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Posted in Op-Ed, Opinion

Op-Ed: More Out Than I’d Hoped

By
February 20, 2013

My heart’s beating out of my chest as I write this. My friends tell me that’s a good thing, though. That means what I have to say is meaningful — important somehow. They tell me that means I definitely have to share it. I can’t help but feel like my heart beating this fast is the sign of something bad, but I’ll try to heed all the encouragement, tell my story, and not look back. I’ll try to interpret the uncontrollable racing of my heart as a sign my mind and body are telling me to just get it all out there already.

“Get out. No fags allowed,” he said as 5 or 6 brothers looked on, one of them my good friend.

Scared and confused, I had no idea what to do. Wasn’t this my good friend’s “brother?” More importantly, why was my friend (brother of the guy presently trying to push me out the fraternity’s door) standing, emotionless and unfazed, Solo cup in hand, watching all of this happen? I thought he said he was going to be there for me. I had to get over my confusion pretty quickly and respond to the fact that I had a hulking and somewhat intoxicated man shoving me and commanding me to leave his fraternity on the basis of my newly admitted sexual orientation. I had come out to my best friend a couple weeks prior and subsequently decided to pull the cork. I came out to my hallmates, who decided to take me out to the fraternities for the night. The walk from Wharton was short, and I was happy to have such good company. All of ten minutes passed once we’d passed through the door of the fraternity before my hallmate brought to my other friends’ attention her excitement about my being newly out. She grabbed my hand and raised it up, proclaiming her happiness that I was gay and okay with it, then she walked off to get a drink. It took all of ten seconds for the glowing smile of my friend to disappear and be replaced by the shock of having the hand of someone I didn’t know shove his hand into my back. My response may not have been the most stouthearted, but I thought it most logical to follow the boy’s directions and head for the door.

Things like this weren’t supposed to happen – at least in 2010 they weren’t. They certainly weren’t supposed to happen at Swarthmore, where I had been, for the most part, welcomed out of the closet with open arms by close friends and acquaintances alike. I’ve grown aware that peculiar, very un-Swarthmorean things have a way of increasing in frequency as I increase my interaction with greek life.

For the record, I don’t walk around assuming every member of DU or Phi Psi is a bad person; Moreover, I don’t assume that fraternity members are by default capable of heinous moral or physical atrocities. However, certain members of the fraternities are protected from the ramifications their actions deserve by the tacit understanding that brothers won’t throw each other under the bus. I suppose my firsthand experiences with fraternity culture at Swat could lend themselves to the dialogue as we approach the question posed by the referendum.

There are some great guys in the frats. Sometimes they just seem hard to find beneath all the “bro-culture.” Joining a fraternity has the advantage of camaraderie, albeit a manufactured form of it. Fraternity brothers seem to be all about being there for their brethren — an idea to which I’m not fundamentally opposed. One fraternity even mandates that throughout the multiple-week pledge process one must keep a “pledge pack” on his person at all times, stocked with various things a fellow brother might need (cigarettes, lighters, condoms, quarters, etc.). From the start, fraternity brothers are taught they must be there for one another.

Therein lies the source of the bond between frat brothers, and it is a “good” bond indeed — good enough to get one of my closest friends (and newly initiated fraternity member) to stay silent while his “brother” shoved me towards the door and told me “faggots [weren’t] allowed.” I suppose when this guy paid his dues to the fraternity he was also buying protection — immunity, one might say. A valuable commodity indeed. At least I couldn’t think of any other social group on campus known for its willingness to ignore the bashing of their non-fraternity brother friend in return for the promise of “brotherhood.” I suppose the only way I’d get access to this preferential treatment would be to join the fraternity.

I was definitely not the only person to have a negative experience with greek life around this time. A lot of the negative press the fraternities have received in the past few years was concentrated around the few months before and after the incident. I remember hearing that a couple months prior, a new member of the Swarthmore greek life scene had left the fraternity on the grounds that he was called racist slurs and felt generally prejudiced against.

Every other night, my friend would tell me this guy was going to get kicked out. Maybe he thought the fact they were considering this was solace after what had happened at the frat party that night. I didn’t really care either way. I thought maybe after the fourth or fifth incident committed by this one brother who’d kicked me out of his fraternity, my friend might have an epiphany and realize that maybe this was a trend. I’ll admit, I did experience a certain level of discomfort in knowing that my friend was advocating for this guy to be allowed to stay in the fraternity. I think what made me most uncomfortable was his willingness to call this guy his “brother,” despite everything he’d seen and heard. I knew that the connection between siblings was supposed to be very strong, but somehow it seemed wrong that my friend couldn’t see past this blinding brother-bond to the fact that I’d been singled out for being gay and pushed out of a party while being called a faggot by this guy. If anything, I feel like he should have just admitted his fraternal brother’s wrongs for him in an effort to save face and the chance that I might still remain supportive of the fraternity he had gotten involved in. I thought he’d at least want me to have some good impressions of the group he’d joined. It was, after all, the first frat party I’d gone to after coming out.

The greek scene at Swat has shown the remarkable ability to surprise me over and over again. The word “faggot” nonetheless revisited me this year after I was invited to a new friend to his fellow fraternity member’s apartment. I sat on his couch and listened to the two of them name gay Swat students and decide whether or not they were “f*cking fags.” Needless to say, the scales tipped heavily in the direction of Swarthmore being infested by these nuisances of men, whom they both found “annoying” and “weird.” Those at the top of this newly laid out hierarchy were badly off –  some of them were “so f*cking faggy” they deserved to get “smacked.” I sat there wondering if I’d have made the list if I weren’t sitting in this guy’s living room. I couldn’t decide which made me more uncomfortable: the sheer possibility that I may have made the list had I not been sitting there, or the fact that so many of dearest and most respected friends had just been gay-bashed from afar.

I asked them if this was something they’d talked about before. They both said yes. Perturbed, I asked one of them if he ever got worried about offending someone.

“Well, I’m just glad he’s not a faggot.” All’s well in the company of brothers — so long as they aren’t faggots, I suppose.

You might be reading this and asking why I didn’t react more strongly then. Fear, maybe. Fear of feeling more hurt than I had felt minutes before as my friend (who to this day supports Swarthmore’s greek life and, moreover, respects the very fraternity brother who made this hateful adjudication) was condemned to “so f*cking faggy” status.

I’m in the class of 2015 now. I came back last year, but only for a couple months. I had to leave pretty soon after arriving at Swat because I had mono. Long story short, I survived. During my two months back, I got a couple glimpses of an emerging sorority culture and heard about a referendum. Two months here at Swat and I had the impression that a sorority was something a group of students wanted to move towards establishing, but support was relatively low. I left with the notion that it wasn’t going to happen. Or so I thought. From afar, I heard of attempts on the part of students to get a referendum going on the existence of the sorority. Of course, that wasn’t going to work. And it shouldn’t, either. This school is too egalitarian to do that. Hell, I’m too egalitarian to feel we can just go around stripping groups of their ability to exist (without extensive discussion as to why that might be a reasonable option).

At the beginning of this year, I could barely stand the mention of a sorority being brought to campus. I saw it as pretty antithetical to the whole idea of Swarthmore. I knew I wasn’t alone in harboring those feelings. I’m not going to say that I’ve changed my views on the sorority entirely, but I certainly don’t see it as the biggest issue right now. How could it be, anyway? It’s barely had enough time to make its name known on campus. The only examples of the effects of greek life we have to go off of, after all, stem from the two established houses that currently reside on campus. Swarthmore’s fraternities have had more than a century to demonstrate their role here.  To me, that seems a fair amount of time to demonstrate your role on campus, come up against whatever issues the Swarthmore community might have with your group, and solve most of them. Or at least try.

I present you with my story. It’s been hard, obviously, not to take everything DU and Phi Psi say about their being inclusive with a grain of salt. I can’t help but feel uncertainty when I listen to the sorority’s statements regarding how inclusive it is and will continue to be.

