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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.

College to go through Middle State’s accreditation process again

in News by

Every eight years, Swarthmore must evaluate their quality of education to be approved by Middle States, a Philadelphia-based accreditation organization. The school’s most recent cycle of reaccreditation began last year and will continue into 2019, during which time the college reports on aspects of its work, ranging from the effectiveness of the curriculum and the college’s mission to the student experience and institutional integrity.

Accreditation ensures that institutions of higher learning are meeting expectations put in place by a private organization. Although the mandatory process is tedious and labor-intensive, the parties involved see it as an opportunity for the college to reflect on its institutional goals and constant improvement.

The process is overseen by co-chairs political science professor Carol Nackenoff and director of institutional research and assessment Robin Shores and a Core Committee, comprised of Provost Tom Stephenson, Dean of Students Liz Braun, Vice President of Finance and Administration Greg Brown, General Counsel Assistant Secretary of the college Sharmaine Bradham LaMar.  

Middle States recently condensed the number of standards an institution must create and adhere to from 14 to seven. These standards include “Mission and Goals,” “Ethics and Integrity,”  “Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience,” “Support of the Student Experience,” “Educational Effectiveness Assessment,” “Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement,” and “Governance, Leadership, and Administration.” To tackle this, the process leaders assigned a working group, comprised of several students, faculty, staff, and sometimes board members, to each standard.

The college must also prove that they meet the 15 requirements of affiliation imposed by Middle States. Most of these fit under a standard, the co-chairs reported, but to handle the unmapped requirements of affiliation, an eighth working group was created.

According to the college’s website, last year, Middle States approved a Self Study that outlined the college’s standards and set up for the completed report. This year, the Core Committee is aiding the working groups in finalizing their respective reports up for review next year. This includes reviewing materials, gathering input, analyzing findings, and writing a final report.

Nackenoff and Shores agreed that even after decades of grappling with the accreditation process, it still requires a tremendous amount of work. The co-chairs reported that they spend a quarter to half of their time every day working on the process, averaging 10 hours a week, including summers, because of the ever-changing process and ever-changing college.

We do self-reflection and self-assessment periodically because we want to always be improving,” Shores said. “The institution evolves, and we should be continuing to reflect on how we are doing.”

Nackenoff called the process a catalyst for valuable self-evaluation that might not normally have been be prioritized.

“It’s a great opportunity for members of the community to reflect on where we are in terms of meeting our goals and aspirations and to think about areas where improvement might be appropriate,” she said. “You take what you learn and feed back into discussions on how you can do better in these different domains. This process of using feedback to improve is the point of assessment, and it is ongoing.”

Nackenoff said that although she doesn’t believe the college’s accreditation is in jeopardy, it’s important to take the process seriously. She added that scheduling meetings is the hardest part of the process.

“The timetable is pretty ruthless,” she said, referring to the three years allotted to complete the process. “It made us pretty nervous. There is not much room for slippage.”

Braun mentioned a different difficulty.

“I think the most challenging part is managing just the sheer volume of information that needs to be collected, analyzed, and digested into a coherent report,” she said.

Despite the difficult work that still remains, Shore said that a great part of the process is watching different community members learn and engage together.

“For students, faculty, staff, and board members to work together and learn about the college has been a really great opportunity,” she said.

Lucretia Mott: far more than a founder

in Campus Journal by


Recently, the conference room Parrish E 254 was renamed the Lucretia Mott room. I’ve written about Mott before — she was one of the founders of the college, as well as a well-respected abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and Quaker minister.

However, I’d like to take this week to really get a picture of Lucretia Mott; the woman who advocated for abolition during slavery and for voting rights when slavery was over; the woman who spoke at the first Seneca Falls convention to gain voting rights for women; the woman who had support to become Vice President of the United States, despite her aversion to electoral politics. Today, Lucretia Mott may be a series of pictures and excerpts in the Friends Library and  a Parrish conference room, but in her time, she was a force of nature. And we, as students of the college she helped found in line with her ideals, inherit her legacy.

