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DOJ investigates Swarthmore’s early decision admissions process

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According to a statement by Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90, Swarthmore received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting that it preserve documents related to Early Decision practices. A group of selective colleges and universities including Amherst, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Tufts that accept applications through early decision also received the letter. The DOJ is investigating whether the data colleges share with each other during the early decision admissions process, such as the names of students admitted, violate US antitrust laws, according to the New York Times.

Swarthmore has received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice requesting the preservation of documents about the early admission application process,” Bock wrote in an e-mail to The Phoenix. “We are taking the request very seriously and are fully cooperating with the government,” he added, but couldn’t comment further.

Bock did not comment on why the DOJ wants to investigate Early Decisions data sharing. The antitrust division of the DOJ enforces laws which promote competitive business practices. In 1991, the department investigated the Ivy League universities for collaborating with regard to financial aid offers made to students who were accepted by multiple schools, a practice which was designed to prevent schools from using financial aid funds to compete over the best students. DOJ officials argued that this practice denied students the right to compare prices among schools.

The DOJ’s concern about financial aid competition may apply to the current investigation. Institutions like Swarthmore have less of an incentive to offer robust financial aid packages to early decision applicants since the students have already decided to attend the institution. By ensuring that students apply to only one school, they eliminate competition between schools over prospective students.

The Dean of Amherst College said in 2016 that she shares a list of students accepted through the early decision process with a group of 30 other colleges that offer early decision admission. The list sharing is designed to prevent students from applying early decision to multiple colleges at the same time, violating the contract. US News reported that sharing this data is a generally accepted practice.

Colleges like Swarthmore that offer early decision as an option in the application process require that students apply only to one school and commit to the school should they be accepted. The early decision agreement students sign, however, is not legally binding, according to US News. Admissions departments may allow students out of these agreements for certain reasons such as inadequate financial aid package or sickness of a family member. However, if students apply to multiple schools early decision, they may jeopardize their acceptances to both places.

The schools received letters,  not subpoenas, so while there may be lawyers involved, the DOJ does not look like it will be taking the investigation to court any time soon, if at all. As a result of the 1991 investigation of Ivy League universities, the schools agreed to stop collaborating about financial aid offers. The current investigation could yield a similar result, with colleges agreeing not to share lists of the students they accept early decision. No matter the result, this investigation will only impact future applicants to the school, not current students.

Examining the Swarthmore athletics recruiting process

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With spring now well upon us, the bloom of flowers, buzz of bees, and growth of new life brings about a new season of growth for our community as well, as we add a number of new faces during SwatStruck. For these new accepted students, the campus, the people, and college life in general are new — in both an exciting scary way. However, a small subset of these prospective students have visited countless times, decided long in advance, and rival even the most experienced Swatties as experts on campus: the varsity athletes. Through recruiting visits, shadows, showcases, and games, many recruited athletes have endured an even longer and possibly more strenuous process in choosing Swarthmore. I hope to provide insight from my own recruiting story to show the vastly different path that student-athletes take to get to Swarthmore today.

To identify the differences between student and student-athlete admissions, let’s first start at the end. After varsity student-athletes commit to Swarthmore, they each must fill out a brief survey about their background, identity, and a few survey questions, including “Why Swarthmore?” The resounding answer among athletes to this question in almost every single survey is that Swarthmore was one of the few places that uniquely combines athletics and academics at a high level. And it is true. This unique phenomenon at Swarthmore also motivated me to attend such an academically prestigious institution, while also participating in athletics, extracurriculars, and a well-rounded lifestyle.

Looking up to coaches and teammates before me that had, in my mind, reached the pinnacle of baseball,I always knew that I wanted to play baseball in college. My best coach ever (no offense to my Swarthmore coaches here) taught at a baseball camp in my hometown of  Washington, D.C. Each day at the start of camp, he would introduce his employed coaches, college baseball players. I idolized all of these college kids, seeing their maturity, success, and swagger as the highest achievement I could realistically reach in baseball. In retrospect, this idolatry definitely overlooked some major flaws, because even as a college student now, half the time I can barely remember to feed myself here. For whatever reason, I nevertheless persisted in my convictions to become a collegiate baseball player.

