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This has happened before: we must remember our history

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Over the last few weeks, the Swarthmore community has been inundated with student activism. Students are voicing their concerns and taking actions to make clear that they are dissatisfied with administrative policies around campus.

One of the most recent student movements has been Organizing for Survivors and their call for Title IX policy reform. But, this is not the only movement for which students have been petitioning administration for change. Students for Justice in Palestine are calling for Dining Services to ban the sale of Sabra hummus products. Swarthmore Sunrise, previously Mountain Justice, is launching a referendum to the board against the 1991 ban on taking social considerations into account when investing funds.

These demands from students are not new. In fact, they mirror all too well the concerns of students who have graduated. Most notably, these same concerns were voiced during the Spring 2013 semester, also known as the Spring of our Discontent. We at The Phoenix believe the reoccurrence of these issues reflects that Swarthmore has a culture in which activism is encouraged, but not sufficiently heard. Students are continually compelled to express concerns that they do not feel have been addressed.

Most of the issues that have been raised by students this semester are direct issues that were raised during the Spring of Discontent. For example, in spring 2013, a group of sexual assault survivors and allies called for an end to greek life and the abolishment of campus space for greek life. A referendum on greek life at Swarthmore was held. While five out of six questions on the referendum did not pass, the organizing of survivors did demonstrate that students felt current policies addressing sexual assault needed to be improved and that survivors needed more support. Five years later, sexual assault survivors still do not feel supported and are calling for similar policy changes.

We also believe that the activism from previous students should not die in vain. Rather, we must educate ourselves on the causes students fought for in the past and expand on the movements they worked to build. Looking back on this activism and the results of it are necessary to contextualize events happening on campus now, five years later. The same deficiencies appear repeatedly, the problems are long-standing. Students not directly involved in activism should seek to understand where the current movements come from; students who are involved can use the broader historical narrative as a tool for accountability.   This is true for IX, and for other causes. The Students for Justice in Palestine’s current campaign to boycott Sabra hummus is not their first — their 2012 campaign was successful but the hummus was eventually brought back.

Institutional memory is both a useful tool for campus activists and is also necessary for preserving campus culture and history. Understanding our past as a college community preserves the legacy of those who fought for the institutional changes we now take for granted, and helps to hold those in power to the promises they make to the student body. Publications are a source of this institutional memory, and we at The Phoenix recognize our role in sharing the current perspectives of the Swarthmore community while also preserving the history of these student movements. In order for longstanding change to come,, students need to situate ourselves with this history, and administration needs to due both it and the current climate due diligence.

Importance of social spaces

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Where are your Swarthmore memories? McCabe or Paces for late nights, Sci Commons or Essie’s for lazy afternoons, maybe even the occasional live show in the WSRN Big Room? The experiences we have here at Swarthmore, and indeed anywhere, are often inextricable from the spaces in which they take place. At Swat, as our specific communal spaces and the culture surrounding them change, our relationship as a community changes as well. For example, the recent redesign of Shane Lounge has made the room’s layout more flexible. The countless whiteboards spread around campus have allowed for both more collaborative work and more stress-relieving doodle breaks during study sessions. On the first floor of New PPR, a sprawling lounge with sliding blackboards, intimate wooden booths, and sleek design all around now serves as a gathering space among friend groups. These renovated spaces now promote creativity while students study and socialize.

We at The Phoenix appreciate these renovated spaces, especially as they foster a more connected community. However, with stricter enforcement of certain policies that affect social events and activities, students have felt inhibited from gathering in large friend groups or to engage in party games for fear of being shut down or cited. It is important to have the ability to hold social events that students would like to attend. Students should feel welcome and relaxed at social events such as Pub Nite, but the potential for Pub Nite to be shut down because of common activities such as beer pong impedes the sense of relaxation that Pub Nite should provide. This type of rule enforcement seems to dictate student behavior in a way that has minimum benefit but is a significant restriction on student autonomy. This type of policy make us students feel that we do not have full freedom of choice over our social lives.