There is one thing of which I am certain — I know I am not alone. I know because I have had conversations with countless individuals too shy or too scared to come out with their own stories and experiences with greek life. I will also be the first to admit that I know and support the arguments of many a fraternity brother and new sorority sister and recognize the validity of their respective positions when they are voiced with reason and good intent. This is not a war. I am not looking to engage in battle. I am looking to see if others are willing to share their experiences, no matter how brief, how insignificant they may seem. I have quite a few friends who have either been members of the greek system or are current members of the greek system, some of whom I consider very close. Their decision to join greek organizations is personal, and I do not hold their decision against them. I cannot, however, stand by the argument that the only people affected by greek life are those involved in it. One would be hard-pressed to frame my sitting on a sofa while two members of Swarthmore’s greek culture berate friends of mine and theirs based on sexual orientation as my deliberately getting involved in greek life. I can only hope that others who have qualms about greek life at Swarthmore will feel empowered enough to say something in the coming weeks — however small and insignificant they might feel it to be.

If anything, I seek to prove that my own suspicions about the greek system are indeed rooted in truth, however ugly that truth may be.

-Op-Ed submitted by Parker Murray ’15

117 Responses to Op-Ed: More Out Than I’d Hoped

  1. Wow Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Thank you for sharing. Just, thank you.

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  2. Lydia Bailey Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Hey Parker,

    I really appreciated this piece. As a white, straight, cisgender woman (not to mention one pretty entrenched in the Greek community) its really hard for me to come across these stories, and they’re so important.

    So thank you!

    Lydia ’16

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  3. Wow Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Thank you for sharing this…it must have taken a lot of courage.

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  4. You're a Badass Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Parker. That took a lot of courage. I think what you said is going to have quite a lot of impact.

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  5. Phi Psi Alumnus Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Well, there go my donations to the current fraternity.

    To be fair, I will also be pulling my donations to the school if they ban Greek life. I don’t under any circumstances condone any of what I have just read, but I’m not sure I would have been able to interact in a real world setting without being exposed to my brothers. For better or for worse, I owe a lot to greek life at Swarthmore. My brothers helped give me the confidence I have needed to ultimately be successful. In addition, it helped me nurture a proper work/life balance to this day.

    I can’t claim that I didn’t come across some unfortunately rude and misinformed fraternity brothers (from both houses) during my tenure at Swarthmore, but they most certainly represented the minority of members. I hope the current composition of brotherhood can address some of the anomalies of character. It reflects poorly on them, and my fellow alumni.

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    • Jay Stephens 14 Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Knowledge is Power Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

        I’m pretty sure Eugene Lang WAS in Phi Psi just so you know…

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        • Jay Stephens 14 Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm

          That actually makes a lot of sense

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        • Noah Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

          No, he wasn’t. I know because he is my grandfather.

          This story sickens me. As a DU alum, I am ashamed to hear this sort of story. I really never thought I would have to.

          DU gave me a lot more than “manufactured brotherhood” for damn sure but I understand the perspective given the greater culture of fraternities nationwide. Thankfully, our pledging was about creating bonds with our older brothers and fellow pledges instead of resentment and mistrust.

          I really hope the current brothers step up to be better men, as was always the point. I also hope the author doesn’t have to feel marginalized, insulted, and afraid at our houses ever again.

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          • Knowledge is Power

            February 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

            Was he a member of any fraternity? I was told he was part of the group of wealthy donors, including McCabe, Hallowell and Clothier, that were fraternity men. Those three I can most certainly source, your Grandfather, less so.

            Also, amen.

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          • Hope Brinn '15

            February 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

            I’ve got breakfast with Mr. Lang on Saturday. I’ll be sure to ask him.

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      • Phi Psi Alumnus Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

        I might insignificant to the college now, but I know I am not insignificant to the fraternity.

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        • Uh Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm

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          • Miriam

            February 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

            Wow, harsh and undeserved. Phi Psi Alumnus has only been respectful so far in this conversation.

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    • alumnusPrivilege? Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

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      • Phi Psi Alumnus Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        The only thing they taught me is how not to treat people.

        Also, I really don’t appreciate your tone. It is not conducive to productive dialogue.

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        • alumnusPrivilege? Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

          Oh please. Let’s get some perspective on what you wrote. You said:

          “I can’t claim that I didn’t come across some unfortunately rude and misinformed fraternity brothers (from both houses) during my tenure at Swarthmore”

          but that

          “My brothers helped give me the confidence I have needed to ultimately be successful.”

          and, notably, NOT that you _did_ anything about it.

          It seems as if, at best, you rationalized condoning the “unfortunately rude” (*) behavior of your frat brothers in exchange for personal advancement.

          Moreover, by omission, and even worse, it seems further that you _are_, indeed, a white hetero dude. So even though you already won the genetic jackpot, it was apparently okay to let your brothers call a few Swatties fags because you were finding social enrichment?

          What am I missing?

          (*) Seriously –– wtf is “unfortunately rude” behavior, exactly? What kinds of things constitute “misinformed” speech? I want to know specifics. Were they calling your peers fags? Were they making racist slurs? What? Is it “unfortunately rude” when I get called a fag on the street?

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          • Matt

            February 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm

            Do you know what’s really sad here ‘alumnus privilege’: your inability to objectively read ‘phi psi alumnus’s’ post. it’s not threatening; it’s honest. he concedes that there are individuals and instances that he condones but also acknowledges the good that came from his fraternal experience. everyone who’s anyone who has a heart feels for parker murray–that much we can agree on. but people like you, people who mix and jumble someone else’s words to bolster your own argument–you’re just downright disappointing. what’s “unfortunately rude”? it means that, as a member of a group, there are things that other members say that UNFORTUNATELY mar the good standing of those around them and that’s unfortunate for everyone…come on, you got a $200k swarthmore education, you couldn’t think like a rational human being, just for the duration it took you to read that post, and make us all proud?

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          • alumnusPrivilege?

            February 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

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          • Phi Psi Alumnus

            February 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

            Why am I dignifying your personal attacks? I’m pretty hurt in this scenario because I really don’t think I, or (most of) my other alumni brothers, fit the indifference that you suggest or the perceived stereotypes. With that said, I’ll take it in stride because what you have said can’t be as bad as what Parker went through. So, for the sake of trying to find solutions through transparency, I will reply.

            Anyway, you sort of jump all over the place here, but I will try my best.

            1) Re: Reading Comprehension
            “My brothers” is not inclusive of all my brothers.

            2) Re: Not Condoning, but Inaction
            One example of action would be reporting to the lacrosse coach that one prospective student would not be fit for Swarthmore. That student was still granted admissions into Swarthmore. I subsequently also voted that this student not be granted a bid, but ultimately due to the connection between Phi Psi, the lacrosse team and goal of not excluding people, he was granted a bid. This student was very insensitive to the accepting open community that characterizes Swarthmore calling people “gay” and “fags” on more than one occasion. Considering how much he was disliked around the fraternity due to similar deplorable remarks and attitude, it would have been nice if he would have just been told to get the fuck out and never come back. So, in that regard, we can agree. There is work to be done in the fraternity selection process, but also at the admissions level, so that we (read: every Swarthmore student/alumnus) are no longer associated with or subjected to ignorant people.
            This example is a big reason why I don’t think banning the fraternities would probably alone change these issues that plague our campus. The above example gives me the general perception that these fundamental issues probably stem more from athletics than the fraternities themselves, but I digress…

            3) Re: Omission of Race
            I didn’t realize I needed to include this, nor do I believe this is important. I thought Swarthmore attempted to have us look past these differences in order to promote effective dialogue and exchanging of ideas? Although I apparently won “the genetic jackpot”, I still care. I still want solutions. I wouldn’t be spending an unhealthy amount of time reading these posts if I didn’t.

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        • Allison '16 Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

          For all of the readers playing DERAILMENT BINGO: You can now mark your “tone argument” square!

          http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l4tsm8Y6d71qzwpsgo1_400.jpg

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  6. Pat Martin Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I admire the courage it took.

    Pat Martin
    Off-Campus Study

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  7. Allison Hrabar 16 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

    For better or for worse, I owe a lot to greek life at Swarthmore. My brothers helped give me the confidence I have needed to ultimately be successful.

    Your brothers gave you confidence? That’s great! Unfortunately, the brothers have also gave people like Parker (and myself) feelings of discomfort and fear. Saying this is for better or worse seems to say that, yes, people feel unsafe and marginalized by frat brothers, but that is fine because the straight members are reaping benefits.

    I can’t claim that I didn’t come across some unfortunately rude and misinformed fraternity brothers (from both houses) during my tenure at Swarthmore, but they most certainly represented the minority of members. I hope the current composition of brotherhood can address some of the anomalies of character.

