Swarthmore's independent campus newspaper since 1881

Tag archive

policy change

Phi Psi reopens, changes policies amid concerns

in News by

On Feb. 3, Phi Psi fraternity hosted an open party for the first time since their suspension in November 2016. The fraternity’s new leadership has tightened their policies, initiated a new emergency protocol and also plans to allow student-run groups to co-host parties. However, some students are skeptical about the fraternity’s ability to change, given their recent history.

During the suspension period, party space on campus was limited; lines to Delta Upsilon fraternity sometimes stretched as long as 20 people on busy nights and PubSafe had shut down the frat on multiple nights for overcrowding.

“I guess there’s more options now and I think people tend to go to Phi Psi after pubnite on Thursdays,” Lily Goldman ’21 said. “DU was shut down this weekend but because Phi Psi was open, there was a party.”

As a first-year student, Goldman had not attended a party at Phi Psi before this semester.

“Partying isn’t really my favorite thing to do, so I’m not like, ‘Yes, Phi Psi! Take me there!’ But I have fun when I go,” she said.

In November 2016, the College Judiciary Committee suspended Phi Psi until the end of 2017 and declared that the fraternity would be on probation for all of 2018. The official reason given for the suspension was that the fraternity had violated the college’s alcohol and other drugs policies by serving hard alcohol at an October 2016 party. However, some suspect that the CJC issued tough sanctions for additional factors.

“I think that was the official thing that happened, but if that had been the only issue, then a year’s suspension would have been absolutely ridiculous,” Phi Psi co-vice president, Christian Vik ’19, said. “I think that the school was upset because there had been a bunch of small issues that they couldn’t do anything about … there was a little bit of a build up, then at the end they kinda said, ‘Oh, we’re sick of it, you guys are going to go off for a year.’”

The college owns the Phi Psi house and leases it to the fraternity each semester. During the fraternity’s suspension, the Phi Psi house was closed off both to the fraternity members and to the public.

“Everyone is really excited to be back … we do have a big privilege having this space, it’s hard to go from having it to not having it,” current Phi Psi president Mark Hergenroeder ’19 said.  “But I think the past is the past, we’re going to make sure it isn’t going to happen again … we’re going to make sure that we’re tighter at policing ourselves.”

The fraternity worked to both continue existing programs and to brainstorm new rules during suspension. Some members met with Interim Title IX fellow Raven Bennett about the Fraternity Mentorship Program, an educational program in which members attend training on and older fraternity members mentor new fraternity members on topics such as gender and sexuality, masculinity, alcohol and other drugs, consent and allyship, and bystander intervention.

I met with a few individuals who are members of Phi Psi during its suspension in order to get a sense of how I should plan for the spring semester,” Bennett wrote in an email to the Phoenix. “I would like to see continued participation in the Fraternity Mentorship Program because it creates the opportunity for members of the fraternities to engage in dialogue with staff around important topics.”

As a condition of their suspension, Phi Psi leadership was required to develop a comprehensive emergency protocol.

“It’s like ten pages of different, stricter rules we can implement at a party,” Hergenroeder said.

Among other things, the new policy requires that all bartenders be sober, prohibits partygoers from going into the upstairs room, and increases the number of brothers who are designated as party monitors. Hergenroeder also mentioned that Phi Psi has continued to foster relationships with Public Safety. These changes all came about in the past month, since the Phi Psi brothers were not allowed to meet formally during the suspension period, save for a mandatory meeting with Office of Student Engagement Director Andrew Barclay and Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselor Josh Ellow in fall 2017.

In addition to rolling out policy changes, Phi Psi has decided to allow student groups to co-host parties at the house.

“We have a nice space so what we plan to do is co-host parties with other student organizations more frequently. In the past we would be like ‘Phi Psi and ABLLE present XYZ party’. But what we want to do is have someone from their group literally be a co-host and have them be on the party permit,” Hergenroeder said.

