Greek Life Discussions Underway

The referendum on Greek life is still on hold, but discussions on its future are already moving forward.

Joyce Wu ‘15, who started the petition for a referendum, organized the first of a series of campus-wide discussions aimed at addressing issues raised in the past couple of days both with the Greek organizations and with the referendum itself.

Wu, fraternity and sorority members, and unaffiliated individuals met on Thursday evening, launching into a discussion exploring three major themes: a perceived unsafe environment associated with Greek life, administration involvement, and the use of spaces.

The Presidents of both fraternities and leaders of Kappa Alpha Theta also voiced concerns about the referendum, explaining the hostile attack they believed it represented. Wu in turn apologized for the abruptness of the petition and recognized the tension created the lack of discussions leading up to the petition’s creation.

Despite moving rooms twice beforehand, the classroom in Kohlberg still seemed too small for the vast turn-out, with students crowded at desks, grouped together on the floor, and spilling out into the hallway.

Wu said she had intended for this to be a planning meeting for future discussions and was not expecting over twenty people. With such a large group in attendance she said she decided to use the first meeting to get a feel for the topics that future discussions should focus on.

“I was really glad that so many people showed up. I think it bodes well for the future,” Wu said.

Delta Upsilon President Rory McTear ’13, Vice President Zach Nacev ’13, and Phi Psi President Zach Schaffer ’14 also shared similar sentiments and said they are looking forward to working with non-affiliated students who have been passionate and vocal in the past two weeks.

In reference to allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse, students cited a need for stronger repercussions for fraternity members who behave inappropriately and irresponsibly. Many also voiced disappointment with the administration’s lack of timely and appropriate response to such events in previous years.

As students continue to grow more vocal in their demands for change, these concerns have travelled quickly throughout campus, sparking responses from students and faculty alike. In a campus-wide email sent Monday morning, Dean Liz Braun asserted that the Dean’s Office is committed to improving the way in which such issues are approached.

“I want to state very clearly that in the Dean’s office we have and will continue to address any issues of sexual assault, physical assault, homophobia, racism and other serious issues that are brought to our attention,” Braun wrote.

A KAT sister and several Phi Psi brothers proposed the establishment of a Greek Life Advisory Council. Student Council would regulate the committee, which would be comprised of members of the fraternities, sorority, and administration, as well as students representing other campus organizations, such as members of the SMART and DART teams.

McTear thought the committee was a step forward in the right direction, as it would create an additional venue for open dialogue between students, members of Greek organizations, and the administration.

While many attendees approved of the committee in theory, some held serious doubts about how effectively and for how long it would function in practice.

“It’s difficult momentum to sustain when the committee is no longer shining new … it’s not a great structural change,” Wu said.

Noah Weinthal ’15, who is unaffiliated with any Greek organization, fears that the committee will be a detriment, exacerbating the isolated nature of Greek life on campus that many members of the community oppose. The fraternity brothers are classmates, peers, and friends, and they should be just as approachable as any other individual or group on campus, without the need for a third party to facilitate, he said.

“I think the onus is on the fraternities to do a little bit of soul searching and figure out how they can integrate better with the community … how can they not make this an ‘us versus them,’” Weinthal said.

The fraternity houses were another focal point of the discussion. The organizations’ entitlement to a private space was characterized as unacceptable by several students, especially those concerned about the lack of private spaces for other student organizations on campus.

“Being exclusionary is inherently contrary to Quaker culture,” Wu said.

McTear and Nacev both described the founding of the Delta Upsilon house, citing how 100 percent of the funding for its construction came from the fraternity and its alumnus. Many physical aspects of the house, such as the fireplace and plaques hanging on the walls, carry not only sentimental value but also historical weight, they said.

“The house is really just another brother to us … it’s a space that we cherish and treat as another brother,” McTear said.

Very few attendees suggested abolishing the houses completely. Instead, many students called for a redefining of the houses, in order to open them further to other student organizations as well as the rest of the student body.

“I really understand the house’s sense of history, but I don’t think that sense of history has to be destroyed,” Wu said.

“It would be best for everyone, including the frat brothers, if the spaces were … re-purposed to allow the college community to have some of the positive experiences that frat brothers enjoy everyday, and to allow control of the spaces not reside with a few male students,” Weinthal said.

Within the next week, Wu hopes to hold another open discussion, and invites even more members of the community to join. She also plans on meeting with Assistant Dean Karlene Burrell-McRae and Student Council Co-President Victor Brady ’13 in order to discuss plans for future discussions, as well as a possible collection this Friday.

