropos story in the midst of this heated debate? All of the fraternity brothers, both fraternities? Every week? What? I’ll buy that fraternity structures can push toward heteronormativity, reflexive inward-protection, and some of the worse manifestations of bros-protecting-bros, but do you really expect me to believe that every fraternity brother I ever liked did this? Based on an anonymous Gazette comment? Ok, sure.

          2. 0
            Anonymous '14 says:

            Andrew, I’d like to share with you some ways in which the fraternities institutionalize misogyny and potentially heteronormativity. Each week at meetings, fraternity brothers go around and state what they’ve done with different women on campus. That is an institutional ritual that blatantly objectifies women and potentially encourages assault.

            As for your comments about anecdotal evidence, one of the major issues about Greek life is the level of secrecy and the absence of transparency. You can only rely on anecdotal evidence as far as I can tell.

          3. 0
            Andrew Waks says:

            On the racism bit:

            You may very well be right… but what you described strikes me more as “there are a few shitty people in the fraternity” than “some basic aspect of the institution perpetuates racism.”

            If the argument is “by not calling it out they condone it”… that’s probably not really enough to place the charge of institutional racism. i’d wager far over 50% of this campus has seen racist things uttered and not acted to call them out.

            If the argument is “POCs don’t feel comfortable joining the frat because of a national history of discrimination”… that’s not really an argument. I don’t fault Greek life for people feeling uncomfortable for something the Greek organizations themselves aren’t actually doing.

            If the argument is “Greek life tends to attract shitty, unreflective, more conservative, aggressive bros who are just more likely to be racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic”… well, maybe. But those people still exist regardless of whether the frats exist. Getting rid of Greek life might reduce the number who attend Swarthmore… but are you really comfortable curating student groups on the basis of who they cause to accept or reject admissions offers? Actually, I’m sure you are okay with that. Strikes me as an extremely open standard to further restrictions on student groups.

            Like, part of me feels that a lot of this is the following background argument:

            Greek life is big in the south. Greek life is popular amongst guys who are really attached to the idea of “being a man.” Greek life is popular amongst bros who are more interested in sports and drinking than political reflection and academics. These facts all attract a crowd that can be kinda shitty. The institution might exacerbate these qualities a little bit… but let’s go ahead and assign all the responsibility for people we don’t like existing and attending Swat to the existence of the fraternity. Basically I’m saying there’s a cart before the horse problem?

            But like, seriously. You say “Again, I only have anecdotal evidence, i.e. stories of racist epithets used by brothers in the houses, but I don’t see what other evidence I can provide.”

            Ok, I’m not going to sit here and try to say anecdotal evidence doesn’t matter, knowing the very true counter-argument that it’s anecdotal precisely because the nature of all the incidents we’ve talked about makes people hesitant to go public.

            But do you see why I’m hesitant to ban an organization because of hearsay complaints that a member of an organization has said something bad?

            I mean, look. Maybe all it takes to convince people like me is to create an anonymous forum for people to explain not only the incidents of bad behavior by frat members, but also how the institution perpetuates that bad behavior. I’m fully aware that a substantial part of the reason why I might not view the bad tendency of Greek life as being as tremendously bad as others see it is that I can check off pretty much every privilege box in the book: upperclass white straight cis male. Like, if fraternities are doing really egregiously awful, institutionally supported stuff… it’s not happening to me and not threatening me. Which means it’s gonna be harder for me and others like me to see.

            And yeah, it sucks to have people demand that marginalized folks be teachers about oppression and have to validate their experience. But when the demand presented is to take away a group that a lot of people love… a “bad tendency” and rumors/hearsay just isn’t enough.

        3. 0
          Also Not Joyce ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

          Issac, I urge you to consider the fact that people are signing this referendum because they don’t feel safe coming to to brothers of Phi Psi and DU. I, for one, don’t feel safe being in the frat houses and make a point of avoiding them. Getting a tour or talking to a brother (many of whom are lovely) will not change the fundamental fact that there are problems within the frat community. And the first step to fixing those problems is admitting they exist instead of acting like this is all a big misunderstanding.

          1. 0
            alum '12 says:

            to “WHAT THE FUCK:” I am not equating my discomfort to the trauma of sexual assault. What I was saying is that a lot of people are saying they are “uncomfortable” with going to the frats but do not give reasons. I agree that it would not be useful to do that here, because of the anonymous nature, but I think these students should have palpable reasons (and probably do) for feeling uncomfortable. If students really want to disband the frats because of sexual assault, they should be going through the administration to report these issues so that they are catalogued. we should be putting the pressure on the administration to investigate people’s claims to validate that the frats pose a serious threat to the community. In an example posted by the Phoenix ( Trinity College set up a committee made of trustees, administrators, faculty and students. Sexual assault is a serious and legal issue, and if it is being fostered by a student group, we should make an effort to stop it, using the power and knowledge of the administration, not through student council alone.
            Also, to Survivor, this is not victim blaming. You can just throw around buzzwords when you want. It is not up to victims to stop this behavior. But, we must know from the victims when these issues are occurring so we have the chance to reform the things we need to. Rumors and word of mouth don’t cut it when you are accusing people of rape and sexual assault.

          2. 0
            Survivor says:

            Victim blaming yet again.

            Of course the survivors should be more transparent not the rapists and the institutions that support them…

          3. 0
            WHAT THE FUCK says:


            And you ARE belittling the trauma of sexual assault by equating it with your feelings of discomfort going into some unnamed student club. Assault is an act of VIOLENCE.