However, some students are skeptical of the potential of these changes to substantially alter the environment at the fraternities.

“I think they’re acting very intelligently in the interest of self-preservation given the history they have on this campus,” Luke Barbano ’18 said. “The fact that they were almost kicked off of campus six years ago, they are playing their cards right in terms of not letting in people that they know are going to be problematic, playing to the desire of the student body to let other student groups use their space in order for people to like them more and to ameliorate their reputation.”

The frats have had a notoriously fraught relationship with the student body, most notably during the spring semester of 2013, also known as “The Spring of our Discontent.” Following protests from the student body, multiple New York Times articles and the filing of complaints with twelve student testimonies through the Clery Act and Title IX about the mishandling of sexual assault cases, the college held a referendum. The vote upheld the presence of the fraternities with 61 percent voting in favor of the fraternities and 29 percent voting for their abolishment. A vote on whether to allow the frats but take away their designated houses received 52 percent “No” and 36 percent “Yes.” Barbano attributes the current success of the fraternities to the fact that freshman are unaware of events that transpired during this time.

I don’t like fraternities as institutions…Traditionally—not so much in the past few years, but at least when I was a freshman—there was widespread anti-fraternity sentiment,” Barbano said. “But because people have graduated—people with important institutional knowledge about the history of Phi Psi—the anti-fraternity sentiment has eased up.

Daria Una Mateescu ’20 also feels that fraternities as an institution are problematic, but expressed cautious optimism about the recent reforms.

“I think certain members of the frats are really trying to make them more inclusive and safe for women and I fully appreciate that and am grateful for their efforts,” she said. “However, I think the premise of a frat makes it inextricable from masculinity and to that extent I cannot imagine a way for an all-male frat to not pose many problems to the safety and comfort and enjoyment of women. I think the new direction is good, and just hope that this is an earnest attempt at inclusivity rather than a self-benefiting performance.”

Vik acknowledged the complications inherent in policy changes arising out of a college-enforced suspension. He feels, however, that regardless of the catalyst, the changes could have positive effects.

“I think that … we needed to kind of get a wake up call and realize that we needed to change in some ways,” Vik said. “I definitely think that the fraternities are under a lot more scrutiny than other areas of campus when it comes to what happens at parties. But I do think that, as much as it sucked, we do have a good chance now to give ourselves a little kick [and] move ourselves into a better space as a group and fix some of the issues that might have been there before now that we, for all intents and purposes, have a clean slate.”

According to Vik, the student body overly scrutinizes fraternities; Mateescu also feels that the hyper-focus on fraternities’ issues leads students to overlook the other origins of party-related issues.

“Frat bros perpetuate toxic masculinity, and so does the guy that proclaims liberal ideology only to shame you for promiscuity or feign allyship for the sake of getting you into bed,” she said. “I think frats are so obviously non-femme oriented that it can be dangerous to use them as a scapegoat for all the masculine violence on this campus.”

According to Goldman, the general party scene at the college is more open than at other schools.

“I like how [the party scene] is really inclusive and how everyone can go to every party because at a lot of schools, that’s not the case,” Goldman said. “It just makes for an inclusive school environment, which I think is cool.”

However, some feel that the fraternities in particular cater to a more limited section of the student body than do party spaces like Paces and Olde Club, which are open to any students who want to host a party on a Thursday or Saturday night.

“I don’t usually go out, but if I do go out, it’s definitely not to the frats. Whenever I do go there, I just feel uncomfortable around people there,” Adam Augustin ’20 said. “I only went [to Phi Psi] once or twice, during freshman year. Most of my friends don’t like going to the frats because they don’t really fit in with that sort of group, they say … Last week, we went to the Enlace pubnite and that was sort of fun because we think the music’s better and the vibe feels more comfortable. It feels more like we can really be who we are.”

Barbano, who is currently a PubNite officer, echoed Augustin’s comment about inclusivity.

