Swarthmore's independent campus newspaper since 1881

Tag archive

campus

Freshmen: how this year did and/or didn’t live up to expectations

in Campus Journal by

It’s only everything we’d been waiting for what felt like our entire lives — the big change, the first taste of true freedom most of us would be able to experience, away from parents and strict expectations and left (mostly) to our devices. Most of us had been planning for it, hoping for something better, something that was worth waiting and struggling all that time for, and now we’re here, wrapping up our first year of this great adventure we’d been waiting on for so long.

Sometimes it feels like move in day was just yesterday — I can clearly recall the hoards of students excited to help us move in and the chaos that ensued. I won’t soon forget the tears on my parents face as they left me behind on this strange new campus, and who can ever forget orientation (I mean, at least the fact it happened)? Yet here we are, wrapping up our first official year at Swat, and there’s so much to look back on and reflect on it’s pretty overwhelming, especially with finals lurking around the corner. But it seems almost impossible to avoid reminiscing as we watch the flowers bloom and the campus start to resemble what it looked like that first move in day.

Obviously, I can’t pretend to know what all of you wanted or were expecting from this experience. If you were expecting a ton of fun and little work or a ton of work and a little fun, or if you had any clue Sharples would have this many questionable meals. Perhaps you were hoping for your first real, serious romantic relationship, or perhaps you were just looking to hook up. Maybe you believed you’d find your perfect friends, or maybe you just came in trying to find yourself. Whatever you were hoping, I think we can agree upon the fact that we were able to be in this together, and some experiences fell short while some surpassed all imagination.

So perhaps Sharples managed to fall short of our hopes, pasta bar twice a week being a little much. And maybe the whole romantic scene on campus wasn’t what we were expecting, the small campus causing things to blow up and spread much faster than imaginable. And you know what, maybe you didn’t find your niche yet, maybe you’re still looking for the right friends because those you made during orientation turned out to be very different from whom you’d thought they were.

Perhaps freshman year ended up being a little more work and a little less fun than you imagined it would be, but you made it this far. Pass/Fail may have been more stressful than previously believed, yet now without it everything feels twenty times harder. And most likely, this year went by faster than any other year in your life but was filled with more experiences and feelings and relationships than any other as well. But 2020, this is not all we’ve experienced.

Along the way, we’ve found something within ourselves that’s convinced us we are strong enough and smart enough to be here, to push through the all nighters and crazy papers. We’ve discovered a strength within ourselves that we never knew was there, one that has let us believe in ourselves a little more. Maybe we haven’t quite found ourselves, but we’ve grown in ways we would’ve never hoped for, found ourselves in places we would’ve never pictured ourselves in and given ourselves some room to grow and be a little better than we were yesterday.

I recall my senior quote was, “Perhaps we’ll find what we’re looking for, or maybe, we’ll find something much greater than that.” I can’t say I’ve found what I’ve been looking for yet, but I can say that the journey has been much greater than I could’ve ever asked for. Even though the pain and complaints are still there and some days it may feel like all the struggles we’ve been going through aren’t really worth it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So thank you for a great first round 2020, and here’s to the next three.

The best cars for the most useless categories

in Campus Journal/Columns by

For every absurdly rich Hollywood celebrity who ends up mindlessly buying a 2-million-dollar Bugatti, there are countless kids who spend much of their free time contemplating and researching which car(s) they would have for the same money. I couldn’t estimate the amount of times I’ve talked with my friends about “which car I’d have if I had x amount of money,”Well, I figured it would be fun to sort of do the same thing in this article. Except, instead of grouping my choices by price range, I’ll do it by useless function. Okay, not all of them are useless, but most of them are. Obviously, many of these cars are unobtainable except for the very wealthy, but day-dreaming about unobtainable cars is half of what being a car enthusiast is about.