    As Parker’s piece detailed, those with ‘anomalous characters’ are not called out by their brothers. It is this kind of complacent and passive attitude, which your comment seem to support, that needs to change. It needs to be made clear that these remarks and attitudes are never acceptable, and that if brothers cannot provide support to the queer members of this community, they should not be welcome as members of it themselves.

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    • Phi Psi Alumnus Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Please don’t twist my comments to fit your agenda. I was merely giving my experiences. I DO NOT support these characters, and NEVER have. You most certainly do not know me, and do not know what I said about these people behind closed doors or during the bid process. However, I can’t have a direct impact on the selection or disciplinarian process within the fraternity anymore. All I can do at this point in my life is show my displeasure to the officers directly through dialogue, and indirectly through the absence of a donation.

      It is very brave of Parker to come forward and discuss these events. I hope that the bold commentary can provide some of the change in the selection process that I was never able to get the fraternity to obtain.

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      • alumnusPrivilege? Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm

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        • another alum Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 8:22 pm

          Phi Psi alumnus has stated in other comments that he did take action against individuals that he felt embodied the dangers of the Greek Life institution.

          HE CLEARLY DOES NOT CONDONE IT. He’s trying to give you examples, but you aren’t giving him heed. This debate can’t just sit on a YES or NO binary, because otherwise comment threads like this one just happen over and over and people won’t ACTUALLY LISTEN TO EACH OTHER.

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          • alumnusPrivilege?

            February 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

            Indeed, I appreciated the example he offered.

            Nevertheless, the example he offers remains troubling. Phi Psi alumnus says that he wishes this ass-hole member of the fraternity had “just been told to get the fuck out and never come back.” So, why _wasn’t_ the guy just kicked out? Why didn’t Phi Psi alumnus just put his foot down and say –– we won’t allow this kid in? Is there a culture in the frat that makes this action socially awkward and practically difficult? It seems to me that the answer might be yes.

            Condoning, or “allowing this behavior considered to be offensive to continue”, seems to be exactly what he and the frat did by allowing the guy to stay.

            I guess I contend that Phi Psi Alumnus’ cited action isn’t enough. There just needs to be zero tolerance for these kinds of events. If you say or do inappropriate things –– no more frat membership. That’s it. Anything softer, in my view, constitutes condonation of intolerance in a, perhaps, “ends justify the means” rationalization for status-quo fraternity driven brotherhood.

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      • Jay Clayton '16 Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

        I’m very pleased that you can show your displeasure through the absence of a donation. But turning around and saying that you will stop donating/never donate if Greek life is banned sends the complete opposite message. At a point where debate about this issue is so essential, all such a financial threat does is potentially intimidate the college and students into backing away from open discussion. I’m sure you did not intend it in this way. But none of us should ever consider, for even a second, that concerns and fears about Greek life be stifled for financial reasons.

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        • Check your privilege... Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm

          For some of us on financial aid, a decrease in donations can mean the difference between being able to attend and not being able to. So, yes, some must consider, for much longer than a second, financial reasons. While I oppose greek life, I do not support banning greek life partly because of the high potential for decreased donations if it is banned. If this caused Swat to reduce its financial aid by even a small amount, I would not be able to attend. Selfish, maybe, but either greek life gets banned, and I, (potentially, but most likely) will no longer be associated with the college that is now more in line with my values, or it doesn’t get banned, and I am still able to attend my dream college that has the greek life I knew about when I applied.

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          • Check YOUR privilege

            February 20, 2013 at 11:32 pm

            As a survivor of sexual assault and a scholarship student on this campus, I am happy to risk losing donations if it means protecting women (and men) on this campus.

            I am not happy to risk violence for some members of our community on behalf of my need for financial aid.

            And you are presenting a false binary — that we can either have scholarships or get rid of Greek life. It doesn’t work like that. Bowdoin College which had a much stronger Greek system saw alumni contributions increase after donations.

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    • Confused Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      So obviously Parker’s situation was quite different than that of a brother’s in the first story. But in the second story he is not in quite the same position of vulnerability. He doesn’t talk about how he dealt with these offensive comments. He definitely has more leeway then someone like Phi Psi Alumnus but still they are both similar in their inaction. We often have friends who do mean things, we also often overlook them. It is entirely unproductive to rail on one person for not single-handedly solving the problem of offensive behavior.

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      • trying to eliminate confusion Reply

        April 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        There’s a big difference between calling someone out from a position of power and calling someone out when they’re prejudiced against /you/.
        For example two straight people hanging out. One straight person is talking about something dumb and says “That’s so gay.” The other straight person is like, “woah, dude, don’t say that, it’s kind of fucked up, don’t you think?” Hopefully, the response is, “Yeah, I guess you’re right, I’ll try not to be an asshole next time.” In this example, both people have privilege, so the risk of calling the friend out is potentially low.
        In Parker’s example, he found himself in a social situation where two people were continuously using homophobic language about his friends. If he were to call them out, he would potentially be putting himself in danger as a gay man.
        I hope that clears it up for you.

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  8. Chris Geissler '13 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Kudos for writing this article and putting your name to it. Much of the dialogue to date has included vague statements about discrimination without specific incidents, and this is a helpful example of one person’s experiences.

    You also touch on another issue which I find troubling as well–the concept of in-group caring that greek organizations encourage. Now plenty of other groups construct similar group philosophies–from sports teams to a capella groups to activist organizations, all of which are central and healthy parts of our campus culture. But fraternities and sororities exist only, or at least primarily, for this purpose, and that bothers me. It feels like an attempt to replace one’s primary community-identification from “Swarthmore” to the group in question, and that, by its very nature, divides such members from the community as a whole.

    Aren’t we a small enough campus that we should be able to look out for each other, and feel a sense of belonging, to this community we’re all a part of, without having to construct artificial communities within it?

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    • Allison '16 Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Much of the dialogue to date has included vague statements about discrimination without specific incidents, and this is a helpful example of one person’s experiences.

      I like your comment Chris, especially the idea of “in-group” caring and loyalty, but I’d just like to gently remind everyone that it is okay for survivors and other people subjected to discrimination to stay vague or comment anonymously, because sometimes they fear for their safety. It’s awesome that Parker is brave enough to write this, but others don’t feel so secure and we shouldn’t fault them for it.

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    • 2012 alum Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree with your concerns regarding this concept of ‘in-group caring’ within greek organizations. On several occasions, I or close friends have been subjected to discrimination based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. I have had a DU brother shove his hand up the back of my shorts only for my subsequent anger and outrage to be met with a chorus of “oh, he’s just wasted,” and, ‘he’s a brother, don’t worry he’s not normally like this.” In 2010 a phi psi member was asked to come to an ABLLE meeting to apologize for the offensive comments he had made to black, latino, and gay students the weekend before. Yet rather than welcome this kind of open dialogue between groups, the fraternity as a whole spent the rest of the semester bashing ABLLE’s members for having forced their brother to take responsibility for his actions and lamenting (perhaps not in so many words) this blow to their white, male privilege.

      Unfortunately, the list goes on, but I hope these examples highlight how the internal structure of these organizations do nothing to discourage inappropriate activities that impact members of our community. Rather than engendering an atmosphere of inclusion and respect within their houses, they create an enclosed space in which the unacceptable is deemed acceptable by virtue of this ‘brotherhood’. This is not meant as a diatribe against greek life at Swarthmore as a whole, but rather as an effort to underscore how these issues of discrimination—such as the one that Parker was brave enough to share with us—are exacerbated rather than eschewed by the ‘brotherhood’ structure of these fraternities. Individuals should always be held accountable, period.

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      • wahhhh Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        meh, it was about a stolen handle of vlad… aaand no “bashing” went on… but hey, ur still ok in my book!

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      • liar liar pants on fire Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        :P

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      • the grinch Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

        is this list u speak of akin to santa claus’ naughty and nice list? like do you really really want to believe it exists but then comes that day when you stop living in ur little bubble and are like “wow, i guess i was wrong about this all along. huh, no kidding!”

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      • Phi Psi 20X Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        “Yet rather than welcome this kind of open dialogue between groups, the fraternity as a whole spent the rest of the semester bashing ABLLE’s members for having forced their brother to take responsibility for his actions and lamenting (perhaps not in so many words) this blow to their white, male privilege.”