“It’s obvious based on who is there consistently that the people that feel included are very broadly male athletes and female athletes, but more specifically the lacrosse team that has a close relationship with the male lacrosse team and the associates of those individuals,” Barbano said.

Barbano feels that because more students feel comfortable at open party environments like Pubnite and Olde Club, the party scene would be better if the fraternity houses were turned into public party spaces.

“It’s pretty clear that Paces and Olde Club and other public party spaces are the most successful or the most popular venues for student parties and the places where the most memorable and enjoyed events have happened in the past. I think that’s a pretty fair statement to say,” Barbano said. “Phi Psi’s house itself is a shell that the students would be okay with any other snail occupying. There is nothing specific to the current occupants of this shell that make it great.”

Yet typically, crowd-funded party spaces and events such as PubNite and NuWave, a “safe, inclusive and consent-oriented” party group that cropped up in the fall of 2016, have struggled to collect necessary funds to host parties on a consistent basis. The college’s policies dictate that students cannot charge entry fees for parties or use college funds to buy alcohol. Vik feels that the fraternities’ willingness to pay for alcohol for public parties significantly contributes to the college’s party scene.

“I do think without the two fraternities, the campus life would look a lot different on the weekends. Not that many people want to front a couple hundred dollars to pay for everyone else,” Vik said.

The reopening of Phi Psi allows for a less crowded Saturday night party scene and the possibility of a different party environment. However, the conversation around their complicated role and history on campus will no doubt continue.

Correction made on Feb. 17: The article previously incorrectly stated that Luke Barbano was a former PubNite officer when he is a current PubNite officer. The error has been amended above.

Evaluating the safety of our staff in a snowstorm

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

The snow piles up on the ground outside, finally beginning to slow, yet its remnants promise to keep the conditions for the day dangerous and uncertain. Branches and fallen trees block pathways in the borough, and some residential areas darken as a result of damaged power lines.

Meanwhile, on campus, students roam the college and desperately hope their classes will be cancelled. Some students walk up the path of Parrish Beach, trudging the path that the essential employees from the grounds crew worked to clear. As these Swatties entered Parrish, however, they may have been surprised to notice that, despite many essential staff members reporting to work, the administrative office hall was practically a ghost town. Many administrative members deemed the snowy conditions too severe to come to work, despite the fact that required staff, including many EVS workers, dining staff, and grounds workers, were required to report to work in spite of the storm.

We at the Phoenix find this unfair as it places an unequal burden on essential staff relative to the administration. While we recognize that many people could not make it to work due to the conditions and while we respect the need to practice safety precautions, it is absolutely unfair that many higher administrators did not have to report to work while many staff members were not given the same options to practice such precautions. These staff members were not allowed to follow these precautions despite the fact that they are not paid as high a salary as the deans, and many do not have as reliable winter transportation considering some depend on public transportation. We believe that it sends the wrong message to staff members in our community that that their safety is not as important as the safety of other employees. This is especially a problem in that it demonstrates a hierarchy of importance in the college that respects the decisions and safety of higher administration without equally respecting this integrity of other staff members.

Of course, we at the Phoenix recognize that some staff truly are essential to the maintenance of the college, and that it would have been nearly impossible to maintain the college without these employees. For example, some members of grounds crew were absolutely essential in ensuring that paths remained clear and, thanks tremendously to them, students were still able to roam the paths of campus and make it to their scheduled classes without trudging through inches of snow. Dining staff in Sharples, Essie’s, Kohlberg, and Science Center were needed so that students could still eat properly in spite of the storm. And to be fair, we at the Phoenix recognize that the college did not necessarily make all EVS staff report to work, but left it up to “relevant departments” to decide if all staff members were absolutely necessary.

