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Letter to the Editor: Help us reclaim our country

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

Dear class of 2017:

When my Class of 1967 was getting ready to graduate, we paid no attention to the class of 1917, which was then celebrating its 50th reunion. To the extent we thought about them at all, they were just old farts. But if we had asked, they could have told us about Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, progressive in every way but race, the horrors of World War I, or the post-war Red Scare, courtesy of our own A. Mitchell Palmer (class of 1891).

You probably think we’re old farts too, although, perhaps, you imagine the ‘60s as a rush of revolution fueled by sex, drugs, and rock & roll. In fact, we’re not very different than you. We came to Swarthmore in September 1963, shortly after the March on Washington at the end of August, which some of us attended. The campus buzzed with civil rights our first year. Scores of students went to jail in Chester in the first northern demonstrations. Later, there was a debate between two seniors – Carl Wittman (dead these many years) and Jed Rakoff (now a Federal judge in New York) – over the proper role, if any, of violence in the movement.

Schools outdid one another in sponsoring civil rights conferences. In one, at Connecticut College in New London, senior Mike Meeropol showed up with his guitar, belting out songs. I didn’t know anything about him at the time but remember his saying, “I’m from Swarthmore, and I’m proud of it.” 

Back then, we had Collection every Thursday in Clothier, and students were required to attend. A speaker one Thursday was a South African official (perhaps the country’s UN representative). We loathed apartheid, but it didn’t even occur to us to demand that he be barred from speaking. Instead, we demonstrated outside Clothier, so he would be sure to see us when he was going in. One of the signs said, “Free Speech Yes/Apartheid No.”

Yes, things swirled. One Friday in November, though, everything stopped. On November 22, I was talking to upperclassman Jack Riggs in his room in Wharton when Mickey Herbert, a friend from high school, burst in and yelled “The President’s been shot!” My parents remembered where they were when they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and your generation probably remembers where you were on 9/11. The assassination of JFK was our 9/11.

The war in Vietnam began under President Kennedy, and he may – or may not – have ended the war had he lived. Certainly Lyndon Johnson didn’t, and thousands of Americans and Vietnamese were dying. And unlike the wars you have known, many of our casualties had been drafted. So, men in college had a special reason to be skeptical, and men and women protested the war.

But we weren’t always marching. We listened – and danced— to  great music. The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan our first year, and “Satisfaction” hit the summer of ’65. Early on, Swarthmore had a folk festival, but it was supplanted by one featuring rock, and the Jefferson Airplane appeared at the rock festival on the group’s first East Coast tour. Finally, on the eve of our graduation, “Sergeant Pepper” came out.

There was no “Saturday Night Live” in our era. But the Smothers Brothers made their debut early in ’67, lampooning pomposity and resolutely anti-war. Blacklisted for 15 years, Pete Seeger came on to sing “Big Muddy” (“we were neck deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on”). We knew who he was singing about.

Perhaps the class of 2017 has already been asked to decide on a class gift, maybe an oak to be planted or a bench to sit on. Our class gift was a protest. In our time, the college still had what was called the “sex rule,” a seldom enforced edict that forbade coupling by students on pain of expulsion. The rarity of its invocation did not make it any less troubling.

So we decided that our class gift would be the abolition of the sex rule. Of course, we lacked the power actually to abolish it, and then we left. But if you never heard of the sex rule, maybe you should thank the old farts in the class of ‘67.

I’m writing this in early March, just after President Trump’s first address to Congress. It’s too early to see how bad things will be – for example, whether the Republicans will fulfill their pledge to gut Obamacare, which brought healthcare to millions, or whether deportations will skyrocket. But it’s certainly not too early to fight to reclaim our country. We geezers are going to spend our retirement doing that, and we’d appreciate some help from you younger folks.


Doug Huron ‘67

Sustainability isn’t just activism

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

We always hear about what Mountain Justice is up to because their efforts are broadcasted to the entire campus community. But, believe it or not, Mountain Justice is not the only sustainability-minded group on campus. There is, in fact, an entire group of a dozen clubs and organizations that make up a community called Ecosphere. This community is a collective coalition focused on the environment and sustainability in one way or another. For a full list of the groups in Ecosphere, you can read our January newsletter at https://spark.adobe.com/page/x3chSHju6Frgo. There are groups focused on sustainable food and energy, such as the Good Food Project, some that focus on exploring the outdoors, such as the Outing Club, others that focus on animal care, such as Animal Allies, and groups that focus on the political side of sustainability, such as Earthlust. So, obviously, there are many other student-run organizations besides Mountain Justice on campus that care about the environment and are working towards impacting campus sustainability.

With regards to campus sustainability, there is also a significant movement toward sustainability supported by the College’s Office of Sustainability. For example, the Green Advisors program recently became a paid position within residence halls. Besides taking care of residential compost, each Green Advisor is responsible for their own campus sustainability project, from plastic cup recycling to waste bin standardization to highlighting the diverse species in the Crum. Meanwhile, the Presidential Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) just finished applications for its second year. Recipients of PSRF take on even bigger projects as a part of a year long research program on topics such as Crum Woods stewardship, establishing a Green Revolving Fund, and waste and energy reduction. The GA and PSRF programs are exciting because they are institutionalized. This step demonstrates the College’s progress toward making sustainability a priority on Swarthmore’s campus.

Unfortunately, because Mountain Justice— the loudest group in Ecosphere— tends to focus on what the campus isn’t doing right in sustainability, it creates the image that the Swarthmore is not focused on sustainability at all. However, that is not the case. It is important to recognize that other groups on campus do exist and are making advances toward creating a more sustainable and just environment. These clubs are just quieter about it, for better or for worse.