BEST FIRST CAR: VOLKSWAGEN GTI SPORT

Deciding on your first car is always an exciting, but excruciating one. Even if you’re really not into cars, getting your first car is something you’ll always remember, and something that will help you to create some great memories, like hydroplaning at 60 miles-per-hour on the way back from Giant and catching some air too (SPEEDING = NOT GOOD, PLEASE DON’T SPEED). Of course price is always an important consideration, especially for your first car, but since we’re day-dreaming in this article, we might as well go all-out, right? That’s why I picked the VW GTI Sport. It has perennially been the benchmark for “best first car”, and for good reason. It’s the standard classic — it’s the Chicken Parm you order if you go to some Italian restaurant you’ve never been to. It’s not the most adventurous option, but you know what you’ll be getting, and it’s pretty good in the case of the GTI. First of all, it has aggressive yet conservative styling that is sporty enough to catch attention but still maintains clean lines. With more than 200 horsepower, it has enough giddy-up to keep things interesting, but the lower power combined with the front-wheel-drive layout is generally forgiving enough for beginning drivers. Moreover, its sporty handling characteristics will make for simple, enjoyable driving around backroads. Additionally, the fact that it is German means the build quality will beat anything else for the price. Finally, you have to get it in a manual, because nothing else can bring the joy to driving that 3 pedals and a gearshift can.  

BEST CAR FOR WHEN YOU HAVE KIDS BUT WANT TO GO FAST BUT ALSO NEED TO GET GROCERIES: MERCEDES BENZ E63 AMG 4MATIC+ WAGON

This is a really easy choice. The E63 Wagon is just like Mercedes’  normal E-Class wagon, but way crazier. Mercedes’ AMG line of cars are the performance-oriented version of their normal cars, with bigger engines, bigger brakes, and better suspension.. This E63 wagon has more than 600 horsepower (about the same as a Lamborghini Huracan, more than a Ferrari 458, you get the idea), but with the practicality and space of a wagon. It accelerates from 0-60 in around 3.5 seconds, which matches many supercars these days. You have all-wheel-drive so you can survive the winters, three row seating for all the kids, an absurd amount of cargo space for whatever you want to put in there, as well as brakes built for the racetrack, the exhaust note of a sports car, and the power of a 4.0 liter, bi-turbo V-8 engine underneath your right foot. It’s like a Lamborghini and Honda Odyssey combined into one, and that’s an amazing compromise if I ever saw one.

BEST CAR FOR THE RACETRACK: PORSCHE GT3RS

It’s surprising how many automakers have made cars for this specific category. Very few people actually go out and buy these cars due to their very specific purpose, but automakers still pour tons of money into research and development for them. There’s so many great options to choose from, but for me, I have to go with Porsche GT3RS. It may not be the most powerful, or quick, out of the cars available in this category, but on paper (and according to people who have driven it), it is flawlessly sublime. Porsche is known for building incredibly precise, refined cars that are attuned to all of the driver’s inputs and will do exactly what the driver commands. The GT3RS is the product of all of Porsche’s finest innovations and technologies. Featuring a naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine that revs all the way to 8800 rpm (check an average car — it probably revs to about 6000), the best transmission in the world, carbon ceramic brakes that look more fitting for a race-car, a magnesium roof for weight reduction and lower center of gravity, and a huge wing in the back, it is undoubtedly one of the finest cars Porsche has ever made.

BEST CAR FOR WHEN YOU GOTTA STOP GLOBAL WARMING BUT DON’T WANT A PRIUS: TESLA MODEL S P100D

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise for anyone. The Tesla Model S P100D is the quickest car from 0-60 that Motor Trend has ever tested, 2.28 seconds to be exact! While the environmental problem of acquiring the material for the car’s batteries is another issue, when it comes to minimizing pollution yet still having fun, no car can beat this. For day-to-day driving, it doesn’t matter what the top speed of your car is or how fast it is around a racetrack. The most fun you’ll have is in that 0-30mph or 0-60mph range, and no car does that better than this one.

BEST CAR FOR BADASSERY: ALL-BLACK LAMBORGHINI AVENTADOR LP700-4

This was definitely the hardest one to choose. There are so many amazing looking cars out there today. With so much competition and over-the-top-styling, automakers have to do their best to stand out if they want to sell. However, for a few years now, one car has always been able to stand out from the rest in badassery department. And by badassery, I mean the combination of the looks, performance, and general character of the car. Come on. Just look at it. And tell me there is anything more badass to roll up into your 30th high school reunion. Oh, and it has a V-12 engine that makes around 700 horsepower and makes sounds more beautiful than that egg Harry Potter puts underneath the water in Goblet of Fire. Also, its rear tires are more than a foot-wide each!