            And finally, there is a problem with the administration AND the fraternities. And it is not a bigger problem of the administration. Sure the administration is supposed to enforce rules which is incredibly important. But NOT RAPING is a hell of a lot more important.

          4. 0
            alum '12 says:

            “I don’t feel safe either,” I was asking because it seems like these stories are ones passed down from person to person and there is not enough transparency in the reportings and investigations of victims’ accounts from the administration. I understand that there are other accounts, from people’s friends and friends of friends, but if the movement to disband Greek life based on assault wants to stand its ground, victims must be transparent in their accounts and accurate with their statements. There are lots of places/meetings that I felt uncomfortable going to because I didn’t share the same mentality as the rest of the group and was verbally harassed such that I felt less of myself because of my opinions, but that does not mean that they should be removed. Those are people I don’t want to, and don’t have to, interact with.
            Look, I want to make it clear that I am not belittling the trauma of sexual assault and the fear and embarrassment victims can feel after these events. What I am trying to point out is that if these students want change, they will have to be more concrete about what happened and how Greek Life led it to happen. Also, sexual assault is a very serious claim and should be dealt with through the administration or police. By ending Greek Life at Swarthmore, you are not dealing with the overall issue of sexual assault on college campus. With or without Greek Life, there will be sexual assault, and we must work to create an environment (at Swat and around) where young people are made aware of the effect and consequences of sexual assault (I think the Clothesline project, for example, is a wonderful example of how victims can be empowered).

          5. 0
            I don't feel safe either says:

            Alum ’12, I would encourage you to read through some of the other comments on this article, where people have discussed their personal experiences with the frats, such as being threatened, groped, and physically assaulted. These assaults and threats may not be condoned by the frats as a whole and may not represent the frat brothers as a whole, but they are the reason some of us don’t feel safe in the frat houses.

          6. 0
            alum '12 says:

            curious: what makes you feel unsafe about entering a frat house? I’m just wondering because you make it seem like it is a fear that everyone should be familiar with.

          7. 0
            Thank you says:

            This. My freshman year, a pledge threatened me and my hallmates, and had we not called Swarthmore police the situation most likely would have been violent. Instead of recognizing that this behavior was unacceptable from a “fine, upstanding brother,” he was initiated. Members of the frat came to me throughout the next week to make sure that I was not going to “make it a big deal.” I have not stepped foot into the frats since then. If you think that this is not a visceral issue for people, you are sorely mistaken. Mine is far from the worst story I have heard, and I am grateful that it is an “almost” rather than an injury. But the fact that I feel “lucky” to not have been physically harmed by a brother? That should be shameful to every member of that fraternity.

            Do you know why the pledge in question was so belligerent? Because I said I didn’t want to go to a formal with him. It was not only a brother-to-be, but directly related to a frat event, that caused the confrontation.

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            Paul Cato says:

            No Andrew racial insensitivity is an issue here. I know of at least 5 concrete examples of severe racial intolerance committed by brothers within the context of their respective fraternity (within the house, at a function, at a party, etc.). It might not be as prevalent but it is there. Although, I’ve said in the past, I’ve worked with certain leaders and the leadership does seem to have an interest in remedying racial insensitivity (as I feel they do sexual harassment and assault) yet I am completely unsatisfied by the lack of concrete steps they have taken to do so.

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            Andrew Waks says:

            RE: “Misunderstood”

            For some reason I can’t reply to your comment, so I’ll put this here:

            Seriously? Comments like this are what discredit Greek life. No one says that

            “all fraternity members are elitist, mysogynistic, alcoholic rapists. Oh, and they are also hardcore racists.”

            What people DO say is that aspects of fraternity culture (hazing, gender exclusivity, structural classism, the historical context of Greek life, an emphasis on drinking as the absolute locus of socialization) tend to normalize attitudes that contribute to sexual violence, harassment, and homophobia. No one thinks that is true of every brother. The claim is that Greek life makes those behaviors substantially more likely. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but don’t make yourself and the fraternities look like imbeciles by ignoring the actual argument your opponents are making. If you don’t understand the distinction between your absurd comment and the actual accusation… let me know and I’ll try to be clearer.

            As for the racism charge? I don’t think anyone is really throwing around that accusation about fraternities at Swat. Leave that to Southern fraternities…

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            Misunderstood says:

            While I am not Isaac, I’m going to guess that the common misunderstanding is that all fraternity members are elitist, mysogynistic, alcoholic rapists. Oh, and they are also hardcore racists. Almost forgot that one.

            …I could be wrong though.

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        Andrew Waks says:

        Joyce: I’ll respond in greater detail when I have more time, but I just want to apologize for my remark sounding like an ad hominem attack.

        I did not mean that at all to be an attack on you! I’m really sorry it came off that way, and it’s my fault for the way I phrased it. In reality, it was meant as a comment on my own mentality— I dislike Greek life and wish it were gone. I was referring to my own belief as my “progressive high horse” and to my own desire to legislate against the fraternities, and commenting on the sort of personal internal difficulty in reconciling those positions with my opposition to the referendum… having to restrain my own desire to craft a better community by what I believe the demands of appropriate precedent to be.

        I have tremendous respect for anyone willing to invest substantial time and put their reputation and potentially their safety on the line for a cause they believe in, particularly when I think that cause is well-intentioned toward creating a better community. While I think this is the wrong means of working toward that goal, I still have great respect for your efforts and regret my phrasing. My bad!

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