Mott was born in 1793 in Nantucket, Mass. When she was 22 years old in 1818, she gave her first “public” speech at the 12th Street Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia. When she was 25 years old in 1821, she became a Quaker minister.

In her years as a minister, Mott gained great renown as a speaker. She emphasized the inner light of people and maintained that slavery was a great evil. She spoke at the first organizational meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society and helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In January 1839, Mott spoke alongside a coalition of academics from a “colored” Presbyterian church in Philadelphia. People at this gathering were impressed by Mott’s words.

“Some words of excellent advice, to both scholars and parents, were offered by Lucretia Mott, [who has a] devotion to the life of the slave, and lively interest in the welfare of the free.”

A Boston newspaper, the Liberator, wrote of Mott’s presence at an anti-slavery convention in London in 1840.

“Nobody doubted that Lucretia Mott was the lioness of the convention. She is a thin, petite, dark-complexioned woman, about fifty years of age. She has striking intellectual features, and bright vivacious eyes.”

Although Mott had moderate celebrity because of her Quaker teachings and was one of the American Anti-Slavery Society delegates at this convention, ultimately, she was not allowed to take her place at the London Committee, as only men were allowed to contribute.

What’s interesting about Mott is that she was, to use a modern term, truly intersectional. At a speech in Glasgow, the following was written about her statements on women.

“She defended, on Scriptural grounds, the right of women to speak in public; spoke of the imperfect education which women too commonly received, which consequently debarred them from occupying their proper places in society; called upon her sisters to look to this, and embrace every opportunity of gaining knowledge on every subject; not to be content with a little reading, a little writing, and a little sewing; to brush away the silken fetters which had so long bound them—no longer to be content with being the mere toy or plaything of man’s leisure hours, but to fit themselves for assuming their proper position, in being the rational companions, the friends, the instructors of their race. Better views, she rejoiced to know, were beginning to be entertained on this and kindred subjects.”

Within her feminist fight, Mott also took issue with the practice of reinforcing societal norms and expectations through flattery of women. At a women’s right’s convention in Rochester, Mott “arose and said, that although she was grateful for the eloquent speech just given, she must be allowed to object to some portions of it; such as styling ‘woman the better half of creation, and man a tyrant.” Man had become so accustomed to speak of woman in the language of flattering compliments, that he indulges in such expressions unawares. She said that man was not a tyrant by nature, but had been made tyrannical by the power which had, by general consent, been conferred upon him; she merely wished that woman might be entitled to equal rights and acknowledged as the equal of man, not his superior.”

Mott did not want to make any claims to a powerful, tyrannical nature of man. In her view, it was men’s disproportionate societal power, rather than inherent power over women, that created the state of affairs as they were.

Indeed, for Mott, the religious landscape allowed her the freedom to be heard and was the context within which she exhibited progress. This can be seen in her words at a meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York City on May 9, 1848.

“Look at your pulpits; they are widening; they are not the little, high, narrow, isolated boxes they were wont to be in olden time; there is room for several, and occasionally a woman is found to occupy a place there,” she said. “Is not this then an evidence of progress even in the greatest and highest of Christian principles?”

She continued, criticizing England for focusing their anti-slavery efforts on slowing the progress of the slave trade rather than stopping it altogether.

“But the labors in England for twenty years were simply to arrest the progress of the Slave Trade; and it was the work of a woman to declare, that “Immediate, not Gradual Abolition” was no less the duty of the master, than the right of the slave. In this Convention in Philadelphia, the great principles of human freedom were uttered that every man had a right to his own body, and that no man had a right to enslave or imbrute his brother, or to hold him for a moment as his property—to put a fellow-being on the auction-block, and sell him to the highest bidder, making the most cruel separations in families,” Mott said.

Mott’s contributions were far more than speeches to religious audiences, though that is where she began. She was involved both at the  first and the thirtieth anniversary of Seneca Falls. She always used her religious and social platforms to be a voice for liberation. During the Civil War, she spoke highly of black delegations of soldiers to military superiors to reinforce the equality of all of those fighting for the Union. In her letter to Colonel Wagner in PA, she wrote:

“Say what you please about the degradation of the n***o, it is all nonsense. Give him an opportunity of showing what he is, and he will show himself a man.”