BEST CAR FOR WHEN YOU GOTTA ONE-UP THE WEEKND:

Sorry, I got nothing. Just Google “The Weeknd cars” and you’ll get what I mean.

What you love to hate about Swarthmore

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

How better to start an article about hating things than by explaining how much Swatties love to complain? If we simply look at the classic, “Anywhere else, it would’ve been an A,” phrase, a sense of gripe seems to envelope the student population, as though letting out complaints will make their pain a little more bearable.

And honestly, on a campus as small as ours, it’s not too hard to find things we can all bond over in loving hatred. Perhaps the best way to show this phenomenon is by talking about Sharples, our favorite place to eat, that sometimes seems as though it was built to hate on. Starting with the wonderful menu that never fails to surprise, all the way to the long tables that are always suspiciously sticky, this tiny ski lodge-like building that serves as our dining hall is the main victim of the strings of complaints handed out by students. Realistically, groaning every time we remember it’s pasta bar, glancing at the options once arrived, and seeing some mysterious food laying out won’t change the fact that we’ll still come back the next day, nor the fact that the same food is the only viable meal option for some of us (*cough, cough* @ freshmen).

Yet even when Swatties choose to skip Sharpling to hit up Essie’s, they can still be found grumbling somewhere about the time Essie’s inconveniently chooses to end meal swipes, forcing them to use their precious points to find some nourishment. For some reason, knowing that they are losing points rather than a measly meal from their plan is enough to drive many over the edge unlocking a floodgate of annoyance and irritation, especially when they miss meals by a whole 30 seconds (don’t mess with those people right away — they’re in a fragile state).

Another classic complaint that is echoed throughout campus is centered around the crushing load of homework almost every student can be found drowning in on any given day of the week. Many voice complaints about how all their non-Swat friends have so much time because they don’t have nearly as much work, and others like to recall simpler times in high school when doing a sheet of problems for math class was the most work they knew. My personal favorites are upperclassmen who’ve studied abroad who come back with tales of “never [having] actually seen the campus” of the school they went to because they had “no work.” Such worlds seem light years away to the sweaty students who slave away, stressing about deadlines and the Internet crashing as soon as they are ready to submit. And man, do they freak.

Whenever the internet is down, it’s as if every student’s worst nightmare has finally caught up to them, and they’re trapped. Everything seems to be calm except for the students who are about to go off the deep end just imagining this newly-missed deadline. Everyone is blamed, from ITS to the Superbowl (at least this past Sunday), and they’re all in a frenzy to find Wifi, and someone to blame, both with equal amounts of vigor.

Obviously, ML is usually among the list of complaints by those that live there, waking up every day knowing they’ll be walking at least 2 miles just to get to class and back to bed. Perhaps students from much larger schools would simply shake their heads at such a complaints, but come on, compared to those living at Parrish, who are literally twenty steps from Kohlberg, MLers have completely founded reasons to yank at their hair and let irritation run through their veins —2 miles is probably a mile more than I walk most Sundays.

As for ‘the hill’, well, I cringe just thinking about it honestly. I mean, it’s so steep and long and wow, I’m tired already. When you have to stand at the bottom and look at it in all it’s glory, Parrish at the very top, it really is beautiful, but every step you take that burns your lungs makes you second guess that beauty. I’m sure most people who do that climb every day are significantly more toned now than they were when they first stepped on campus, but come on, is it really worth it when you’re wheezing by the time you reach the top? I would say maybe, except if you’re headed to Cornell or McCabe, where you’ll just be forced to transfer your complaints of exercise to complaints of homework.

So yeah, we complain left and right and up and down- sometimes, we even manage to make it into a sport. But could we really call ourselves true Swatties if we didn’t bemoan our tremendous amounts of homework or the way Sharples feels like it’s malnourishing us? The truth is no, we probably wouldn’t be- and anyways, what’s a healthy relationship without a little bit of banter?

 

The insecurity of a dark campus

in Columns/Opinions by

As days grow shorter and night time fills more of the days, I notice how underlit campus is. Walking between dorms and libraries, I often find myself speeding to the next street lamp without much light to accompany me. Even at the end of my first semester at Swarthmore, I recognize there is a discomfort in being so wholly in the dark.

