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SwatDeck connects community via Philly

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by
SwatDeck Cofounders


Most people would consider Swarthmore to be a small school, with a student body of only 1,500 students. While this small population makes it harder to avoid the people you have awkward relationships with, it can still be hard to meet new people outside of classes, sports, or other activities. Most students consider themselves quite adventurous, tackling rigorous workloads and seeing how close they can come to a paper deadline while still optimizing their grade. Despite this love for adventure, many  students find themselves staying on campus while they could be exploring the amazing city of Philadelphia only 35 minutes away by SEPTA, with a station right on campus. As an opportunity for Swatties to connect and to explore Philadelphia at no cost. Brennan Klein ’14, Isaac Opoku ’14, Emma Kates-Shaw ’16, and Raven Bennett ’17 created SwatDeck. SwatDeck is a program where students are matched with other Swarthmore students in groups of four. Once in a group, they are given money and SEPTA day passes, then are given free range on how they would like to spend the day together.

“I would say that the genesis of the idea for SwatDeck was from a SwatDeck-esque scenario. Emma, Isaac, Raven and I were all serendipitously hanging out, talking about definitions of “space” and got onto this idea of Swatties-not-hanging-out-with-Swatties-enough. This was timed well with the Community Development Grant, and we ended up winning it that winter (2014),” Klein said.

Eriko Shrestha ‘19, who is a part of the team organizing SwatDeck for the 2016 year, shared how students are split up into groups based on their responses to questions when filling out the informational sign up sheet for SwatDeck.

“We look at their responses and then try to even out groups out based on their year, majors, etc. Five of us do it together so that we have a better idea of the friend circles and we try to put people into groups of strangers,” said Shrestha.

“We wanted to build an easy way for students to learn from and listen to one another. We wanted to inspire new perspectives through unexpected conversations. In the end, we wanted to transmit a mindset that probably checks all the boxes of Millennial Cliché Bingo: embrace serendipity, meet new people, carpe that diem,” Klein said.

Bilige Yang ’19 participated in the program for the first time this year and fell in love with the serendipity and was happily surprised to have the opportunity to explore Philadelphia.

I did not know there are so many amazing places in Philly. I like Philly more after this trip … we got to see places all of us had always wanted to see, the Magic Garden and the Old Street and it was also relaxing since it was like a day off. It is not much different compared to going out with friends,” Yang said.

Yang said that he signed up for SwatDeck to meet people he would not have met otherwise.

“The three other people in my group were all seniors and hanging out with them made me feel connected to the Swat community … It is indeed hard to meet people outside my friend group and I joined SwatDeck to make more friends,” Yang shared.

Hanan Ahmed ’19 enjoyed how SwatDeck allowed her to hang out with Swatties while also distracting her from her work in a very fun and guiltless way.

I remember thinking, this is ridiculous … I’m in the middle of the city with a group of people I just met. I should be doing work today, what am I doing? No, it’s okay, I’m not spending any money on this trip. Oh, let’s get boba tea,” Ahmed said.

Daniel Dellal ’18 enjoyed how SwatDeck enabled students to meet people outside of their own friend group and embark on new adventures in Philadelphia.

“I thought it was nice to be allowed to participate in a program where I was with people I’d never met before, which is something you don’t experience often at swat, and also that there was no set plan to it, they pretty much hand you a train ticket and $20 and let you do anything you want,” Dellal said.

SwatDeck was a huge success this year, with a lot of students giving positive feedback and over 100 students signing up to take part in the program. The large number of participants even surprised the program’s original founders.

I think from Emma’s reaction, she didn’t expect that level of participation. We were only planning to do it for two days, but there were so many people we added a third,” Shrestha said.

In the midst all of our work as we near the end of the semester, SwatDeck provides a fun and  accessible way to escape the Swat bubble while making new friends and going on new adventures. SwatDeck continues to grow and has done a wonderful job bringing together students who would have otherwise not met and providing them with a great opportunity to delve into Philly without worrying about who will be there or what you will do. It’s the adventure almost every student wants constructed, organized, and funded by the SwatDeck committee.