Within the context of a system steeped highly against minorities, Mott always found a way. She used the language of those in power to undermine their views and slowly chipped away at the barriers between people. I could go on about Mott forever; it’s probably best that I don’t. So I’ll leave you with one of her more well-known quotes that compels us all to keep fighting the good fights:

“If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?”


**All quotes are from the book “Lucretia Mott Speaks”, created in collaboration by the University of Illinois Press and the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, unless otherwise noted.

A portrait of Mott

A dive into the archives

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

In light of recent events on campus, the editorial board figured it would be worth digging into past issues of the Phoenix printed decades ago to see what students back then had been writing about the college. Surprisingly, some of the headlines were just as fitting then as they are now. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, change has come to Swarthmore much slower than previously thought.


“Student Council endorses Black studies major, supports revival of ad hoc committee”

February 29, 1972


“Islamic cultural studies program lags”

April 24, 2003


“Student Council to explore course requirements”

March 25, 1975


“Freeze thaws for tuition; Bookstore sets price hike”

September 21, 1971


“Social Committee plans fall calendar; administration quashes concert ideas”

October 1, 1971


“SAGA food service proposes new design to reduce overcrowding”

September 25, 1981


“Bike thefts reported”

October 16, 1981


“The time to divest is now”

February 26, 1982


“Racial slur found carved into table”

March 20, 2003


“Students in dire need of space, events”

September 24, 1999


“Comm members, Student Council, activists charge inertia of student input”

February 20, 1973

Group of indigenous students speak on protests of injustice

in Op-Eds/Open Letter/Opinions by

Swarthmore is often referred to as a bubble, separate from the outside world, but for many marginalized groups this campus is simply an incubator. Swarthmore is not immune to issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and the preference of funds over people’s wellbeing. This institution mirrors America in this regard. Indigenous students at this college wish to demonstrate that we do in fact have a presence on this campus, and that our voices, indigenous voices, need to be recognized. Our existence is meaningful and our pain did not stop in 1776 with the ousting of the british,  colonization did not end in 1825 when the Western hemisphere was freed from ‘colonial’ rule, our suffering did not end with the trail of tears, our oppression did not end when we were made citizens. Settler-colonialism itself has no end. After 525 years we still feel the pain of Columbus and we still feel the weight of America on our backs. So we burn the flag.

Let us quickly outline the fact that this was not the first chosen route to have our needs met. Swarthmore College has unfortunately time and again invalidated our existence and without apology, upheld settler-colonialism. The student group associated with indigeneity on campus was granted a student space after long negotiations with members of administration. We met opposition in that administrators said they did not want to give a space to a group that is not consistently active. In fact they’re right, Indigenous students on this campus have never been consistently active as an identity group and seem to have not existed on this campus until the 1990s. The irony of this, of course, is that we have been historically barred from opportunities that give one access to Swarthmore and  Swarthmore has historically chosen not to recruit and admit Native American and more broadly indigenous students. In fact, we have almost always made up less one percent of each incoming class. Is this because Native students simply do not apply? Maybe, but blatant racism, stereotyping and prejudice in the admissions office has also been demonstrated.We have not forgotten that in November of 2014 – less than three years ago – Swarthmore’s Director of Admissions JT Duck said that Native high school students are “not academically qualified for Swarthmore”.

Indigenous students at Swarthmore also considered the fact that many Native students may not want to apply to the college because the institution makes no effort to ensure that we have a place here, as Admissions so freely admitted a few years ago.  Within the past few weeks the space that we fought to have was vandalized, and the bias incident report never resolved. Then on Columbus Day, an administrator accused us, the indigenous students, of stealing space in the same way land and life was taken from us. Anyone would be enraged by one of these events, in combination we remain resolved in our protest of this country, this system, and this institution. There is a clear trend of this institution neglecting Indigenous students, and it is up to Swarthmore College to change it.