I don’t think it’s unfamiliar to feel unsafe on campus. Parties are the first spaces to come to mind, and McCabe has been vandalized and used for hate speech this semester. More universally, however, the lack of lighting on campus sidewalks at night and absence of Garnet Safety call lines present a different problem altogether. In the present state, the college does not guarantee security when moving between campus spaces, and although there is no substitution for teaching individuals how to act properly and how to avoid dangerous situations, the addition of campus lighting and the implementation of more programs like Swat Team beyond party spaces must be taken on to make our campus a better place to live and move.

Early on Thursday mornings, I walk home from the Phoenix Office after helping to put out the paper. At the beginning of the semester, I walked by the amphitheater to Wharton because that was the fastest way to my bed. However, after two or three weeks of walking in the dark, I realized how uncomfortable I felt when I couldn’t see or know what was immediately to my right. Since then, I’ve started to walk down Parrish Beach to have even just a few lamps lighting my way home.

Just to note, I haven’t been uncomfortable walking before coming to Swarthmore. I often spent nights in Rock Creek Park and neighborhoods like Swampoodle and Petworth in Washington, DC into the early morning, roaming parks or streets I hadn’t visited before. The fact that there is some dissonance between being at ease in a place similar to the arboretum for hours and the anxiety I feel in the short five minutes should be cause for concern. I am far from unfamiliar with walking alone, so it’s not just the newness of being alone that is making me disconcerted.

My discomfort, however, does not come from my time on campus being just over three month; many first years and others have voiced similar concerns. It should not be acceptable that students can so consistently feel uncomfortable or even unsafe, particularly when it involves getting to where students live. North campus is generally well lit, but the areas more populated with dorms, which need to be accessed more at night, are left unlit. Besides the short walk across Parrish Walk, the walk from Mertz to Wharton only has four lampposts. First, students at colleges like Swarthmore are often up working late at libraries due to rigorous workloads, meaning they must walk home fatigued with only their backpack. Further, that main line between dorms includes those party spaces like the frats and Olde Club, mixing many people, some of whom are drunk, with spaces in which it can be hard to know one’s surroundings. Leaving the party does not mean that the insecurity of the space stops at the door; getting home can sometimes be the most frightening part of the night. Lastly, the current system fails most sharply for students without good eyesight and other problems with getting between buildings. It should be the school’s priority to ensure their access and the utility of infrastructure for all that use our campus.

To make the campus work for each person, the college should invest in adding more lampposts and blue light stations to sidewalks between dorms and on the northeastern side of campus. The lampposts would mitigate the dangers of late night walks as described earlier and would enhance the campus experience for many, functionally or emotionally. Blue lights, however, are more important. Although many students have cell phones to contact Public Safety, issues of phones running out of battery or a loss of service, as is common near Wharton, happen often. I would recommend Swarthmore follow the system in place at the University of Maryland College Park where, at any spot on campus, one can see at least one blue light, and from one blue light, one can see two others. Yes, that campus is much larger than Swarthmore’s, but the function of a student being able to move from one light to the next, so Public Safety officers can see from where a student is calling their office, holds high value in dangerous situations where a student may not feel like they can speak. Finally, having groups of students trained like Swat Team outside on Friday and Saturday nights would make sure there is an active force mitigating interpersonal situations that might now go unchecked.

Now, there are objections to having these installations from going in the ground. First, some argue that the investment is not worthwhile and that campus has enough measures of security in place to protect students. However, by building these systems, campus would gain three benefits. On top of simply improving student welfare, the college would preempt any citations on the campus infrastructure being a contributor to dangerous situations. Moreover, the college could more effectively describe its efforts to make the campus community safe to prospective students and families, making the school more attractive to many.

Some say the environmental aspect of campus would deteriorate because of the installations. Although we lack of severe light pollution despite our proximity to Philly, I would say there are environmentally-conscious ways to incorporate these measures, like using LED lamps, and that student safety and health should be the priority of the college.

Swarthmore’s campus does not provide access or security to students as it now stands, and it should be the college’s focus to improve conditions to make it functional for all people that enter campus. I would recommend the college act now to build these systems as winter approaches, days become shorter, and more hazards like ice become a reality.