Maximizing use of social spaces at Swarthmore takes creativity — we as a campus community can better make use of spaces by reimagining and stepping out of the rigid roles that we have set. Of course, beer pong and drinking games are fun, but so are nights spent playing cards with friends in a dorm room over a bottle or two of wine. There are a lot of ways to consume alcohol in fun social ways outside of classic drinking games. Expanding our social horizons has the potential to lead to new friends and great memories to look fondly on after we leave Swarthmore.

Particularly as new spaces continue to be developed on campus, it is important that the Swarthmore community recognize how influential place is to campus culture. Administration and staff need to recognize that students need to be respected and trusted in their use of spaces for gathering and events. With a little bit of creativity and collaboration, students can reimagine the spaces in which we socialize — to make them more inclusive, more varied, and more conducive to the positive interactions that foster a stronger and healthier community.

Thank you to those who keep Swarthmore going

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

In the past week we’ve experienced more snow than Swarthmore has seen in the past three months. As we all began to mentally prepare ourselves for spring break, it managed to get the coldest it has been all year. Friday’s winter storm damaged power lines, cutting off the power to the college and the majority of homes and business in the Swarthmore area. Massive trees fell near Willets, in front of PPR, and many other trees went down campus. Power was not restored to campus until around 9 p.m. on Friday, powered by a generator. PECO power was partially restored on Wednesday.

Yet Winter Storm Riley was a powerful reminder of the amazing and supportive community which we are a part of here at Swarthmore. As students gathered in Sharples, the only building with power on Friday evening, the atmosphere was not one of dread, but of liveliness and fun. Students were taking advantage of the power outage by coming together through playing cards, enjoying games, and engaging in light-hearted conversation. The outage became a cause for unity rather than frustration. We at the Phoenix are honored to be a part of such a compassionate, encouraging community.

We also recognize that this compassionate, encouraging community is not just created by the students. The gathering in Sharples on Friday night, the quick restoration of power, and the vibrant energy on campus wouldn’t have been possible without the staff and faculty that devoted themselves to ensuring a positive experience for students.

We want to express our appreciation for all of the staff and faculty who kept the campus running for us despite the lack of power at their homes, the icy roads, and the fallen trees and power lines.

Thank you to all of the Sharples staff who continued to provide us with food and a welcoming place to sit, charge our phones and computers, and spend time as a community despite the crazy weather. They came in and had the same upbeat attitude they always have while greeting students each and every day.

Thank you to facilities for working tirelessly to connect campus back to power in only five hours on Friday night, while nearly everywhere else in the area remained without power. It is impossible to express enough gratitude for keeping us connected to the generators throughout the weekend, even switching out the generators over the weekend to ensure campus remained provided with electricity. We are grateful for Ralph Thayer, director of facilities, for keeping students updated on the process through email chains and for making the switch to generator power as seamless as possible.

We are immensely grateful to the facilities staff and arboretum workers who gave their time to shovel snow and clear paths in the storm so that we students could safely navigate campus. We are aware that these workers have even more work ahead of them as they clean up fallen trees and other damage from the storm. They are extraordinary for the effort they exert every day just to keep campus functioning and beautiful.

Finally, thank you to all the professors, living in and out of the town of Swarthmore, that have powered through the damage brought by Riley, coming on to the campus to continue to teach despite the rough conditions and lack of power.

We at The Phoenix have written many articles which criticize and hold various divisions of the college accountable. However, we also recognize the importance of showing gratitude for the people and services we take for granted everyday both those classified as “essential” in the emails, and those who simply improve the lives of students everyday. In the context of this storm, we cannot express how much we appreciate and recognize the hard work that came from all the staff that keep the college running. Swarthmore has room for a lot of improvement but this storm has demonstrated and made us ever more grateful for the staff who work tirelessly to make Swarthmore a place where students, faculty, and staff can find a dedicated and hardworking community of people.

The Board of Managers needs greater transparency with students

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This past weekend, approximately 35 business people gathered in the Scheuer room of Kohlberg to discuss matters relating to the college. These people, also known as the Board of Managers, convened behind closed doors around conference tables for one of the four meetings they hold each year. Their main purpose was to make decisions regarding the endowment and, alongside President Smith, set a direction for the college.