Despite the number of issues brought up on Thursday evening, Wu hopes to tackle some pressing questions that were not addressed during the first meeting – namely, why she and others want to get rid of Greek organizations on campus, and why members of the fraternities and sororities support Greek life.

As prevalent as Wu’s questions may be, Weinthal holds strong doubts about their legitimacy.

“I don’t think it’s within the jurisdiction of the student body to completely abolish Greek life,” he said. “It is never fair for the discomfort of a large group of people to dictate what a smaller group of people can do.”

The brothers of DU and Phi Psi as well as the sisters of KAT are prepared to uphold their loyalty to their organizations.

“The type of community built on this brotherhood, the type of support group – academics, relationships, athletics – that support the great diversity of minds, of people that are in Delta Upsilon, have really allowed me to expand my horizons,” McTear said.

Nacev expanded further, adding, “In terms of our community service commitment, it’s helped me get in touch with not only the Swarthmore College community, but also the neighborhoods and communities outside of Swarthmore.”

At the same time, members of Greek organizations are looking forward to moving ahead and beginning the process of reorganizing Greek life on campus for the future.

“At this point, we’re very open to doing what we can … to improve the general safety and general happiness of others,” Nacev said.

Looking back, Wu said that she was not only surprised by the sheer number of people who attended Thursday’s discussion but also by the civility with which everyone conducted themselves. “I was really pleasantly surprised … I was expecting to be attacked by all sides,” she said.

Wu was not the only person who expected hostility; Weinthal was also prepared for fierce debate to ensue.

“I assumed it was probably going to dissolve into some form of horrific squabbling,” he said.

Wu hopes that the productive nature of Thursday’s discussion will act as an even greater incentive for students to join the conversation on Greek life. “These are issues that involve the entire campus … members of the Greek organizations are also members of Swarthmore,” she said.

“If we’re going to institute effective policy changes, that’s not going to come from personal attacks,” Weinthal added. “Our model for Greek life, and the one that works for us, is going to be something designed by the campus community and made appropriate for the school.”

Wu, who has already collected enough signatures for a referendum, said she has not yet decided to officially submit her petition to StuCo. If she were to follow through with the referendum, it alone would not be able to ban Greek life on campus. The referendum would be presented to the administration and the Board of Managers, who would take it into consideration but ultimately have the final word, Wu said.

In a phone interview with The Daily Gazette on Saturday, Board of Managers Chair Gil Kemp ‘72 said the Board did not discuss Greek life extensively at their meeting last weekend, but he did say he believes students should be able to pursue a variety of different interests.

“I like to generally [keep] my views of particular groups at Swarthmore to live and let live,” Kemp said.

He said he finds the campus-wide conversations surrounding Greek life an important step forward.

“I think the very positive thing that’s coming out of the petition is heightening the discussion of the issues that really are on people’s minds about the fraternities and impending sorority,” Kemp said.

While The Daily Gazette’s reporter, Jenni Lu, attended Thursday’s open meeting, all direct quotes that appear in this article were recorded during later interviews.

Andrew Karas contributed reporting.


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52 comments

  1. 0
    Alum '82 says:

    As a Phi Psi alum who maintains a healthy relationship with the fraternity now, I just want to say I agree with the above comment of the house being one of the brothers. It’s part of the process of building this common ground; this brotherhood and reliance we all gain from each other. Its like we were all given a puppy and we needed to keep it safe, raise it, clean it, and what not. If you take away the houses, you take away the very thing that brought us together in the first place.

    Obviously just an opinion, but one i’m sure is held by a number of people who’ve had experience as members of a greek organization.

    As for the sorority, it is in the master plan for them to gain a house at some point. I’ve heard talk of repurposing Kyle as an upperclassmen blocking option and what not for Thetas, but that’s all hearsay. Regardless of where they eventually (granted this does not move abolish them prior to that day), I have no doubt the house will be pivotal in truly unifying these young women as it’s done for us.

    1. 0
      A says:

      The idea of “repurposing Kyle” does not sit well with me. I am of the opinion that Swarthmore purposefully does not have speciality housing (creative writing house, foreign language house, Greek–boarding– house, etc.). The lack of divisive housing is one of the unique features of our residential life; students end up interacting with members of different years, genders, majors, etc. I think it is one of the best aspects of our residential life: I wonder if creating a sorority-like house out of one of the dorms (whether it was an administrative decision or a blocking result) would negate the inclusivity and diversity of our residential program.