One aspect of this is having an advocate of our own. In Spring of 2016 Native students met with President Valerie Smith asking, once again, to prioritize hiring a Native American staff or faculty member. We also asked that admissions pay more attention to recruiting and admitting Native students. The freshman class of 2021 has only one Indigenous identifying student and there have been no efforts made to hire a single culturally indigenous faculty or staff member that we have been made aware of. Our voices, yet again, have been left for the wind.

In the greater world, indigenous folks regularly work exponentially harder than those in power for our voices to be heard. We often represent a small portion of national populations, but it is important to remember that these numbers that many use to deem us as insignificant are the result of a genocide, that the systems that count us for their census were built on top of our lands, and in opposition to our existence. Burning a nation’s flag is a demonstration born out of frustration. When respectability politics do not allow your voice to be heard, you must take action to ensure that your voice is heard. Historically when people of color make our voices heard, we are seen as aggressive. So be it. We hope that our actions will be met largely with understanding, but when they are met with discomfort, our hope is then that you will think critically about what established values told you to be uncomfortable with this type of protest, and why we would oppose them. Ruminate on the gap between our lived experiences.

For many indigenous people the first step is recognition in any regard. We need to be recognized as human beings, as cultures that still exist, that we are a vast array of people and histories and we are also in solidarity with each other. We want our history to be recognized, our history that is separate from any US history. Our history is many histories, they are indigenous stories of trial and turmoil and beauty and success. We face genocide and yet we survive. The US history is a colonial history, a history of slavery and racism, it’s a history of genocide and a history of propaganda. The legitimacy of the United States is not a given, Manifest Destiny is not real, and the American Flag can be burned.

We burn the American flag not just for ourselves, but for our ancestors who died because of that flag. We burn it for our indigenous siblings across the globe and for all of the people across the globe exploited by the United States and other Western imperialist states, caught in between their wars. We burn the flag for our kinfolk here on these lands we love, the other marginalized groups we are offering our solidarity to, hoping they offer it in return. We burn this flag because we want you to know it’s not just you who is angry and fighting against this broader oppressive apparatus: we are too.

We hope if nothing else, that this act will help you question your country, your school, your identity, and the hegemony we all live under. We hope you will examine how your life may contribute to the colonization of these lands. And we remind you that any group that wishes to take a position of neutrality on indigenous people, anyone who is not recognizing our existence,  or not including us in your conversations or on your syllabi – those groups are complicit in an on-going genocide. A genocide we stand against, a genocide that is led by the state represented by the United States flag.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Phoenix’s editorial policies state that letters and opinion pieces represent the views of their writers and not those of the Phoenix staff or Editorial Board. The Phoenix reserves the right to edit all pieces submitted for print publication for length clarity, and factual accuracy.

In light of that policy, the Editorial Board has the obligation to assume that the statement by the author of this op-ed that “Swarthmore’s Director of Admissions JT Duck said that Native high school students are “not academically qualified for Swarthmore”” is in reference to the 2014 Daily Gazette article “NASA Panel Brings Critical Discussion of Diversity.” If so, the Editorial Board has the obligation to point out a discrepancy between the statement by the author of this op-ed and the content of the Daily Gazette article, which can be read in full at the following link: http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2014/11/20/nasa-panel-brings-critical-discussion-of-diversity/

Into the Archives Column: The Beginning

in Campus Journal/Into the Archives by

If you’re researching Swat on the internet, the first sentence on the “about” page of its website reads:

“Since its founding in 1864, Swarthmore College has given students the knowledge, insight, skills, and experience to become leaders for the common good.”