To get to the more interesting part of my recruiting process, I will skip over the more boring details about workouts and years of dedication to baseball. Needless to say, my passion for baseball and academics consumed my life, and it took countless hours to receive any consideration in the collegiate recruiting process. My big breakthrough came when I received an invitation to play in the Area Code Games, an exclusive tournament for top high school M.L.B. recruits in the country. I was by no means an M.L.B. prospect and was way out of my league, but upon making the trip to California, I pitched two scoreless innings and now had more publicity than ever before.

Using this experience and publicity as leverage in the recruiting process, I travelled to showcases and camps around the country, speaking to college coaches of all levels of competition along the way. Speaking to coaches over the course of a few months, it quickly became clear who was genuinely interested in recruiting me further. Coaches constantly called and e-mailed, hoping to set up meetings, recruiting trips, and more and more time consuming responsibilities. The exhausting process continued all the way until the critical decision-making time right before college applications were due. In the end, I received 13 offers from all types of schools, and the ball was finally in my court. Applying to Swarthmore early decision, I still fully stand by the decision that I made.

The Division III athletic lifestyle varies greatly from the Division I, II, or N.A.I.A. schools in the prioritization of different attributes of student-athletes. At other levels of competition, money and the desire to win dominate the scene, leading to a neglect of the students’ best interests in many cases. That is not to say that these things do not occur at the DIII level or that DIII athletic programs do not strive to win either, but simply that DIII programs emphasize the success of the individual student-athlete as a student, an athlete, and a teammate more so than other institutions. Thus, many student-athletes appreciate the emphasis on ethics, the ability to focus on academics, and the lesser time commitment of the DIII athletic lifestyle. At least at Swarthmore, students always attend classes, can major in what they truly want to do, never receive more help than their counterparts, but have access to all that they need to succeed.

Another major draw of the Division III lifestyle is the ability to play more often in a competitive but laid back environment. Without this money and high level of commitment on the line, each athlete still plays to their fullest potential, but without the stress and external influences of the Division I competition. On top of this, most athletes find it easier to contribute to a Division III program earlier on in their careers than at their Division I counterparts. In my freshman season on the baseball team, I started a few games as a pitcher, before settling into my current role as a more consistent reliever out of the bullpen. This ability to play early on appeals to many students who desire academic rigor in coordination with an emphasis on athletic success, competition, and character development.

However, this whole process lasted only a matter of months from about July to December of my senior year, a thrilling and terrifying ride. From traveling literally across the country to the agonizing wait to hear back from the admissions office, the stress wracked my mental and physical strength the whole time. Often, non-athlete Swarthmore students complain that student-athletes have it easy in the admissions process and once they matriculate, but that is far from the case. Many of my close friends faced rejections from schools they had committed to quite publicly, leading to even more shame and pressure. Division III schools have no guarantees of admission and little influence in the process, meaning that student-athletes must truly merit admission as much as their counterparts. And this does not even begin to cover the increased workload and obligations that student-athletes have to bear for the sake of their team. Thus, both athletes and non-athletes deserve equal respect for making it to such a challenging and competitive institution.

Although different, the regular and student-athlete admissions processes both retain the same level of stress, competition, and effort. We should celebrate our non-athletes and athletes alike for their accomplishments and need to make a concerted effort to better integrate the two communities. As you may have read in my article last year about President Smith’s efforts to this end, we have made massive strides, but there is much to be done still about removing the stigma around athletes. If we do, the overall community will be better off for it.

 

 

International student enrollments at Swat rise while national numbers fall

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An Open Doors Report Survey done by the Institute of International Education showed that the number of new international students enrolled at higher education institutions in the U.S. decreased for the first time in six years by 3.3 percent, in part due to the new policies by the Trump administration. While there has been a trend of international student applications and enrollments stagnating and declining recently, the college’s numbers have done the opposite, according to Jim Bock ’90, vice president and dean of admissions.

“At Swarthmore, we have experienced a 39 percent increase in international applications over the last four years,” Bock wrote in an email.  “We have increased admissions slightly each year, and we have seen the number of matriculated international students increase about 8 percent over the same time.”

According to Bock, the increase in international applications at the college in contrast with national trends has been a result of the admissions office’s efforts to reach a wider platform and make applying to Swarthmore more accessible.

“We have done a better job of reaching a broader population with our print, email, and social media campaigns, and we have provided fee waivers to deserving students,” Bock said. “More broadly, there is a leveling off of the number of high school graduates on a national level, but those applying to selective schools are taking advantage of technology and submitting more applications to more schools.”