Yet, if students did not pass through Kohlberg Hall this weekend, or even if they were in Kohlberg but not during a break in the Board of Managers meeting, they may have been completely unaware that the meeting was taking place. Even if students did know the meeting was occurring, they remained unlikely to know the purpose of the Board of Managers, much less anything about their current agenda. For students, the Board of Managers appears to be an obscure entity of business people in suits, sitting in a dark room, drinking coffee, and discussing which fund the endowment should be invested into next.

We at the Phoenix believe this relationship between students and the Board of Managers is disheartening and unproductive. Especially for an institution like Swarthmore that prides itself on supporting student efficacy and responsibility, we believe students have a right to know the issues and solutions on which the board is actively deciding, especially since those decisions will have a direct impact on our lives as students.

For example, students are left completely unaware of the board’s agenda and the topics they discuss at the meeting, both before the meeting and after it.  While there are archives of records from the Board of Managers’ meetings online, these records seem to be from over 30 years ago and still state that  “Permission to this material is restricted and requires the permission of the Office of the President of Swarthmore College.” There is no explanation of who is allowed to request these documents.

The minutes from past Board of Managers meetings should not be restricted and the minutes should be made available to students within a week after the meeting. The United States government posts an outline of Congressional meetings, along with extended remarks from members of congress who spoke.

We recognize that Swarthmore College is much smaller than the U.S. government and operates much differently as a private institution. Still, since Swarthmore has fewer students than the U.S. government has citizens, and arguably much less highly classified information than the U.S. government, it should be easier for Swarthmore to be transparent with students, not harder. If citizens have the right to hear about the government making decisions that will affect their lives, shouldn’t students be extended this same right as members of the college community who are impacted by the decisions board members make?

We at the Phoenix also recognize that the board may not mean to appear so secretive. Most board members were Swarthmore students themselves, so they likely are able to understand our perspective. We also recognize that limited efforts have been made by the board to breakdown some of the barriers between them and students, such as allowing two observers from SGO to attend this weekend’s meeting. Part of the meeting for the board this past weekend was applauding and supporting the work of current students, such as listening to Lang Social Impact Scholar presentations and considering the project proposals from the President’s Sustainability Research fellows. We commend the beginnings of a relationship between the board and students, but we also believe that these small-scale connections are not enough.

The Board of Managers should allow open meetings in which any student who wishes to observe the meetings are allowed to attend. Minutes from the board’s meetings should also be made easily accessible online, so that students can be informed about the concerns, changes, and decisions that will ultimately affect them. After a Board of Managers meeting, President Val Smith should send out the minutes from the meeting through email, along with the major announcements she makes, like the new provost.

These are just a few methods in which the Board of Managers could become more transparent and develop a stronger relationships with students. The secretive arrangement between students and the board that currently exists undermines student trust in the institution and portrays the current student perspective as unimportant, even if this is not the intentions of the board. By taking steps to foster a more open relationship between the board and students, Swarthmore can foster a greater community while upholding their goals as an institution.

The Phoenix: A Commitment to our Community

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Here at the Phoenix, we may not appear to change from semester to semester as our product appears the same. We continue to print and publish pieces online every Thursday and we continue to produce sections that highlight news, arts, sports, and opinions within and affecting the Swarthmore community.

Yet, behind the scenes, the Phoenix is constantly evolving. From section editors to staff to writers, we at the Phoenix are constantly striving to innovate and transform the paper to represent the Swarthmore community in the best ways possible. Not just that, the people that make up this organization are constantly changing. Each semester, we have new editors, writers, and staff. Each semester, our editorial board has a slightly different approach. What doesn’t change, though, is our belief in the importance of sharing our goals and aspirations with the Swarthmore community. It is our mission to uphold the value of transparency in journalism. As a student publication serving the Swarthmore community, we believe that students have the right to know our objectives and intentions of the Phoenix.

Below are section-specific goals written by the respective sections editor(s).


The news section isn’t exactly “new.” The Phoenix has been covering campus news since the paper’s first issue in 1881, in which an unnamed student wrote about a fire that destroyed Parrish. Generations of news writers have broken stories on campus, from civil rights protests to to the dissolution of the football program to fossil fuel divestment. We aim to continue their tradition, a tradition of representing and commemorating the wide span of clubs, political causes, social events and student-led initiatives that characterize our community, both on campus and around our campus, in a new way every week. We also understand and document Swarthmore’s role in the local community, socially and politically.