As students on campus, descriptions like this of the college can seem largely rhetorical. Swarthmore has a long, long history of progressivism and social justice, but with our large workloads and busy schedules, it’s easy to feel detached from our place within the institution as a whole. I stumbled upon random facts about the college’s history last year — Albert Einstein spoke here; Nirvana played here; the FBI investigated students and faculty here — and thought it’d be interesting to look further into the narrative that the school’s history itself creates. I’m hoping to raise my own (and potentially our collective) consciousness, to help us appreciate our place in historical time and be better equipped to hold the college accountable to its promises of the past. With that in mind, I’m going into the archives: this week, to the beginning.

Swarthmore was officially authorized to become a college on April 1, 1864. In its authorization, the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives approved Swarthmore College “to establish and maintain a school and college for the purpose of importing to persons of both sexes knowledge in the various branches of science, literature, and the arts.”

However, the process of founding Swarthmore was begun even earlier, around 1860, by a group of Hicksite Quakers in the Philadelphia area, who placed great emphasis on community building and were ‘liberal’ even for Quakers. (They split from more Orthodox quakers as the other group moved away from women leading services and focused more on material possessions than “common people.”) The Hicksites met in Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore to discuss the starting of a Hicksite college; one of their main goals was coeducation, highly uncommon for the time. (For comparison, Yale didn’t become co-ed until 1969.)

Apart from the general Hicksite Quaker goals, the main proponents of the school themselves were visionaries of the time. One such person was Benjamin Hallowell (sound familiar?), the man who wrote the first pamphlet advocating the creation of the college. He was a conscientious objector in the War of 1812, and eventually became the president of the University of Maryland — only on the condition that he serve without a salary and the school’s farm not use slave labor. There were initially conversations about what kind of school Swarthmore should be; some Quakers wanted a grammar school, another a school to train other Quakers, but Hallowell wanted more out of the proposed school. He wrote in a letter to future president Edward Parrish “The Institution must, from its commencement, possess faculties for pursuing a liberal and extensive course of study … equal to that of the best Institutions of learning of our Country” (Swarthmore Bulletin).

Along with Hallowell was Lucretia Coffin Mott, a Hicksite Minister — Hicksites encouraged women leading religious services — as well as a leading abolitionist and suffragist of the 19th century. Mott devoted her life not only to these causes, but also “to the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, school and prison reforms, temperance, peace, and religious tolerance” (Swarthmore College, A Brief History). Her home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and she even received a nomination for United States Vice President in 1848, long before the 19th amendment was even on the horizon.

Hallowell and Mott were a few noteworthy proponents, but the creation of the college included a vast variety of people who adhered to Quaker values: from wealthy businessmen, to abolitionists, to former professors at West Point.

The name “Swarthmore” was actually coined in 1863 by Hallowell’s wife Margaret, who wanted to name the school after a historical house in England called “Swarth moor” the home of another Margaret, Margaret Fell, who dedicated her life to the Quaker movement and was a strong proponent of the right of women to speak freely and be leaders, even in religious contexts. As early as the mid 1660s, Fell wrote in her book Women’s Speaking” that the ministry of women was “Justified, Proved, and Allowed of by the Scriptures” (Swarthmore: A Brief History).

From the land for which it was named, to the people who decided on its inception, to the very sect of Quakerism from which the College was conceived, Swat’s beginnings are permeated with progress. The founders had a vision of a school that transcended the societal expectations of the time; one can only wonder how that vision has evolved. How have we translated this original outlook into our present?

How did Swat get here? An abridged history of activism at Swat

in Campus Journal by


In the context of recent activism and student action regarding Swarthmore’s divestment from fossil fuels, I thought I’d take a look at past and ongoing activism both campus and related to the institution. Here’s a (brief) history of some historical progresses and moments of activism at Swat:

1869 – Nov. 10, the College opens with a tree-planting ceremony to honor the College founders Lucretia and James Mott, who were well known for their activism in the women’s rights and anti-slavery movements. At the ceremony, President Edward Parrish said “A peculiarity of this organization, as contrasted with most others for like purposes is the association of women equally with men in its origin and management.”

1905 – Swarthmore football player Robert “Tiny” Maxwell is photographed in a bloodied and battered state after a game against University of Pennsylvania. President Theodore Roosevelt saw this image of Maxwell, and declared that the sport had to be reformed or he would ban it. The legalization of the forward pass and the doubling of the yardage required for a first down were elements of the sport that came out of the reforms this spurred.