While the national statistics report a decline in international enrollments that are not reflected in the college’s enrollment numbers, the results of the survey highlight concerns of international students that apply to students at Swarthmore. Jennifer Marks-Gold, Director of International Student Services, discussed what her office does in order to support incoming and current international students who face the challenges that the survey reports.

According to Marks-Gold, the challenges discouraging people from applying to Swarthmore have generally not had a significant effect on international students at the college at this point because of the support provided. For instance, everyone who applied for visas in the class of 2021 was able to get them.

“I don’t think it has affected Swarthmore [applications] at this point,” she said.

The international students in the class of 2021 were in a unique position of deciding to go to a higher education institution in the U.S. as the new administration was putting in place its immigration policy.

Nana Quakyi ’21 is an international student who was in the process of deciding to go to a university in the U.S. when the current administration was coming into power.

“I was looking at how the administration’s immigration policy would affect how easy it was for me to move between Ghana and the States, and how policies would extend beyond immigration and affect academic or financial support for international students,” Quakyi said. “The new administration and its own set of policies did raise a few concerns for me.”

According to Quakyi, the new administration and its rhetoric on immigration raised concerns but did not do much in terms of swaying his decision to study in the U.S.. He also feels that  the Office of International Student Services is both helpful and reassuring.

“Jennifer Marks-Gold and her office, through a lot of what has been going on, have provided a lot of support and options for students who have been affected by what’s been happening nationally policy-wise,” he said. “Having her around definitely gives most international students a greater sense of security since she’s ready and willing to help out.”

In the Open Doors survey, university officials reported that the social and political climate in the U.S. especially in regards to immigration policy, the cost of education, visa denial/delays, and changes to scholarship programs in other countries have contributed to the decline in new international student enrollments. According to Marks-Gold, the changes in the vetting process and overall attitude towards immigration policy by the current administration have increased stress for international students in terms of obtaining visas.

“I think being a visitor adds an extra burden and stress on a student studying in a different country,” said Marks-Gold. “There is more of a worry now with thinking about the future and getting F1 or H-1B visas.”

Francisco Veron Ferreira ’19, an international student from Paraguay, chose to go to school in the U.S. after considering the U.K. He commented on the policy changes and new vetting process, which he feels will make it more difficult for students to stay and work in the U.S.

“It’s going to be harder for students who maybe want to pursue an H-1B visa or want to apply for grad school,” he said. “I would like to stay in the U.S. after graduating.”

While vetting and policy are causing students to worry about working in the U.S. after graduation, there is also concern that student visas will be negatively be affected. With the more recent changes in the vetting process, Marks-Gold is prioritizing enforcing deadlines for students to submit forms so that she can have enough time to work around any potential problems or delays with getting a student proper documentation.

“I guess the changes made by the U.S. administration have been scaring me a little bit,” she said. “I would like to get forms from students as early as possible just in case they get held up in administrative processing.”

On Marks-Gold’s invitation, immigration lawyer David Nachman spoke to a group of international students on Tuesday. Nachman discussed the pathways to stay and work in the U.S. available to international students and how the Trump administration has attempted to alter those pathways.

“What I tell you tonight, you’ll know more than the president does about immigration law,” Nachman said in his presentation.

In an interview with the Phoenix after his presentation, Nachman spoke more about how immigration policy and travel bans have affected students and international student officers at educational institutions.

“Well, I think that a lot of students fear that the international student officers may grant them I-20s and then find out that they are not necessarily going to be granted visas,” he said. “We’ve received an increase in the number of calls from international student officers who are gravely concerned that they may grant these I-20s that have gone to administrative processing and they’re just being held there.”

According to Nachman, the policy and rhetoric by the Trump administration concerning immigration is pushing away potential international students, who are instead going to places like Australia, Japan, and Canada.

“Immigration in the U.S. is too tight; why fight an uphill battle when you can go to other countries?” he said. “The U.S. is losing globally if we send people to other countries. Maybe we don’t feel it now, but in six years from now we’re definitely going to feel it.”

Nachman’s remark that the loss of international students in the U.S. is harmful to the country as a whole is also applicable to higher education institutions.

Marks-Gold remarked how important international students are to universities. She commented that the diversity within the international student population at Swarthmore prevented the number of international students from changing significantly.