Our creation of the Ecosphere newsletter is one step toward providing a space for the other groups in Ecosphere to advertise their events for the whole campus, increasing awareness and involvement. Ultimately, both through the newsletter and through the help of the campus community, we would like to see more collaboration between the groups in Ecosphere to host larger events from which Swatties can learn. For example, just in this past semester, there were MJ sit-ins, two GA movie screenings, Zero Waste games by Garnet Go Green, fruits and vegetables harvested by the Good Food Garden, and many other events that students on campus are not even aware of, which is a lot for a campus that apparently doesn’t do anything! But, because all of these efforts are happening independently, they are often not well advertised and attended by the student body. Imagine what the Swarthmore community could learn and accomplish if Ecosphere started collaborating and more of Swarthmore got involved!

Because there are so many organizations dedicated to sustainability and environmental friendliness, it only makes sense for them to team up and share their resources, and for more Swatties to get involved as well.  If we, as a student body start collaborating more, Ecosphere can start to impact the campus in an even bigger way, on even more issues than we already do, beyond only fossil fuel divestment.

Postcard from Abroad: Tamara Matheson

in Campus Journal/Postcards from Abroad by
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Dear Campus Journal,

After the inauguration, I spent all of my free time at home vigilantly watching the news, calling my representatives, reading about nonviolent resistance, and generally trying my best to break through what seemed to be one bad fever dream of a week. As executive orders rolled in, my list of concerns grew. On Jan. 28, as I was boarding the plane I felt almost frantic about how to continue to fight for the things and the people I love, from all the way across the ocean. On a day that includes travelling to Ohio, Michigan, Paris, and finally Morocco, I was insulated from the updates and the protests, getting only the most basic facts from glimpses of CNN playing without subtitles at the airport. I worry about how to keep the people that matter to me close, torn between wanting to immerse myself in this experience and the urge to militantly hold on to the things (and people) that matter most to me.

It feels impossible for me to tune out the decision making that hurts some of my best friends, their families, and mine. Yet, as I spend my days six hours ahead of the news cycle, with internet service only some of the time, it feels impossible for me to catch it all. I’m doing my best to fall in love with Rabat because I feel incredibly grateful to be here. So far, I’ve seen a sunset that took my breath away, attempted some very laughable Arabic, and can smell the sea if I pay close enough attention. I would split myself in two trying to hold everything together, but that’s not going to stop me from trying – at least to the best of my ability. As one of my instructors pointed out, we’re never going to be detached from our positionality.

Most of us are American, a fact that is very obvious to everyone as we walk through the medina. The guy who set up my SIM card at the phone store googled “bigly” to test if the internet was working. The knowledge about what’s going on is definitely here and I find it comforting. In the last few days I’ve had so many conversations about this feeling, this urge to hold on, that leads me to believe that I’m not the only one thinking it.  I can’t be detached from what is happening because here, I am American, no matter my conflicting emotions. It informs so much about the way that I am seen, and how others interact with me.

I was worried that going abroad and “immersing myself” in this experience meant leaving behind the uncertainties at home. A few days in, and I’m realizing that those things do not have to be mutually exclusive. I may not be able to protest or call my senators every day, but I can still stay informed, I can send emails, and I can find other ways to engage. To be present here sometimes means that I feel frustrated, unable to stretch myself enough to make the changes I feel like I need to. But from six hours ahead and 3710 miles away, Black lives still matter, water is still life, women’s rights are still human rights, and banning refugees and turning our backs on immigrants is still not America.

I love you guys. No matter what this administration says, no matter how much they try to erase you, you matter. I love you and I will fight for you in any way I can. If you need me, please know that I’m here. Swat I love you.


Beslama, Tamara


Swatties attend Women’s March, reactions mixed

in Around Campus/News/Regional News by

On Jan. 21, Swarthmore community members traveled to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to participate in the Women’s March. Demonstrators took to the streets to protest the proposed policies of the Trump administration that would largely affect marginalized communities as well as other issues coming out of the nation’s capital.

Students largely saw the Women’s March as productive with shortcomings in intersectionality; they and faculty see these Marches as a first step toward confronting actions by the government in the coming years.

On Nov. 29, Violence Prevention Educator & Advocate and Women’s Resource Center Advisor Nina Harris announced over email that the WRC, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and the Center for Innovation and Leadership would subsidize transportation to the March through chartered buses to Washington. Later, Executive Director of the Lang Center and Associate Professor of political science Benjamin Berger stated on Jan. 19 that the Center would offer free SEPTA tickets into Philadelphia for the March as another avenue to be involved with the network of Sister Marches.

“There were 144 people signed up to ride the buses including five people who came through a standby process that morning when others didn’t show up. Of that 144, 24 were staff/faculty. There were 59 people on the waitlist,” said Director of CIL Katie Clark.

Berger said that the Lang Center provided 225 round-trip SEPTA tickets for students to attend the Philadelphia Women’s March.

“By all accounts that I’ve heard, both marches were tremendous successes. We were pleased to be able to support our students’ engagement,” Berger stated.

College administrators across the organizing institutions had to negotiate shifting logistics within the college and with the plans of the Women’s March regarding how to best move three buses of students to Washington and ensure each person experienced the March as best as they could. Harris noted the difficulties particular to getting students to Washington but pointed out the drive of the community to participate.

“I think the most challenging thing about the logistics is that the national organizers [of the Women’s March] were still managing details and logistics up until the day of, so we just had to be responsive as information was coming out as late as the day of,” she said. “We did our best to work with that, but I think everyone was aware of what the dynamics were, so people were prepared and committed to being a part of the process.”

These logistical challenges, did prevent some students from taking the schools bus. Lydia Roe ’20 was able to attend the March on Washington despite getting wait listed for the chartered bus due to limited seating.  

