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Swarthmore Christian Fellowship has a sexuality problem

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

In the spring of 2015, Dayna Horsey ‘18 was confident that she would be the one of the next leaders of the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship (SCF). She had been happily active in the group, going to SCF events almost every day, and was under the impression that most who applied for a role would be given a leadership position .

What she didn’t know was that her application was doomed from the start: over Sharples dinner one night, SCF’s president, David Tia Zhou ‘15, explained to Horsey that she was too accepting of gay sexuality to be a leader in the group. Then, he hugged her and wept.

“[H]e was just, like, crying on me,” Horsey recalled.

Not becoming a leader didn’t bother Horsey too much. “I’ll find something else to do,” she remembers thinking, and indeed, she left SCF soon after. But she was angry—while she wasn’t queer herself, she had queer friends who had been hurt by religious intolerance. And she was shocked at how wrong she had been about SCF, Swarthmore’s largest Christian group.

“I didn’t realize at the time how conservative SCF was,” Horsey said.

Here’s how conservative it is: SCF’s leadership believes that God designed humanity for only one kind of romance, heterosexual marriage. Any relationship should exclude pre-marital sex, be heterosexual, and lead to marriage.

People who disagree with this stance, or those who date people of the same sex, cannot be leaders within SCF.

This policy may be little-known around campus, but SCF makes no attempt to hide it. The SCF leaders interviewed for this article did little to sugar-coat their beliefs or evade questions; rather, they gave long, candid interviews in which they explained their doctrine and clarified how their policies work in practice.

“According to the Bible, God has a specific design and purpose for sexuality,” SCF co-president Michael Broughton ‘19 said in an interview, adding, “the act of sex is designed for a specific purpose that can only be enacted in [God’s] will between a husband and a wife, specifically.”

To practice any other form of sexuality, in the group’s eyes, is sin. To many Christians, sin is a sort of spiritual crime, an action out of sync with God’s plan. Other sins include murder, theft, and, according to some, premarital sex. Sinning doesn’t necessarily condemn a person to the eternal torment of hell—SCF believes that everyone occasionally slips up and falls short of God’s teaching. However, failing to recognize and repent for your sins means that you haven’t truly accepted Jesus Christ as God, which is the only path to salvation and eternal paradise. In SCF’s eyes, that means you must resist your same-sex attractions, rather than celebrate them, because these desires are tempting you towards sin.

“[T]o not repent—to not orient one’s lifestyle away from all sin, where ‘sin’ happens to include homosexual conduct—is a very likely indication that the process of accepting salvation has not been fully experienced,” Broughton wrote in a follow-up email. “And yes, not accepting Christ’s salvation is grounds for spending eternity in hell.”

By this logic, being gay alone does not send you to hell; however, rejecting what SCF believes are the Bible’s teachings about sexuality might make eternal damnation more likely, though God makes the final decision about the fate of your soul. More immediately, a queer-affirming opinion makes you ineligible to be an SCF leader: Students who do not agree that acting on same-sex attractions is sinful cannot be leaders, period.

SCF’s beliefs also have effects outside of leadership selection. For some queer students, leaders or not, it translates into an unwelcoming environment throughout the organization. In a group that both current and former members describe as a close-knit, cathartic spiritual community where people build long-lasting friendships, this institutionalized homophobia can be a bitter deal-breaker that pushes members away. And at a time when Christians across the United States increasingly embrace queer love, SCF’s position shows no signs of softening.

Before I go on, a little digression about terms: When this article uses the word “queer,” it mostly refers to cis students who are attracted to individuals of the same-sex, since it’s unclear how trans folks fit into SCF’s view of sexuality.

One thing should be clear: SCF’s leadership policies apply to behavior and beliefs, rather than  identity itself. Celibate queer students who condemn their same-sex attractions (or “lust”) are welcome to lead, and students of all sexualities and opinions can join the organization as regular members.

 

PAIN

No story I heard embodied the SCF position’s murkiness and potential to cause suffering as concisely as David Falk’s. In August 2013, David Falk arrived at Swarthmore for freshman orientation. With an outgoing, gregarious personality, he made an immediate splash.

“[David] is a hoot,” Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Joyce Tompkins recalled, smiling.

When Falk told me his story over video chat, his backdrop rarely stopped moving as he paced in circles, sometimes giddy about his exciting present, at other points riled up about the painful past.

Falk enrolled at Swarthmore a devout Christian. In high school, he had come out as gay, but had lived a sheltered four years. When he arrived on campus, he dated a series of male students and joined SCF, assuming, based on Swarthmore’s liberal reputation, that it was a relatively tolerant Christian group. Although he worried about how fellow Christians might see his sexuality, he himself felt he had reconciled his faith with being gay.

“I kind of just expected, ‘Okay, Swarthmore’s kind of progressive and there shouldn’t be any problems. I’ll just fit in,’ ” Falk recalled.

David Falk during his freshman year at Swarthmore.

Photo by Ashlen Sepulveda ‘17, provided by David Falk

At first, he seemed to fit in just fine. Once in SCF, he enjoyed being a member and began to think about becoming a leader. Then began a painful step-by-step discovery that would test the harmony between his faith and his sexuality. Falk’s first clue was the existence of Swarthmore Progressive Christians, a much smaller alternative to SCF.

“I was like, ‘Huh, that’s interesting. Does that mean, like, they’re more progressive than Swarthmore Christian Fellowship?’ ” he said.

The answer he received was that SCF was more politically inclusive, so it included both conservatives and progressives. For a while, that put Falk at ease, but he began to hear about queer students who had fallen out with SCF leadership. After asking around, he discovered that SCF was a member of InterVarsity, a national, evangelical network of Christian student groups. That led him to Google, and soon he was reading reports of InterVarsity chapters around the country forcing queer students off of leadership. SCF didn’t just welcome conservatives—it was conservative.

This discovery began Falk’s alienation from the group. Other events worsened it, like the realization that dating his then-boyfriend would disqualify him from leadership.

 

SCF’s position on same-sex dating is muddier than its position on sex. SCF leaders clearly disapprove of it, but they aren’t sure if dating someone of the same gender makes you a sinner.

“The idea of ‘dating’ in a very basic sense might not technically be sin,” Broughton wrote in an email, “but there are various physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries that those in dating relationships tend to cross before they get to marriage, and crossing those boundaries in a homosexual context would probably come closer to constituting sin.” Plus, he said, dating someone of the same gender probably means you disagree with SCF’s conservative ideas about sexuality.

“For these reasons, same-sex dating would disqualify someone from being a leader,” he concluded. Sin or not, same-sex dating and SCF leadership do not mix. (Again, it is unclear how trans students fit into this gender-based dating policy.)

A low point during Falk’s freshman year came after a Friday-night musical performance sponsored by InterVarsity, during the Spring semester. Falk stayed behind to talk with the musicians.