“There are universities that take most of their international students from China, for instance. Swarthmore doesn’t do that, and I think that our diversity of international students is not only good for the students here, but also helped with keeping our numbers of international students stable,” she said.

While the college’s number of new international student enrollments don’t reflect the national trend to date, the current administration’s immigration policy still affects the international student population at the college. However, while policy changes persist, the college has systems set in place to allow for international students to continue their education in the U.S.

DiscoSwat provides exposure to classes, campus life

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Discover Swarthmore, or DiscoSwat, is an all-expense-paid visit to campus that serves as the primary college access outreach program run by the college. Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, the campus was home to over 100 high school seniors, who had been invited by the admissions office to partake in this semester’s second session of Discover Swarthmore.

According to the office of admissions, this highly competitive program received over 2,200 applications this year for both sessions, out of which only 250 applicants were selected, making its acceptance rate a little over 11 percent. Out of the students invited, 205 attended the program. To be considered for selection, students have to be nominated by school counsellors or college access organization advisors, after which they  are invited by the College to complete an application.  Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 commented via email about how the selection process for DiscoSwat differs from the college admissions process.

“Our Discover Swarthmore selection process prioritizes students from traditionally underrepresented groups, students who are the first in their family to attend college, and students from low-income backgrounds or who might not otherwise be able to afford a trip to campus,” said Bock.

However, the admissions office also specified that an invitation to DiscoSwat is in no way an offer of admission to the college, as the actual college application is far more comprehensive than the one required for DiscoSwat. Actual college applications are also viewed in the context of a far larger applicant pool, often with different criteria in mind. There have been cases of students who haven’t been invited to DiscoSwat, only to ultimately get into the college. Even so, being selected for the program does have its benefits.

“An invitation to Discover Swarthmore is not an offer of admission to the College, but based on preliminary information, we anticipate Discover Swarthmore students to be competitive if they choose to apply,” said Bock.

As part of the program, students get to attend classes, eat at Sharples, talk to professors and students, and generally experience what it means to be a Swattie for 72 hours. The program is also deeply beneficial to Admissions. It is through this program that they identify students who would be a good fit for the college who are first in their family to attend college or are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Each student nominated for DiscoSwat is sent information regarding the program as well as information about the college, such as need-based financial aid and what makes Swarthmore different from other institutions. However, the admissions office feels that the biggest benefit is familiarizing the liberal arts for people who might not have been exposed to them.

One of the most integral parts of DiscoSwat is hosting. Each prospective student, colloquially referred to as a spec — short for prospective student — is matched up with a current student with whom they stay during DiscoSwat. This allows the spec to build a relationship with an individual who understands the school and can serve as a resource not only for the duration of the program, but also during the application process in general.

“I love hosting specs because explaining to them how much I love Swarthmore makes me fall in love with it all over again. It also helps prospective students figure out if this is the right school for them,” said Ruth Elias ’20.

Hosts are trained extensively by Danny Wittels, an assistant dean of admissions, who was not authorized to comment publicly on behalf of the office of admissions. According to Henry Han ’20, the training covers the basics required to make sure that the specs on campus have a safe, inclusive, enjoyable visit on campus. Hosts are also paid for an hour of work for each student and each day that they are hosting.

Liz Braun, in her capacity as dean of students, also sends out an email before DiscoSwat reminding students to be mindful of the minors on campus. In her campus-wide email, she stresses providing a legally sound program for the high-schoolers, reminding students that specs are not allowed access to alcoholic beverages or events with alcohol. No party permits were handed out for the duration of DiscoSwat, with even PubNite being cancelled for the week.

“If any prospective students are found to be drinking their application to the college will be in serious jeopardy, so please do not let anyone be put in this position,” said Dean Braun.

While the office of admissions takes steps make the experience enjoyable so that the prospective students submit applications for admissions, it is interesting to note the views of a DiscoSwat alum and current Swattie Tiye Pulley ’19 on how the program contributes to the narrative of diversity on this campus.

In an op-ed published in November 2015 titled “DiscoSwat or DiscoNot,” Pulley wrote the program serves as a “self-congratulatory pat on the back for the school” for their efforts to bring POC and other underrepresented groups in higher education to the college. He wrote that while he believes DiscoSwat is a noble effort, it can be misleading for DiscoSwat students who are then accepted to the college and choose to matriculate from here, as over “43% of the students here identify as white.” The article sheds light on what it is like to attend Swarthmore as a student as opposed to as a spec.