        False.

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        • 2012 alum Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

          I didn’t mean to overly generalize the phi psi population at the time, and I apologize for misrepresenting anyone; I know that there were several members who felt very strongly about this point. Additionally, it was about way more than a stolen handle of vlad…it was about the very strong language when confronted about the alcohol.

          and as for a ‘list’…did you not understand the words I wrote? Naughty and nice list…makes a lot of sense…but nice work on the grinch burn, really (and for that matter, good job getting into Swarthmore using “like” improperly).

          But more importantly, the issue I was trying to raise was simply that the collectivist culture of the frat allows and maybe even sometimes encourages behavior that would be deemed unacceptable of an individual.

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          • The Willets Cat

            February 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm

            meow

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      • Alum '11 Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

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  9. Mackenzie Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Hey Parker. Thank you for sharing. I think this is exactly the sort of thing we should be discussing and trying to fix, and thank you for doing opening space for that in such a personally vulnerable way.

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    • Mackenzie Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      *doing this/opening space…

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  10. Point of Clarification Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Parker,

    Once again, thank you so much for sharing your story, the behaviors of these individuals cannot be encouraged nor harbored at Swat. I’m not sure if I missed it in your op-ed, but, in the interest of fairness, would you mind clarifying which fraternity these brothers belong to?

    Thanks again

    Hopefully following contributors to this conversation can follow your model of civil expression of experience.

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  11. Zoe Wray Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    This was a really important op-ed to share, so thanks Parker.

    What I’m uncertain of though is if the disbandment of the fraternities would be the answer to the problem of LGBT discrimination. As you admitted, not everyone in the fraternities are as prejudiced and hurtful as the people who engaged in that really awful bashing of LBGT’s. If we disbanded the fraternities, it would punish everyone who is interested in being part of Greek life whether or not they did anything wrong, and it would probably only breed resentment in the people who did rather than make them change their ways, which I would think is the ultimate goal. So maybe instead of banning the fraternities/sororities altogether they should perhaps have a more rigorous interviewing process and develop some kind of enforcement of their inclusivity policies.

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  12. Greek Alum Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Since I don’t have the energy–will someone from the “greek scene” please demonstrate to “non-greeks” how we police one another within the fraternity? There really are instances of expulsion, judiciary committee hearings, etc that we do in order to take action against brothers who have negatively reflected the fraternity and brotherhood. i promise that it exists. we don’t just run rampant around our houses like monkeys, defecating in our hands and flinging it on the walls. we don’t support the inappropriate behavior of our members–publicly or privately. we do take action against those among us who disgrace the brotherhood. every organization that consists of a group of human beings is subject to the indiscretions of one person’s actions. it’s fact. we realize this. and like most upstanding groups, we do our best to moderate and police these behaviors. it will never be perfect. the actions of the brothers who discriminated against parker are DISGUSTING. they should be exposed for who they really are, thrown out of the fraternity, and tried by the cjc. plain and simple. I respect the author’s willingness to share his story and hope that next time, he finds the courage to report the incident right away, rather than waiting a few years, that way this person is dealt with fairly and properly. this animal made his bed and he should have laid in it…

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    • Allison '16 Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      “hope that next time, he finds the courage to report the incident right away, rather than waiting a few years, that way this person is dealt with fairly and properly.”

      I hope that next time the burden is not put on the victim to report this stuff, but that everyone who saw it happen or heard that it happened will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      Read your comments and try to think of what they imply, folks.

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      • Greek Alum Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

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        • KA Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm

          You don’t get points for being “pc” when you place the blame on a survivor for not “finding the courage” to “stand up and take action.” On other threads in the past few days, there have been multiple, and very specific examples of people being dissuaded–by brothers and the administration–from reporting incidents that have happened at the frats. The process of reporting, recounting every aspect of the incident multiple times over, is traumatizing in and of itself, and while this can be useful in pursuing judicial processes that can benefit a survivor, it’s never their “obligation” to go through those channels.

          And “of course we all wish that those close to the incident would have reported it” isn’t an excuse. It means, as plenty of other commenters have pointed out, that there are much deeper issues at hand than brothers not reporting incidents.

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  13. Admins, and brothers-- Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Parker, thanks so much for sharing this. Your courage will not go unnoticed. I think it’s incredibly important that a discussion over greek life take place on campus. However, the key will be finding solutions to make it better for everyone. One thing that clearly needs to happen is that there be consequences for brothers who make people feel uncomfortable. This should not only be done within the houses, but within the administration. There should be an outlet for victims that does something other than suggest you take a semester off. The pepetrators of these incidents should be accountable not only to their brothers but to the admins. I think each frat could improve itself by having a trained member dedicated to handling these delicate situations, who could commune with the admin informed by the person who feels victimzed. We should have a system in place at Swarthmore that empowers victims and keeps their incidents private and deals with them in a victim-focused manner rather than pandering to perpetrators of abuse or assault. The fraternities are not currently equipped to deal with incidents like this in a constructive manner aside from the brothers voting someone out of the fraternity or banning them–but this cant remove them from campus or party spaces in general, and is hard to do if there are people in the fraternity that will back their friends or make excuses for them in order to swing the majority behind them (I saw this happen multiple times–though the cases brought to our attention havent been related to sexual assault or hate speech–which is probably a symptom of this lack of avenues to address these issues in the right way) no matter how much other members with good intentions try to push back (i voted twice to ban someone from the brotherhood and it happened neither time). I think Swarthmore knows it can do better than this…so please, brothers, talk and figure out how to create a frat culture that can reject those who don’t support its true values. I only wish this could have happened sooner.

    Former Frat Member

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  14. 2012 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks, Parker. You certainly brought to light some issues I have never experienced or even heard about in the houses. It definitely makes me rethink my position of “live and let live” when it comes to the frats. To me, they were always their own little universe that you really did not have to pay attention to or engage with. I’d had neither good nor bad experiences when I would set foot in their houses. Hence, I’ve been so surprised at the amount of antipathy they were receiving and just plain confused as to why now, of all times, they must be questioned (and at the rise of sorority, mind you) when I viewed other events such as Genderfuck or even Halloween to be more detrimental and predatory.

    To me, the brothers were always the dudes who played several hour long games of beer pong. You could either hang out or not. But your story has definitely raised some questions in my mind and is making me reconsider my position. Thanks for the exposure. That’s very brave of you.

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  15. Chad Youbetcha Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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    • God Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      What is wrong with you?

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  16. Lennay Kekua '16 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 4:10 pm

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    • Shut Up Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      What the fuck are you implying?

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      • Lennay Kekua '6 Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

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        • swear words are bad Reply

          February 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

          fucky fuck
          shitty shit
          you can try
          to get over it

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      • Jafar Maximus '15 Reply

        February 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm

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  17. Voice of Reason Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

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    • Hope Brinn '15 Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      I’m not sure why you think this is so unrealistic. Could you say more about this?

      Fraternities at the national level have quite a history of homophobia and violence. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that this might actually happen on our campus. What incentive does Parker have to make this up?

      Your comment is extremely offensive to a member of the Swarthmore community and to me. Why would anybody make this up and attach their name to it?

      I would love to have a conversation with you at any point about this. Feel free to contact me at hbrinn1@swarthmore.edu

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    • Anonymous Swattie (Swatty?) Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm

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    • thir teen Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      no matter what my feelings are about the referendum, about greek life, about fraternity brothers – comments like this leave me absolutely sickened. so you don’t believe this actually happened because no one reported it? WHO do you expect to report this? plenty of people in above comments have pointed out the fear and intimidation felt by both victims and witnesses. and, frankly, most people on campus don’t know who they could tell even if they wanted to. i don’t even know parker and i would never, ever accuse him of making something like this up in order to further his agenda against the fraternities. you clearly think very little of the kinds of students who attend swarthmore and, honestly, maybe you have a right to…because you go here.

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    • Sarah Diamond Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      Is that a joke?
      I myself have reported incidents of sexual assault and harassment that I heard of from victims to scared or ashamed to say anything. I was told by the administration that unless the victim came forward nothing could be done to the offending individual.
      I also spoke to brothers about the incidents, people I considered tolerant and intelligent, and was given a myriad of excuses about how the offender really wasn’t a bad person.
      I am actually shocked that you would write that. Countless instances of harassment go unreported, especially when the perpetrator and the victim have been drinking.