“I was talking with this guy InterVarsity paid money to bring, and he was saying, ‘Are you struggling with anything?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m struggling with my role in this community, and reconciling my sexuality and my faith.’ ”

The musician, whose performance had struck Falk as beautiful, responded viciously.

“[H]e was like, ‘Do you seriously believe that God would think that it’s any way acceptable […] for a man to stick a penis in another man?’” Falk remembered the man saying. “How can you not see that God finds that revolting?’ ”

Falk alerted SCF leadership to what he had been told, but he said they offered no emotional support and simply told him SCF didn’t endorse what the performer had said.

“It was one of the most horrible nights of my entire life, where I went back to my room and I was crying for hours, being like, ‘God, why did you make me like this?’ ” Falk said. “And I went through that alone.”

Falk fell into what he called a “spiritual identity crisis” around his sexuality. At SCF, one way members can process spiritual crises is by sharing testimonies at an event called SWAT Night, which happens once to twice a year. These testimonies tend to be deeply personal reflections on an SCF member’s relationship with divinity.

“I said one day, ‘I think I need to do one of these, because, you know, I’ve been hurting and this is a story that needs to be heard.’ ” Falk said. “And I was told by someone on leadership that, you know, we can’t, as a group, officially have a message that’s affirming [of queer sexuality].”

 

Falk’s testimony was rejected. David Zhou, who was already a leader at the time, said that he didn’t reject Falk’s testimony personally, but that he agreed with the decision:

“I think a space like SWAT night presents itself as a platform to teach and any teaching should be consistent with what the Bible teaches,” he wrote in an email. “For example, if someone said they were dating a non-Christian and felt that God blessed that, that person would be asked not to share about that during SWAT night since it directly contradicts God’s Word.”

Zhou, who would soon run SCF, wasn’t just any leader. He was known around campus for his penchant for enthusiastically preaching to passersby; he also epitomized the lifestyle SCF encourages in its queer members. In Zhou’s own words, he “experience[s] same-sex attraction.” This wording is intended to identify his sexual inclination without celebrating it.

“I’ve been told many things, including that I’m repressed and that people feel really bad for me,” Zhou wrote in an email. “I understand that’s said from a place of love and care, but I’m really beyond thankful for being able to live according to God’s plan. And the most beautiful part is, when I still struggle, when I fall, when I give in to lust, God’s grace is enough for me. His grace is sufficient for us because His power is made perfect in weakness. If there is one thing I can communicate it is: Jesus is worth it.”

Zhou’s is the sort of queer struggle that SCF felt comfortable hearing about at SWAT Night, and Falk’s story did not fit the bill. (Recent SCF presidents are split on the issue: Daniel Park ‘18, who led the organization last year, agreed that Falk’s testimony should have been rejected, while current co-presidents Michael Brougton ‘19 and Emily Audet ‘18 said that nowadays a student would be allowed to share queer-affirming testimony at SWAT Night.)

The rejection of his testimony ended Falk’s involvement in SCF. Dismayed at his inability to be a leader and the rejection he felt from the group, he met with then-Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Lili Rodriguez to discuss his situation with her, but ended up not pursuing a crusade against SCF.

“I was just, like, ‘I just need to get out of this,’ ” Falk remembered.

For reasons both SCF-related and not, Falk’s freshman year was becoming miserable. Spring 2014 became Falk’s last semester at Swarthmore.

Falk’s departure saddened Joyce Tompkins, who had long been troubled by SCF’s policies and had hoped that Falk’s experience might spur a public dialogue about queerness and Christianity.

“I thought maybe he was going to rock the boat, but he ended up transferring instead,” Tompkins said.

Falk is now a senior at Penn State, where he has started an LGBTQ Christian group called Receiving With Thanksgiving, which recently hosted a series of prominent queer Christian speakers. At Swarthmore, he had felt alienated from both the queer and Christian communities; at the much larger Penn State, he has found a home.

“I’ve felt like my intersection of identities has been appreciated and respected here,” he said.

SCF leaders characterize the organization’s stance as an apolitical, purely religious position that has no bearing on how it treats its queer members. But stories like Falk’s—whether of pain, alienation, or outright bigotry—complicate that notion. Intentionally or not, SCF’s stances are inflicting pain.

When I told him about how Falk had come to weep at his allegedly sinful sexuality, Daniel Park ‘18, who led SCF during the ‘16-’17 academic year, gave a surprising defense of this pain.

“I think every Christian should come to a point when they are on their knees weeping at the brokenness of their selves, about everyone being corrupted,” Park said. “Everyone should come face to face with their imperfections against God’s standards.”

According to Christians like Park, all people sin, and “homosexual” lust is just one sin among many.

“Homosexuality is a sin, much like pre-marital sex, lustful thoughts, drunkenness, selfish ambition and myriad of others that literally everyone is subject to; it is not somehow special and set apart in the Bible,” Park wrote in an email.

So why, during leadership selection, emphasize homosexuality over so many other sins?

“I don’t think we’re singling out homosexuality just to single out homosexuality,” current co-president Michael Broughton said. “This just happens to be an issue that is relevant in our cultural moment and also on Swarthmore’s campus. Additionally, it is something that in the Christian community is also creating a bit of tension. […] Since it’s particularly relevant, we’re talking about it more; and since we’re talking about it more, it seems like we’re putting emphasis on it.”

That said, the choice to emphasize homosexuality during leadership selection is partly a deliberate, strategic choice.

“[I]t is a place where we, as a leadership team, seek some unity, as it is a divisive issue on campus,” Audet  explained. “And so we think it’s important as an organization to have some sort of unified definition of what a leader is. And this is one of a few different issues that we use to self-define.”

While the SCF presidents I spoke with said the group’s queerness policies were uncomfortable to implement, they took full ownership of them and appeared confident that they were theologically correct. I asked the current co-presidents if they wished the Bible wasn’t so heteronormative.

“I mean, there’s a part of me that never wants to cause anyone pain. And the fact that [our policy] does cause people pain—that bothers me,” Audet said. “But […] you can’t wish that the Bible said something different. That doesn’t make any sense, because I believe it’s the word of God. […] But it is not my favorite SCF policy by any stretch of the imagination.”

 

UPROAR

Falk’s story of feeling rejected by SCF is one among a myriad, and there have been times when student discontent with SCF has bubbled to the surface. Tompkins remembers the group hosting gay conversion therapists as guest speakers in the early 2000’s, which caused an outcry. The most recent uproar overlapped with the Spring of Discontent in 2013.

It started in October 2012, when The Phoenix published an article highlighting SCF’s membership in the conservative InterVarsity network. While InterVarsity doesn’t fund SCF—the College does—it has provided resources like dedicated staff advisors, access to Christian retreats, and guest speakers. In turn, SCF abides by InterVarsity’s doctrinal stances, which include its conservative position on sexuality.