However, it is certain that DiscoSwat serves as a resource both to applicants as well as the admissions office in educating people about Swarthmore while ensuring that as many people as possible in the incoming classes are a good fit for the College.

Swarthmore treats admitted students like royalty

in Columns/Opinions/Satire by

In desperate hopes to lure admitted prospective students into matriculating to Swarthmore, the administration sent out strict orders to the students, faculty, and staff—especially the dining staff—prior to Swatstruck, instructing them to show their best performance and be on their best behavior. Furthermore, the college community was ordered to treat prospective students like royalty.

“We must do whatever we can to bring those students in here,” said Blake Trickton, Dean of Admissions. “I cannot bear having these students turn down our offer of admission and go somewhere else, especially our peer institutions like Williams and Amherst. We really need to get back into the top three in U.S. News rankings, you see, and bringing the best students here can get us back into where we belong. How dare they put us in the same rank as Middlebury and below Wellesley. I don’t know about Middlebury,  but everybody knows that Wellesley literally got into the top three just because of Hillary Clinton.”

Students who were hosting prospective students were specifically instructed to provide them with the service one would receive at a five-star hotel. As part of their training, hosts were required to attend a seven-hour panel and seminar with experts in the hospitality industry. According to Marla Lago, Admissions Officer in charge of hosting, the admissions office wanted to ensure that the prospective students be treated as if they own the room, and the hosts should be the ones giving up anything they can to make the students feel comfortable. Furthermore, hosts were told to give up their beds for the prospective students, and clean up after whatever mess they create.

“This will definitely make the admitted students feel like Swatties are all very nice people who sacrifice everything for the needs of others,” Lago said. “The tables have turned and now it is our turn to beg them to come, instead of them begging us to give them letters of admission. The Class of 2021 will play a huge role in continuing our reputation as a popular, yet selective, liberal arts college.”

After Swatstruck, hosting students reported numerous incidents where they felt, according to the words of Shifu Xerver ’20, “proud and accomplished for being a great host for the students.”

“My spec got drunk and threw up in my room, but never did I ever show any signs of frustration or anger toward him,” Xerver said. “Instead of getting mad, I told him that it was completely fine, and that accidents can happen. And then I spent the next two hours trying to clean up the mess he barfed up out of his stomach, instead of studying for a really important test I had the next day that was 30% of my entire grade. I’m usually not that much of a nice person, but I’m so proud that I was able to maintain my inner- peace instead of exploding at them and abandoning them in the middle of Swatstruck! Can someone give me an award for that?”

Another student, David McNirvana ’19, shared an even greater accomplishment, a move that even earned him extra money from the Admissions Office.

“My spec hooked up with another spec, and he brought her to my room and asked me to leave,” McNirvana said. “The guy had the guts to kick me out of my own room. But I acted like I was completely cool with it even though I had two tests and an essay due the next day. I not only left the room, but I also lent them my bed to let them do their business. If anyone deserves a Best Host award, it’s me.”

According to Trickton, food is always an obstacle that tarnishes Swarthmore’s reputation. Therefore, Trickton ordered the dining hall staff to bring in the Indian Bar, consisting of freshly baked naan and hand-made curry that is only offered during days when there are a lot of visitors.

“We put much more effort to please our future students and persuade them to come here,” said Aglio McPasta, head of dining services. “In addition to having Indian Bar, which is our go-to Swatstruck menu, we also brought in chefs who own Michelin Three Star restaurants to revamp our signature chef’s pasta bar. In order to do this, however, we had to force current students to eat regular pasta bar in a separate dining area, so that prospective students don’t find out the actual truth”

Trickton is hopeful that the event persuades many prospective students to matriculate to Swarthmore.

“I think we did a good job in luring in a bunch of prospective students into coming here,” Trickton said. “Hopefully this will increase our rankings in U.S. News, and get us the third place that we deserve on the list.”

 

Perceptions of Swat: College Confidential

in Around Campus/News by

College Confidential is an online forum for high school students applying for college, current college students, and parents. On Swarthmore’s page, current students, parents, and even people who have heard about Swarthmore from friends all discuss different aspects of the college, such as workload, social scene, student activism, etc. However, there are not a lot of recent discussions; many of them date back to 2010 or even earlier.