Willingham on frats

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

As I read DU’s opinion piece in the Phoenix last week, I quickly turned from curiosity to confusion as the bulk of the letter veered dramatically —some would say laughably— away from what it set out to do at the beginning.  DU juxtaposed the outrageously racist conduct of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter with their own model, which led me to think they would be talking about how Swarthmore’s DU chapter is more diverse, how it tries to combat racism, etc.  But instead we got a list of DU’s community service activities, none of which have anything to do with the apparent topic at hand.

So, sure, good for DU for being involved in a wide range of community service activities.  Their service resume is much stronger than Phi Psi’s, though my understanding is that this difference may have something to do with the requirements of national affiliation (Theta also appears to be very active in service).  It seems safe to assume that another letter will answer the bafflingly confident statement that DU does more for the community than any other organization, so I’ll focus on another confusing and frustrating part of the letter.

If DU has a model that could be an example for fraternities like SAE, I want to know how they deal with issues of racism within the fraternity and in relation to the rest of campus.  The letter mentions how DU participates in annual workshops with Nina Harris and Josh Ellow on sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, and drug and alcohol safety.  If attendance is mandatory, these are all good things.  I would like to hear about similar conversations being held about racism and diversity.  When DU encourages underclassmen to pledge, how much do they actively reach out to people from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds?  I remember racist epithets being used within the fraternity house during my freshman year but do not remember a public apology or explanation of how the fraternity changed conversations with pledges to include discussions of respectful language.

I’m not asserting that these things don’t happen.  I’m just mentioning that if they do, they are not public knowledge.  And if DU is going to claim that it is better than SAE, they need to cite such measures as evidence.  Not having a video of a racist chant, or diverting the question to emphasize community service in other areas, is insufficient.

The merits of Swarthmore’s Delta Upsilon

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

As Swarthmore students return from March break, many are discussing the deplorable behavior at the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. For those unaware of the incident, a video surfaced of members of the fraternity  chanting racial slurs. Other SAE chapters have also been accused of racial misconduct. If these accusations are true, the SAE fraternity should take action, and those fraternity members who have done wrong should be held accountable.

The Swarthmore community can take pride that Swarthmore’s Delta Upsilon has set a model that should be followed by fraternities across the country. We would venture to say very few groups on campus contribute as much to the larger community as the Delta Upsilon fraternity. While many on campus associate us primarily with our role in facilitating the social scene, our impact is much broader than just that. The following are a few examples of our recent and upcoming campus initiatives:

  • Every year, we work with Maurice Eldridge ’61 to help to sign students up for the Red Cross blood drive. Thanks to impressive participation from the college community, our members are routinely able to fill all slots.

  • For the past two years, Delta Upsilon members have volunteered at All Riders Up, a local non-profit in Garnet Valley. ARU is owned by a Swarthmore alum and provides horseback riding lessons for the physically and mentally disabled. DU is now recruiting other members of the Swarthmore community to join in the trips to ARU.

  • In the Fall, we organized a Dodgeball Tournament to raise funds for Philabundance, a non-profit that serves meals to families in need. Fortunately, the tournament provided over 1,600 meals. We are now organizing a spring three-on-three basketball tournament, to be held March 27, and hopefully will raise around $1000 for All Riders Up.

  • Every fall, we volunteer at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting House to help them prepare their annual Jumble Sale. We also assist them with landscaping and join them in playground-cleaning to create a safe space for their children to play.

  • To commemorate Women’s History Month, DU has invited Jamie Stiehm (Swarthmore ’83) to speak about Swarthmore alumna Alice Paul and the women’s suffrage movement. This event will will take place in the AP dorm lounge on March 23. (Starts at 7, refreshments provided!)

  • Delta Upsilon has also taken important steps to combat sexual assault. Currently, we are partnering with the Title IX House in promoting the screening of Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In. The Mask You Live In illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. We also work with Nina Harris and Josh Ellow in annual workshops on sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, and drug and alcohol safety.