        1. 0
          Hmm... says:

          What about the fact that they actually don’t? These are shared spaces that all different student groups occupy. The college owns them, not the groups.

          Must feel embarrassing for you now…

        2. 0
          Hope Brinn '15 says:

          Actually neither are owned by student groups. They are owned by the college and managed by the college. Students occupy them and use them just like every other building on campus, but they retain no ownership.

      1. 0
        Alum '82 says:

        Stop referring to your fellow students as Greeks as if they didn’t occupy the same dormitories and attend the same classes. You’re all Swatties! This divide that you guys are exacerbating is hypocritical in regards to the aims of your mission.

        1. 0
          Highlighter says:

          Okay. Rephrased: “Why does a certain unnamed population get to own houses but not any other student group?”

          Was that at all helpful, Alum ’82? No. Because they are Greeks, or brothers, or sisters, or whatever the preferred nomenclature is, in addition to being Swatties. And the divide is not being exacerbated by calling them by what they are — the divide is created by the fraternities owning houses.

  2. 0
    Answers says:

    1) We need Greek life as much as we need any student group – because a diversity of experiences, people and culture is essential to the Swarthmore community. So no, we don’t NEED Greek life, just like we don’t NEED the Daily Gazette, 16 Feet, or WNR.
    2) We wouldn’t need them if they were causing “more bad than good,” which I believe is being heavily debated both as to whether that’s true and how much you can say “they” are causing anything.
    3) No.
    4) Yes, obviously. Fraternity members are Honors students, take part in intellectual organizations like the Phoenix/Gazette or Peaslee, and join educational teams like DART or organizational groups like the Student Government. You don’t go to the fraternities to learn (probably), but saying that they contribute nothing to the “intellectual community” is like saying that just because you don’t play sports in McCabe, nobody who studies in McCabe contributes to the school’s athletic community. I think one of the main takeaways from this whole debate should be that an individual can identify with more than one organization and we should stop trying to categorize everything.
    5) No, and no. But Swarthmore would still exist if literally any group was removed. Literally. Any. Group. That is not justification to remove, say, the Lang Center or the English department though, is it? When it comes down to it, I think the fraternities add some value to our campus.

    Are those answers good enough?

    1. 0
      Fact check says:

      I think you are mistaken; there are demonstrable occasions on which the fraternities do contribute to the intellectual life at Swarthmore. Two cases that spring to mind: in 2009 or 2010, Oscar Wilde’s play Salome was staged in a very unique performance within the DU house, and I would argue the setting of the play was inarguably enhanced by being in the fraternity. This, personally, greatly enriched my experience of the play. Additionally, both Phi Psi and DU have extensive histories in bringing unique, stimulating, new music to campus—I think immediately of Chiddy Bang and the chamber music hip-hop group. I’m an ambivalent third party, but it’s undeniable that the fraternities have contributed to the intellectual life of campus through their active support of the arts.

  3. 0
    '12 says:

    Let us all ask ourselves these questions:

    1) WHY do we NEED Greek life on this campus?

    2) If they are causing more problems than solutions, if they are causing more bad than good, if they are committing more crimes than deeds, why do we need them? (cost-benefit analysis anyone?)

    3) Does Swarthmore need fraternities to party?

    4) Do fraternities and Greek life contribute to the Swarthmore intellectual community, AT ALL?

    5) If Greek life is eliminated, does Swarthmore cease to exist or something? Does Swarthmore become boring? (because I assure you, Swatties will still know how to have fun)

  4. 0
    Huzilla says:

    Before we discuss the benefits and losses of taking away the houses from the fraternity brothers, can someone actually come up with how this would logistically work?

    I guess the school could buy the houses from the DU and Phi Psi alumni associations…. but would the alumni groups have to accept it? It would be great if someone could look into the original agreement and history between the Frats and the administration.

    I sure wish Will Treece was still at Swat…

  5. 0
    Alex Ginsberg says:

    Tori, sure, I’d be glad. First, I need to say that I’m not a representative of the current fraternities. My opinions are my own, though they are informed by being a former president of DU, as well as being a very active member in the rest of the Swarthmore community. Also, I hope it can be appreciated that although I clearly take the side of the fraternities, I empathize with and am seeking to treat as legitimate many of the concerns being raised on these forums.