Among the comments made, there are both myths and truths. One of the biggest concern of students is that Swarthmore’s academics are too hard and too much and that students do not do anything but study.

The Admission Office is aware of the existence of these kinds of ongoing discussions and comments on various websites. However, the Admission Office does not interfere with or respond to anything that is on such websites.

“Swarthmore Admissions does not engage with College Confidential or other chat forum sites, and we do not correct information on third-party sites where information is provided by site users,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions, Jim Bock ’90.

One of the most viewed discussions, which is also a “featured” discussion on Swarthmore’s forum page, is titled “Is Swarthmore all work and no play?” In this discussion that first started in 2006, “comflsmoh,” the user who started the discussion, gave a “warning” to all those who were interested in Swarthmore. This user did not go to Swarthmore, and they based their comments solely on their interactions with a friend who went here.

“He [referring to the writer’s friend] said this to me after I visited and also fell in love with the campus, professors, and awesome engineering program. Get used to the campus. It’ll be the only thing you see for the next 4 years. Philadelphia, only a 30 minute ride away? hahaha. He told me the one day he did go there, he had to take work with him on the train, and when he spent the PART of the day taking a break on the weekend and visiting the city, he felt it for the next month, making up the work he fell behind in,” wrote comflsmoh in his post.

The user has a very determined perception of the course-load, even though he never went here.

“Students never stop studying. period. Because the campus is small and the group is so small, you know everyone and everyone’s business and everyone knows yours. It is the stereotypical high school scene. Football players sit at one table, etc,” wrote comflsmoh.

In the comment section, a lot of actual Swarthmore students and parents of Swarthmore students point out that the case that comflsmoh described was an exception. They expressed that Swarthmore could be very stressful, but most of the students have enough time for extracurricular activities or doing things they enjoy. Many participants of the discussion also mentioned that Swarthmore had a good support system and students truly care about each other.

one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned much in this thread is just how supportive Swatties are of one another. When it gets rough, you’re going to have plenty of friends backing you up, knocking at your door late at night to get you to take a study break, or making sure you get out during the weekend so you don’t overdo it,” wrote Gileard, a junior at Swarthmore in 2006.

Other users chimed in sharing similar sentiments.

I can assure you that while at times I’ve had to work more than I really wanted in a given weekend, I’ve also had plenty of time for procrastination and general fooling around, and I haven’t had a breakdown in my first two and a half years,” wrote momof3sons, another junior in 2006.

However, the latest comment in this thread was posted in 2008. What current Swatties think about the above issues were not found in the discussion.

“Relying exclusively on college review sites, or spending too much time on college discussion threads where most/all contributors are not currently enrolled students, is not the most productive way to approach the college search process,” said Bock.

In a slightly more recent discussion from 2010, a prospective student asked some questions on similar issues such as workload and social scene. Many parents replied that their children actually had fun during weekends while some witnessed cases where the children were very unhappy.

A parent of a current student, by the name of “Endicott” on College Confidential, during that time commented on the concern of lack of social life.

“My child goes to Philadelphia often to see jazz or classical concerts, etc. with his friends. So it is easy to get back and forth for a change of scenery. Also, you can get away cheaply on the Bolt Bus to NYC, and you aren’t far from Baltimore or Washington, either, if you really want an adventure. Students also have their own parties aside from the school parties, and there are also events like plays and concerts on campus. That’s one good thing about Swat, you don’t have to spend much on your social life,” wrote Endicott, in the comment section.

Dean Bock commented that there are other ways and resources that can help students navigate the application process.

“We encourage students to explore each college’s Common Data Set for statistical information, visit campus if time and resources permit, talk with current students and faculty whenever possible, work with their college counselors or advisors, and spend some time figuring out what kind of community they want to spend four years of their lives contributing to and learning with,” said Bock.

There are in fact students who have never used College Confidential when applying for college.

