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Letter to the Editor: participate in the capital campaign

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

This past week, Swarthmore College publicly launched the “Changing Lives, Changing the World,” an ambitious $450 million comprehensive capital campaign. This campaign purports to preserve, and promote, the college’s commitment to curricular diversity, social impact and, of course, inclusive community. A recent Philadelphia Business Journal outlines just how the large sum of money that the campaign aims to raise will be delegated to benefit Swatties. Among the results that the campaign is expected to have are an interdisciplinary academic building, increased financial aid support for incoming students, more resources in support of Swarthmore’s commitment to social impact and infrastructure renovation.  Yet, it would be a mistake to solely emphasize the monetary value of this campaign. For all intents and purposes, this campaign provides a meaningful opportunity for Swarthmore community members—current staff and students, alumni, and friends—to have a stake in the overall improvement of Swarthmore College. Surely financial contributions have to be made in support of this campaign, yet those contributing, especially young alumni, should see this campaign as an opportunity to contribute to a better, more enriching and more inclusive Swarthmore experiences for future Swatties.

While a student at Swarthmore, I benefitted from a full college experience. Both on and off campus, I participated in cultural groups, I was placed in meaningful summer internships and I participated in various extracurricular activities that enriched the education I received in the classroom. Yet, I recognize that what I now call my Swarthmore experience would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the generosity of members of the Swarthmore community—like the Kohlberg family, and others—that came before me. In that spirit, I think it is important that alumni, particularly recent alumni, support the “Changing Lives, Changing the World” campaign.

Recent alumni share a unique perspective of Swarthmore College. After all, we have graduated from Swarthmore and can acknowledge that our lives no longer revolve around an arboretum. Yet, we still share a kind of familiarity with Swarthmore which enables us to not fully feel disconnected from current students. Just as importantly, many of us can recall having concerns, holding conversations and participating in amphitheater convocations during which we wanted to build a more inclusive and nuanced community at Swarthmore. Many of us may even recall the frustration we felt towards “the administration,” whom we felt, at times, was not responding to our concerns, or worse, was part of what we perceived to be the problem. I think Swarthmore heard us, and through this campaign, we have an opportunity to help create the Swarthmore we wish we had when we were students.

For some, this campaign may elicit some concern. For instance, asking recent alumni to contribute financially may be regarded as an undue burden to recent graduates who are still transitioning into adult life. That transition, understandably, can be especially difficult for recent graduates with student loans to pay off, as well as other financial obligations. That said, recent alumni still have an obligation to future generations of Swatties. In one way or another, someone had our backs while at Swarthmore, and we have to pay it forward.

I am not assuming that this campaign is an all-encompassing solution to all the concerns that all Swarthmore students may have. I do believe, however, this campaign presents an opportunity for alumni to channel the energy, love, and frustration that we had, and many of us still have, towards Swarthmore to make sure future Swatties have everything they may need to reach their full potential during their time at Swarthmore. During the announcement of the campaign’s public launch, Political Science Professor and Executive Director of The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, Ben Berger, framed the campaign in a way that I think is relevant to all Swarthmore community members, including alumni. “The product [of the campaign] is us,” Professor Berger said while speaking to a crowd of students, faculty and alumni. Further, the goal of the campaign, Professor Berger mentioned, is “everyone here.” He was right. There really is one beneficiary of this campaign—Swarthmore College. And we are all—students, alumni, faculty, parents, etc.—a part of Swarthmore College. Thus, we have a responsibility to contribute to its improvement so that future generations of Swatties may benefit from our involvement, and they can then pay it forward themselves.

Changes to senior giving program prompt considerations to college giving

in Around Campus/News by

This spring semester, the Alumni and Parent Engagement Office and the Student Philanthropy Council have encouraged seniors to donate to the college before their graduation this May. This year has prompted more discussion, however, due to initiatives that include a gift-matching program as well as an option to allow seniors to choose to which college group their gift goes. Seniors have largely appreciated these measures as a way to make their gifts more meaningful, but they still hesitate to give to the college so immediately.