A core tenet of Delta Upsilon is to “build better men.” Not only do our members help the community with positive conduct, but we also hold our members accountable for any misconduct. Our members are not perfect, but we are here to learn, just as all college students are. We believe that the actions of our organization clearly demonstrate our impact on the campus community.

Delta Upsilon will continue to do our part to make Swarthmore a vibrant, socially responsible, intellectually engaging, and, above all, safe space for all students. While we appreciate the support we receive from many on campus, we are frustrated that some members of the community choose to turn a blind eye to our positive actions, relying instead on assumptions that, since we post Greek letters on our house, we are no different from groups such as Oklahoma’s SAE. When we are mocked for, to quote from a recent poster circulated on campus, “turning young boys into perverted men brothers,” it alienates us from the Swarthmore community. We can come nearer to our shared goal of a civil and open community if more at Swarthmore emulate our example and support our positive actions.

Nat Frum is a member of Delta Upsilon. Brian Kaissi serves as Vice President and Scoop Ruxin as President.

New Greek Life Referendum Introduced

in Around Campus/News by

Following last month’s petition for a referendum, controversy, and subsequent campus-wide discussions about the future of Swarthmore’s Greek life, Joyce Wu ’15, founder of the first petition, has created a second petition on the matter.  The new petition, which received 172 signatures — well over the required 10 percent needed to present it to Student Council — consists of a proposition for a referendum with six questions, only one of which calls for abolishing Swarthmore’s Phi Psi, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Theta.  The other five questions concern making Swarthmore’s DU and Theta separate from their national chapters (Phi Psi already is not affiliated with a national organization); accepting all genders to sororities and fraternities; making the fraternity houses substance-free; merging the Greek spaces into one building; and having no campus space specifically for Greek life.

“There is a significant number of people from all over the student body who see the abolition position as too extreme, so the additions to the referendum take their suggestions for alternatives into account,” Wu said.  “I’d also like to clarify that the solutions proposed in the referendum are by no means the only possible solutions.  It’s only changes that involve major changes to the structure of the Greek organizations that should be put to referendum.”

Among these changes, according to Wu, could be mandating more workshops or creating new committees relevant to making the Greek spaces safer for everyone.  According to some of the comments on the new petition, other students agree that this movement is not necessarily about abolishing Swarthmore’s Greek life, but rather about discussing what changes should be made.

“[The petition] appears to be an effort to invoke change here on campus in a very democratic way — allowing the student body at large to voice their opinions on issues that repeatedly come up during discussions on Greek life,” Paul Cato ’14 commented with his signature on the petition.  “Whether or not one stands in favor of the presence of fraternities and sororities on campus, I urge them to sign the document and allow for such democratic efforts at reform to take place.  The power to improve campus life is often taken out of the hands of the student body at large and placed instead in those of StuCo and the Dean’s Office.  We now have an opportunity to shape our community as we see fit and I strongly suggest we take it.”

While representatives of the fraternities have remained relatively quiet throughout the entire movement, they acknowledge that changes to their institutions need to be made and are confident that the necessary modifications can and will happen.

“I do think this whole situation has caused DU to hold a mirror up to ourselves to examine where we can all improve,” DU President Rory McTear ’13 said.  “DU guys have been making even more of a concerted effort to make sure our house and the campus as a whole is a safe place for all students.  We recognize as an institution and as a group of individuals that we are far from perfect, and this situation has spurred us to try to rectify certain concerns people may have.”

Zach Schaffer ’14, president of Phi Psi, feels that not only do changes need to occur in the near future, but he also believes that progress has already been made within Swarthmore’s Greek life.

“Through our weekly meetings with [Alcohol Education and Intervention Specialist] Tom Elverson and continued discussions among the Greek organizations on campus, I feel that we have definitely made progress in identifying the key issues and beginning to formulate solutions,” he said.  “The Greek groups on campus will continue to work together with the leaders of the referendum to figure out how we should proceed going forward.”