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  18. Queer Alum Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Parker,

    I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. I know this is a big and brave step – please know that this kind of history is one that many of us (unfortunately) share, and should take a big place in the conversation about Greek life at Swat.

    The confidence that being in fraternities apparently instilled in some alums is the discomfort that stays with me after my few experiences with the fraternities at Swarthmore. My other communities are what got me through processing those experiences, to be able to go into the world and work against the kind of mentality that is still present in the frats on campus and isn’t going anywhere without a fight. I hope that as you all who are there continue to make your realities heard – this is your life, well-being and safety. No one has the right to threaten it.

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  19. arrooooo!! Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

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  20. Stay Strong Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Parker, please try not to let these horrible comments get to you. What you did was unbelievably brave and will have a huge impact on the direction the discussions and the referendum take. I know you wouldn’t make this up. Why would anybody?

    You’re actions are heroic.

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    • Stay Strong Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Wow *your.

      Guess my emotions impeded my ability to adequately employ grammar.

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  21. Joyce Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I am crying and generally very upset and angry right now so please excuse any typos or errors.

    Onward: what the hell is wrong with you people? What has happened to you in the past to make you distrust people so much that you feel the need to tell a kind, intelligent, hilarious, and most importantly courageous guy that he is lying? Are you so blinded by your need to see Greek life stay on campus that you’ll refuse to believe anything that contradicts your rose-tinted worldview? Or are you just so into trolling that you’re willing to rub salt in someone’s wounds?

    I was done with Swarthmore exceptionalism a long time ago, but this takes it to an all-time low. You all are despicable.

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    • Gough Latrine '12 Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

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  22. The greatest lie ever told Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    “There IS no admissions mistake!” – Jim Bock, with a shit-eating grin, c. every orientation ever.

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    • The greatest lie ever told Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      That’s a reference to the hateful ignoramuses in this comment thread, by the way — not the extremely worthy Mr. Murray.

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  23. alum 2010 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    every time something like this happens the greek community bands together and argues that ‘we’re not all like this’ and that the solution is to ‘find solutions,’ not to get rid of greek life altogether. so why is this still happening? why haven’t you fraternities found a solution yet? this is nothing new. when do you recognize that solutions haven’t been found and won’t be?

    great op-ed btw.

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  24. Abroad Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and I’m so sorry that this happened to you–that it happened at all. As for the assholes denying it, maybe you can take some solace in knowing that they are adding public evidence of the very culture they’re trying to deny.

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  25. Alum '11 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    “Swarthmore’s fraternities have had more than a century to demonstrate their role here. To me, that seems a fair amount of time to demonstrate your role on campus, come up against whatever issues the Swarthmore community might have with your group, and solve most of them. Or at least try.”

    Parker, the kind of treatment you experienced is obviously unacceptable, and I’m sure everyone reading this article sympathizes with you deeply. But at the same time, is it appropriate to exploit a single, isolated incident involving ONE fraternity member – a freshman who had not been on campus for a full semester – to characterize and denigrate an entire century of Greek life at Swarthmore? This argument has been lingering for 3 years now, and you’re right – “A lot of the negative press the fraternities have received in the past few years was concentrated around the few months before and after the incident.” Both incidents you reference – though inexcusable – involve the same INDIVIDUAL, and though your article suggests otherwise, he was 1) asked to leave the fraternity for the year, with no possibility of readmittance until certain conditions were met and 2) forbidden from drinking at the fraternity house. Yes, brothers hesitated to simply expel this member from the fraternity – but it had nothing to do with a “tacit understanding that brothers won’t throw each other under the bus.” Rather than following the rest of the campus community’s lead in unconditionally vilifying this individual, the fraternity got him involved with counseling on campus and a substance abuse program off campus in hopes that he could learn from his mistakes and grow as a person – don’t you think this is a more constructive option? Can this really be considered ‘condoning’ what happened? You really mischaracterize the nature of the ‘bond’ between fraternity brothers at Swat. I’m honestly hesitant to even repost this loaded quote:

    “One fraternity even mandates that throughout the multiple-week pledge process one must keep a “pledge pack” on his person at all times, stocked with various things a fellow brother might need (cigarettes, lighters, condoms, quarters, etc.). From the start, fraternity brothers are taught they must be there for one another. Therein lies the source of the bond between frat brothers”

    Again, please don’t mistake my tone for undervaluing the gravity of the pain you experienced, but don’t you think this is a bit of an oversimplification? I applaud your analysis of the veiled symbolism in pledging activities, but this example grossly misrepresents what it means for fraternity brothers to ‘be there for each other’. Contrary to the tone of the article, fraternities on campus help shape their members into more responsible and aware adults through their four-year college experiences. Sure, a lot of oblivious, close-minded students join the fraternities as freshmen, but that’s the point – most learn from older brothers and grow as individuals through their involvement, anecdotal evidence of homophobia from an isolated group of students doesn’t change this.

    Assigning these vague attributes to a group may be convenient for an argument, but it is rarely representative of reality. I can guarantee you that I came across a much larger number of entitled, clueless, and deeply prejudiced people in my time at Swat than I ever expected to find – some were involved with fraternities, most were not, its just it’s the nature of an elite institution filled with sheltered, ‘elite’ students (your vans don’t fool me). Some people will always be dicks, regardless of what groups they join on campus. Eliminating fraternities isn’t going to change this fact, it will only make things worse.

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    • Swat Survivor Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Alum, it seems that you have some knowledge of the situation at hand that the Op-Ed doesn’t convey. There is nothing in the article that says that the student who threatened him was a freshman, and you seem to completely ignore or misunderstand the second mentioned incident, which clearly included multiple brothers and likely not the same one involved in the first incident because I don’t know of anyone who hears “hey, want to voluntarily hang out with someone who bullied you?” and responds positively.

      As Parker has, I have certainly known truly lovely people who have been members of the frats. No one anywhere has claimed that becoming a member makes you a terrible person, only that the “brotherly bond” that can be so positive for many members (which I am not denying, and I don’t believe Parker is either) also frequently promotes the tendency to turn a blind eye to these incidents.

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    • Peera Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      I appreciate you explaining the internal process around this incident and around the personal growth in the frat generally. That helps. I think that the way you treat the perpetrator in a rehabilitative way is valuable and constructive.

      However I don’t think that this incident can be explained away as one of isolated happenings contained only within individuals. I can see, from your insider perspective, that the frat’s taken some action toward this individual, but the frat’s system still works the same way with ‘being there for each other’ principle. I don’t want to vilify the individuals; I just ask that they be responsible and accountable, and the ideal way this can happen is that the frat system efficiently deals with it. Rehabilitation is one of the ways. But it seems like this kind of incidents or at least atmosphere still persists very much so, according to other testimonials (not yet on the table).

      I refuse to subscribe to the idea (fact?) that some people will always be dicks wherever they are; people’s dickness might flourish in some contexts more well, and so the action to combat it in those contexts must be more intense. I want to believe in your argument that the fraternity is where most of you grow, but I think the fraternities need to work harder, on a couple of fronts:

      (1) be more purposeful about reforming the internal structure so that ‘be there for each other’ principle doesn’t get in the way of solving the structural problems of sexual assaults and discrimination.

      (2) branch out to the campus community. Maybe hold an event outside of the house, to create a different kind of presence.

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  26. Practical? Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    First of all, great article Parker. Please please please stay strong in the face of such disgusting acts, and such deplorable comments on this page.

    But…I not sure closing the fraternities can solve any or all of these issues. The homophobes and rapists in the frats will just become homophobes and rapists around campus. I feel like there is a bigger issue of discipline, responsibility, and education on this campus that won’t be solved by disbanding an organization. With no frats, I think the only portion of the story that will change is the part that other students know it happened. There will still be no consequences for the perpetrators, just like there aren’t now.

    For all I care the frats can go f*ck themselves – the engineers and RNM throw better parties and “bro-culture” is insufferable. But I don’t think there will be any useful change to Swarthmore with their undoing.

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  27. Sebastian Bravo Montenegro '13 Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    First of all, thanks to Parker to being brave to share this story and I hope it inspires people to not be afraid to be heard and share theirs.