In past years, the Alumni and Parent Engagement Office found problems in attracting donations from the graduating class and having students train others in the program. Assistant Director of Marketing for the Alumni and Parent Engagement Office Sarah Thompson outlined issues in the program that this year’s changes hope to remedy.

“Senior giving at Swarthmore used to be tied to fundraising for a particular item on campus such as bench or tree. This model proved problematic over the years as students who were not interested in funding for this initiative were not able to direct their giving to another area of campus,” Thompson said. “We’ve now changed this model so that students may donate to any of the over 600 current use funds within The Swarthmore Fund. This allows students to support what they are passionate about on campus. So, if, for example, you want to designate your senior gift to the President’s Climate Change Commitment Fund to support sustainability issues on campus, you can do so.”

SPC has filled a noticeable gap in the giving initiative. Its members have undergone training in sessions with Thompson and the college’s student phonathon program. Thompson went on to describe the role SPC has begun to fill this academic year.

“Few students were interested in running for [the Senior Gift Officer] position, and there was no continuity or institutional knowledge that could be passed down after the Senior Gift Officer graduated. There are also were no underclassmen educating their peers about why philanthropy matters before their senior year,” she said. “Student Philanthropy Council is open to students of all years and everyone plays a role in helping with senior giving events and in running philanthropy education events for students of all years. The students are hopeful that model will be more sustainable, and they can better pass down knowledge about how to improve senior giving year after year,” she continued.

SPC has provided more structure to the giving process. By adding giving-themed activities and opening communication with different campus organizations, including dialogues with athletic groups, the philanthropy organization hopes to educate seniors about the impact their donations make. Co-Chair of SPC Sarah Tupchong ’17 stated SPC’s mission and its attempts to fill its new role.

SPC’s mission is to educate the importance of philanthropy to underclassmen, and promote giving back to Swarthmore to Seniors … We have completely revamped the senior gift campaign by having more senior-giving-related events, and with the #BreakValsBank challenge,” Tupchong said.

The #BreakValsBank challenge is an initiative through SPC, President Valerie Smith, and Manager David McElhinny ’75 to increase the money going towards campus groups. For every donation a senior gives to the college, Smith and McElhinny will each match the gift, meaning a senior’s gift will be three times the initial amount.

This initiative and the ability to donate to specific campus groups have become a draw for seniors. Kat Galvis Rodríguez ’17 detailed how these changes to the program made her more inclined to give.

“I did not plan on giving this year, but after I found out about the new challenge and about how we could donate to specific groups, I ended up donating during the wine tasting with President Smith senior class event, which is also when she announced the #BreakValsBank challenge that she was participating in,” Galvis Rodríguez said. “Honestly, I never really gave before because I didn’t know too much about it or where the money would go. But with this challenge she announced and in talking to some students in the Philanthropy club, I was more motivated to donate.”

Galvis Rodríguez expanded on her thoughts, arguing that her gift was impactful to a meaning

“[The #BreakValsBank challenge and the group-designation initiative] made me way more inclined to donate because I knew that even if I could not donate a lot, it would be multiplied. Also, … you could donate it to the dean’s discretionary fund for underrepresented students, to a specific affinity / identity group, a club, a sport’s team, [or] financial aid,” she said. “I felt more secure in the fact that the money I was donating was going to a group I care very much about and one that I have been involved in since my first semester Freshman year, which is ENLACE (the latinx student group on campus). I also plan on donating again sometime later in the semester to other causes on campus that I am passionate about and I hope others do as well.”

Thompson stressed the potential for the benefits gifts can provide the campus community and its constituents.

“The old model also focused more on dollars, and now the focus is more heavily focused on participation. We know that seniors don’t necessarily have a lot of money to give, but it truly is the act of donating and donating consistently that matters most,” she said.