Wu plans to present the petition at StuCo’s meeting Sunday, March 31.  StuCo then must hold a referendum no later than two weeks from then, meaning the future of Swarthmore Greek life will be determined by mid-April.

This Week in Greek

in Around Campus/News by

The second of a series of discussions on the role and scope of Greek life on Swarthmore’s campus will take place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Friends Meetinghouse.

Joyce Wu ’15, who created the original petition for a referendum on the existence of Greek life, said that facilitators would introduce one or two questions to participants. These questions would be selected from broader topics of exclusivity, social dynamics, and benefits and drawbacks of Greek life, according to Wu.

While one of the co-editors-in-chief of The Daily Gazette, Max Nesterak ’13, facilitated the first discussion last Thursday night, Wu said that Assistant Dean and Director of the Black Cultural Center Karlene Burrell-McRae will tentatively facilitate Friday’s talk, though the decision has not been finalized.

According to Wu, Burrell-McRae is trained in discussion facilitation and was a popular choice among those planning the talk. “She is also very good at getting people to come up with concrete goals rather than just discussing things all the time, which Swatties are wont to do,” Wu said.

Dina Zingaro ’13, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, said she hoped the meetings would continue to facilitate positive, open, face-to-face dialogue among students. Zingaro hopes that Theta members will be able to better introduce themselves to the student body, along with what she and other Theta members see as a unique brand of Greek life.

“In our meetings, we use the term ‘Swarthmorize’ a lot, which for us means to align Theta’s values with Swarthmore’s credo of activism, awareness of social and environmental issues, and really offering something back to the community,” Zingaro said. She hopes that the discussions of Greek life will help the entire student body to “Swarthmorize” Theta and shape the sorority’s role on campus in a positive fashion.

“All of us want the same thing: an inclusive student body that recognizes and fosters diversity of interests and backgrounds,” Zingaro concluded.

Wu said that she hopes participants will leave Friday’s discussion with tangible objectives. “I would like to come out of it with some concrete goals and maybe even some proposals of how to achieve these goals,” she said.

Petition for Referendum on Greek Life Sparks Discussion

in Around Campus/Breaking News/News by

When a petition calling for a referendum on the existence of Greek life was posted last Thursday, the future of Phi Psi, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Theta became the basis of discussion across campus. The petition needed signatures from at least 10 percent of the student body in order to call for a referendum. Although as of 9:05 p.m. on Feb. 20 the petition has received 188 signatures, well over the requirement, a Student Council meeting this past Monday clarified that a referendum will not occur in the immediate future.

“It was decided that the referendum would not be officially proposed at this time until after a facilitated campus dialogue,” StuCo Co-President Victor Brady ’13 said. “StuCo has offered its support in the creation and organization of such a constructive dialogue.”

Student Council’s Elections Committee must organize any student-proposed referendum, and once a person or a student group officially submits a referendum to StuCo, the committee must hold the election within two weeks.

Joyce Wu ’15, who started the petition after The Phoenix published a staff editorial that called for the referendum, mainly attributed this sudden action to Theta’s recent creation. While for her the ideal outcome would be abolishing Swarthmore’s Greek life altogether, the goal was to start a discussion.

“I want to make it very clear that there is a divide between my personal goals and the goal of the petition I started,” she said.  “I personally have an investment in seeing Greek life gone from the campus, but far more important right now is opening up dialogue about Greek life and the influence it has on campus. If after that dialogue we have a referendum and it doesn’t go the way I want it to go, I would be fine with that as long as we have a productive discussion.”

Wu, who has encountered polarized attitudes on both sides in the past week, feels that Greek life has an overall negative effect on campus and promotes excessive drinking.  She also believes that the fraternities also cause discomfort for non-Greek students.

“Drinking culture is not about individual people,” she said.  “It’s about the effect it has on a group.  I think that the culture of doing it within this fraternity space and with your fraternity brothers makes the drinking sort of ritualized and less casual than it is just among friends.”

Some students who have no affiliation with Greek life disagreed that the fraternities and new sorority negatively impact Swarthmore’s social scene.