    My main problem with the fraternity and the issue that Parker presents is that this Fraternity brother felt comfortable enough in the space to insult Parker and ask him to leave. This is never alright, whether you are a Freshman, brother or non-brother, we need to hold all Swatties to the same standard and that is one of tolerance and respect. Swat, and by extension, the Fraternity houses, are safe spaces and for someone to be kicked because of their sexual orientation is unacceptable.

    ***One proposition I would like to make is for the Fraternity Houses to be repurposed and to be used for the whole campus.****

    For me, I feel like if the Brothers did not have ownership of the the space, then non-brothers wouldn’t feel like “guests” and would be more likely to feel comfortable. Unlike when I walk into Paces or Olde Club, I do not feel like I belong in the Frats because it is not MY space, and I think that’s where a lot of these issues arise. If this incident, would have occurred at Paces, I know that many people would have asked the brother to leave instead of asking Parker to do so.

    In addition, since the Theta sisters do not count with space of their own, I find that completely unfair and think that if Greek life is to exist then both should have equal access to all spaces, like the rest of groups of campus do.

    Repurposing the Fraternities for Student Centers, or maybe a constant venue for a “bar” version of Paces Cafe. I don’t know, there are probably better ideas.

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    • seconded Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      I agree – I think it would be good for the community as a whole if the frat houses were opened up such that everyone felt welcome there, either by changing the ownership of the space as Sebastian suggests, or by reshaping our existing frats and new sorority into more open social houses with no ties to national organizations and no membership fees.

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      • by the way... Reply

        February 21, 2013 at 12:14 am

        One of our frats is already a social house with no ties to national organizations, but that membership fee goes towards maintaining their space and paying for parties, kinda hard to avoid.

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    • Alum '11 Reply

      February 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Well, maybe it feels that way because they ARE the caretakers of the space. Who do you think maintains the houses, funds/performs general repairs and improvements, pays for alcohol, organizes social events, and covers rent? But I’m sure the college can just hire more maintenance workers to clean up after you guys, right? And shouldn’t they just provide the alcohol too? This near-sighted, oblivious, entitled attitude is certainly NOT refreshing. I can’t speak for DU, but in Phi Psi the modest dues aren’t meant to be exclusionary, they are necessary to cover the costs of maintaining such a space (and MANY need-based exceptions are made every year). Furthermore, ‘dues’ aren’t just a monetary commitment – brothers are expected to regularly pitch in with clean ups, purchasing supplies, and other tasks around the house – and they do so on a weekly basis. Paces is not YOUR space, the fraternities are not YOUR space, you are part of a campus COMMUNITY. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of you to get involved with a group/team on campus, at the very least you would experience what it’s like to devote time and effort to contributing to something larger than YOURSELVES.

      And Sebastian, the fact that the individual involved was a freshman who hadn’t been on campus for a full semester is entirely relevant, it’s hard to even comprehend how you can dismiss this fact. People come to Swarthmore from a variety of backgrounds. Maybe you’ve been wearing your Garnet-tinted glasses for a bit too long, but in case you forgot – there are a lot of intolerant assholes outside of campus, do you even remember highschool? This argument that fraternities inherently encourage intolerant behavior (“Fraternity brother felt comfortable enough in the space to insult Parker”) is completely baseless, you’re exploiting a stereotype; if anything, fraternities at Swat pressure their members to be more responsible, conscientious and tolerant people – whether an individual takes initiative and learns to grow as a person is up to them. What do you think about the officers of each fraternity, do they promote this type of hateful behavior? I’m a few years removed, but I can’t think of a single senior in my former frat that would fit this description.

      No one is really defending the individual in question now – no one defended his actions when the event occurred either, though I can’t believe that even needs to be said – but from what I’ve heard his intolerant behavior has not restricted to his time at the frat. Again, blaming the environment doesn’t really require much thought, or an argument based on evidence and informed opinion, but I’m sure you can infer what I think of your argument’s validity. Its clear people are passionate about this op-ed, homophobia at Swat, and the future of Greek life on campus, I just don’t understand how it all got merged into the same debate.

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      • Alum '11.2 Reply

        February 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm

        WTF. Who gives a shit what happens outside of campus? Relativist morals make no sense here: We seem to all agree that bigotry is not okay. And indeed, this feeling is grounded in morals independent of the rest of the world. If we were to ground our response to bigotry in world-defined relativism, we might say that bigotry is actually okay because at least it’s better than lawmakers in Uganda legislating bills to sanction the killing of gays. As usual, the real world is (and ought to be) totally irrelevant to Swat.

        It seems to me there is (intentional?) confusion about the culture that is “promoted” in frats. I don’t think anyone is advocating that this culture is _actively promoted._ On the table, instead, is the contention that the frats sometimes tolerate bigotry, misogyny, etc., which is actually enough to perpetuate the culture.

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        • Alum '11 Reply

          February 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

          “On the table, instead, is the contention that the frats sometimes tolerate bigotry, misogyny, etc., which is actually enough to perpetuate the culture.”

          Again, is there any evidence to support this oversimplified, unsubstantiated blanket accusation aside from your personal bias? I agree – these are some of the issues that have framed this debate, which is precisely why I believe they should not be on the table. This type of argument focuses on a popular stereotype of what ‘fraternity’ represents, not the reality of what fraternities are at Swarthmore. The accusations discussed thus far involve a handful of current students; its a BIG stretch to imply that the fraternities themselves promote this sort of behavior, or that it has been a long term, systemic issue.

          I’m not sure what part of my response involves relativism, maybe you’re misinterpreting the message of my argument. I never pardon homophobic behavior because the world is a nasty place, but subscribing to this notion of “Swarthmore exceptionalism” is just naive. The Greek system should not be a scapegoat for insensitivity on campus. Eliminating fraternities will have absolutely no effect on the presence of bigotry and ignorance at Swarthmore. If you want to take steps to correct this, you’re going to have to do a lot more than sign a referendum or comment on a DG article. Maybe place a bigger emphasis on tolerance workshops during orientation? Or encourage the student council/administration to take a more active role in disciplining offenders instead of targeting entire groups? Does anyone actually have constructive, realistic suggestions?

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          • Hmm...

            February 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

            Let’s take a look at a little bit of what you just said:

            “Eliminating fraternities will have absolutely no effect on the presence of bigotry and ignorance at Swarthmore.”

            Can you provide an OUNCE of evidence to substantiate that claim?

            What about the fact that every week at the frat meetings, the brothers go around and tally what they did with different girls throughout the week? That is a cultural practice that is inherently misogynistic. The fraternities as an institution promote the objectification of women through this practice alone.

            Now, “The accusations discussed thus far involve a handful of current students; its a BIG stretch to imply that the fraternities themselves promote this sort of behavior.”

            How much evidence is enough? Does every student have be harassed and assaulted before you admit there’s a problem?

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          • '16

            February 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm

            This is in reply to hmm…
            How can he provide evidence for something that hasn’t happened. It seems like it should be on you to provide evidence that getting rid of the frats will actually have an effect. Also you are delusional if you think women don’t talk about what they did with different people they have hooked up with. Talking about sexual partners is not inherently misogynistic. Whether it’s objectification depends on tone and unless you are in those meetings I doubt you are qualified to talk about it. Also a organization should not be banned for things it does within itself.
            As for how much evidence is enough? How much evidence of internal reprimanding do you need before you realize that the officers in the frats don’t condone discrimination of any kind.

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        • Phi Psi Alumnus Reply

          February 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm

          I hope I am not putting words into Alum ’11′s mouth, but…

          I generally think the point that is attempted to be made is that acceptance isn’t inherent in all human beings. Our environments and the type of people that we have been exposed to can have a large impact on what we perceive about others. In other words, acceptance isn’t necessarily inherent, but can be a learned characteristic through exposure to different races, sexual preferences, socio-economic backgrounds, etc. Therefore, a student coming from a homogeneous high school might be more likely to be unaccepting because of his/her historical environment. ***

          One of the great things about Swarthmore is that you do get exposed to so many different and wonderful people. However, it’s not a light switch that is flicked on the second you step onto College Avenue. ***

          With all this said and knowing the historical actions of the administration in dealing with these offenders, I believe that the administration is the issue. They accept this behavior, if not openly, through the (pathetic) disciplinarian actions they take. If a fraternity kicks a member of the fraternity out, they will still visit the house on weekends. Due to the inclusivity of all members of the community in our houses, it’s difficult to exclude such terrible individuals without any help from the administration.