“I went to the D.C. March; I caught a ride with a high school friend who was driving down … I did at first sign up for one of the buses and didn’t get on, which could have been a bummer, but it worked out okay for me,” Roe stated.

Marian Mwenja ’20, who used SEPTA tickets through the Lang Center to reach the March in Philadelphia, did wish the March on Washington was more accessible.

“I think it was great they had buses to D.C. and SEPTA tickets to Philly, but I think they should have gotten more D.C. buses because the wait list was so long,” Mwenja said.

Once at the Marches, the experiences of demonstrators varied with regards to space and venue, and many of the views converged on the role of intersectionality in the March. Roe saw the March largely as purposeful, but because of the dramatic policy changes in the first days of the Trump administration, felt somewhat deterred from her initial optimism.

“Overall, I thought the march was quite positive.  It was obvious that first and foremost it served as a cathartic experience for so many people to come together in their mutual anger about the current state of our country. The vibe was energized and upbeat, almost weirdly so — a week and a half later, as Trump’s blatantly evil actions pile up on each other, I’m having a hard time remembering why we all felt so happy and empowered … I mean, I do think the organizers and speakers did a good job of stressing that the March had to be only the beginning.  And there was a heavy emphasis on intersectionality and the fact that not all women are going to be equally impacted by the new administration too which was great,” Roe said.

Gabriel Brossy de Dios ’20 also highlighted the empowering nature of the March and being in the Swarthmore community, but agreed with Roe on the disappointing first actions by the Trump administration.

“Despite its logistical challenges that led to a lot of standing around, I thought that the March was generally a good morale booster for people, myself included, because seeing so many people protesting Trump makes one hopeful that they can be mobilized against him in the future, like we’ve seen on a smaller scale with the airport protests against what’s essentially the Muslim ban,” Brossy de Dios stated. “It was nice to be there with friends from Swarthmore, and to know that there were more of us scattered through the crowd, but I think it would have had a similar vibe regardless of who I came with.”

The Marches were not without criticism. Roe did note some troubles she had with the amalgamation of ideas at the March, which speaks to the March’s national and bipartisan draw.

“The media, at least that I had read, ahead of the March seemed to focus on how divided we all were about race, class, and even politics, but to me, that didn’t ring quite true in the moment on the ground,” she said. “However, that’s not to say those fault lines weren’t present—near me, for example, was an older white women who said indignantly, ‘What about regular women?’ when a speaker was listing those we had to keep our voices loudest for: immigrant women, black women, Muslim women, etc. — not to diminish other groups!”

Mwenja saw the March in Philadelphia as much less focused on intersectionality, citing racialized feminism as a barrier to being included in the demonstration.

“I thought the march was problematic in that it was overrun by unchecked white feminism. I really appreciated how many people came out against Trump, but I did not feel safe in the space because of the lack of critical analysis, especially concerning not checking white privilege, that made it clear that many of these participants were not prepared to do what is necessary to stop the rise of fascism,” Mwenja said.

Mwenja continued with more specific ways in which the March could have been more productive in terms of demonstrating power to authorities, including the college.

“I think the March could have been a lot more impactful because of the impressive number of people who came,” she stated. “We could have shut down multiple roads, but the leaders did not take that more effective route. Swat is a lot like the March in that it fails to be radical enough in thought [and] in action to effectively combat fascism.”

Gabriel Brossy de Dios ’20 commented on the college’s involvement in the Marches, arguing that administration should take a more substantial stance on issues during this new administration.

“In general, I think that the college’s response to the Marches was pretty adequate […] Beyond providing transportation, I think that an endorsement of the Marches would be less meaningful than an actual endorsement of or opposition to policies, like they did in response to the Sanctuary Campus walkout, which would be more concrete,” Brossy de Dios said.

In reference to the campus community, however, Title IX Fellow Becca Bernstein stressed the unique experience the Marches presented for the Swarthmore community to be united with a large number of other groups and individuals.

“As someone who was there, I would add, it was awesome. I stayed in a group of about 10 to 12, a real mix of students and staff, and just to be together — it was a moment, I think, as a member of the campus community where people really did feel like they were together. I know that not everyone had that experience, but I felt really lucky that I could have that experience with students.”

Bernstein continued, stating the Marches must be used to build a more inclusive and intentional college community.

“Some people had overwhelmingly positive experiences. For some people, it was their first march; for other people, they’ve been involved in things like that in the past,” Bernstein said. “I think creating space for all of those experiences to come to the surface, and to be okay, and for people to come up with their own understanding of what they want to do next.”

Harris echoed these ideas, concentrating on the large base of support on campus and the momentum it has carried forward from the Marches.

“[In addition to student support,] we had a significant number of faculty and staff that came together to support it as well … We really wanted to be intentional about how we came together as a community to do this—and not just like, ‘We got free rides to D.C.,’ but […] why come with the Swarthmore community, why connect here around these issues, and how do we move forward. […] I think the post-March gathering was the beginning stages of processing what the experience was, and how we can connect that back to our campus community.”

Harris described further how she and other institutions on campus plan to be intentional through concrete educational and action-oriented opportunities.

“The WRC and CIL are working on doing a series of conversations. I think, again, one of the things that came up is we have this kind of newfound solidarity, or do we, or what does that look like? How do we have a genuinely inclusive community that raises up everyone’s needs and issues, so creating some more space to have a more intersectional movement, what does that look like, how do we do that, what skills do we need to develop as a community to be effective in that kind of organizing,” Harris asked.

She outlined that the WRC will begin holding educational and organizing opportunities around Reproductive Justice Fridays. This series will teach participants about reproductive laws and legislation while offering leadership and community development.