To some SCFers in 2012, news of this membership was a bombshell, since back then SCF rarely used InterVarsity’s name and did not advertise the affiliation widely. Most shockingly, the article said that the InterVarsity chapter at SUNY Buffalo had essentially fired its treasurer for being gay. SCFer Nick Palazzolo ‘13, who was a senior at this point and was queer, had never even heard of InterVarsity.

“For me it was like, ‘What? I didn’t know this!’ And I felt like something had been kept from me for a while,” he said. “It was really frustrating.”

At the time, Tompkins was speaking to other SCFers like him, who discovered the group’s conservatism after they joined. Tompkins described SCF’s behavior at the time as “a complete lack of transparency,” since both its InterVarsity affiliation and its policies on queerness were little-known facts among the group’s most casual members. After the Phoenix article came out in the 2012, a group of SCFers decided to confront the group’s leadership. They worried that the organization’s policies on queerness were causing harm, and their desire for change led to a series of meetings with SCF leaders.

“The ones I sat in on were very painful,” Tompkins said. “A lot of very raw emotion.”

Palazzolo attended one such meeting in April 2013. SCF’s leadership had just gotten a letter from Swarthmore Progressive Christians; the much smaller organization was refusing to hold a joint prayer session with SCF, citing the latter’s policy on queerness. SCF’s leadership was discussing how to respond, and they invited Palazzolo to the meeting partly to hear his take as a queer person.

“A lot of folks […] were raising questions like, ‘Why can’t we just all pray together?’ ” Palazzolo recalled. “I tried to respond to that by explaining that a lot of folks feel as though they can’t, because there are policies that are alienating, that are hurtful.”

He also told his fellow SCFers about queer students’ worries regarding the leadership selection process, explaining: “Even if [queer SCFers] weren’t told ‘No,’ they know that they would be if they sought something like leadership.”

Briefly, the leaders present at the meeting entertained the idea of SCF endorsing a more queer-affirming position than it had previously. But Trevor Morse, a paid InterVarsity staffer assigned to Swarthmore who attended the meeting, drew a red line.

“[Trevor] was like, basically, ‘No, we can’t. […] I would feel as though I was sinning myself,’ ” Palazzolo recalled. “And I remember that being really hurtful and painful, and crying a little bit during that meeting.” (Morse said he didn’t remember the specific exchange, but he stood by the substance of what Palazzolo remembered him saying. “I do believe that, assuming a particular action is sinful, it is also sinful to encourage or approve of that action,” Morse wrote in an email. As evidence, he cited the Bible passage Romans 1:28-32, which ends in the sentence: “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”)

Others at the meeting shed tears, too. One SCF member realized just how much her beliefs about queerness were hurting others; for this harm, she apologized to Palazzolo.

“[S]he directly looked at me, and she was crying,” Palazzolo said.

Palazzolo left the meeting jarred by a conversation rife with sadness and self-condemnation, and angry that a group that preached God’s love felt so unloving. With these thoughts in mind, he sauntered up to Pearson, looked up at the rainy sky, and yelled at God. Within a few weeks, he had graduated.

 

THE LITMUS TEST

That semester of tears and apologies changed things, but only a little, and it certainly did not push SCF to be more inclusive. If anything, what followed was more like a crackdown. Every potential SCF leader is now specifically quizzed on what they think about queerness, and the wrong answer disqualifies them. David Zhou, who served as SCF president in 2014-2015, called the new litmus test a clarification.

 

“There [has] been hurt where some leaders and members were unclear about SCF’s interpretation of Biblical authority and sexuality,” Zhou wrote in an email. “These conversations led us to be more clear and explicit in the leadership process about the group’s interpretation.”

After the spring of 2013, “[t]he question about your stance on homosexuality became a part of leadership selection at Swarthmore—it’s not an InterVarsity thing, this is an SCF thing,” former president Daniel Park explained. Park described the test as a way to clarify the organization’s beliefs to potential leaders.

“This is our effort to be transparent,” Park said, speaking softly and weighing each word. “This is what InterVarsity believes, and we, as a chapter of InterVarsity, agree with that.”

On paper, SCF’s policy hasn’t changed. The group has always loosely expected its leaders to adhere to its doctrine, and applying to be an SCF leader has long included signing a statement of faith. But that statement is vague enough for many progressive Christians to agree with. Before Zhou rejected Dayna Horsey from leadership, Horsey had signed the statement of faith, unaware of its implications. She did not know that when she affirmed “[t]he unique divine inspiration, entire trustworthiness and authority of the Bible,” she was also expected to agree with SCF’s conservative view of Biblical sexuality.

Had SCF been more transparent, this confusion would not have happened. Horsey would have known, from the get-go, that SCF took a conservative stance on homosexuality, instead of finding out over an emotional Sharples dinner. Audet and Broughton insist that SCF has improved its transparency in this regard. Nowadays, they said, leaders explain the leadership application process to all potential applicants, and the explanation includes an explicit mention of SCF’s beliefs about homosexuality.

But the explicit question about homosexuality is about more than just transparency. Leaders see it a way to protect the doctrinal consistency of SCF’s upper ranks.

“The specific issue about homosexuality is a really hot-button issue. And it serves essentially as a weathervane, as an indication of the person’s broader stance towards the Bible,” Park said, calling a potential leader’s views of homosexuality a “litmus test for trusting in the authority of the bible.” If you don’t agree with SCF’s interpretation of Biblical sexuality, this logic goes, you probably doubt the authority of the Bible as a whole. Audet and Broughton, the current presidents, agreed that SCF treats the queerness question as a weathervane.

This rigor appears to be comparatively new. Andrew Cheng ‘12, a gay man who served as SCF president in 2011-2012—he was celibate at the time—was surprised and disturbed when he heard about the litmus test. He said it had not yet been implemented when he led SCF, and recalls leading a group with ample room for disagreement and some tolerance for alternative interpretations. Since then, he suspects, that has changed.

“You know, when I was there, we had a reputation for being this super-weird liberal Christian group,” he said, adding: “And it makes me kind of sad to see that that has changed. Not because I think everything should be liberal, but because the result of the change has been people being hurt and people leaving, especially my babies, my freshmen: Class of ‘13.”

That class includes SCFers like Palazzolo, who became disillusioned with SCF after the painful conversations of spring 2013.

“[If] current leaders are being asked on their views on one specific issue as a litmus test for whether or not they believe in the Bible… Yikes, that’s scary,” Cheng said.

 

INTERPRETATION

SCF’s views on sexuality are premised on Bible verses like these:

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

Not everybody takes these passages at face value. Progressive Christians like Religion Professor Mark Wallace point to possible mistranslations, pedophiliac connotations, and other contextual clues that guide them towards a more inclusive interpretation of the same text.