          The crux of my argument has been that the administration allowing the fraternities to become scapegoats for campus-wide issues, which they generally do nothing of substance to address, would give me serious pause to their credibility as educators and community leaders. Hence, my previous comment regarding pulling donations.

          ***DISCLAIMER: THIS DOES NOT ALONE MAKE IGNORANCE APPROPRIATE OR ACCEPTABLE. IF A PERPETRATOR OF DISCRIMINATION DOES NOT LEARN FROM HIS/HER ACTIONS, THEY SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM THE COMMUNITY. HOWEVER, THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS ON A PERSON SHOULD BE A CONSIDERATION WHEN EXTRAPOLATING A SITUATION INVOLVING A FRESHMAN ONTO A BROADER GROUP OF PEOPLE.

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          • Phi Psi Alumnus

            February 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm

            Clarification: the houses can still benefit the community by being more proactive in the selection process and disciplining their members, but the administration doesn’t make it easy.

            Note to editors: it would be nice if there were editing functions in the comment section

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          • Let's Think

            February 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

            The administration is CERTAINLY a problem, but the fraternities are too. The administration is supposed to address problems that have already occurred, but if the fraternities are promoting these transgressions, then the fraternities are most certainly at fault as well. Prevention is the best remedy.

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      • Sebastián Bravo Montenegro '13 Reply

        February 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

        If Brothers are caretakers of the space, then shouldn’t they protect their guests, as well, as each other? Should they make sure that everyone feels welcome? I am sharing my experience about how I feel about the space, and its a sentiment that a lot of my friends share as well.
        I am part of something larger. I am a Senior Class Officer. I am in charge of clean up, purchasing supplies and basically in charge of providing 300+ students, including myself, with Senior Week. I fundraise every single week at PubNite and I make sure that if there is anyone causing too much trouble that we immediately remove the source of discomfort. In addition, we always publicly apologize to any and all people that might have been affected by the incident. I feel like these kinds of incident have happened more than once and never have I heard the Frat apologize publicly for it and I am unsure whether Parker received an apology form the President of the Frat or anybody else.

        And the frats are not the only ones that do cleans ups. Every group is in charge of maintaining shared spaces clean, so when SOC’s have PubNite we leave Paces the way we find it (although, some stains never leave those floors).

        Also, I know that I do not hold ownership of any space, and I am sorry that it came off that way, what I meant to say is that I feel safe in these spaces because they are, as you say, owned by the entire campus. But the fraternities are not. They are owned by an exclusive group of people.

        NEVER in my first year did I ever feel comfortable to insult someone publicly. And that’s where my problem is. Your brother not only felt entitled to call derogatory terms to Parker but then asked to leave a space, a space you say is owned by the entire campus. So why did Parker feel like he needed to leave? He did nothing wrong but be himself. I wouldn’t hold anyone to a standard I do not hold myself to. From the moment I got into this campus, it was made clear that I was not to disrespect anyone because it is not acceptable. I think asking people not to call each other “faggots” is within the policies that Swarthmore establishes. I wouldn’t hold anyone to a standard I do not hold myself to.

        “Its clear people are passionate about this op-ed, homophobia at Swat, and the future of Greek life on campus, I just don’t understand how it all got merged into the same debate.” The problem here is larger than the incidents that happen inside the Frats, but the fact that Greek Life is LITERALLY based on the foundation of a gender binary. The reason of why we have stuff like transphobia and homophobia is because of people who do not fit the nice little model society has built for us. It is very telling of your privilege that you do not know how all of these got merged together. Fraternities are asking people to fit into nice little labeled boxes so they can identify them as something. And they are asking you not only to fit into one of these boxes, but express in which one you belong to. As a community, queer individuals struggle with these statements every day, most of us have to come out everyday, and the first time we say is the hardest, and we don’t want to be cornered or pressured to say it, we will say it when we want under our rules and not yours. Forcing someone to come out in order to join a group is already too much to ask. 

        Also, I do have a few questions for you. Why do you feel like the Frats need their own space? What entitles you and your brother to have a whole house while the rest of us have to share college resources? Also, what is your solution about giving the Theta sisters a space of their own?

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        • Alum '11 Reply

          February 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm

          “If Brothers are caretakers of the space, then shouldn’t they protect their guests, as well, as each other? Should they make sure that everyone feels welcome? I am sharing my experience about how I feel about the space, and its a sentiment that a lot of my friends share as well.”

          Yet again, I haven’t heard anything outside of the single example cited in the initial article that suggests that brothers fail to “protect their guests” or “make sure that everyone feels welcome” at the fraternity houses, care to provide any examples? Bros in polos playing Beirut and listening to bad music may make you feel uncomfortable, but fraternities AT SWARTHMORE are not the standard-bearers of homophobia you make them out to be. You clearly ‘feel’ a certain way towards the Greek system in an abstract, stereotypical sense, but it would be much more constructive if you focused on the matter at hand. This isn’t Ole Miss, we’re discussing the two fraternities and a new sorority at Swarthmore College, their student members, and their respective histories and roles on campus (and though the heavily publicized inexcusable behavior of one particular individual in 2010 falls within this realm, I’d ask you to broaden your scope). Despite your strong ‘feelings’, in the rare instances when incidents like this have occurred while I was at Swarthmore, the perpetrator was punished appropriately (see my original post) and the fraternity and perpetrators apologized publicly to those who were involved – as I mentioned before, this particular individual was involved in several unacceptable interactions in the span of a few weeks, and was asked to leave the fraternity until he got sufficient rehabilitation – a choice made by the entire fraternity based on the fact that his actions and character were not in line with what we expect from our brothers. I cannot attest to his personal commitment to these programs, and I’m open to alternative suggestions regarding how this could have been handled, but these measures were encouraged by the administration.

          I’m not sure if Parker received a personal apology, but I also don’t believe Parker made this incident known until a few days ago. I would hope that the current officers have tried to open up a line of communication, as he clearly deserves an apology. And yes, Sebastian, “I think asking people not to call each other “faggots” is within the policies that Swarthmore establishes”, but are the fraternities responsible for the existence and proliferation of this word? Are fraternity members the only students on campus that have ever used this sort of hurtful language? I understand that this debate can make you emotional, but lets dial back the empty generalizations, at least for a little bit.

          I’m glad that you are a class officer and commend your commitment to pub night in your senior year, but most Swatties do not put in this effort. Members of both fraternities are also “in charge of clean up, purchasing supplies and… mak[ing] sure that if there is anyone causing too much trouble that we immediately remove the source of discomfort” – they do this for four years, and they don’t ask for donations. Fraternities aren’t “owned” by a group of students – they are rented and maintained by those who choose to put in the time, money, and effort to do so. I’m sure many students appreciate having a social option on Thursdays and Saturdays that doesn’t cost money, how would you propose creating “open” social spaces on campus without requiring $5 at the door? Is this really the ideal?

          “The problem here is larger than the incidents that happen inside the Frats, but the fact that Greek Life is LITERALLY based on the foundation of a gender binary. The reason of why we have stuff like transphobia and homophobia is because of people who do not fit the nice little model society has built for us. It is very telling of your privilege that you do not know how all of these got merged together”

          Please, reducing such a complex issue to these basic terms is indicative of your bias, misinformation, and lack of vision. Have you read anything I’ve written? A lot of organizations have disappointing origins, but that doesn’t mean they can’t evolve. No one’s trying to put you into a box (pot, kettle…). The most frustrating part of this debate is that no one sees the opportunity to create something new at Swat. Want to know my suggestion? Create social houses that aren’t affiliated with national organizations (Phi Psi fits this mold), and open up membership to students of all genders/identified genders who are willing to put in the time, effort and resources required to maintain these spaces and organize social events on a regular basis. The campus still has free parties, members learn a valuable lesson in teamwork and personal responsibility, membership dues decrease without the burden/rules of a national charter, and Swarthmore gets the opportunity to reimagine what a ‘fraternity’ should be (and hey, what about some fun stuff like field day rivalries between houses, group community service goals/competition to increase involvement… you should be able to relate to the idea of “Harry Potter houses” if the anti-Greek sentiment is too much to overcome). I think these houses should always exist in some form because they provide a consistent, free option for Swarthmore students to enjoy themselves – not everyone enjoys/wants to pay for pub night – and they have the potential to be truly unique spaces that enrich the college experiences of members and nonmembers alike.