The lasting sentiment from students is that, as of now, the March has provided a short-term sense of community beyond the campus, which must be fortified if there is hope for a continued effort against unsavory politics. Roe shared she wanted the March to provide a basis for progressive action that would define the left moving forward.

“I personally had my own troubles imagining all the people there who had voted for Clinton in the primaries, or all of those posting tributes of pure adoration to Obama on Facebook, as I think neither of them represent the truly progressive direction we must go in as a country and have committed their own evil actions that provoked no response from general society,” Roe said. “And therein, of course, lies the rub—while the majority of Americans can agree that we don’t want Trump’s policies, we can’t, or at least haven’t in the past, been able to agree on what we DO want, and how we’ll get it.  It was great to feel unified for a day, but unfortunately that unity is illusory.”

Brossy de Dios held similar feelings of the March’s troubles, but he identified that it is a foundation from which action needs to be scaffolded.

“Like most marches, the Women’s Marches didn’t change the mind of the person in the White House, but they did change the minds of people who attended and people around the country about what scale of action is possible now. And although I saw a fair amount of signs for racial justice and heard some speakers who spoke about it, the event could have been made better to expand its scope beyond women’s rights and into other areas, of which race is only one. But again, despite its logistical and programmatic shortcomings, the March was a good symbol at the right time,” they said.

The college community largely came together in protest of the new administration and policies. Many in the community hope the campus can act in the best interests of those groups that are most affected by the Trump administration’s policies.

Reflections on a [potentially] New America: Philly in Action

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

Philly Beat-2 Philly BeatWe’re tempted not to write about “fun things to do in Philly;” it almost seems trivial. But fun is something we all undoubtedly deserve in these times. The other night, as we were surrounded by an illuminated crowd of different races and ethnicities, jumping together and shouting the words to Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright,” we felt strange stirrings in our souls — unsure if it was recognition, or realization, or resignation; maybe all three. We were at the Foundry at the Fillmore Philadelphia, a venue Philly Beat has covered before (if you haven’t read that piece check it out, it’s pretty nice), being enchanted by rapper D.R.A.M’s wide-ass smile and his ability to make dirty things sound cute and innocent. Philadelphia was a getaway. For many other Swat people, the Women’s March on Philly (or even Washington) was their weekend getaway, joined by thousands of others who came together for collective empowerment and resistance, from all walks of life. And so the question is, what now? See all of you nice white ladies at the next Black Lives Matter march, right?

In all seriousness, many people in our community have been asking for ways to further involve themselves in meaningful, progressive ways. The good news is that in upcoming weeks, there is no shortage of organizing. For many people, political activism and advocacy have been integral parts of their work and Philly-experiences since long before the march(es). We’re almost 97% sure that if you are reading this you are far more politically versed than us, but here’s what Philly Beat has for you this week in terms of how to keep up the post-march momentum:

  1. As simple as it sounds, social media is a great place to look for events (see Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, your usual go-to’s). Activism-oriented students and campus organizations will often post in the official and unofficial class pages, but if you check your “Events Near Swarthmore, PA” tab, you may be able to find other free to low-cost planning meetings, protests, and workshops open to the public.
  2. The Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility is providing transportation funding for students to attend political events via SEPTA. Here’s a recent message from Executive Director Ben Berger: “We will support students without respect to political affiliation or partisanship. We are here to help you learn and engage with the world.”


What this means is that two main obstacles to involvement —knowledge of events and accessibility to those events — are made a bit less obstacle-y. The hosts of such meetups are a wide range of stakeholders in the Philadelphia community, such as arts and cultural centers, religious organizations, and immigrant advocacy centers, just to name a few. For example, yesterday the Arch Street United Methodist Church held a public discussion entitled “Let’s End Gerrymandering.” Later today, Jewish Voice for Peace and the People United USA are co-hosting a rally to surround the Loews Hotel — the site of the Joint Republican Retreat that is happening right at this moment. This week, from Jan. 23 to Jan. 28, is the Philly Educator’s Black Lives Matter Week of Action, sponsored by the The Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee. To make your involvement easier, they’ve scheduled a calendar of free events throughout the city.

So we proceed. Tonight there is a film screening of “The 13th” and community talkback entitled “the effects of mass incarceration on Black and Brown communities” (4301 Wayne Ave). Tomorrow there is a panel discussion called “Demystify Black Women and Black Girls: Misogyny, Stigma, and Power” (Univeristy of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education). On Saturday, Temple University is hosting a LGBTQ Youth Conversation about “Pariah” and “Moonlight.” The list goes on and on and so do the chances for continued education, listening, and collective brainstorming.


Ready to get your hands dirty, and looking specifically for opportunities to strategize? Repair the World: Philadelphia is hosting a workshop this Saturday afternoon by the name of “Escalating Political Resistance: Tactics for Racial Justice,” featuring representatives from the Philly Coalition For REAL Justice, Black and Brown Workers Collective, and the Philly War Tax Resistance. Afterwards head over to Chinatown and give Asian Arts Initiative a visit. We’re all encouraged to join the Philly Catalyst Project, New Sanctuary Movement, Reconstruction Inc., VietLead, and PA Working Families Party at a discussion on “Anti-Racist Strategies to Out-Organize Trump.” Whether or not you currently consider yourself a part of the city’s action community, the doors to these events are open to you and we promise, easily findable via your Facebook search bar.


Yes, there’s a lot of work to do, a lot of causes to stand by, a lot of emotions to process. But for that very reason, we believe that now is the time to get involved, especially if you have the emotional capacity, energy, and positionality to do so. It starts with listening, and for those who want to know to get started; we have one parting quote from Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour’s speech from last weekend’s March on Washington:


“If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go, and we know where justice is. Because when we fight for justice, we fight for it for all people for all our communities ”


See you all in the City of Brotherly [and Sisterly] Love soon.