    Oh, one more caveat. This is addressing only the argument that the houses should be opened as a matter of principle, not other charges against the fraternities. I’ve spoken my part on those in other places.

    For the fraternities, taking away the houses completely would be tantamount to ending Greek life. It would leave ~170 people feeling that a big part of their Swarthmore experience was stripped from them based on what they would feel were unjustifiable and hostile grounds. (Whether you agree that the grounds are hostile or rational, that’s how they are and will be perceived.) In this case, there would be people saying that “there is still Greek life, we didn’t end the frats,” which, to me, would be adding insult to injury. To be clear, I’m not saying the brothers (and now sisters) would do anything badly, but there would be a lot of people who would feel that something important to them was taken through a corrupt process, and would look at many other Swatties as bullies.

    You should take this next sentence with a grain of salt, because again I’m only speaking for myself. If fraternity houses were taken away, I believe the impact on alumni donations would be the same as ending Greek life, at least in the next decade. Why? For two reasons. One, many alumni would be angry for reasons you can imagine. Two, it would make maintaining a relationship between current brothers and DU alum very difficult. We meet twice a year at the house. To no longer have that option, or to have the house no longer be DU, would result in far less alumni participation, fewer relationships with current students (this alone would REALLY suck), and ultimately less giving.

    The school shouldn’t act only to prevent the loss of alumni donations, but as a good steward of the endowment with fiduciary obligations, it should consider that possibility.

    For the rest of the school:

    First, the maintenance of the house would be far less of a priority without a dedicated tenant organization. It would likely turn into olde club, which, as cherished as it is to the community, isn’t at all well maintained. The brothers paint, patch walls, scrub toilets, replace furniture and furnishings (tvs), build bars, and more, so that they and their guests can enjoy the houses. Only a tenant group has the self-interested motivation to constantly improve a space like DU. The school wouldn’t want to spend the money doing so year after year, especially with the wear and tear of constant parties.

    Second, though there are many people who don’t visit the fraternities, I would argue that they are still more frequented – as they exist – by a larger portion of campus than Kitao, the WRC (is it still that?), the SCCS media lounge, and Olde Club. They are at least equally trafficked. Without a dedicated group of people who have a personal interest in keeping the houses open and social, their use would revert to the mean. This would be detrimental to a lot of non-fraternity Swatties who enjoy the social life provided at the houses, and would likely reverberate to other aspects of social life. I remember hearing about a lot of alcohol & noise related complaints at the dorms a few years ago when the fraternities were prevented from hosting Late Nite on Thursdays.

    I keep coming back to this point of having a tenant or dedicated group run a space because it is key to maintaining active social life. The only group on campus that contributes to social life as frequently and to as broad an audience are the senior class officers who throw Pub Nite, but of course Pub Nite is not free. On the contrary, every party at DU is free by virtue of our by-laws. The fraternities pay out of pocket for most of their open social activities, pay insurance on the house, take on personal risk by hosting frequent parties (if someone gets hurt at the house, brothers in charge can be held liable), stay sober to keep vigilant eyes on attendees, and clean. They do all this because the house is theirs, they are proud of it, and they want to make it a place where people (most of whom are not in the fraternities) can have fun. Take away the ownership, and the rest crumbles. No combination of groups would produce the same quantity or quality of social activities, at least that’s my experience at Swarthmore.

    1. 0
      Hope Brinn '15 says:

      “For the fraternities, taking away the houses completely would be tantamount to ending Greek life.”
      So it sounds like you’re saying that Greek life essentially exists to control party spaces. I think that right there gets at the crux of the problem. Fraternities are the only organizations on campus that have the opportunity to own their own party spaces. As a result, ownership elevates fraternities to a status above that of every other campus group. Why is it that in order to maintain your brotherhood, you must charge dues, get initiated, and serve alcohol? Why do you get to own (not occupy, own) an entire wet space autonomously when no other student group on campus gets that opportunity. These questions are also not rhetorical. I think space issues really lie at the core of the debate and healthy dialogue is necessary to address concerns.

      “If fraternity houses were taken away, I believe the impact on alumni donations would be the same as ending Greek life, at least in the next decade.”
      Per your instructions, I am taking this with a grain of salt. This is just a hunch of yours that is unsubstantiated. Not saying it’s not true, but we’d need a lot more evidence to make any decisions based on that.