“Greek life is something that worried me when I arrived as a freshman on campus,” Elyse Tierney ’15 said.  “As a queer-identifying female, I felt like the frats had the potential to be at the very least an uncomfortable place for me to be.  Luckily, I happened to meet some of the boys from the frats, and they convinced me to attend some of their parties, where I felt welcomed and eventually comfortable.”

Tierney added that the fraternities have never caused her discomfort and that she believes their benefits outweigh the negatives.

Although Wu admits that she has little knowledge about the opposing perspectives and about Greek life in general, she feels that this gives even more reason for a dialogue that includes all sides. All Greek life representatives, as well as Dean of Students Liz Braun, declined to comment until further discussion occurs.

“The silence on the part of Greek organizations is troubling to me, because I’ve heard them express the desire on a DG article earlier this semester for non-anonymous conversation about alcohol culture at the frats, and now they don’t seem to be engaging in that,” Wu said.  “So that’s concerning to me.  I would not be comfortable with the referendum going on if there were no conversations preceding it.”

To alleviate this concern, Wu plans to organize at least one moderated discussion in the coming weeks, which she hopes will include deans, people in favor of the referendum, and members of the fraternities and sorority.  She has already been in contact with First-Year Dean and Gender Education Advisor Karen Henry, Junior Dean and Director of the Black Cultural Center Karlene Burrell-McRae, and Sophomore Dean and Director of the Intercultural Center Alina Wong about holding this discussion.

Wu intends to form a planning committee that will meet for the next few weeks to discuss the kind of forums that might be most effective. She will be hosting the first of these meetings in Kohlberg 334 tonight at 8:30; all students are welcome.

*Joyce Wu is the Chief Copy Editor for The Phoenix. She played no role in the production of this article.

Kappa Alpha Theta Chapter Official at Swarthmore

in Around Campus/News by

Eighty years after a lengthy battle to abolish sororities, Swarthmore saw the official reestablishment of a Kappa Alpha Theta (KAØ) chapter on campus this past weekend. Sixty-five girls received bids from the national organization after a week of flyers, pins and brochures, information sessions, recruitment events and interviews with a series of Theta alumnae from across the country.

Promises made about financial and gender exclusivity by the Not Yet Sisters (NYS) group for the past two semesters, however, have now drawn controversy. Although Corey Burnett, Theta Educational Leadership Consultant, recently told The Daily Gazette that women must be listed as female in college records to be accepted into the sisterhood, according to Satya Nelms, the sorority campus advisor, women need only identify as female to become a Theta. Still, the financial question remains. Dues for new members have been reduced approximately $85 from the original $360 according to Nelms. Still, the remaining $275 will have to be accounted for by every member. Seniors also have an additional $75 fee (reduced from $150). While payment plans can be instituted, neither the organization nor the college will cover the fee in full for members.

“Our organization provides a payment plan, so the young women would work with our educational leadership consultants and a financial advisor, a local alumna who would serve in that role, and establish a payment plan for the spring semester and a similar one for the fall as well,” said Theta Fraternity Director of Chapter Services Kelley Galbreath Hurst. “It’s tailored for each individual.”

Phi Psi, one of the fraternities on campus, has similar, albeit smaller fees for its members. According to fraternity member Grayson Roze ’15, although the organization’s independence from a national organization prevents them from being able to provide scholarships, it also allows them to be flexible with payments depending on students’ financial needs. Phi Psi formally broke away from its national fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, in 1963 “in a dispute over discrimination against black and Jewish students,” according to the group’s website.

Although the fee has been reduced and payment plans are available, Hope Brinn ’15, who was instrumental in introducing the petition for a referendum against the sorority last spring, thinks this may not be enough.

“I’m not really sure why they can’t get their funds the way every other club does and why there can’t be scholarship assistance,” she said.

According to Julia Melin ’13, one of the NYS founding members and now a Theta, the dues are not only necessary but also beneficial for the sorority’s members.

“The money that you put in is going to come back to you,” she said. “It’s not like you’re writing out this blank check and you’re never going to see any of the benefits … Our dues will actually go towards allowing us to contribute back to Swarthmore.”