Decline in Clery Act crime stats may be misleading

in News by

Under the Clery Act, nearly all colleges and universities in the country are required to publish an annual study detailing reports of on-campus crime during the previous year. Swarthmore’s 2015 report, released on October 1, paints a picture of crime that is less clear than it appears, particularly with regards to sexual misconduct offenses.

The report, which sheds light on on-campus activity during the 2014 calendar year, demonstrates across-the-board declines in criminal reports last year, from robbery and assault to larceny and drug law violations. Among other categories, reported burglaries went down 58% (from 12 to five), and alcohol-related arrests dropped nearly 60%.

The most startling numbers are found in the sex offenses category, and in the section on Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) crimes. Reports of sex offenses — categorized as non-statutory and statutory rape, fondling, and incest — fell from 89 in 2013 to just 27 in 2014. VAWA, reported under a separate category, oversees a broad range of illegal acts that are harmful to women, such as domestic and dating violence and stalking. These crimes were similarly non-existent, declining from 15 to just one in the last year.

According to Title IX Coordinator Kaaren Williamsen, there are several explanations for the significant fluctuations, all important in shaping the story of campus safety. The key point for her is that the Clery Act study only documents reports of illegality made by students and others to Campus Safety Authorities (CSAs). These reports are often anonymous, failing to identify victims or perpetrators. In such cases, Public Safety and other campus departments are unable to do anything. Further, this particular study only pertains to criminal activity — specific accusations of rape, stalking, and other illegal acts.

“There are many things that aren’t considered crimes but still go against our sexual abuse and harassment policy,” Williamsen said. The result is that, while crime appears to be less pervasive, there may be many more reports of abuse or unsafe experiences that, while highly relevant to many support groups around campus, are not included in the Clery Act report.

“Clery numbers don’t tell the whole story,” she noted.

The numbers, then, only represent the data on illegal offense accusations. These, Williamsen noted, commonly change year to year based on public knowledge and awareness of the prevalent issues. For example, publicity surrounding sexual assault increased dramatically around 2013, especially due to high-profile cases that received significant attention on campus.

Resulting policy changes, including creating a full-time Title IX Coordinator position, helped cause a massive uptick in reports to campus safety of sex offenses.

“As students have felt more empowered to speak up, as systems for reporting have become clearer, and as additional trained personnel have been hired, it makes sense that students would feel freer to report incidents of all types,” said Michael Hill, director of public safety.

Because all CSAs — not just Public Safety, but also Residential Assistants, sports team coaches, and others — are required to submit a report on any information they hear, the number of reports is likely to rise when there is more attention to and discussion of relevant offenses.

Where there were 12 such reports in 2012, the number shot up to 89 in 2013, before sliding back again in 2014 to 27.

“Students are encouraging one another to report, just as we are encouraging them to do so,” Hill said.

Williamsen believes, however, that the Clery Act’s statistical requirements, while useful in certain ways, fail to accurately describe the state of safety and security on each campus. In her eyes, a major issue is that the policies for compiling and publishing data are the same for all schools across the nation, “regardless of size — like Penn State versus Swarthmore — or community college versus residential,” Williamsen noted. “These are huge differences.”

The federal guidelines for what should be included in the report are ambiguous and can change year to year, causing major variation from report to report. Compounding the problem, schools must also follow state-specific reporting laws, which vary significantly, and add another layer of bureaucratic morass to work through.

Large discrepancies in reporting from year to year are actually common in Clery Act reporting across the nation, both in terms of one school’s numbers over multiple years and in comparisons of multiple schools. Haverford’s 2015 study noted seven sex offense reports in 2014, and four the year before — far below Swarthmore’s numbers. Bryn Mawr had six official reports of on-campus sex offenses that year, despite being a school of comparable student population to Swarthmore. Princeton, a much larger school in a different state, noted 13 sexual offense reports on its main campus last year. At the University of Michigan — a school exponentially larger than Swarthmore — the tally was 25.

Despite the annual report’s lack of clarity, Williamsen said the school is more interested in and devoted to tailoring general safety and reporting procedures that fit the college’s needs, rather than focusing on the requirements of the Clery Act.

“We spend a lot of time working with this stuff,” she said. “It’s our job to make sense of all the federal and state laws, and not just to make blanket policies, but to make them palatable to our campus.”