Board, President Smith commit to sanctuary campus

in Around Campus/News by

The commitment from the college’s Board of Managers and President Valerie Smith to make Swarthmore a sanctuary campus is moving forward through the effort of the Sanctuary Campus Working Group. To some community members, this action is an important step to protecting fellow students, but others see the announcement as self-defeating.

On Dec. 2, in an email statement signed by Chair of the Board of Managers Thomas E. Spock and President Valerie Smith, the college’s Board of Managers and administration announced Swarthmore’s status as a sanctuary campus, aiming to protect undocumented members of the community from anti-immigrant policies of the then-incoming Trump Administration.

Citing growing anxiety and discrimination toward minority groups, Spock and Smith promised in the email announcement that the college would take action to “not voluntarily share student information … [or] grant access to college property to immigration enforcement officials, … not support the enforcement actions of immigration officials on campus, … [it] will not [enroll] in ‘e-verify,’ … and [it] does not make housing decisions based on immigration status and will not do.”

The statement went on to describe Public Safety’s refrain from holding information on individuals’ immigration status and support for the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is the 2012 executive order that allows undocumented immigrants that entered the U.S. as minors to apply for a renewable, two-year permit for residence and work permit eligibility.

By this action, Swarthmore joins a growing number of colleges and universities such as the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan College, as well as 39 U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., in pledging sanctuary status.

The announcement comes after a petition and a student walkout on Nov. 16 regarding the college’s sanctuary status. A rally on the steps of Parrish Hall demonstrated popular support among students for proposed sanctuary campus policies. Particulars of what student leaders sought from the administration were a guarantee that Public Safety would not aid immigration forces and that financial resources would be provided if legal issues were to arise.

Students took the charge on this initiative as one of the first policies President Trump proposed during his campaign for the Republican nomination for presidency was to deport undocumented immigrants and halt incomers by way of a wall along the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico, which he pledged support for again on Jan. 25.

Roberto Jimenez ’18, who spoke at the walkout, was excited by the college’s commitment.

“I was overjoyed! I am really glad that the Administration has listened to its community’s requests and is taking a stand to protect all of its students as well as they can. Many of us have worked very hard to mobilize and plan for the walkout, petition, etc., and it feels amazing to know that Swarthmore is on our side,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez also described a desire for more student-administration collaboration on the project moving forward.

“I hope that administration can follow through on what it has promised. If possible, [the college should] provide even more protection for members of our community that are going to be negatively affected in the next couple of years,” he said.

The sanctuary campus project was largely propelled online. The student leaders of the walkout utilized an online Google Form to gather petition signatures that was widely shared on Facebook through class and personal pages.

Killian McGinnis ’19, author of the sanctuary campus petition, expressed similar sentiments to Jimenez, and she hoped the college would push for more protections on undocumented individuals.

“There is still lots of work ahead to ensure other protections and measures of support for the community’s undocumented and other particularly vulnerable members. It is heartening to feel that our voices were heard, and that the Board, along with the rest of the community, has pledged to stand with undocumented students in such a concrete way,” she said.

Not all students, however, see the college’s sanctuary campus status as a positive or productive thing. Some argue that the college is simply paving the way for economic challenges in the future in addition to not integrating any new policies that would promote student welfare. Matthew Stein ’20 proposed that the administration’s action is not adequate.

“Honestly my reaction to the administration’s commitment to become a sanctuary campus was just to shrug it off … I don’t really see this declaration as having much of an effect at all in terms of campus policy. It seems to me to be … a symbolic gesture by the administration to affirm its values and to tell students on campus who are illegal immigrants … that they are behind them and support their presence on campus, but in effect, I’m not sure how this changes the college’s policies,” Stein said.

The faculty has also made commitments to students who might be affected by Trump administration policies. Following the administration’s action on sanctuary campus, the college’s faculty unanimously passed a resolution on sanctuary campus on Friday, Dec. 9. The faculty highlighted their desire to maintain undocumented students’ full participation at the college and not just their place as members of the academic community.

“As students of the College, they have a right not only to an education, but to full membership in the campus community, with the same opportunities as their peers. To this end, we re-affirm the policies and values put forth in the Dec. 2, 2016 declaration, including the role of nonviolent action and peaceful protest against repressive government acts and mandates,” the faculty stated in its online announcement.

Concretely, the faculty promised to commit financial resources to undocumented students for periods when payment from employment might not be reliable, travel and other necessities, and legal proceedings for DACA renewals and Advance Parole among others. Further, it has offered to provide emergency housing over academic breaks to undocumented students.

Another major point in the development of Swarthmore’s sanctuary campus is the establishment of the Sanctuary Campus Working Group. This organization is composed of administration members, students, and staff to address the changing needs of community members as policies.

Co-President of the student, faculty, and staff working group on sanctuary campus Miguel Gutierrez ’18 saw this step by the college as a way to acknowledge and include undocumented individuals in the Swarthmore community.

“I see this as a way to start the dialogue about undocumented immigration on campus. I’m glad the campus is becoming aware of our presence here. There are also students who have relatives or have people in their communities who are undocumented. I hope that this gives people the opportunity to talk openly about this issue, and that those who identify with this issue can feel comfortable and welcomed in this campus,” he stated.

Gutierrez further noted how this announcement is a starting place for further protective action by the college.

“We are currently working on letting Swat’s Administration know how they can better support us. I hope that they will create resources such as having access to legal advice and support with our DACA applications,” he stated.

Gutierrez ended on the fact that undocumented students now have a platform to discuss issues visibly.

“Undocumented students haven’t had a strong presence until recently. I hope this community continues to come together to have a stronger voice and not feel like we are another group that is disenfranchised by the United States,” he said.