Online resources both sponsored by colleges and third-party sites can provide prospective students with context about schools away from campus. Sites like College Confidential can provide important perspectives on different communities apart from the purview of admissions offices, but much of their information can be misinformed or unfounded. Speaking to students might bring a middle ground to the conversation that is lost between these two poles.

on behalf of Sexual Health Advocates

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

Jordan Reyes ’19, a Sexual Health Advocate (SHA) who works for the admissions office, was informed by Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 on Monday that he could either stop wearing his “I <3 Female Orgasm” t-shirt while working or lose his job as a general information presenter (GISP). The shirt is among the merchandise that was distributed at I <3 Female Orgasm, a February event featuring sex educators Dorian Solot and Connor Timmons teaching a “message of sexual health and empowerment,” sponsored by Title IX Office, the Women’s Resource Center for Gender Equity (WRC), and the SHAs. Jordan is now unemployed. The reason? According to Dean Bock, “It is potentially triggering.”

You know what is potentially triggering, Swat? PROTECTING RAPISTS.

We are appalled, but not shocked, that a college administrator would misappropriate “concern over triggering” while Swarthmore has and largely refuses to own up to a history of traumatizing victims and survivors of sexual assault, and perpetuates and dismisses genuine concern over the triggering effect of institutionally prioritizing perpetrators of assault. While we understand the College can dictate the dress of its paid representatives, punishing a student for wearing a sex-positive t-shirt given out by the very office that is working against sexual violence at Swarthmore, in the name of eliminating triggers, is tone-deaf, hurtful, and hopelessly hypocritical.

Putting aside the college’s apparent apathy with potential triggers when I <3 Female Orgasm fliers were plastered all over campus in support of this school-sponsored event, Dean Bock’s sudden commitment to the needs of hypothetical survivors while the administration continually fails to acknowledge its troubling history rings hollow. As Jodie Goodman ’16 has recently written in The Phoenix, “Many students are familiar with complaints made during the spring of 2013, most notably the fact that Tom Elverson, Swarthmore’s alcohol education and intervention specialist as well as Greek liaison, was known to intervene in favor of Delta Upsilon members during Title IX investigations.” In 2013, 13 students filed a Title IX complaint against the college for the college’s mishandling of sexual misconduct reports. Critically, numerous Swarthmore students’ histories of consensual sexual engagement have been used to discredit their allegations of assault. As The Phoenix reported in 2013, survivors appearing before the College Judiciary Committee have been asked questions such as: “How many people have you slept with before?” and “You say you had sex with him [your assailant] before?” With this history in mind, the invocation of sexual trauma to censor pro-healthy sexuality shirts is breathtakingly inappropriate.

Censoring the (sartorial) work of the school’s anti-sexual violence advocates, in the name of sexual violence awareness, makes no sense.

So given Dean Bock’s ultimatum to Jordan, it seems that sex-positive, trauma-aware programming on healthy sexuality like I <3 Female Orgasm, which was sponsored by Title IX this February, is a liability for the college to showcase to potential students. That the college doesn’t allow its student representatives to wear a shirt promoting its own Title IX Office’s programming on healthy sexuality, combined with the college’s history of silencing anti-sexual assault protest, suggests that Swarthmore’s commitment to the amazing work of its Title IX Office extends only so far as the Office’s ability to serve the college’s financial interests.

As Sexual Health Advocates, we advocate to make this campus hospitable for healthy sex and relationships. That’s why we co-sponsored I <3 the Female Orgasm along with Title IX, and the WRC. We suggest that, if Dean Bock really wants to support survivors of sexual violence and those re-traumatized by Swarthmore’s mishandling thereof, he and other administrators listen and respond to the genuine concerns of actual sexual violence survivors. That includes supporting Title IX and SHA programming that addresses said concerns.

Dean Bock should start by reinstating Jordan, who, as a Sexual Health Advocate, a Title IX Liaison, and a NuWave member, is working for a safer and healthier sexual climate in a moment when the same cannot necessarily be said of the institution itself. (See the recently published website Swat Protects Rapists for an overview of the college’s failure to pursue justice for survivors of sexual violence.) Crucially, Jordan should be able to wear and discuss the message of his shirt on the job. Regardless, we hope that Dean Bock’s newly demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of trauma survivors is reflective of a new administrative commitment to the needs of survivors on campus.

In the meantime, Swat can’t protect us from rapists, but at least it can protect us from orgasms!

This op-ed has been co-signed by the following Sexual Health Advocates: Lulu Allen-Waller ’17, Bel Guinle ’19, Helen Hawver ’17, YuQing Lin ’20, Will Marchese ’20, Sabrina Merold ’17, Krista Smith-Henke ’19, Shayla Smith ’20, and Dorcas Tang ’19.