1907 – The Jeanes Bequest. Wealthy Quaker Anna T. Jeanes offered to bequeath her land to Swarthmore one on condition: the college permanently give up intercollegiate sports. The college refused.

1917 – Jesse Holmes, a philosophy professor helped found the American Friends Service Committee, providing conscientious objectors an opportunity to perform community service rather than fight.

1930 – The college organized and funded former area mill workers to clear paths, open trails, cut dead trees, and haul out trash from the woods. According to the Arboretum’s first director, after conducting this work from 1930-1932, they “literally transformed the dilapidated areas into a pleasant woodland park with attractive paths”

1933 – Sororities Abolished due to Jewish students being excluded from Chi Omega and Kappa Alpha Theta. The ban was repealed in 2012.

1943 – Student Body integrated, although some black students were already  black students already attending the College as members of the U.S. Navy’s V-12 unit stationed on campus.

1967 – Superweek. President Courtney Smith initiated the publication of “Critique of a College,” which was a review of the college. During the week in December, classes were canceled and instead students and faculty held meetings and discussion panels about the school and its policies. For the week, there was a daily student newspaper titled “The Egg,” which detailed topics covered. These topics included the creation of an engineering department, installing pass/fail courses, counting social/field work for course credit, the Quaker tradition, the College’s relationship with students, and the role of women in academics and education.

1969 – The black protest movement, led by the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society (SASS) sat in the Admissions Office to demand increased black enrollment after there was dwindling numbers of black students and lack of administrative support for black students. The sit-in was eight days long, and the next year saw a large increase in the number of black students at the college.

1970 – students pushed for the Black Cultural Center and it was founded.

1971 – FBI files stolen from an office in Media reveal that Swarthmore’s Afro-American Student Society were under surveillance, and disclosed information on students and faculty

1974 – Inspired by the establishment of the Black Cultural Center and second wave feminism, members of Swarthmore Women’s Liberation pushed for their own center, which was established in Bond hall in 1974 and named after Alice Paul in 1975. (It no longer has that same purpose.)

1982 – Divestment from South Africa process begins when Student Council adopts a resolution calling the College to divest from all companies doing members in South Africa, and later members of the college’s Anti-Apartheid Committee interrupted a Board of Managers meeting by holding a demonstration outside their meeting room. Sit-ins and activism continued, and in 1986 the Board of Managers reached consensus to proceed toward total divestment, which was completed in 1990.

1983 – Swarthmore President David Fraser “mobilizes the College’s opposition” and testifies before Congress to oppose an amendment to withhold federal financial aid from students who failed to register for a military draft

1988 – First Sager Symposium. Richard Sager ‘73 created the Sager Fund to fund events exploring LGBTQ issues

1996 – Environmental Racism Conference – students organize a conference on environmental racism in Chester that leads to the formation of the Campus Coalition Concerning Chester

2002 – Shareholder Activism – Swarthmore became the first college or university to initiate a resolution against Lockhead Martin for discrimination against LGBTQ employes. Soon after, the company announced plans to add sexual orientation to their discrimination policy.

2003 – Swarthmore joins Amicus Brief along with other colleges to support affirmative action in college admissions. President at the time Alfred H. Bloom said “we believe that diversity is essential to our educational mission.”

2011 – Mountain Justice first meets with the board to discuss divestment from fossil fuels.

2014 Swarthmore gains an NGO observer status at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and sends a delegation of students, faculty, and staff.

2016 – In December, President Valerie Smith affirms Swarthmore as a sanctuary campus.

2017 – Mountain Justice spearheads a referendum, subsequent sit-ins, and a joint forum with president Valerie Smith, SGO, and members of the board to push forward the policy of divestment from fossil fuels, despite the college’s official policy since 1991 of not divesting for social purposes.