Other student organizations have made it known that they will be open to the students the the Sanctuary Campus Working Group aims to represent. Dean of the Sophomore Class and Director of the Intercultural Center Jason Rivera commented on how the Intercultural Center plans to take action.

“The Intercultural Center will continue to support all students, including DACA and undocumented students, and we will also continue to advocate for the eradication of any barriers that these students might face as they pursue their education at Swarthmore. We are also extremely grateful to the Board of Managers for their contributions to the Dean’s discretionary fund, a fund that will enable the College to continue to provide financial support to any student in need of assistance to help offset many of the hidden costs associated with attendance at Swarthmore,” Rivera said.

Associate Dean, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Development Shá Duncan Smith

“[Matt Zucker and I] serve together on the Self Study Action committee, which will provide some helpful synergies between the groups where there are common goals. We look forward to keeping the community updated with the Sanctuary Working Group’s progress this term. We are committed to providing ample opportunities for the community to engage in the process and help inform our process,” Duncan Smith said.

Stein said the consequences for the college will be more damaging than what could be gained from founding the sanctuary campus.

“I think the only tangible result [of sanctuary campus] is that Swarthmore could lose some funding. I personally would not support it anyway as I generally would choose to defer to the government’s policy, especially given that any [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] official would probably obtain a warrant before coming here anyway, rendering our ‘sanctuary campus’ label useless,” Stein said.

Stein offered that the college should work with government agencies in a constructive fashion as to minimize antagonism and limit damage to governmental institutions.

“I believe we should scale it back although I recognize, given the left wing nature of the student body and administration, there is absolutely no chance of that happening. I personally won’t do anything moving forward. Overall, I’m not in favor of deporting non-criminal illegal immigrants, but I don’t believe colleges should make it their policy to try to undermine federal agencies who only enforce the laws that are passed. If there is an issue with the law, then those who oppose it should work to change the law, not undermine its enforcement,” Stein said.

The college has promised to take steps to ensure the security of undocumented members of its community is maintained in the event of government action against the group for its members’ immigration status. Faculty and students generally support the measures taken, but many have made their own efforts to make more accommodations or push for more administrative resolutions. Others find that the commitment does not work in an effective way and instead works against national institutions.

Students, faculty attend walk-out and teach-in for climate justice

in Around Campus/News by

There is no shortage of public outcry across the country in protest of the newly established Trump administration. As recently as Monday, January 23rd, members of Swarthmore Mountain Justice, in collaboration with over 50 other colleges across the country, organized a walk-out / teach-in aimed at calling attention to the environmentally-threatening rhetoric of the Trump administration.

The walk-out / teach-in, though student run and organized, was a collective effort between Mountain Justice and appointed faculty to rally the general college population to reject climate denialism. A walk-out is a form of protests where participants walk out of their workplace or classroom to gather for a rally; a teach-in refers to a somewhat casual lecture made by expects aimed at educating protest participants.  For Mountain Justice, an organization whose main focus is to push the college to divest their endowment from fossil fuel companies, the proposed policies of the Trump administration are especially troubling as they hinder environmental justice on a larger scale.

Stephen O’Hanlon ’17, a longtime member and coordinator of Mountain Justice, spoke about how the Trump administration’s policies conflict with the cause.

“[On Friday,] Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States. At noon, when I guess he officially took office, all of the information on climate science was taken off of the White House webpage. He’s nominated Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon … Companies like Exxon have been imperiling communities around the world and the very future of our generation, and now, they have [a] huge influence in this administration,” he said.

Trump’s nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State has been hotly contested because of his 40-year leadership role in ExxonMobil, an American oil and gas company attributed with the exploitation and ill-treatment of marginalized communities, as well as his well documented climate science denialism.

One example of this was a statement made by Tillerson during a 2013 annual shareholders meeting where he denied the existence of climate change, a phenomenon scientists have been consistently providing evidence for since the 1970s.

“If you examine the temperature record of the last decade, it really hadn’t changed … I know you will like to hear that as it don’t comport to some of the views of others, but last ten years’ temperatures had been relatively flat,” he purported.

Aru Shiney-Ajay ’20, Coordinator for Mountain Justice, called for Swarthmore to be proactive in its efforts to be socially and environmentally conscious.

“It’s a message to the Swarthmore community and board that, in an era of Trump’s administration with climate denialism so rampant, that Swarthmore can no longer afford to be neutral,” she said.

Protesting the Trump administration on different fronts is not new for Swarthmore’s population. In November, a few short weeks after Trump’s election, students organized a walk-out where hundreds of students, faculty, and staff joined in solidarity with immigrant populations to advocate for their rights and safety. This included the demand, which was eventually met, of the college becoming a Sanctuary Campus. Again, the pro-activism sentiments shared by many at the college was evidenced by the number of students participating in the Women’s March on Washington and Philadelphia to advocate for women’s rights in addition to healthcare, environmental justice, and the rights of marginalized groups.

Melissa Tier ’14, Sustainability Program Manager, lent her support to the students during the walk-out/teach-in, praising the efforts made by the students to protest.

“I certainly think that interacting, having a conversation, taking action against the climate denialism of our current administration is essential. That takes a lot of different forms; a teach-in is fantastic way to go about it, it’s one of many and I hope it continues,” she said.

On the topic of campus protest, Tier also spoke about the history of protest at Swarthmore and campus activism, noting that she thought that mass participation from the campus community was wonderful.

“A teach-in is an excellent approach, one that’s actually not new to Swarthmore…during my time as a student at Swarthmore, we definitely had teach-ins, some of them focused on sustainability and climate justice. I’m always in favor of multi-pronged approaches, both because they can address topics in different ways, and because they can attract different people. I think the more people you can get involved with a topic, the better,” she said.