This semester, as the news section, our goal is to take what we hear people whispering, discussing and shouting about, everywhere from Cornell 1st at 1 a.m. to Hobbs on a Saturday morning to the Facebook meme group (literally all the time), and get to the bottom of it. Inherent in that goal is a commitment to be a trustworthy and representative resource for the student body. We are independent from the administration, but we hold ourselves to a high standard of credibility and a longstanding tradition of journalistic ethics. We are a small campus, so many of the stories we tell are deeply personal, and we wish to respect that. By speaking to you, we extend our publication past the perspectives of our writers to capture an account that represents all students.


The Arts section aims to highlight the beauty and diversity here at Swarthmore College. We want to give students the opportunity to showcase their art of all types in our publication and give them a forum to discuss their passions.


The Opinions section is a place where campus discourse happens. It is rarely the start or the end of the discussions in this community, but it is the space where Swatties can put their perspectives out to the entire campus community. The Opinions section itself is a conversation, an exchange, a back and forth, where we challenge and inspire each other. All students are welcome to submit pieces and responses to those pieces as a way to express ideas, especially those that are complicated, important, and just too good for a Facebook status. Opinions sections in Swarthmore publications have been the source of controversy in the past, and we acknowledge the power that we have in shaping campus discourse. Writers have the ability to assert, dissent, and defend their ideas in a manner that advances productive discourse. The opinions section is a way to engage with one another, respectfully, with the power of words.


The Sports section is the most staffed section at the Phoenix. With 15+ contributing writers, we bring together varsity athletes, club and intramural athletes, as well as non-athletes who are passionate about covering the sports world both at Swarthmore and in the professional realm. As a section, we pride ourselves on covering sports news that matters to students, whether that be a preview on our Men’s Basketball team, or an article on Tiger Woods’ return to the professional golfing world. A hallmark of our section in the past semester is that we encourage a pursuit of sports articles that have connections to the non-sports world. Anthem kneeling in the NFL in response to police brutality and other systemic racism issues. Structural inequality in the U.S youth soccer system. Swarthmore athletes and their service work during their time off from athletics. Our section prides ourselves on being a place where sports coverage can be more than just a simple scorecard from a baseball game, as many sports sections in American newspapers have historically been.

Copy Editing

We copy editors work behind the scenes to make sure stylistic conventions consistent throughout the Phoenix. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all that jazz is within our purview. We want to ensure you focus on content instead of a misused “your.” Should you find one, please notify editor@swarthmorephoenix.com.

We at the Phoenix are excited to explore new methods toward achieving our goals. We promise to work toward representing the Swarthmore community with integrity.

What do you want in a provost?

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

The student body has a chance to make huge amounts of change this semester and next. No, it’s not necessarily through a new walk out or protest, and Election Day has come and gone. Instead, we can guide essential programming of our academic program here at the college.  

A panel of faculty has come together to begin selection of a new college provost. As leader of faculty and director of curriculum, the provost commands a great deal of power over the academic program and a huge portion of our lives here as undergraduates. We think that most students do not have direct contact with the provost, but the student body should be very conscious of the decisionmaking process. Because the provost has the power to define academic programming for years, we should think on what our academic priorities are and voice support for candidates that will be receptive to those proposals.

Consistent considerations students bring up are a social justice distribution requirement, Credit / No Credit reform, and the expansion of programs that center on marginalized groups to majors. This selection gives students a more timely reason to discuss these issues as a campus more wholeheartedly and redefine our objectives for these potential programs instead of relegating these discussions to random roundtables on Cornell first or in committees.

These discussions could accomplish three goals. First, it will outline a student proposal to present to the college for potential change, the opportunity to connect wide and narrow interests, and give us a unified voice to negotiate with faculty and administrators. Second, it also gives us qualities and motivations we want to see in a provost. Lastly, it could also give the student body points of conversation with the incoming provost about ways to better incorporate student initiative in academia. These considerations and potential benefits are not the only things relevant to the selection of provost, and provosts do much more than just cater to student wants and motivations. However, we engage here as students most everyday, and if academic policy will be shaped for years to come, we should take initiative to have as much space in the room as we can.