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          • sammy davis jr. jr.

            February 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm

            “Want to know my suggestion? Create social houses that aren’t affiliated with national organizations (Phi Psi fits this mold), and open up membership to students of all genders/identified genders who are willing to put in the time, effort and resources required to maintain these spaces and organize social events on a regular basis.”

            agreed.

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          • Marian '14

            February 23, 2013 at 9:18 am

            “…are the fraternities responsible for the existence and proliferation of this word? Are fraternity members the only students on campus that have ever used this sort of hurtful language?”

            I am sick to death of this argument.

            No, we are certainly not saying that the frat houses are the only places where these are problems. But that does not absolve the Greek organizations of the responsibility to fix this problem.

            ” in the rare instances when incidents like this have occurred while I was at Swarthmore, the perpetrator was punished appropriately (see my original post) and the fraternity and perpetrators apologized publicly to those who were involved…”

            I have an Op-Ed coming out Monday about an experience I had with a member of DU. Although the situation is not as severe as what happened to Parker, the response of both the administration and DU was pretty anemic. In spite of the fact that the pledge (and subsequently brother!) behaved in a manner sufficiently threatening to merit police AND dean involvement, I received no apology from any DU leadership-public or private. Perhaps instances of intimidation and exclusion are not so much rare as unpublicized?

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        • Alum Reply

          February 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm

          What entitles us to have our own space is that we pay rent. Pretty simple explanation, am I correct?

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          • Hm

            February 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm

            Do other groups have the opportunity to permanently rent a similar house? As far as I know they do not.

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          • Alum2002

            February 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

            Just to clarify, the house was paid for by brothers and alumni in the 20′s (1928) and the rent only goes to renting the land it sits upon/ the schools maintaining the general grounds. For this reason, it was been historically very difficult to have our house repaired in anyway by the school. Had it not been for the very friendly maintenance staff when I was a student, we can all but assume that the house would be a pile of rubble by now.

            The dues are, to reiterate what another alum said, necessary to maintain the space so the campus can use it. It also serves as a dormitory to the official house caretaker, which DU and the former frats IE WRC, Kitao, and Olde Club have as well. They also go towards funding events that are open to the campus for free. To strip them of their space would be like stealing someone else’s ice cream cone. I agree with one of the statements made above about reclaiming the space and changing the culture. Mob mentality. It has, when I was a student, always been a big deal that we want to make sure people come down to the house and hang out/ socialize. If not with us, than with their friends. Come in droves. Literally just pack the floor, occupy the couches, crowd the beirut tables etc. The culture and changes you want to see are not going to change by getting rid of the institution but changing the way we all perceive it. it is by no means a perfect system, but by taking active steps to change the way brothers and campus alike perceived the space/ how it operates, you will take steps forward into changing the entire thing. Fraternities truly in the Swarthmore fashion.

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          • The fuck?

            February 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm

            So I should just not see the rape and then there won’t be rape culture? LOL WHAT?

            Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

          • Hope Brinn '15

            February 23, 2013 at 7:57 pm

            So I’m trying VERY HARD to stay level-headed (as many males love condescendingly calling me) here, but this quotation is really concerning to me:

            “Come in droves. Literally just pack the floor, occupy the couches, crowd the beirut tables etc. The culture and changes you want to see are not going to change by getting rid of the institution but changing the way we all perceive it. it is by no means a perfect system, but by taking active steps to change the way brothers and campus alike perceived the space/ how it operates, you will take steps forward into changing the entire thing. Fraternities truly in the Swarthmore fashion.”

            It feels to me like you’re blaming everyone BUT the frat brothers for the bad behavior in the frats. That maybe if the rest of the student body just stopped perceiving the bad behavior that the frats wouldn’t actually be bad anymore. Do you see how this comes off?

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  28. Will goddamn Campbell Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Man, I miss the Swarthmore dance….

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  29. Third Reply

    February 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    What a refreshing way of phrasing it. I agree– a huge difference between Paces/Olde Club and the fraternities is the ownership of the spaces. I am hard pressed to think of another space on campus that is so exclusively, and clearly owned (feel free to correct me if I am wrong).

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    • Third Reply

      February 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      *Meant to be a reply to Sebastian’s comment.

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  30. '12 Reply

    February 21, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Maybe after we’re done with this Frat referendum, we can put more pressure on the administration to get rid of students with egregiously homophobic and egregiously damaging records. In my four years at Swarthmore, I definitely knew three or four individuals who committed terrible offenses multiple times that should have gotten them expelled or at least forced them to take a leave of absence. I think we all know a few people who’ve gotten away with a light slap on the wrist.

    -A Former RA

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  31. Leah Reply

    February 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

    The key question about greek life is this: does it affect the rest of the campus? If it does NOT, it is the personal decisions of individual students to start a sorority, join a fraternity, etc. If the presence of greek life DOES affect the rest of campus, then other students must have a voice in all decisions regarding its existence.

    Clearly, Parker’s story supports the latter conclusion.

    I wish to turn the attention towards the elusive “rest of campus.” Many of the students who I have heard oppose greek life–many of the most vocal–are the very same students who go to the frats with some frequency. They don’t go ‘seriously’. They go with a look of studied desperation. They go with a circle of friends so that it’s clear they’re not actually GOING to the frats, they’re just going to a place that has beer and that happens to be a fraternity.

    This is known as hypocrisy. If you drink their beer, admit that you actively support the predominant feature of the relationship between greek life and “the rest of campus”–the provision of free alcohol.

    If you think the frats are homophobic, you have two choices.

    1) Don’t go there. Ever. Not after Pube Nite, not for that wild west party.

    2) Reclaim the space. I think what Eddie Montenegro suggests is the better choice, because everyone should have the right to go everywhere without being harassed. So: go to the frats all the time, drink all their beer, and shout at the top of your lungs the queerest, most feminist things you know. Drape the place in pride flags and posters about consent. If the space had truly belonged to the community, it would have been the brother who was forced to leave, and not Parker.

    I am, in short, calling for one of two things: either boycott the frats or Occupy them.

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    • OCCUPY Reply

      February 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Why does 10% of the campus control 50% of the beer?

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      • Matt Reply

        February 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm

        Are you implying that the frats “control 50% of the beer”? Because the last time I checked, I’m pretty sure they pay for 85% of their own alcohol volume. Remember, they’re usually open Thursdays and Saturdays. SAC funds a couple events per semester at the frats. Who do you think pays for the the quantities that you’re sucking down?? You’ll complain about the frats and bash their brothers one minute and swallow the tap and pee on their bathroom floor (which the brothers will clean up on Sunday afternoon) the next…that’s f’d up.

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        • Chill Reply

          February 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

          It’s a joke. Calm yourself.

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        • 200K Reply

          February 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

          Matt-

          You spent $200k on a SWARTHMORE EDUCATOIN and you cant figure out when sumone makes a joke? Come on!

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          • EDUCATOIN

            February 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm

            GUD SPELING

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      • Duh Reply

        February 27, 2013 at 3:55 pm

        Because they pay for it…

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    • Alum '11 Reply

      February 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      “I am, in short, calling for one of two things: either boycott the frats or Occupy them.”

      Ughh, is this self-deprecating humor or are you serious? I can’t think of two less constructive options.

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    • Irrelevant Reply

      February 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Pube night. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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    • Huzilla Reply

      February 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      As much as I like Eddie Montenegro, I think it was Sebastien you were talking about.

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      • Eddie Reply

        February 22, 2013 at 12:16 am

        Leah, while I totally agree with that statement and have said things like that in the past, I don’t think I actually know you. If we did talk and i’m forgetting though, my apologies!

        It probably was Sebastien..although I completely agree with that statement.

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  32. Wayne Gacy Brode Reply

    February 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I do find some validity in the idea of taking back the space. Change the culture by being the culture…if that makes sense. I think that should be an idea we explore a bit further.

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  33. Tori 13 Reply

    February 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Parker,

    I don’t know you but I just wanted to let you know that I believe you. And anyone who doesn’t is fooling themselves. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that this happened to you, and especially appalled that it happened in our community. Just hope you know that, despite the large amount of ignorance that has made it onto this thread, there are many many more swatties on your side

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