The news of protests both on and off campus have served to mobilize many students; but some admittedly do not share the same fervor.

Ibrahim Tamale ’20 offered his opinion on participating in protests and why he doesn’t.

“I have not felt any effect socially, or any injustice done against me to go and protest or to take any action. I believe actions should be taken as a reaction to something, but if nothing’s being done to you personally or as a society, then I don’t see why you should be moving forward to take action. Actions should have goals, … and if there are no goals, I don’t see any precedence for taking action at the moment,” he said.

What warrants protest, in Tamale’s opinion, is tied to how deeply one’s sentiments runs for the cause they are protesting for.

“I believe people should only attend rallies and protests if they deeply align with the goals and the motives of those rallies and protests. Based on the friends that I have that have participated in protests in Egypt and Tunisia, I believe it’s all about willing to die for that cause … If people are deeply aligned with the cause and do believe that their rallying and protesting is not going to stop until their cause has been fulfilled, then yes. But if they’re going to do it for one to two weeks then stop, then no,” he said.

Mountain Justice Lead Organizer Abigail Saul ’19 explained the importance of engaging in protest against climate denialism.

“We all have a stake in this issue, and the stake looks different for everyone. Climate justice affects everyone, but it is an inequality multiplier, so it affects certain populations a lot more than it affects others. So, I think it’s important that we all recognize that and stand together with each other, as well as with communities that are going to be most affected by these issues,” she said.

Associate Professor of Sociology and Peace and Conflict Studies Professor Lee Smithey made mention of some of the things he commented on during the event.

“One of my fields of study is social movements; I talked for a couple of minutes about micromobilization … I then said that the calls for divestment shared by students, faculty, staff and alumni is a perfectly reasonable request under the circumstances … The fossil fuel companies’ dangerous business model is to try and make as much profit as they possibly can off of their product even if it means rejecting climate science … by extension, through our investments here at the college, we’re participating in the same plan. I challenged us all to ask really serious questions about that plan,” he said.

Smithey also spoke about the support provided by faculty and staff.

“I think that we are in a historic moment right now with the new administration. I think that there is wide concern among many faculty, staff and students because there are so many different fronts that are under threat at the moment … I counted at least 25 faculty and staff there. I think we should acknowledge that 20 minutes of sacrificing class time is not insignificant in a busy semester, and the fact that many faculty and staff turned out signaled support for the walk-out,” he said.

O’Hanlon asserted that it was imperative for the students and the college to take action in the wake of the new administration.

“As young people, we need to stand up for our futures, for communities around the world, and we need to call on our institution, Swarthmore, as an institution that espouses social justice values, to really stand with our generation, to stand with communities around the world, and to stand for basic science,” O’Hanlon asserted.

Eric Jensen, Professor of Astronomy, made a statement during the event which resonated with many participants, receiving the Swat-famous snaps of approval.

“Just because you don’t know exactly what to do, doesn’t mean you should choose to do nothing,” he said.

In this time of confusion and fear for many across the country, many students glean strength from the support of their peers. On the same token, with the same fear and outrage, many take it upon themselves to mobilize and actively rally against injustices. The pro-activism sentiments at Swarthmore have yet to dwindle and, in the coming years and policy changes introduced by the Trump administration, it remains to be seen what next students will participate in.

Students activism on campus intensifies following Presidential Election

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In the wake of the presidential election earlier this month, student organizing and activism on campus has swelled to address the concerns brought about by the proposed policies of the president-elect.

On Nov. 15, over 100 students crowded into the Scheuer Room for the first of two interest meetings dedicated to coalition building and strategizing about avenues for action both on campus and beyond. The second of these meetings took place two days after the first. The organizers of the meeting, Priya Dieterich ’18 and Aru Shiney-Ajay ’20, hoped that these gatherings would provide a space to effectively channel the fervor for action that has grown within the student body in recent weeks and generate ideas about how to fortify the college community for the coming years.

“Aru and I independently had the idea of holding a meeting to connect different students who want to organize.  When I found out about her meeting, we joined forces and co-facilitated these two meetings.  I have seen and heard about — and personally felt — so much anger, frustration, and energy in the last week or so, and I wanted to help us collectively make the step towards concrete action,” Dieterich said.

In her description of the event on Facebook, Shiney-Ajay emphasized the intersectional focus of the meeting and the diverse motivations that brought students into that space.

“People from vastly different political and personal backgrounds stand against Trump — from groups focused on identity to groups focused on party politics. In order to effectively organize, we must, at least, be aware of various efforts. Tactical disagreement is encouraged,” she wrote.

A brainstorming session among the entire group was followed by small-group discussions in which more concrete action plans were formulated. Topics raised in these discussions included an increased institutional support for college staff, a student-led course derived from reading lists released by Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a renewed campaign for fossil fuel divestment, and a social justice academic distribution requirement.

“A lot of really great ideas were brought up at the meetings: [ideas] about how we can organize both on campus and off, about how to leverage our power and privilege as students, about how to responsibly and respectfully plug into existing activist work in our communities, about how to honor our commitments to social justice as an institution,” Dieterich said.

Among the plans voiced at the Nov. 15 meeting was a school-wide walkout scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at noon. Swarthmore joined over 80 other colleges across the country in campus-wide walkouts, which were organized by students in coordination with Movimiento Cosecha, a nonviolent movement dedicated to protecting the rights of immigrant populations in the United States.

At Swarthmore on Wednesday, hundreds of students gathered in front of Parrish Hall to demand that the college become a Sanctuary Campus, thereby providing institutional support to undocumented community members. The specific stipulations of a Sanctuary Campus include measures such as a special advisor for undocumented students, financial support for legal procedures that undocumented students may need to undergo, and a commitment to protecting undocumented community members from law enforcement officials such as U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Just after noon, in front of an audience of students, faculty, staff, and other community members, Jordan Reyes ’19 led the group in chants and served as a sort of moderator for the student speakers at the event, all of whom drew upon personal experiences as undocumented or Latinx people whose security is directly endangered by the Trump administration.