Musings of Mariani

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

Fire alarms go off at odd times in the Willets dormitory, where I sleep and clean myself and occasionally work and socialize. Late one night near the end of the last semester, the alarm sounded, and we all filed out. It was a forlorn period, when the sinking, impending reality of Trump’s election and the travails of finals seemed to be conspiring together to produce the maximum feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. The residents of Willets filed out in their pajamas and stood together outside the doors. But instead of annoyance, a feeling of cheerful bemusement and calm resignation seemed to pervade. One girl walked out of the door with a lit cigarette and a mischievous smile as if she had set the alarm off herself, and was proud of it. We all knew that that the alarm would be deactivated soon, that in the meantime we could commiserate with our friends, and that this nocturnal excursion would make our beds all the warmer and cozier when we returned.

America is like Willets: beloved by a bacchanalian few who make it nearly unlivable for the rest, the site of many recurring crimes and infamies and injustices which go unaddressed and unresolved.

Like I live in Willets, I live in America and despite its flaws I love it deeply and I feel very dedicated to it. This is obviously a very bad time for our country, or at least worse than usual, but I’m not sure if it’s unprecedented. The government has often been corrupt. We’ve had incompetent, disturbed leaders before (Nixon, Reagan, W. Bush, Andrew Jackson, to name a few), and the immediate problems facing us have seemed intractable and hopeless. Our nation has been more divided before (we had a civil war!), we’ve had a worse economic crisis (the Great Depression!), we’ve faced extremely grave internal injustices whose solutions seemed totally out of reach.

I think what is different about the crisis we face today is the widespread total hopelessness felt about the impossibility to solve any of the problems facing us. I do not think this lies solely in our traditional national values, institutions, and ideals failing to solve the problems we face and the systemic flaws they have. The radical alternatives offered seem to me to be equally unlikely, insufficient, and futile.

This point is trite and obvious, but I still want to make it because I feel that it continues to be overlooked by many. I think that at least part of reason the political problems in the United States seem so intractable is because no one examines the basis of their fundamental values. People constantly talk about the responsibilities we have to other people in our country and then simultaneously question the legitimacy of our country itself. Or, like Trump, they talk about protecting our country without examining how the fundamental nature of the country they are protecting precludes doing the types of things they want to do to defend it.

Even in the era of globalization, the political institution which connects us the most is the nation-state. If you state that the United States of America is a hopelessly flawed country in which revolutionary changes need to take place, then you can no longer appeal to American values or the responsibilities Americans have to each other because of our national history, because then you are only contributing to the continuation of something which you say should not exist. If you say America needs to protect itself and in its interests in the world, but that to do so entails violating one of the country’s core principles of religious freedom, then you go further and actually destroy the thing you are trying to defend. You make the defense of America the thing that destroys America, you eliminate any value there is in defending America.

I do not want to make this sound like a Fourth of July speech. I do not forget that the crimes of slavery and the genocide of the natives peoples of this continent are as foundational to this country, and in many ways more-so, then the Bill of Rights. I know that is impossible for me to understand how difficult it is for many people to simply exist day to day in this country. But as long as a great deal of the American radical left totally eschews patriotism or even vaguely patriotic rhetoric, then I do not see how it is going to get anywhere in national politics. How are we going to criticize Trump for silencing the media or the continuing Republican efforts to take away the right of low-income people and people of color’s right to vote unless we appeal to the Constitution? How can we appeal to the Constitution unless we espouse some sort of dedication to the American national project?

The Democratic party is deeply flawed and has an awful policy record in many areas, but at a certain point the disengagement from the party stemming from the belief that it is hopeless to attempt to improve it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, almost got the nomination. I feel that if the left had made greater attempts at consensus and coalition building, he could have won. This would not have solved all of our national problems, but it certainly would have put us on a fundamentally better path.

What is indisputable is that everyone, especially people like myself who have tremendous privilege in our society, needs to do more to engage politically. Trump is the personification of the worst aspects of this country, but I believe, perhaps foolishly and romantically, but sincerely, that the good aspects of this country can defeat him and what he represents.

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