The Alumni and Parent Engagement Office has put in place different measures to make the senior giving program more accessible and impactful. Seniors seem excited by the program, but it will be seen how the Class of 2017 will interact with the college as it heads towards graduation.

Legacy of namesakes more complicated than they appear

in Around Campus/News by

In recent years, students at several colleges and universities across the country have petitioned for the renaming of campus buildings bearing names of racist individuals. Swarthmore itself has never been the subject of such controversies, although larger universities such as Princeton and Yale have.

In early February, Yale University responded to student protests to remove the name of a residence hall honoring John C. Calhoun, the former U.S. vice president who was an avid supporter of slavery. According to BBC, the residential college will be renamed in honor of Grace Hopper, an alumna of the university who is well known for her work in computer science during World War II.

Princeton University was also the subject of recent controversy as it refused to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from campus iconography in spite of Wilson’s known support of racial segregation, according to The Daily Princetonian.

Christopher Densmore, curator of the Swarthmore Friends Historical Society, summarized the nature of Swarthmore’s own campus building names in light of the controversies at universities like Princeton and Yale.

“We just don’t have anybody like that,” Densmore said.

Densmore explained that many of Swarthmore’s buildings are named after founders of the college or philanthropists and donors, several of whom were Quakers and anti-slavery activists. For instance, Samuel Willets was a member of the Monthly Meeting of Friends of New York and was involved in the anti-slavery movement. He was also the speaker at both the college’s opening ceremony and the first graduation, according to the college’s website. Members of the Clothier family were Hicksite Quakers who supported the college for a long time. Joseph Wharton, also a Hicksite Quaker, served on the board of managers for over thirty-five years and dedicated a sum of his earnings as a businessman to establishing the college. Beardsley was a professor of engineering who helped gather financial supports to establish Swarthmore. Edward Parrish was the first president of the college after its founding.

Vice President of Advancement Karl Clauss stated that there is no specific process for naming buildings.

Although many of the campus’s buildings are named for philanthropists who have contributed large donations to the college, Swarthmore rejected a substantial endowment from Anna T. Jeanes in 1907 because, according to authors Patricia C. O’Donnell and Susanna K. Morikawa of the Swarthmore Borough, it came with the requirement that the college suspend intercollegiate sports.

“The college decided it didn’t want to be dictated by outside money,” said Densmore.

Swarthmore’s campus names have never been the source of major controversy themselves, but a small number belong to individuals with controversial pasts.

Alice Paul, who has a residence hall named in her honor, is a Swarthmore alum and has been championed as a leader in the women’s rights movement of the early 1900s. However, Paul’s views on race have been controversial both at the time of the historic 1913 women’s suffrage parade and in recent years. An article in the Richmond, Virginia newspaper The Times-Dispatch, published Mar. 2, 1913, just one day before the march, documents Paul’s opposition to the participation of black women in the demonstration.

According to the article: “Miss Paul informed some negro suffragists who wish to march that while the National [American Woman Suffrage] Association recognizes equal rights for colored women … the people of the South might take unkindly to their presence in the parade.”

Paul believed the “negro question” threatened her vision for a women’s suffrage movement.

“As far as I can see we must have a white procession, or a negro procession, or no procession at all. [The best solution is to] say nothing whatever about the question, to keep it out of the newspapers, to try to make this a purely Suffrage demonstration entirely uncomplicated by any other problems such as racial ones,” wrote Paul, whose words are documented in the 2014 book Alice Paul: Claiming Power by authors J.D. Zahniser and Amelia R. Fry.

Paul’s views were not unique in the women’s suffrage movement. Suffragettes such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony also shared the opinion that pro-black activism would undermine the road to the women’s vote. Anthony famously said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”

Mary Lyon, after whom the Mary Lyon residence hall is named, is believed to have held similarly unfavorable views. Lyon was a pioneer in women’s education and established the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which was the first women’s college and is now known as Mount Holyoke College.