Wallace came late to our interview last April. Finally, I found him rushing towards his Trotter office on a bicycle. An animated speaker who deeply feels every word he speaks, he painted a picture of Christian sexuality that sounds more like Judith Butler than St. Paul.

“Jesus is, in a certain sense, non-binary, queer, gender-non-conforming,” Wallace said, counting each adjective off on his hand and citing, among others, a Bible story in which Jesus compares himself to a mother hen. To Wallace, the Bible can be read as a queer-affirming text.

SCF’s current leaders have little time for such interpretive flamboyance. To them, the question is not what the Bible really means but whether you are prepared to accept the text at face value.

“You can context your way out of anything,” said co-president Emily Audet.

According to the SCF mainstream, progressive Christians’ inclusive reading of the Bible is not just unbiblical, but a concession to changing social norms. In our conversation, Park, the former president, referred repeatedly to centuries-long tensions between a changing society and an unchanging Bible. Christians, he said, must choose the latter.

“It’s okay if you feel tension, it’s okay if you’re angry, it’s okay if you have trouble. But when the rubber hits the road, are you able to say: ‘It’s hard, but I choose to trust the Bible over what society says?’ ” Park said.

To the average Swarthmore reader, this opposition between eternal Biblical truth and evolving social politics might appear naive. Yet SCF earnestly rejects any implication that branding same-sex romance as sin is a political position.

“We are apolitical,” Park reiterated several times during our interview. “We don’t even talk about political issues. We don’t tell members, like, vote for this, this is how you should think on this legislation. […] It’s more like, ‘This is what the Bible says.’ ”

 

THE FUTURE

On its website, InterVarsity maintains a list of campus chapters that have lost official recognition for clashing with university nondiscrimination policies. SCF leaders know that such administrative action is a theoretical possibility at Swarthmore as well, given that the group is a chartered organization that receives College funding.

While Tompkins disagrees with SCF’s theology, she said she does not want them to be derecognized, forced to leave InterVarsity, or otherwise pressured to change. Any change like that should come from SCFers themselves, she says. Tompkins primarily wants more open dialogue on the issue, which is currently virtually nonexistent.

Queer student leaders on campus, however, took a decidedly less accommodating stance towards SCF’s institutionalized anti-queer line.

“If you ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’— surprise, you’re still a bigot,” Swarthmore Queer Union president Gretchen Trupp ‘18 wrote. “Claiming love and acceptance and actually practicing accepting everyone are two very different things, and it’s all too clear which side SCF is on.”

“This policy is pure homophobia, plain and simple,” wrote SQU treasurer Shayne Rothman ’20, adding: “I believe any group with any policy that singles out one type of person is promoting hatred and bigotry rather than love and acceptance, especially at an institution that seems to delight in thinking itself accepting.”

COLORS, a group for queer students of color, wrote in a formal statement that they do not support exclusive groups, unless they use their exclusivity to provide “more space for marginalized people.” Executive member of COLORS Byron Biney ‘19 added that “[a]n organization has a target; an idea of the kind of people in that organization and who they want to support. Claiming the standpoint of “apoliticalness” despite constantly making statements that have both religious and political implications […] is something that doesn’t make sense to me.”

“This group should absolutely be defunded,” wrote SQU vice president Maya Henry ‘20, adding: “Nothing is apolitical.” Trupp and Rothman agreed that SCF should lose College funding over its policies.

 

Park, the former SCF president, when confronted with a hypothetical loss of funding, seemed unfazed.

“Ideally, Swarthmore would have a space for conservative Christians on campus, and not just a version of religion that happens to fit a desired social narrative,” Park said, adding: “But, if not, Christianity has been oppressed at different points in time, and the Bible actually says that this is expected, this is the norm. Persecution is the norm for Christianity. […] And if SCF is defunded, so be it.”

Current co-president Emily Audet said she isn’t worried about losing funding. She said Swarthmore generally respects the autonomy of religious groups and, as far as she knows, administrators have never made an issue out of SCF’s policies on queerness. (Swarthmore administrators failed to respond to repeated requests for comment.)

It’s tempting to believe that history arches towards social progress, and that the conservative wing of a given issue eventually mellows out or goes extinct. Indeed, a growing list of American Christian denominations now recognizes LGBTQ relationships as legitimate.

“[A]nti-LGBT theology […] will eventually get swept away into the dustbin of history,” Wallace said.

But it’s also important to remember that this is no mere political struggle. Leading SCFers sincerely believe that holy scripture tells them that many queer people are tempted to sin. Scripture, in their view, was written by God, the all-powerful creator of the universe who holds the keys to heaven and hell. Such divine authority is hard to argue against, much less overturn, with moral or political arguments.

“We [Christians] are easily manipulable because of how important faith is to us,” Cheng, the 2011-2012 SCF president, said. “So if you believe in something that you would stake your life on, then the things you are taught about that become extremely important in your life and are hard to change.”

Despite the hurt it causes, the inevitable backlash, and its association with the worst elements of the Christian right, SCF leaders feel divinely compelled to accept SCF’s interpretation of the Bible. But they accept this interpretation while fully aware of the emotional carnage it can cause.

“I’m uncomfortable with it,” Park said, referring to SCF’s view of sexuality. “I have gay mentors, gay friends, gay people who are in my life who I immensely respect. […] I think, when God comes back, I want to ask him: ‘God, why?’ ”

 

Note: A version of this article originally appeared in Swarthmore Voices on November 29, 2017

Eating green and dancing quietly in Philadelphia

in Columns/Philly Beat by

 

Philadelphia and creativity are inextricably bound. After moving to the U.S. from Dubai, my greatest appreciation for Philadelphia was its quirky character, distinguished by the immense creativity that seems to reign all over the city. For example, The Magic Gardens, where household items are put together to form a stunning, intricate outdoor art installation, perfectly illustrates Philly’s unique spirit. From vintage thrift stores to South Street to Fishtown, creativity in Philadelphia is so abundant that it makes it hard to narrow it down to just a few recommendations. I am going to explore three very different examples of thrilling experiences you can have in Philly, including a unique, eco-friendly and vegan restaurant known as HipCityVeg, a great night out as a silent disco where you are able to pick your own music or have a conversation at any time you choose, and last, an ‘Art After 5’ cabaret, dinner, and drinks hosted by Philadelphia’s very own Museum of Art.