      “Without a dedicated group of people who have a personal interest in keeping the houses open and social, their use would revert to the mean. This would be detrimental to a lot of non-fraternity Swatties who enjoy the social life provided at the houses, and would likely reverberate to other aspects of social life.”
      I’m not sure what you mean by, “revert to the mean” (no pun intended). Could you elaborate on this a little bit more? I feel like what you’re saying is that all wet spaces on campus besides the frats are essentially the same. First of all, there are only four wet spaces, two of which are frats. That’s a pretty small sample size. I would argue that Olde Club and Paces are very different given that Paces hosts Pub Nite. That said, since neither space is owned by a group, for me it doesn’t feel like either group has a very consistent culture. For instance, the Engineering Party was hosted at Olde Club this weekend differs a lot from the nights when random bands (no offense) like the Scissor Sisters come and play. Similarly, the Purim Party and the Diva Party differed dramatically in the people in attendance and the structure of the event. So I guess my question is, what is really the “mean”?

      “Take away the ownership, and the rest crumbles. No combination of groups would produce the same quantity or quality of social activities, at least that’s my experience at Swarthmore.”
      You discussed before that the spaces would crumble without fraternity ownership. I want to stress that there is no evidence to substantiate that Swarthmore is ill-equipped to maintain its own facilities. Somehow, the buildings on campus stay in good repair even though they aren’t owned by a group of students.

      Now, I’m going to agree with you that ownership of a space does lead to a different social experience. It allows a group of students to dominate a wet social space in a way that no other groups of students can. To me it comes down to an argument of fairness though I know there are other opinions here.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.

      Hope

      1. 0
        Mr. X says:

        “I want to stress that there is no evidence to substantiate that Swarthmore is ill-equipped to maintain its own facilities. Somehow, the buildings on campus stay in good repair even though they aren’t owned by a group of students.”

        Just because you don’t have evidence does not mean it doesn’t exist. Aside from being against pretty much everything else you wrote, I want to point out that this is untrue. Go down to Facilities and have a chat with any of the guys working down there. Many buildings on this campus are years behind necessary capital improvements because the college refuses to spend the funds necessary to maintain them. Swat may not be”ill-equipped” in terms of the money needed for these things, but we definitely don’t use it. Without a group to lobby for the repairs and improvements necessary to keep these oft-used spaces running (we’re talking between 300 and 500 walk-throughs a weekend at the very least), they would literally fall apart. I can go on and on with specific things that would’ve gone unnoticed had Phi Psi not had residents/been in ownership of the space, but I need to prep for this stupid quiz.

        1. 0
          Hope Brinn '15 says:

          That’s actually not a bad idea to talk to the facilities people. They’re an important part of this discussion. My question is, how have the lodges, Kitao, the WRC, and Olde Club managed to still function despite the fact that they used to house Greek organizations?

          1. 0
            Hope Brinn '15 says:

            Isn’t paying house sitters to do stuff in the WRC kind of the opposite of what the frats do? I feel like a better analogy would be requiring for house sitters to pay to house sit at the WRC. As for Olde Club, yeah I mean I went last week. It’s not phenomenal I agree. But it seems good enough. But that’s all subjective too.

          2. 0
            well says:

            well the WRC specifically pays student house sitters to look after it. I also don’t know if you’ve gone to Olde Club recently, but I would argue that it is not really in good shape.

      2. 0
        Hope Brinn '15 says:

        Okay so apparently the Scissor Sisters is a real band that would never play at Olde Club. Pretend I said TEEN or some other similar band that has actually played at Olde Club.

      3. 0
        Charles Evans Hughes '95 says:

        I think this comment showcases a prevalent and fundamental misunderstanding of what the fraternity houses are and what they mean to the brothers to whom they belong, which I’d like to try and address. The houses are not party spaces. They are houses. Parts of them are on occasion open to the public and used as party spaces, but more often than not it is a meeting place for brothers, a place for them to relax and watch some TV, or do homework, or even live at very reasonable rent so as to avoid the school’s exorbitant housing fees.

        I’m so sick of people not understanding how much these houses – and can we please call them houses, because that’s what they are, they’re not ‘party spaces’ – mean to us. The memories they hold for both freshmen, and alumni of 50 years. The history that has been continuously added to over the course of what is now almost a century. We have a library dedicated entirely to showcasing old literature and artifacts: relics of Swarthmore Delta Upsilon that hold priceless sentimental value for us. Our framed original charter from 1894 is prominent in a lit display case which we clean weekly. We are not a frat, we are a fraternity, a brotherhood of men; this is not a party space, it is our house.