One policy that seems to be having tangible effects is the amnesty policy for alcohol-related incidents, enacted at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. The 2014 calendar year totaled 12 alcohol-related arrests, compared to 29 in 2013. The number of referrals for liquor violations did not change in those two years. On the other hand, drinking-related referrals for incidents in student living spaces nearly doubled last year. While students are still getting into some trouble for their drinking, they are much less likely to be arrested as a result of the revised policy.

For Hill, keeping the campus safe is a never-ending process of revision and review.

“What does not change are our efforts to continually revise and improve our education and prevention efforts,” he said.

 

Sexual Assault On Campus: A Bigger Problem Than It Seems

in Around Campus/News by

Following Angie Epifano’s account of rape in the Amherst College student newspaper, Swarthmore survivors have claimed that the college’s handling of sexual assaults mirrors Amherst’s horrific mistreatment of Epifano. Administrators and counseling sources say that in the past year and a half there have been major changes in the ways in which the college deals with allegations of sexual assault and that the current process reflects these changes.Two current students, survivors of sexual assault perpetrated on Swarthmore’s campus, described their experiences of seeking support from confidential counseling services or from administrators as re-traumatizing. At every step of the process, both survivors were endlessly questioned as to the legitimacy of their rapes, discouraged from reporting their assailants, and blamed for their assaults.One survivor (Student 1), a current senior who was raped during her freshman year, said that the assault was so diminished by her friends and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff, and that she was so heavily discouraged from reporting her rapist, that she never even made it to the administration. She was warned that her attempt to bring her rapist to justice would be a drawn-out and fruitless struggle. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea to say anything because I had been told that no one would believe me, that even if someone did I’d have to fight at every step, and that it would be so emotionally draining that even if I got the result I wanted I’d be too miserable by then to feel like it mattered,” she said. “So I was silent.”

As at Amherst, Student 1 was made to feel — by both the CAPS counselor and her friends — that she was to blame for the rape. “I was asked if I had led them on, if I’d been drinking, if I’d given consent and forgotten,” the survivor said. “I was told that I shouldn’t complain because after all, hadn’t I gone out to get some?” Student 1 was asked to repeat exactly what had happened and if she was sure it was rape so many times that she could not remember what had actually occurred and what she had adopted into her narrative.

Student 1 was also made to feel guilty as a method of discouraging her from reporting her rapist. “I was reminded that my rapist was a good person and asked if I really wanted to accept responsibility for destroying their life,” she said.

Another survivor and current student (Student 2) initially sought counseling services to help her deal with the trauma of the event and was encouraged to speak to a member of the Dean’s Office about her assault. Director of Worth Health Center Beth Kotarski, who is in charge of primary support for survivors of sexual assault, said that CAPS counselors would only encourage a survivor to report their assault if the assailant seemed to be a repeat offender and posed a danger to the community.

According to Student 2, the administrator constantly questioned the legitimacy of the rape. “They told me that sometimes what one party thought was assault was really just a big misunderstanding,” Student 2 said. When Student 2 attempted to explain the ways in which her assault felt completely different from simply going too far in a consensual hookup, she was told by the administrator that, “Many people have disembodied sexual experiences and that doesn’t make them rape.”

Like Student 1, Student 2 was also asked how much she had had to drink on the night of the assault, as though this diminished the seriousness of the sexual assault or was at all pertinent to its legitimacy. “After I answered the question, [the administrator] actually started laughing and told me ‘that’s a lot for a small person like you,'” Student 2 said.

Student 2 said the administrator also questioned her about her level of sexual experience and inquired as to why exactly Student 2 was so sexually inexperienced. “I was accused of making up an assault because I supposedly could not admit to myself that I actually wanted sex that night,” she said. Student 2 added that the administrator attributed her relative lack of sexual experience at the time to her religious views. Student 2 was frustrated that she was asked to justify highly personal choices, and that “I’m not ready for sex” did not seem to be a satisfying answer for the administrator.

The confidentiality of various college resources was not explained to Student 2, and she was told that she had to either report the assault or tell the college that it was not assault. When she chose the first option, Student 2 was accused of changing her mind as a result of being swayed by her friends.

