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How did Swat get here? An abridged history of activism at Swat

in Campus Journal by


In the context of recent activism and student action regarding Swarthmore’s divestment from fossil fuels, I thought I’d take a look at past and ongoing activism both campus and related to the institution. Here’s a (brief) history of some historical progresses and moments of activism at Swat:

1869 – Nov. 10, the College opens with a tree-planting ceremony to honor the College founders Lucretia and James Mott, who were well known for their activism in the women’s rights and anti-slavery movements. At the ceremony, President Edward Parrish said “A peculiarity of this organization, as contrasted with most others for like purposes is the association of women equally with men in its origin and management.”

1905 – Swarthmore football player Robert “Tiny” Maxwell is photographed in a bloodied and battered state after a game against University of Pennsylvania. President Theodore Roosevelt saw this image of Maxwell, and declared that the sport had to be reformed or he would ban it. The legalization of the forward pass and the doubling of the yardage required for a first down were elements of the sport that came out of the reforms this spurred.

1907 – The Jeanes Bequest. Wealthy Quaker Anna T. Jeanes offered to bequeath her land to Swarthmore one on condition: the college permanently give up intercollegiate sports. The college refused.

1917 – Jesse Holmes, a philosophy professor helped found the American Friends Service Committee, providing conscientious objectors an opportunity to perform community service rather than fight.

1930 – The college organized and funded former area mill workers to clear paths, open trails, cut dead trees, and haul out trash from the woods. According to the Arboretum’s first director, after conducting this work from 1930-1932, they “literally transformed the dilapidated areas into a pleasant woodland park with attractive paths”

1933 – Sororities Abolished due to Jewish students being excluded from Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta. The ban was repealed in 2012.

1943 – Student Body integrated, although some black students were already  black students already attending the College as members of the U.S. Navy’s V-12 unit stationed on campus.

1967 – Superweek. President Courtney Smith initiated the publication of “Critique of a College,” which was a review of the college. During the week in December, classes were canceled and instead students and faculty held meetings and discussion panels about the school and its policies. For the week, there was a daily student newspaper titled “The Egg,” which detailed topics covered. These topics included the creation of an engineering department, installing pass/fail courses, counting social/field work for course credit, the Quaker tradition, the College’s relationship with students, and the role of women in academics and education.

1969 – The black protest movement, led by the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society (SASS) sat in the Admissions Office to demand increased black enrollment after there was dwindling numbers of black students and lack of administrative support for black students. The sit-in was eight days long, and the next year saw a large increase in the number of black students at the college.

1970 – students pushed for the Black Cultural Center and it was founded.

1971 – FBI files stolen from an office in Media reveal that Swarthmore’s Afro-American Student Society were under surveillance, and disclosed information on students and faculty

1974 – Inspired by the establishment of the Black Cultural Center and second wave feminism, members of Swarthmore Women’s Liberation pushed for their own center, which was established in Bond hall in 1974 and named after Alice Paul in 1975. (It no longer has that same purpose.)

1982 – Divestment from South Africa process begins when Student Council adopts a resolution calling the College to divest from all companies doing members in South Africa, and later members of the college’s Anti-Apartheid Committee interrupted a Board of Managers meeting by holding a demonstration outside their meeting room. Sit-ins and activism continued, and in 1986 the Board of Managers reached consensus to proceed toward total divestment, which was completed in 1990.

1983 – Swarthmore President David Fraser “mobilizes the College’s opposition” and testifies before Congress to oppose an amendment to withhold federal financial aid from students who failed to register for a military draft

1988 – First Sager Symposium. Richard Sager ‘73 created the Sager Fund to fund events exploring LGBTQ issues

1996 – Environmental Racism Conference – students organize a conference on environmental racism in Chester that leads to the formation of the Campus Coalition Concerning Chester

2002 – Shareholder Activism – Swarthmore became the first college or university to initiate a resolution against Lockhead Martin for discrimination against LGBTQ employes. Soon after, the company announced plans to add sexual orientation to their discrimination policy.

2003 – Swarthmore joins Amicus Brief along with other colleges to support affirmative action in college admissions. President at the time Alfred H. Bloom said “we believe that diversity is essential to our educational mission.”

2011 – Mountain Justice first meets with the board to discuss divestment from fossil fuels.

2014 Swarthmore gains an NGO observer status at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and sends a delegation of students, faculty, and staff.

2016 – In December, President Valerie Smith affirms Swarthmore as a sanctuary campus.

2017 – Mountain Justice spearheads a referendum, subsequent sit-ins, and a joint forum with president Valerie Smith, SGO, and members of the board to push forward the policy of divestment from fossil fuels, despite the college’s official policy since 1991 of not divesting for social purposes.

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.

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