 

Works Referenced

“Does Swat Protect Rapists?” by Jodie Goodman

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/04/13/does-swat-protect-rapists/

“Go for the O” by Lauren Savo

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/23/go-for-the-o/

“DoE releases Title IX complaint against Swarthmore” by Daniel Block and Izzy Kornblatt

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2014/04/24/doe-releases-title-ix-complaint-against-swarthmore/

“Brought to Light: Accused Walks, College Demands Silence” by Max Nesterak

http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2013/04/17/brought-to-light-part-two/

“Swat Protects Rapists” Website

https://swatprotectsrapists.wordpress.com/

 

College admits Class of 2021, questions of support and class structure rise

in Around Campus/Around Higher Education/News by

On March 21st, the Office of Admissions alerted the campus community to the admission of the Class of 2021 with historic numbers of applications. The admitted class also had record numbers of applications from traditionally underrepresented groups, international students, and first-in-their-family and many through community-based programs like QuestBridge. The class’s intended majors follow a trend from previous years with engineering, political science, and biology are most heavily represented. The office found that, with the high numbers of applications, admitting 960 students fit well with the college’s Visioning Process goals. The admitted Class of 2021 is larger than the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019 and approximately the same size as 2020.

Vice President of the college and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 detailed the process of balancing the goal to provide a Swarthmore education with the larger number of applicants this year.

“This is a perennial challenge as we always have many more qualified and compelling applicants than we have admission spaces available. The size and depth of this year’s applicant pool made our work more difficult as we had to turn away more students than in the past. We were able to admit more first generation to college students, and we are confident that the admitted students are prepared to take full advantage of the rigorous academic program and contribute tremendously to the Swarthmore community,” Bock said.

Bock stated that applications increased from all demographics, mentioning new promotional materials as a reason, and identified the process of how the college will finalize the Class of 2021 and the transfer population. He then noted the advances the office made to include underrepresented populations in the admitted class.

“Our Director of Access and Programming developed a communication plan geared specifically to underrepresented and low-income students highlighting what makes our community a special and supportive place … Our office has also worked closely with our colleagues in the Communications Office and other campus partners to ensure we are telling the Swarthmore story authentically and effectively to prospective students of all backgrounds,” Bock said.

Students on campus generally responded positively to the higher rates of application and admission of underrepresented groups. Ricky Choi ’20 noted how Swarthmore is a place that supports underrepresented groups, but how building that community on campus is important.

“I think a greater diversity in our student body will bring even greater attention to the issues that are unique to these international [and] first-in-family [students] and generally underrepresented groups. Our school as an institution is already highly vocal and aware of the issues that surround such groups but having greater context and personal experiences can always add weight to the existing voice,” Choi said.

Shelby Billups ’20 stated how this increase will lead to the campus becoming more supportive to underrepresented communities as the campus network will grow, and she highlighted how Swarthmore helped her reach her goals academically and connect as a minority student.

“I believe that this growth in these groups will aid in the normalization of diversity. This normalization will aid in the transition into college for many of these students for many class years to come and help to instill the overarching theme of acceptance that is so prevalent on our campus already,” Billups said. “As someone who comes from a place where there weren’t many opportunities for me to connect with people of my own background, the number opportunities at the college astounded me. From WOCKA to the BCC to the many other cultural groups on campus, I have never felt deprived of support as a minority student.”

Choi went on to discuss how the communities on campus could be strengthened through solidarity between campus cultural groups, and he explains how the Intercultural Center could change its role in relation to this goal.

“Although IC is effective in supporting international students, I think it can most definitely do more than status quo. I think one of the key problems when it comes to international student groups such as SAO, Han, and other cultural groups is that there is a lack of single cohesive voice. Whilst these groups are most certainly unique in their backgrounds and contexts, there can be a unified voice to address issues such as the myth of model minority. IC can play a critical role in facilitating the interaction between such student bodies and should increase such role in the future,” Choi said.

The Class of 2021 will bring more students to campus with new stories and new networks to work in. The college understands the class to be largely consequential in the academic realm, and students hope the incoming first-years will access the resources and support systems of community groups, and they see the potential to strengthen those groups at Swarthmore as the number of students can increase networks of support across the college.

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