        1. 0
          Alum '10 says:

          Come on, dude. This is silly.

          Without jumping into the “rape culture” debate (I never saw the frats as any different from any other space where people drank a lot, but that’s certainly a limited experience), the frats weren’t exactly holding themselves out as the Gentlemen’s Historical Preservation Society. I’m pretty sure Phi Psi didn’t know who half its own members were, and I definitely knew people who weren’t sure if they were members of Phi Psi. And DU’s events included the culturally invaluable “Dress up like a Cowboy and drink” festival, the “Appreciate Greek attire and drink” festival, the “Make art on each other’s shirts and drink” gathering, and the “Drink and use the slip and slide all day” year-end gala. Not to say that this is all they did, but it sure as hell comes across as most of it.

          None of which is to take away from the individuals– I have some great friends who were in each frat, and most of the people in them were, in my experience, great guys. And I know they’ve developed some great friendships as members.

          But get off the high horse– the frats only become a “brotherhood of men” when they have to justify themselves to others. Otherwise, they’re meeting places for 18-22 year old boys to get drunk. And for 26-30 year old men to come back and act like 18-22 year old boys and get drunk (unless DU’s alumni keg-tossing contests in front of Wharton were a cultural ritual I was unaware of).

          You make DU and Phi Psi sound like the Freemasons, and it sounds absurd. Call a spade a spade– they’re drinking houses where a self-selected group of dudes gets together and bonds regularly. Usually over a keg(s) Natty Light.

          1. 0
            Alum '10 says:

            Yeah, and of course behind closed doors, it was a Mensa meeting. Look, I have good friends still who were in DU (and Phi Psi). A lot of great people were members, and I’ve seen first hand that they developed great friendships. But it’s pretty hard to say that you can’t develop those same friendships without a house or without spending 3 months getting hammered together and carrying around rubs, matches, and the lyrics to all the DU jingles. I don’t have any hostility toward either frat (I think they added to my college experience by supplying me with free beer and the latest hip-hop, but that’s not really the discussion; out of respect for those who have had scary or negative experiences, I can’t comment on those things simply because I wasn’t exposed to them).

            But I think your comment is pretty telling– what other groups do behind closed doors. Well who else has exclusive meetings behind closed doors? The only student organization I was in that did was a sports team– I bet you can imagine what happened at those meetings. And it’s the same way for any organization that closes its meetings. But I bet the frats– which organize a community service event or two but, conservatively, spent 90% of their campus publicity in my time there advertising the parties they were throwing– threw everyone for a loop and really did some world-changing things when no one else was looking.

            Could be, but I doubt it. Again, this isn’t to trash the frats or anyone in them– just to point out how funny it is that a group that realistically spends the overwhelming majority of its time publicizing its next party is gonna have a hard time selling everyone else on the idea that it’s a “brotherhood of men” committed to some high-minded goals about diffusing liberal values when anyone who steps into that house on a given night in my 4 years of college was likely to see only beer being diffused liberally. Which is great– I’m strongly pro-beer. But that reality kinda makes the whole League of Extraordinary Gentlemen schtick fall on deaf ears…

          2. 0
            You know everything. says:

            So, what you’re saying is that you weren’t a brother and never attended any DU meetings or brother only events, BUT you know EXACTLY what DU is all about?

            If someone made the same kind of baseless, unknowing statements about other groups that have closed meetings, they would destroyed on this message board.

            It’s ironic telling others to get off their high horse when you’re sitting naked on top of yours.

            Also, the alumni keg tossing events in front of Wharton are for Rugby, not DU.

        2. 0
          ML says:

          One big problem I see has nothing to do with the frats being a party space versus a house, but the fact that this house alone is so important to the group belonging/dynamic. No other group gets to have this kind of space, to use either as a party space or as a house where members can just chill. And the only reason the frats get to have this kind of space is because they have been treated by the school differently in the past and present and, crucially, because they have much more money than other groups due to this alumni network people keep bringing up. These things, the existence of the house and the alumni money that bought it, are part of the exclusionary problem. It’s preferential treatment and it’s rooted in classism.

          Also, I know this wasn’t a point in the comment I’m responding to but I don’t want to make a whole different comment. Someone above has brought up fraternity alumni withholding donation based on these theoretical changes. Shouldn’t fraternity members consider themselves first and foremost alumni of Swarthmore and then as alumni of a fraternity? Why should their allegiance be stronger to the fraternity than to the school that contained the fraternity? If doing something to the frats is better for the school as a whole (and I recognize that it’s debatable as to whether that’s the case) shouldn’t fraternity alumni be able to recognize that and, indeed, advocate for it? Considering oneself a fraternity member before considering oneself a Swarthmore student (as I believe that comment implied) is worrisome to me.