Many of Philadelphia’s restaurants have creative conceptual foundations, and HipCityVeg is certainly one of them. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of veggies and greens, and I seldom go a meal without eating meat. Coming from a family of huge ‘foodies’, I had always assumed that vegan food would be bland and lack the vibrant flavors that I had grown to thoroughly enjoy. So, as you can imagine, when a friend dragged me along to HipCityVeg, I wasn’t too thrilled. But to my surprise, it has become one of my favorite places to eat, and has impressed me more consistently than many other restaurants I have tried. The menu includes dynamic flavors in a fast-food style setting, and the creation of the flavorful dishes challenged my misconceptions about vegan food. I definitely recommend the Buffalo Bella along with the sweet potato fries and the arugula taco salad. The Buffalo Bella is rich and flavorful with a giant portobello mushroom that is crisp yet soft on the inside, and is perfect paired with the sweet potato fries that are a HipCityVeg signature, which improve almost any dish. The arugula taco salad is an excellent combination of a light, healthy yet delicious and satisfying lunch. I personally love to ask the people who work at HipCityVeg what their recommendations are, and they never disappoint.

 Located in University City and Rittenhouse Square, HipCityVeg has a plant based and eco-friendly philosophy unlike any other. As their website notes, HipCityVeg is “about health and compassion for living things and the earth, but the food is about tasting good. It’s as simple as that.” They do their deliveries by bicycle, are 100% plant based, compost all packaging and kitchen scraps, and the interior of the restaurant is composed of energy efficient and recycled materials. I would recommend the Groothie specifically for a detox or for its health benefits, but realistically, I would eat here at any time of the year — on and off a diet.

After a great meal at HipCityVeg or really anywhere in Philly, a night out away from the typical Swat social scene can be much needed. The problem is that at any party or club, everyone at some point experiences two things: 1) you are not a fan of the current song playing, and 2) you would like to have a conversation with someone, but this proves to be close to impossible over the blaring music. Those two scenarios are a little too familiar to most of us, and at a Silent Disco both of these issues are overcome.  Besides this, the Silent Disco provides a club experience like no other, and it’s worth trying at least once.

The concept of the Silent Disco is simple, yet genius. When you walk into the Silent Disco they hand you a pair of wireless headphones, and have three different DJ’s playing at the same time. You simply press a button on your headphones that light up blue, green, or red — each featuring a different DJ. Walking into this silent disco is somewhat bizarre, as you walk into an almost silent room, and still witness people dancing the night away, with the singing entirely out-of-sync as each person chooses to sing along to their favorite channel. Meeting someone new and getting to know them in a loud environment is always hard, but here you just take off the headphones and engage. If the conversation dies out or becomes relatively awkward (don’t worry, I got you covered, Swatties), then simply put the headphones back on and zone out back into your happy place. Tickets for upcoming events can be found on silentphilly.com

In my last piece, I briefly wrote about the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their pay-as-you-go option. The museum happens to be even more versatile than you probably thought. Rather than solely engaging in the everyday self or guided tours, visitors to the Museum of Art on Friday evenings can attend an event called “Art After 5.” From five to around nine every Friday evening, the Great Stair Hall becomes a unique cabaret, featuring different artists, music, and themes every weekend. Enjoy the live entertainment and the light food options available as well as the bar. Admission to the “Art After 5” performances and even guided tours are free during this time after you pay the standard museum admission. Admire the art on the walls along with art performances by some of the most creative minds. Upcoming events include Diwali Party, Holiday Jazz, Hanukkah Party, and Feliz Navidad. Stop by any of these events for a guaranteed great time! Philly has so much creativity to offer, much more than I could possibly cover in this column, but HipCityVeg, the Silent Disco, and Art After 5 are definitely three of my favorite unique go-to spots.

New Theatre Company Explores Intimacy

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Since the final weeks of last semester, posters for the American Masturbatory Theater Company have been posted across the Swarthmore campus. A cursory glance at the flyers has left many students perplexed about the nature of the club, which, as Sam Swift Shuker-Haines ‘14 puts it, is about “trying to find a presence, an honesty” as individuals.

Created by Shuker-Haines, the American Masturbatory Theater Company aims to bring Swarthmore students together in a search for intimacy and the pursuit of art born from it. The company has both laboratory and performance components; all members of the company participate in the laboratories, during which the group engages in exercises for the purpose of “being seen honestly and showing [themselves] to someone else honestly.” Members with an interest in theater are encouraged to join in the creation of a performance piece drawn from the work of the group as a whole. The actors of the company will execute the resulting performance later in the spring semester. Beyond this, the company also hopes to make an appearance at Crunkfest, an annual event.

Shuker-Haines and other members of the company are unsure of what the performances will look like or even what the work of the group will result in. The lack of this clear conception is largely due to the lack of a finalized group of participants, which is necessary for “real community-building work” to start. Shuker-Haines sees the future of the company as resting in the hands of the participants themselves.

The company will be holding its final open meeting in Old Tarble on Sunday, January 27, 2013. Though *they directed the first two workshops, Shuker-Haines hopes that once the group becomes closed, the actors in the company would take a more leading role in conducting the following laboratory sessions.

The origins of the concept are found in Shuker-Haines’s experience as a high school participant in programs hosted by Shakespeare & Company, a theater company based in Lenox, Massachusetts. During one particular exercise entitled “Actor, Audience,” program members stood up individually and shared revelatory truths about themselves, before pointing to a part of their body and speaking a line of poetry. The exercise, described by Shuker-Haines as “terrifying, painful, and absolutely beautiful,” prompted visceral emotional reactions from the members of the group. The cathartic nature of the “Actor, Audience” exercise was an impetus for the founding of the American Masturbatory Theater Company. Having since never experienced a space where the same sort of “pure unadulterated honesty” could be shared, Shuker-Haines sought to create a group for that purpose at Swarthmore.

Since its inception, the company has held two open workshops in Old Tarble, both of which took place in the last weeks of the fall semester. In these introductory meetings, participants engaged in a range of exercises; a number focused primarily on meditation, while others were a little more creative. In one activity, members of the group took turns standing in the middle of the room for five minutes while the others simply watched them. In another, participants moved freely about the room, following their impulses and making whatever sounds they wanted to express.

According to Shuker-Haines, the goal of these exercises is to fill a void they feel exists not just at Swarthmore College, but also most everywhere else. Shuker-Haines wants to create a space where students can “take the time, not to see what we expect to, but to actually look at the physical presence of someone who’s there, look at who they actually are in the space, in the moment right then.”

One participant, who wished to remain anonymous, commented that the meetings were “a really good stress reliever, which everyone at Swarthmore really needs.”
Another member of the company, Doriana Thornton ’16, admits that she was unsure of what the group would be doing before going to the first meeting, but was pleased with her experience.

“I found that the space was the perfect place to connect with myself,” she said.

The idea of being vulnerable in the way encouraged by the company sounds frightening to many – not everyone is comfortable with being so open both emotionally and physically. Shuker-Haines understands that the activities that the group engages in can sound intimidating. “It’s hard to have intimacy without vulnerability, without it being a little bit scary, because a lot of the sensation of intimacy is being seen honestly and showing yourself to someone else,” they said.