As this long term process proceeds, students should reach out to professors they know or learn how to be on the selection committee. Let them know what you would value in a provost and what you want to stay the same or change about the academic program here. How can your time as a student here be made better?

Things here don’t change in a matter of a year, and usually not in a student’s time at the college either. We should take the opportunities we have to make change when the institution, which historically does not barrel through decision making, is in a changing mood.

Finding empathy

in Columns/Opinions/Staff Editorials by

This Sunday, the country witnessed yet another instance of mass violence. The shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas left 26 people dead and many more injured. Once again, we saw headlines of including the phrase “one of the most deadly attacks.” News publications increasingly use this line to describe massacres, such as the Las Vegas shooting on October 1 leaving 58 people dead or the October 31st New York City attack that killed eight people.

Around campus, however, this line seems to have lost its gut-punch feeling. Monday morning, for most of us, was just another day on campus. Students, staff, and faculty followed their regular routines. Some community members were unaware of the terrible attack that occurred just 24 hours prior, and few lost breath over it. These attacks have turned the lives of thousands upside down and scarred towns. Yet for us, life keeps going.

Anyone who watches the news will be able to tell you that it will often leave you feeling hopeless or depressed. This has caused many of us to lower our news consumption or compartmentalize the extreme things that we read about. This is dangerous. We cannot let these things become normal.

We cannot let these events paralyze us but we need to recognize the magnitude of what this country, and world, is experiencing. We need to recognize that the 26 people who died on Sunday and the countless victims of other attacks are more than just a CNN notification that pops up on our phones.

We need to find a balance between pretending these events never happened and letting them control our lives. This may look different for everyone. Some people may choose to get more involved with politics. Others may want to get more involved on a personal level and find some way to support the victims. Both of these options are valid responses to the terrible events that we keep seeing.

We know that it is impossible to give each news story the attention it probably deserves. You cannot donate to every fund or spend all day calling your congressman. That isn’t reasonable. What is reasonable is to take a few minutes every day to recognize the impact that these events have had on people and think about what you can to do help.

This college prides itself on being a social justice campus. We hold protests and vigils for many events, yet ignore so many others.

We recognize that, unfortunately, holding a collection or a vigil for every mass death would be impossible. But having a conversation about what happened with a friend at dinner is not. Reading about the stories figuring out what happened humanizing the victims is possible.  

Gearing up

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

As we hit the part of the semester where the second round of midterms are coming up, the weather is getting colder, there are fewer daylight hours, and the end of the semester coming into view. With the end still very far away, many people are beginning to walk around like zombies. Many of us resort to completing each of our tasks just to check them off the list, and we end up moving through our days with a melancholy attitude.

This is the time of the semester where we all need a second little push. During this time, it is important to remember that there are some good things about this campus. It is important to do a little self-reflecting to find what it is about this campus that you enjoy.

Whether it be the salad bar, or the ski lodge-like atmosphere in Sharples, or that one class that you just really enjoy, we should each recognize what here at Swat brings us enjoyment about being here. Zoning in on those aspects of campus can help get each of us through this part of the semester.  

Maybe go back and re-read that dreaded “Why Swarthmore” essay on your college application and remember why you were so excited to come here as a first-year. Yes, you might cringe a little bit at the forced SAT vocabulary or stressed metaphors, but there might be something buried in there. Maybe you wrote about how excited you were to be able to live in such a beautiful arboretum, but when is the last time you went for a walk in the Crum? Maybe you wrote about how much you hoped to take advantage of being close to Philadelphia, but you haven’t been into the city as much as you anticipated this semester.

Misery poker and Swat-bashing are common around campus. Sometimes it can be fun to make fun of ridiculous things that happen on this campus, but going too far can hurt your experience here.

Swarthmore does a lot of things well. It works hard to support their students through externships, accessible professors, access to funding and many other opportunities.

What’s more, being at Swarthmore offers one access to a collective ethos. When something happens at this school, people know, and people care. That can’t be said for a lot of other schools, and we should recognize its value here.

This school has many flaws, many of which are pointed out in our editorials. However, we must remember that this is a place we have all chosen to be. We have the responsibility to make this community the best possible version of itself, because it is ours.


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