          1. 0
            Alice Paul says:

            Responding to Matthew Corso ’11 because it won’t let me reply directly:

            Regarding “1,” how is anything you listed there–wealthy frat alums, roots in Swarthmore’s white and wealthy early years–NOT an argument that the frats receive preferential treatment rooted in classism? I’m not disputing that early brothers worked towards a charter or to get a space on campus, but that doesn’t mean those “great men” you listed like McCabe and Underhill weren’t the benefactors of some serious class privilege.

            Is there anyone who seriously believes the frats DON’T receive preferential treatment because basically all of our buildings are named after rich frat alums? At the very least, it’s a huge incentive for the school not to do away with them, regardless of where you stand on the referendum.

          2. 0
            Matthew Corso '11 says:

            1. “It’s preferential treatment and it’s rooted in classism.”

            2. “Why should their allegiance be stronger to the fraternity than to the school that contained the fraternity?”

            1. I disagree, wholeheartedly. In order to understand my taking issue with this quote, we must try to familiarize ourselves with DU’s rich history on campus. Picture it, Swarthmore, 1894: Pi Kappa Omicron (referred to as the Pumpkinheads) has been working toward chartering an official chapter of Delta Upsilon for the better part of two years. These men are focused on establishing their own fraternity on campus, just the third of its kind at Swarthmore behind Kappa Sigma (1888) and Phi Kappa Psi (1889). It’s founded as a non-secret organization and committed to four important principles: Promotion of Friendship, Development of Character, Diffusion of Liberal Culture and the Advancement of Justice. For three decades, brothers and alumni meet in the Shirer Building in the Ville, holding monthly meetings and slowly building their endowment. In 1926, after nearly 30 years of saving, the current chapter lodge is completed and Delta Upsilon finally has their own space on campus. Further, notable alumni include Phillip T. Sharples, H. Thomas Hallowell, Amos J. Peaslee, Thomas B. McCabe, Arthur Hoyt Scott, Christian B. Anfinsen, Leland MacPhail, Neil Austrian, Edward C. Prescott, and Daniel Underhill. ML, I suppose that you can argue that “preferential treatment” is given to Delta Upsilon in the present day–though I would argue otherwise–but let the record show that DU’s policies are not “rooted in classism”.

            2. Philosophically, some might argue that allegiance to any entity within the institution should not be greater than to the institution, itself. Others, however, might take the realist’s approach and think a bit more practically. Individuals reserve the right to withhold donations to the college based on whatever they so choose. In the case of the brothers of Delta Upsilon, the institution within the institution played an integral part in their Swarthmore experience and continues to do so, long after graduation. At the annual alumni banquet, it is not uncommon to see brothers from the late 50s and early 60s mingling with brothers from the early 2000s. For these men, their connection to the Brotherhood is, very simply, stronger than their connection to the rest of their class and to the rest of the community. These personal connections are understandable and certainly not unique to DU. As it stands, they’re happy to write a check to the college and/or the fraternity, so long as the experience that they had is still afforded to incoming freshman and undergraduates. If it’s not, they’re disappointed, frustrated, and angry. Thus, they make no such contribution to the college.

            I’m actually a little shocked that all of this is “worrisome” to you. Swarthmore is made up of parts–it’s not some homogenous group of people who all think alike, act alike, and give money, alike. They have a right to give and withhold as they please. And frankly, as long as benefactors like Gil Kemp and Eugene Lang continue to make generous, ungodly, multi-million-dollar contributions, I don’t think it’s anything for you or anyone else to worry about.

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            Miriam says:

            I would also find it worrisome to identify as a fraternity member before identifying as a Swarthmore student, but I do think it’s normal and common to view some group memberships as being integral to one’s personal Swarthmore experience. I imagine that someone who worked for four years on the Phoenix or Daily Gazette, for instance, might see those experiences as being essential to how they reflect on their time here and to their community participation. I don’t approve of threatening to cease donations if Greek life were abolished, but I’ll admit that that’s largely because I, personally, am tentatively opposed to Greek life. I don’t, however, think that it necessarily means that those alumni think of themselves as alumni of the fraternities before they think of themselves as alumni of Swarthmore. It’s understandable to not donate to an organization that no longer reflects your vision of that organization.