Participant Kerry Robinson ’16, who describes himself as a very “private person” who was uncomfortable with self-exposure, has attended both of the fall semester workshops. After he came across a flyer for the theater company in Sharples, Robinson joined, partly out of curiosity and partly because he wanted to experience the intimacy the group offered. He said, “It was something that I needed because I felt that I’m not a very intimate person.”

Having struggled with intimacy and vulnerability, Robinson said that the meetings were constructive for him. “It made me realize that I could invite people in a lot more than I felt like I could before,” he explained.

The company’s provocative name arises from the strong parallels between the nature of the group and the nature of masturbation itself. Shuker-Haines describes the work of the company as “the creation of a pleasurable experience out of nothing but bodies; it has no purpose other than its own… The company’s not trying to gain anything except the pleasure of being seen honestly and seeing another person in a loving way and sort of the inherent pleasure of intimacy.”

Though the company has no immediate plans for any actual group genital masturbation, Shuker-Haines pointed out that, should a member of a company begin to masturbate during a meeting, they would not stop that member from doing so – as long as the activity is useful to the exercise and no other member is traumatized by the action.

The student body’s reaction to the formation of the American Masturbatory Theater Company has ranged between enthusiasm, cautious acceptance, and confusion.

Reflecting the feelings of a number of students, Isabel Knight ‘16 sees the presence of the American Masturbatory Theater Company as a positive addition to the Swarthmore campus – but notes that she herself would probably not join. “I wouldn’t see myself going to it because you’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable position – and so is everyone else, granted, so that’s part of the experience but it takes a very brave, particular kind of person to do that,” she said. “It would probably be very easy to misunderstand, but I think it’s a good thing that it exists.”

Many students know nothing more about the group than its name. An anonymous junior asked if the group was meant to be a comedy club. Zequn Li ’16 had a closer, though vaguer, notion of the company, believing it to be a group of actors who wrote plays about masturbation.

Upon learning more about the group, Li said, “It’s a novel concept… I’ve never heard of anything like this. I think it’s great that they’re creating this new group.” Despite this enthusiasm, Li states that he, like Knight, would not be stopping in on a meeting of the American Masturbatory Theater Company.

To students who are wary of joining the company because of self-consciousness, Thornton offers words of encouragement. “I feel like a lot of people could really benefit from it,” he said. “One of the points of [the company] is to be able to feel discomfort. The group is beautiful because it’s a safe space in which you can feel that discomfort.”

*Sam Swift Shuker-Haines prefers to use the gender pronoun “they.”

Lockout? What Lockout?

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Tonight, October 11, 2012, is supposed to be opening night for the National Hockey League Season. Unfortunately, the league has been in a lockout since its collective bargaining agreement expired on September 15, meaning that there will be no hockey tonight — at least not at the Wells Fargo Center. However, Swarthmore hockey diehards are not out of luck. At 9:40 p.m. at Parrish Circle, the Swarthmore Motherpuckers will congregate, as they do twice a week, and drive to a local rink to play ice hockey.The Motherpuckers are, without a doubt, one of Swarthmore’s most tightly knit intramural sports teams. They are open to all, describing themselves on their website as, “the place where anyone in any skill level can come and have an amazing time with friends and Swat”, and the club does, in fact, attract players of all skill levels. According to team member Tony Lee ’15, “students of all skill levels, from [those] not sure how to skate to club hockey players, are welcome.” This message of inclusivity has helped the team attract a large roster: 46 players are listed on the club’s website.Further demonstrating the diversity of experience on the team are the hometowns of the players. Ice hockey is, for the most part, a regional sport in the United States, with players concentrated in New England and the Upper Midwest. Internationally, top nations include Canada and Russia and its former satellite republics.  While some Motherpuckers do hail from these hockey hotbeds, others are from places such as Beijing, China and Cupertino, California — places that are not known for their hockey prowess.

The Motherpuckers are able to attract such a diverse group of players while maintaining a high caliber of play by splitting participants into “A” and “B” lines. According to Atish Agarwala ’13, “the intensity on A line picks up from time to time, but we always have a B line for players new to the game to play comfortably.” Splitting the lines in this fashion allows the club to create a competitive atmosphere for stronger, more experienced players, while ensuring that players new to the game have a safe and supportive playing environment.

Ice time is difficult to come by. Consequentially, the Motherpuckers are forced to play late into the night, with ice time ending at 11:45 p.m. Perhaps it is these late nights that have helped build the chemistry of the Motherpuckers. Agarwala and Lee both raved about the team’s closeness, with Agarwala citing, “the chance to get to meet a whole bunch of great people and really build a community on and off the ice” as one of his favorite parts of being a member of the club. Lee was also a fan of the team’s late night eating habits, adding that, “post-Puckers Tom Jones trips are always memorable.”

Being a Motherpucker does not end with graduation. Alumni participate in Motherpucker practices frequently. Agarwala fondly remembered one of these games from this past spring, in an anecdote that further illustrates the deep bonds formed by team members. “It was the last [Motherpucker game] for Jonathan Hui ’12, who had help run the club for three years and was the best friend I’ve ever made at Puckers. We also had some other alumni from my time in [Motherpuckers] come down. We ended up playing seniors and alumni vs. underclassmen, and it was a lot of fun. Afterwards, we presented Hui with a custom jersey that we had all chipped in to buy for him”.

Of course, just because the team is tightly knit does not mean that they are above getting a little competitive with one another. Agarwala describes the van rides as being  “always filled with people excitedly chattering away — with a healthy dose of trash talk, of course.”

The balance between an intense competitive spirit among the experienced players and a spirit of inclusiveness that welcomes first timers has helped transform the Motherpuckers into one of the most successful clubs at the College. Of course, there is one other factor that doesn’t hurt: ice time is not inexpensive, and as Lee put it, “free hockey is also almost unheard of.” So, hockey fans, if the NHL lockout is making you miss your hockey fix, remember that the College has its own hockey program. It is open to everyone, and to date, it has never had a lockout.

App and Investment Clubs New on Campus

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Swarthmore College’s already prodigious list of student-run organizations has expanded even further this semester with the revival of the previously dormant Investment Club and the foundation of the App Club.

Although both focus on highly lucrative industries, neither clubs’ immediate interests seem to be solely pecuniary. Both hope to provide students interested in these industries with opportunities to expand their skill set and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to more real-life problems and scenarios.

“The mission of our club is to provide interested Swarthmore students with the opportunity to learn and become better investors. Along the way, I hope to convince my peers that investing can be a rewarding, stimulating, and socially beneficial career,” Investment Club Co-President Adam Silver ’14 said.

Investment Club’s main activities will involve members working together to maintain a mock portfolio of equities and fixed income, with the ultimate goal of outperforming set benchmarks for each class of assets. The club is currently in the process of selecting members that will be responsible for specific asset classes.