“This event was, more than anything, a showing of solidarity and support for any group that may be targeted in the coming months and years, more specifically the Latinx community and undocumented students,” Reyes said, following the event.

Wednesday’s walkout was just one of a series of actions that students have undertaken to pressure the college to become a Sanctuary Campus.

Killian McGinnis ’19 was responsible for drafting the petition for a Sanctuary Campus that has, at the point of publication, garnered nearly 2,000 signatures from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community members. The petition will be presented to the Board of Managers at their upcoming meeting this Saturday, Dec. 2.

McGinnis says that the she is hopeful about the prospect of a Sanctuary Campus at Swarthmore.

“Students, faculty members, and administrators alike have devoted time and collaborative energy to thinking critically about what it would mean to make Swarthmore a Sanctuary Campus, and I would be surprised and disappointed if the Board’s decision didn’t reflect the widespread community support of the initiative,” said McGinnis.

In addition to creating the petition, McGinnis has been collaborating with a group of students who identify as undocumented and Latinx, co-led by Miguel Gutierrez ’18 and Ivan Lomeli ’19,

to formulate a faculty resolution to support the movement for a Sanctuary Campus. According to Lomeli, this resolution outlines the ways in which members of the faculty and staff at the college can continue to support the undocumented student population.

Lomeli underscored that the effort to make the college a Sanctuary Campus is critical to alleviate the acute threat that a Trump administration will pose to undocumented students, specifically pointing to the vulnerability of students who are protected by Presidents Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President-elect Trump has denounced as an unconstitutional overreach of executive power, and which he has publicly promised to overturn. DACA allows undocumented young people who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 to obtain a protected status, work permit, and social security number for two years at a time after a lengthy application process that costs $465 and is most often underwent without an attorney.

“The undocumented population on campus, of which most but not all, benefit from DACA, worried about what would happen if their benefits were taken away. Many, including myself, were discouraged from studying abroad to prevent being stuck outside of the country in case DACA was removed,” Lomeli said.

Furthermore, DACA impacts a student’s life beyond their tenure at the college. Lomeli pointed out that, were DACA to be repealed, its beneficiaries would no longer be able to work legally in the United States.

“The list of workplaces that sponsor employees to citizenship is very small and not at all promising,” he said.

Lomeli stressed that the walkout, the petition, and the faculty resolution affirmed a feeling of support and solidarity from the college that was much appreciated, and he, like McGinnis, hoped that this support would translate into a formal decision by the Board of Managers on Saturday.

“The faculty and staff, along with the many people whose energy and hope have been put into this Sanctuary Campus movement, await the response of the Board of Managers. If the Board of Managers chooses to ignore our plea, it will have to silence more than just the undocumented students on campus as there is a community standing behind us,” he said.

In addition to the movement for a Sanctuary Campus, a diverse array of student groups on campus have organized other solidarity actions in direct response to the presidential election and in support of those who will be most affected by the election.

In one such display of solidarity, students and several members of the administration met on Wednesday to participate in a national day of Jewish resistance declared by IfNotNow, a movement of American Jewish youth dedicated to progressive political causes. Marissa Cohen ’17 and Mira Revesz ’17, who organized the action, stated that it was meant to call on the Jewish establishment, the U.S. government, and any other institution claiming to represent the interests of young American Jews to prioritize human rights and dignity above all else.

“We stood as Jewish students and allies to uphold the lesson of ‘never again’ for every targeted community and challenged our communal institutions to do the same. We ask these institutions to condemn Trump and Bannon and stand up against anti-Semitism and white supremacy of any kind,” said Cohen and Revesz in a joint statement.

While the spike in student mobilization is discernible to many in the college community, it is not without precedent. Professor of sociology Lee Smithey drew connections between the kind of energy he is currently witnessing to the spring of 2013, often called the “Spring of Discontent,” which was also marked by heightened student mobilization and activism, saying that he sees the two periods as united by a distinct sense of fear and threat. However, Smithey was careful to note that the stakes and the particular political conditions of the two periods are markedly different.

“The presidential election is a much higher profile, really world-historical event, so the concern and even fear among many people is more widespread. It has stirred concerns about student experiences as well as larger national political concerns. President-elect Trump’s rhetoric about ending DACA, for example, has brought these worlds together: our daily life at the college and national politics,” Smithey said.

Smithey also emphasized that this period of student organizing in the face of the election is still in its infancy, and will likely evolve to meet the urgent needs and concerns of that will become more apparent as Donald Trump takes office.

“It feels a little early to characterize what student mobilization, or faculty or staff mobilization for that matter, is really like or is going to be like,” Smithey said.

However, while acknowledging that the full picture of student activism has yet to come into focus, Smithey expressed cautious optimism at the ability of the student body and the Swarthmore community at large to address these needs in an intersectional, multidimensional way.

“I do recall being impressed during that first organizing meeting at what seemed to be a real willingness among the students there to work in cooperation with one another across different groups and different interests and different concerns. That will take careful work — to continue with that kind of strategic care — and I think it will be really interesting to see if we can sustain that.”

In the final weeks of the semester, the work of student organizers will continue to include, among other endeavors, phone banking against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the state-sponsored violence against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a solidarity march through the town of Swarthmore, and, no matter what the decision of the Board of Managers, the realization of a Sanctuary Campus at the college. Thus, while it remains to be seen how student organizing will adjust and respond to the impending presidential administration, the current climate of activism shows no signs of cooling in the immediate future.


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