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            Hope Brinn '15 says:

            So I would argue that the fraternities ARE unique in the way that they control their spaces. None of the spaces you mentioned are actually owned by students. Nobody has to pay for them (rent, upkeep, etc), they are entirely controlled by the college, and they are dry. Of course many groups are intimately tied to physicality, but this physicality is not the same for fraternities and typical student groups.

            As far as I know, no other groups have the opportunity to control a space in the ways the fraternities do.

          5. 0
            Fact check says:

            On the whole, I’m ambivalent in this debate; but I find this sort of
            exaggerated statement frustrating. The fraternities are not unique in commanding their own space: WSRN, War News Radio, Kitao, SCCS, Beit Midrash, the Women’s Resource Center, to name a few, are all groups on campus with dedicated spaces. Many of these spaces are dry, or serve a different function than as a “party space,” but it is naive to deny the importance of place and space and setting in establishing identity and community; the communities gathering in the aformentioned group spaces certainly (in my personal experience) are VERY “important to the group belonging/dynamic.” You may have other issues with the fraternities, but it’s silly to claim that “no other group gets to have this kind of space,” or to scoff at the legitimacy of place in shaping identity. We all go to Swarthmore, a community that is intimately tied to its physicality; our experiences here would be fundamentally altered if they occurred anywhere else. Please don’t dilute your arguments by arguing against straw men that you know are false.

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            Hmmmm says:

            The OP states that they are “not a party space.” So what if the space went dry like IC rooms, the BCC, or the WRC? Would the function of the frats dramatically change? If so, then I think that we can determine that a big purpose of the fraternities is to serve as wet spaces on campus.

      4. 0
        J '10 says:

        Point of clarification: did DU and/or Phi Psi at one point contribute majority funding to the houses they now reside in, in addition to all of the aforementioned upkeep? I have read that they give “rent” to the college but don’t quite understand what this means or what the arrangement is.

        The follow-up point is to ask that if say, the now sorority sisters or any other semi-permanent group proposed building a similarly “their” space on campus with comparable funding et cetera, would this be necessarily barred (nevermind the substantial financial practicalities)? That is to say–do they get to be entitled to this opportunity to have their own on-campus “wet space” by virtue of the financial resources invested in the space or solely by being a fraternity? This is what immediately comes up in my head–again, not to say that resources should necessarily entitle or disentitle a group to having a space at Swarthmore.

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          J '10 says:

          McTear and Nacev both described the founding of the Delta Upsilon house, citing how 100 percent of the funding for its construction came from the fraternity and its alumnus.

          Oh, I clearly need to read the effing article more clearly. I’ll assume this is true!

      5. 0
        Alex Ginsberg says:

        “So it sounds like you’re saying that Greek life essentially exists to control party spaces. I think that right there gets at the crux of the problem.”

        Hope, I neither said those words nor implied them.

        How can you say that you would love to hear my thoughts when you start by putting words in my mouth?

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          Hope Brinn '15 says:

          I’m really sorry I misunderstood. I drew that conclusion because you said that without the houses the frats will essentially not exist. From that it seems to me like a very critical function of the frat is ownership of a wet space. If that’s not true then could you elaborate?

  6. 0
    Alex Ginsberg says:

    One difference is that the fraternities that used to take up residence in Kitao and Olde Club disbanded on their own due to lack of membership. They were not repossessed from fraternities with large populations as is being discussed now. As a DU alumns, I can say that there is no difference between disbanding the fraternities and letting them exist without their houses. The latter might actually be worse for the brothers and for campus life.

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      Holly '12 says:

      I didn’t know that about the fraternities that used to be housed in Kitao and Olde Club, Alex. Thanks for pointing that out!

      Could you expand on why you think removing the current fraternities’ houses would be detrimental to campus life? From my point of view, their current ‘housed’ position separates and insulates them from campus life and is indicative of the overall opaque (or not-transparent-enough) nature of Greek life at Swarthmore.

      I don’t think getting rid of Greek life is the answer, because I don’t want to silence any group on campus, but I do think things need to change, since some very serious and justified concerns about homophobia, sexual assault, and more have been raised. Adjusting their housing could be one way of doing so.

  7. 0
    2cents from a senior says:

    Yay constructive discussion from both sides! I look forward to hearing about future changes made to improve our community, great job DU, Phi Psi and Joyce Wu!

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