The club also hopes to educate members on specific investment strategies and techniques. At the club’s meeting on the 21st, Financial Analyst Nathan Newport of the College Investment Office described the school’s approach to managing its endowment and offered suggestions for managing the club’s mock portfolio. At the upcoming meeting, Co-President Aliya Padamsee ’14 will present a “practical, technical approach to risk-averse trading.”

Discussions of assigned reading material such as Burton Malakiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street, a classic financial text analyzing various investment techniques and stock market behavior, will also play a prominent part.

Working in a similar vein, the App Club seeks to augment members’ classroom knowledge with hands-on approach to product development. “The Computer Science department at Swarthmore is great, but it focuses mainly on CS theory. Our club offers the unique chance to apply the theory to reality, and create some really cool stuff along the way,” the club stated in a group email.

Like the Investment Club, the profits App Club hopes to earn seem to be mostly intangible. “Our main profit is what we learn from the development process.  We’re not precisely sure how SBC would react if we decided to sell our Apps. We will likely keep them free, and if we don’t we’ll make sure, in true Swattie tradition, that the profits go to a good cause,” the group responded.

Although both groups’ missions are comparable, their size is not. While Investment Club currently boasts 75 students on its mailing list and a first meeting attendance of 25, App Club has capped its membership at five to promote close cooperation between coders.

“There hasn’t been much interest from the student body. We work with some fairly obscure technologies that don’t exactly make a lot of headlines, so the population that’s actually interested is pretty small,” the club email stated.

Numbers aside, members of both clubs seem positive about the directions their organizations have taken.

While App Development Club has remained much more low-key, this seems to fit into its overall ad hoc structure and plans. In regards to its future activities, the group responded: “In the immortal words of nuclear physicist Richard Feynman, we’re making it up as we go along.”

Investment Club members have complimented the organization’s membership diversity and overall approach. “From what I’ve heard, the old club consisted mostly of Phi Psi members and was just interested in the purely money-making aspect of investing. I think the membership and areas of investment interest represented now are much more diverse,” said Parker Murray ’15.

Murray further stated that he feels the club has a lot to offer individuals who aren’t as interested in finance careers; “I personally don’t have any plans to go on Wall Street and am more interested in the club for its money management applications,” he said.

Investment Club Co-President Aliya Padamsee summed up both clubs’ modus operandi by referencing her own experience in the field of investing: “Other than seminars I’ve attended on [futures and options], I’ve learned by doing!”

Parker Murray is Director of Art at the Phoenix.  He had no role in the conception or production of this article.

Rugby Teams Growing by Leaps and Bounds

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From 2007 to 2009, rugby was America’s fastest-growing sport, according to a study conducted by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA). In 2010 alone, participation in the sport increased by 50.7 percent, bringing the total number of American rugby players to a little over one million.

American interest in rugby is also expected to increase with the inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero. The United States has won the past two gold medals in the event, which came in 1920 at the Antwerp games and in 1924 in Paris.

Here at Swarthmore, interest in rugby is higher than ever as both the men’s and women’s teams, which are members of the East Pennsylvania Rugby Union, report high numbers of first-year players participating. Recently, Roy Greim asked some members a few questions about the sport and the fall season.

Roy Greim (RG): What is rugby in a nutshell?

Taylor Nation ’14 (TN), member of the men’s team: In rugby, two opposing teams are trying to advance into the other’s goal area (called a try zone), without passing the ball forward. On offense, the team’s backs pass the ball backward to each other, using mismatches and deception to exploit holes in the defense. Every time a player gets tackled, the forwards start a ruck, which is a contest for possession. Whichever team wins the ruck gets an opportunity to move the ball forward. On certain penalties, there’s a scrum, which I believe rugby is most synonymous with. The forwards grab a hold of each other and try to push the other team’s forward pack backwards, so that they’re in possession of the ball. Whichever team wins, keeps trying to get into the try zone.

RG: What made you interested in joining the club? Did you have any experience prior to coming to Swarthmore?

Becky Griest ’15 (BG): I had no experience and had almost no concept of the game. My roommate actually convinced me to join. She had a sister on the team and had heard about all the fun the team has together. The team was so welcoming and supportive, and as a freshman, it was so wonderful to have a group of people to go to, to ask questions to, and have fun with. We have each other’s back. As the season went on, I fell in love with the game itself. It’s empowering, and allows you to work towards a common goal. It’s interesting: one moment you’re doing everything you can to tackle someone, and the next you’re socializing with the other team over a burger.

Aarthi Reddy ’14 (AR), co-president of the women’s team: Honestly, I was coerced into being on the mailing list during the Activities Fair my freshman year. I had no experience playing rugby, and I was already interested in taking a PE class that met at the same time as weekly practices. I decided on Friday of my first week that I’d just give it a try — my roommate had gone to practice and said it was really fun — and I’ve been with the team ever since. As a freshman, the rugby team gave me an opportunity to bond with upperclassmen, who were welcoming and patient, and other freshmen that I never may have met. The community created by this team is something I consistently rely on and I can’t imagine dealing with the challenges of Swarthmore without the knowledge that my team always has my back — on and off the field.

TN: I played football in high school, and even then, a lot of my friends were trying to get me to join the local rugby club. When I got to Swat, I wasn’t really doing anything physical since we didn’t have a football team. I figured rugby was a close second to football, and a great way to stay in shape. Turns out that I was only half right. Though the conditioning aspect of rugby is indeed awesome, I love playing it so much more than I did football. The nice thing about playing rugby at our level is that there isn’t really a lot of experience necessary to start. We’re all learning. It’s a simple game to pick up, and awesome to play.

RG: Are there any misconceptions or negative stereotypes about the sport that you’d like to address?

Pauline Goodson ’14 (PG), Fitness captain: Probably the amount and degree of injuries you receive, as well as what kind of physique you need. The truth is that rugby is actually very safe, if not a little painful and leaves you with a few bruises. There’s not any specific body type we look for when recruiting people because we know any talent can be useful on the field, whether it’s taking opponents down or speeding through them.

AR: Many women believe they have the wrong body type for rugby and this simply isn’t true. Each position on the rugby field is unique and requires different strengths. Of course, the commitment to keeping high fitness levels is incredibly important for everyone but whether you’re big or small or tall or short, if you’re willing to put in the effort, there will be a place for you on the field.

TN: A big misconception is that you can be “too small” to play rugby. Although size doesn’t hurt in any sport, playing rugby really involves more smarts and knowledge than it does size. Odds are if you’re 5’5 125, you’re rarely going to be matched up against a 6’1 forward. You’re going to be out in the back line, where speed and focus are more important. We have had a couple of very small players that turned out to be great tacklers and really big assets to our team.