Additionally, Student 2 was strongly discouraged from taking disciplinary or legal action against her assailant. When she stated that she did want to take action against the person who had assaulted her, Student 2 was “highly encouraged” by the administrator to sit down and have an informal chat with her assailant and the deans about what had occurred.

“It is beyond me how survivors could be expected to say exactly what happened to them just a few days later,” Student 2 said. “I was basically accused of being a liar because, in the weeks after my assault, I was able to move past my initial feelings of confusion and guilt enough to see that what happened to me was a crime and not my fault,” she said.

Student 2 did say that she eventually received the help she needed from administrators, and that her perpetrator no longer attended the college, for which she was enormously thankful. Student 1, who never reported her assault, had to wait for her rapist to graduate, and struggled through the impossible task of avoiding the assailant on Swarthmore’s relatively small campus.

When asked to comment on the experiences of Student 1 and Student 2, Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator Sharmaine LaMar said that she could not do so without a sense of when the incidents occurred, since in the past year and a half the college has undergone a close examination of its policies, practices, and types of resources available to students and resource personnel. “I believe that the experiences today would show that we’re being very supportive,” LaMar said.

As stated in a letter from President Rebecca Chopp and Dean Liz Braun, emailed to the entire college about a month after Epifano’s story broke, over the last year the college has intensified its efforts to create an effective procedure for dealing with sexual assault.

Braun echoed LaMar’s response, framing the email from Chopp and Braun in the context of the changes in how the college deals with allegations of sexual assault. Braun said that since she had arrived, she had been working closely with Chopp in collaboration with students, faculty, and staff towards improving the college’s policies. “The letter that President Chopp and I sent to the community was not meant as a response to the Amherst incident, but rather was meant to continue to raise in our community’s consciousness the seriousness of this issue,” Braun said, adding that she and Chopp wanted to encourage the entire community to participate in creating a culture of zero tolerance for sexual assault and sexual misconduct at Swarthmore.

Braun said that changes in recent years have included revising policies and procedures related to sexual assault; moving primary support for sexual assault survivors to Kotarski and Patricia Fischette, a post-graduate clinical fellow who works in CAPS, both confidential reporting services; expanding community-wide educational efforts such as workshops, presentations, and creating organized lists of resources for survivors (a wheel of confidential and non-confidential resources, complete with contact information); sending a reminder of the college’s policies and resources to the entire community once a semester; adding additional training for all CJC members for cases related to sexual assault; and changing the ASAP workshops based on community feedback.

Kotarski and Fischette have been instrumental in retooling the college’s approach to issues of sexual assault. Together, they have worked closely with Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team (SMART) members and sought to implement a greater degree of education and discourse about sexual assault on campus, especially around the area of consent. Fischette said that she and Kotarski want the conversation around sexual assault to continue throughout the year and not to be simply a one-time discussion at the beginning of the year in mandatory Acquaintance and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) workshops for new students. “This needs to be a recurring thing that happens monthly in some kind of activity, panel, presentation or discussion. We’re trying to move towards making this conversation at the forefront of the campus community,” Fischette said.

The two have also tried to recenter the process of sexual assault around the survivor. Kotarski said that unlike at Amherst, a counselor at Swarthmore would never attempt to tell a survivor that their experience was not one of sexual assault. She said that it was crucial not to re-traumatize survivors by asking them if they were sure the incident was truly rape or questioning the survivor about their clothing, drinking or other actions prior to the incident. Fischette agreed, and said that she and Kotarski, when called upon for help, intend wholly to return control to the survivor over the process, since the experience of sexual assault is one of completely losing control and being violated.

Braun and LaMar stressed that they would welcome feedback from all members of the community, including those who were dissatisfied with current policy. “If any survivor, or truly any student believes that they are not treated fairly, appropriately, or sensitively, then that’s something they should let me know about, because we’re always interested in improving the way we approach these very serious and traumatizing types of incidents,” LaMar said.

Though administrators and counseling sources say that there have been major shifts in the college’s process of dealing with allegations of sexual assault, it remains to be seen if the changes in policy and proliferation of resources and educational efforts will result in a process that prevents the recurrence of such deeply troubling stories as those of survivors of sexual assault at Swarthmore.

Go to Top