According to Mount Holyoke’s website: “Mary Lyon proved that women were as intellectually capable as men, and that an institution for women offering a college curriculum could survive financially.”

According to associate professor of history Mary Renda at Mount Holyoke College, Lyon was possibly opposed to the abolitionist movement, and also believed in the assimilation of all people into Anglo-Saxon cultural standards.

“[Among Lyon’s comments were] words to encourage full assimilation to Anglo-Saxon New England norms, spoken to a student body that included two Cherokee sisters who attended Mount Holyoke in the 1840s; [and] words of remonstrance heard by the young abolitionist Lucy Stone, then a Seminary student, who placed unauthorized anti-slavery literature in the reading room,” wrote Renda in a 2012 piece in the Alumnae Quarterly of Mount Holyoke College.

In her piece, Renda also claimed that Lyon expressed heavily anti-Catholic sentiments.

“[Lyon held] derogatory views of Irish immigrant servant girls whom the Seminary was able to exclude from its ‘household,’” wrote Renda.

Author Amanda Porterfield of the book Mary Lyon and the Mount Holyoke Missionaries explained that Lyon’s lack of exposure to ethnic diversity limited her perceptions of other religious denominations, and that this may have undermined her revolutionary vision.

“[Lyon] probably did not think much about how her intolerance for non-Protestant religions conflicted with her ability to help the women of other cultures. She had little firsthand experience of ethnic diversity herself, and she did not anticipate any of the ways in which the ethnocentrism of her religious vision would undermine its credibility,” Porterfield wrote.

Eugene M. Lang, who graduated from Swarthmore in 1938, has been honored for his philanthropy through the establishment of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility and the Lang Performing Arts Center. In 2012, he donated the largest gift that Swarthmore has received to date, an amount totaling 50 million dollars.

Lang rose to fame when he promised a group of Harlem students that he would cover their college expenses if they graduated high school. President Bill Clinton recounted this story when he awarded Lang the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1996.

“Hardly anyone has ever done more personally to give people who didn’t have it, opportunity, than Eugene Lang … His I Have a Dream Foundation has opened the doors of college for thousands of young people who seize the opportunity he offered. He has helped to make the most of their God-given abilities,” Clinton said.

Even so, Lang’s business practices have come under scrutiny. A 1990 article in the Washington Post affirmed that Lang’s company, Refac Technology Development Corporation, was accused of practicing legal extortion, making millions of dollars through suing manufacturers for alleged patent infringement.

Bernard E. Appel, the president of the Tandy Corporation Radio Shack chain at the time and a target of at least one Refac lawsuit (there were more than a thousand), shared his belief that Lang’s company was guilty of “patent blackmail.”

”They are trying to live off industry by using fear and intimidation. It’s a disgrace of the legal system,” said Appel to the Post.

Vice President of Advancement Karl Clauss believes that Lang’s lifetime of achievements and role as a visionary who sought to make college education accessible make him a representative individual of the Quaker values and emphasis on philanthropy on which the college is built.

“Eugene Lang’s example serves as a testament to the Quaker adage of ‘letting your life speak’ and has inspired countless others to engage in meaningful philanthropy,” Clauss said.

The use of Papazian Hall has been questionable in the past. Before it was used as an academic building, Papazian was a research site occupied by the Bartol Foundation between 1927 and 1977. According to The Swarthmorean, days after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was revealed that the foundation had been involved in atomic research.

After the Bartol Foundation turned over Papazian to the college to be used as an academic building, there was concern that there might be nuclear residue on the former research site. According to a 2013 article in The Phoenix, the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program investigated the site for possible remnants of uranium in December of 1987, and determined that the site was clear.

Overall, the controversies in the histories of Swarthmore’s buildings do not significantly undermine the college’s liberal arts purpose. The individuals who make up Swarthmore’s campus names are not without flaws, but as a whole they represent the college’s vision of innovation, philanthropy, and social justice.

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