RG: From what I understand, you have a pretty large group of first-year players this fall. What’s your impression of them and what does this mean for the growth of your sport?

TN: Our first-year players are great! Sam, Razi, Emilio, Rudy, Greg, Omar, Kingston, and the rest of our guys are awesome. They’re showing a lot of talent and love for the game, and it’s going to be great to see them grow up to even better ruggers than they are now. That being said, it would be great to have even more guys come out to play. I would love to see 20, 25 guys out to a practice. If anyone’s interested in playing or knows someone who is, they should come to practice! We meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Cunningham Field and we play games on Saturdays. We look forward to seeing you out there!

PG: It probably means rugby’s here to stay for a while. Our family is expanding and when the veterans graduate, it’s always nice knowing there’s a solid team still ready and eager for the next season. These girls are so fantastic in their readiness to learn something new and I find it obvious that in each and every one of them we have a great addition to the team. More simply, I’m beyond excited to play with them.

AR: Our roster shows we currently have 18 new players, which is unbelievably exciting! Easily the most exciting thing about these new players is the fact that their ages span all four class years. It means that our team isn’t just growing from the bottom-up, but that it’s truly expanding. Barely a year and a half ago, we showed up to matches with 12-13 girls maximum (15 are required to field a team) and the fact that we now have a roster of over 30 women and can field two entire teams, with substitutes, is beyond incredible.

New Belly Dancing Club Comes to Swarthmore

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by
For all you Pub Nite attendees who grin and bear the booze solely for the final half-hour of stress-blowing shimmying, Thursday nights are looking up. A new belly dancing class, taught by the internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Najia of Philadelphia Bellydance, kicks off tonight at 7:30 in Upper Tarble, offering the perfect warm-up for pre-Pie dancing.Not ready to bare all? Not to worry — despite popular misconceptions, dancers are free to leave their tummies covered while taking part in what club board member Mariam Zakhary ’13 describes as “a great fat-burning workout.”

Belly dancing is not a new phenomenon on campus: the Middle Eastern Cultural Society (MECS) held two workshops last year for interested students to work their hips. Photographing the festivities inspired Elena Ruyter ’14, who is spending this semester in Morocco, to seek funding for a weekly class last spring.

MECS board members Zakhary and Marina Tucktuck ’13 are holding down the fort until Ruyter returns stateside. The seniors, who come to Swarthmore from Egypt and Palestine, grew up with the dance, and are excited to work their hip scarves outside the privacy of their dorm rooms.

“I definitely just put on my scarf and dance around my room sometimes,” Tucktuck said. “It’s a fun part of my life and reminds me of my culture. I do it to not be homesick.”

Tucktuck also describes it as a good de-stressor, as the hip movements require focus on the body and the beats of the tabla (the drum that typically accompanies the dancers).

A major component of Middle Eastern culture, belly dancing is often associated with bra-baring women performing for audiences of men; the reality, however, is much different.

“It’s how we dance at parties, at weddings — it is a huge part of our culture,” Zakhary said. “We’re just born knowing how to belly dance.”

Club members need not be affiliated with MECS — in fact, many attendees of the workshops last spring were not members of the group. If all goes well this year, the club tentatively plans to pursue PE-credit certification for the 2013-2014 school year.

“We had so many students at the activity fair come up to us and say, ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve been waiting for this club for so long,’” Tucktuck said with a laugh. “We are just excited to begin.”


Women’s Club Soccer Gets Off to a Running Start

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According to its club sports handbook, the Swarthmore College athletics department currently recognizes eight groups as official club sports: men’s rugby, women’s rugby, men’s ultimate Frisbee, women’s ultimate Frisbee, men’s volleyball, men’s fencing, women’s fencing and men’s badminton, which is now defunct. Currently looking to join this group is the Swarthmore women’s soccer club, which received a charter earlier this year.
Despite this recognition from the Student Council, the group will not be able to be an officially recognized club before 2014; in accordance with guidelines laid out in the handbook, an athletic group must be active for a minimum of two years after being chartered before it can apply for club status. In the meantime, the group, which began practicing this week, has been working diligently to attract new members and become increasingly legitimate in the eyes of the administration.
Interestingly enough, the idea for the club was born from founder and senior Elliana Bisgaard-Church’s experience with ultimate Frisbee as a member of the Swarthmore Warmothers last fall. There, she met Alison Koziol ’15 and the two quickly discovered they shared soccer as a mutual interest.
“Alison and I had met playing ultimate Frisbee and we connected a great deal over the fact that soccer was our first love,” Bisgaard-Church said. “Unfortunately, and despite a lot of fun, Frisbee was not satisfying that soccer itch we both had, so throughout the Frisbee season I started thinking about why we have a men’s club team but no team for women.”
After the season, Bisgaard-Church began serious consideration of the issue and decided to gauge the potential interest of the student body in the formation of a women’s soccer club. After advertising in the Reserved Students Digest (RSD), which is received by all Swarthmore students twice a day, she learned that several others shared her interest in forming a group on campus, and with that in mind, she began to form a team.
“I was pleased to find that the process of creating a group is relatively easy; the most difficult part was making a specific budget for [the Student Budget Committee] and even then that was smooth with help all along the way,” Bisgaard-Church said.
“It was also difficult to start a team in the middle of the year when students have often already filled their extracurricular schedules,” she continued. “I worked hard, though, to make practices fun and get girls to come out, and, after our first successful and truly team-bonding scrimmage against Haverford, could tell that there indeed was a place for women’s club soccer at Swarthmore.”
Despite her tireless efforts, Bisgaard-Church will not be at the helm this year after a torn ACL she suffered at the end of last semester left her unable to play regularly. In her place will be Koziol and team captain Thera Naiman ’14, whom Bisgaard-Church approached due to her extensive commitment to the team in the spring.
Although it is a non-varsity group, the women’s club soccer team still seeks out high-level players and nearly all of its members have experience at the high school and competitive club levels. This desire for serious competition is also reflected in its schedule; this season, the club will face off against various Division I squads, including two teams, Villanova and the University of Delaware, which competed in the 2011 National Campus Championship Series (NCCS) National Soccer Championships.
As always, competition against Tri-Co rival Haverford College is also a highlight of the season. “We’re particularly excited about the Haverford game, given the long-standing tradition of friendly rivalry between the two schools,” Naiman said. “Like ours, Haverford’s team formed last year, and we are looking forward to watching our teams grow side by side.”
As a fledgling organization, it is always looking for new members, particularly those experienced in the sport, to join and help accelerate this growth. Now, the Swarthmore women’s soccer club begins its first season as it looks to combine a desire for intense competition with the more laid-back atmosphere of club sports. Although official recognition as a club sport will not come before 2014, the prospects look bright for a team committed to providing an alternative option to varsity athletics.
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