In order to help the students who may not be able to pay the fees, which are due March 1, the sorority is brainstorming different fundraising ideas. According to Melin, these ideas include trying to raise awareness of jobs on campus for Thetas, having flexible payment plans, and asking fraternity alumni for loans.

“I think it would help strengthen Greek ties on campus,” she said about the loans. “[There might be] DU and Phi Psi alums who are invested in strengthening the sorority on campus, because that can only help strengthen the fraternities as well.”

This strengthening of Greek life, however, is what many of students have feared since NYS’s inception.

“People who say that Greek life affects only the people involved are lying. Every college publishes the statistics,” Brinn said. “The limited Greek life was a big factor for me [in choosing Swarthmore], and as a historically Quaker institution, I don’t believe that having a strong presence of Greek life on campus meshes with our values … I think that should be a concern for everybody. It is inherently exclusive.”

A comment on the recent Daily Gazette article similarly expressed concerns that the members of the sorority “mistakenly think that the opposition they face is specifically about the sorority. My opposition to the sorority comes from wanting to abolish exclusive ‘ities’ that have an outsize and often negative impact on social life,” the comment said. “Greek life already has toxic vibes.”

Dina Zingaro ’13, one of the NYS members who spearheaded the movement to get Theta on campus, insists that Greek life on this specific campus, and the sorority in particular, will be different. In fact, she was originally drawn to the idea of a sorority because “[the leaders of NYS’s] goals were different from what a stereotypical sorority would be.”

Nina Serbedzija ’14, an ex-NYS member agrees. One of the most enthusiastic members of the group last spring, she was deeply involved in the beginning stages of the process.

“I was going through this crazy thing where I was just like, it needs to happen,” she said. “What I really wanted, and what the sorority was for me, was a way to remedy the fact that there were no party spaces on campus that weren’t dominated by men, that weren’t owned by men … And it was definitely what it meant for a lot of founding members of NYS. Not just [creating] a party space, but a female space where women can get to know alcohol on safer terms.”

However, she thinks that the final product does not reflect the original intention. According to Serbedzija, the process became about choosing a high-ranked sorority, choosing one that was in the most Ivy League schools. Establishing ties with a national organization went from being about having resources to get through the arduous process of establishing a sorority, to an excuse to have something “to put on our resumes.”

According to the Theta Fraternity Vice President Ashley Atkins, in fact, the sorority differs from other women’s groups specifically in its networking and socializing opportunities. “The vast resources that we are making available to these young women is just over the moon,” Galbreath Hurst said. “Whether you’re on the Swarthmore campus for a year or four years, Theta doesn’t end.”

This may be a moot point for some, though.

“We’re a pretty well-connected liberal arts college,” Brinn said. “And there are all sorts of problems with being nationally affiliated.”

According to Serbedzija, the presence of the national organization has exacerbated the image of a sorority not just as a medium for networking opportunities but also as an organization for social activism.

“You don’t join a sorority for community involvement. There are a million other clubs here for that,” she said. “[A sorority] should be about something way more fun than that. And not just fun, but necessary.”

The sorority does foresee a lot of “philanthropy-type events” for this semester, according to Melin. Along with these, they will be doing “a lot of bonding events to get to know each other better and build a stronger sisterhood, as well as a few social gatherings, even with the fraternities.”

The Educational Leadership Consultants, Corey Burnett and Lindsey Witt, who are paid employees of KAØ, will be helping the chapter through its first few months.

“Corey and I will be guiding the new members through the member orientation program where they learn about our organization as well as our policies, procedures and operations. Our role is to support the members as they develop into a fully functioning chapter,” Witt said in an e-mail.

Zingaro is confident that the Theta girls will make the sorority a part of Swarthmore’s credo of inclusivity and activism.

“We’re going to make it a really great place for women,” she said. “We need the community’s support.”

Despite her criticism, Seberdzija thinks the student body should be patient. “They are just establishing themselves. The real test will come when the people Theta sent leave.”

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