However, we at the Phoenix believe this becomes an issue when all of these essential staff members are expected to report to work, yet many members of the administration and higher staff do not need to follow the same expectations. While some of the administration may work from home, it still does not change the fact that they are not standing in solidarity with the essential staff who have no choice but to report to work. Clearly, changes in college policy need to be made to ensure that these staff members are still respected and treated fairly amongst other members of the college community. As a result, we at the Phoenix call for Swarthmore to either increase their expectations of the administration and higher staff to report to work or that the required staff members who do report to work receive extra compensation and respect for their time.

 

Updates to Quoting Policy

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Coming off of election years, national news publications, such as the New York Times, cite issues with campaign offices having tight lips and hesitant hands. The offices revise, redact, and reform quotes to fit a narrative. Journalists have trouble developing stories because of this policy called quote revision, which enables the places and people they report on to manage what they say officially. Stories and reporting tactics are hampered because the honest quotes — the less-than-polished, off-the-cuff words of people — are refined by bureaucracy and management.

Now, the problems for college journalists are not of the same sensitivity or degree as those of national news organizations; they are, however, persistent and ubiquitous on our campuses. At Swarthmore, as a small college community, not only does everyone know each other, but everyone knows what others say. This fact can often cause friction for college papers. Sources understandably want to ensure their images are not marred in the publication of a controversial piece or in the leak of sensitive information. However, these intentions conflict with journalism’s goals of telling honest, well-rounded, and meaningful stories.

Previously, the Phoenix has maintained a de-facto quoting policy through which sources could retract quotes that were once on the record. This policy was meant to serve the campus community. In recent years, however, the policy has had the unintended consequence of limiting writers’ ability to cover stories earnestly and the Phoenix’s ability to report campus events accurately.

As a result, the Phoenix has decided to change its quoting policy, so the campus benefits from better reporting while it maintains access to quotes. The new policy states that sources who had previously provided quotes on the record are expected to be treated as on the record. Retracted quotes will be considered in only extreme cases. Less frank quotes reduce stories’ ability to convey the truth. In the event of an extenuating circumstance, a source may withhold their quotes pending a meeting with Phoenix staff. This is actually not a new policy at the Phoenix; rather, it is the reiteration of our current policy. Certain editors have ventured away from this policy in the name of transparency and dialogue, but these decisions have caused more problems than solutions, and thus we feel compelled to reiterate our original policy. Furthermore, although we will not allow sources to retract or revise their quotes, sources may request for their quotes to be sent to them before publication.

It is also important to clarify the distinctions between information that is considerd “on the record” and “off”. On the record information is information that can be quoted or used toward a piece’s final published form and is attributed to the source. This information is usually obtained over in-person interviews, phone calls, and email correspondence. Off the record information cannot be reported in the final published piece. However, off the record information can be used to motivate further research and find new sources who can provide the same or different information on the record. Once a Phoenix reporter identifies themselves as a reporter to a potential source, all correspondence thereafter is assumed to be on the record unless otherwise specified. Also, a source may be referred to as an anonymous source, pending a meeting with Phoenix staff.

For reference, this change comes after many other established institutions have made similar policy changes or comments. The New York Times, in addition to other college publications like the Harvard Crimson, holds similar quoting policies in order to avoid these skewed and sterile quotes.

The Phoenix recognizes that we are not the New York Times, and the situations both papers find themselves in are very different. Our change is not because of a concern with “getting the scoop” or catching people in a bad light. Although we do want to hold the college and community accountable, this reasoning is not the root of this policy change. Instead, quote revision prevents dialogue and the exchange of ideas from taking place. Therefore, restating and reaffirming our practices and policies as they were intended to be followed ensures that we are a place of discourse where ideas are offered up for discussion and comparison.

Updates to Quoting Policy

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Coming off of election years, national news publications, such as the New York Times, cite issues with campaign offices having tight lips and hesitant hands. The offices, barring campaign spokespeople, revise, redact, and reform quotes to fit a narrative, a voice, and a message. Journalists have trouble developing stories because of this policy called quote revision, which enables the places and people they report on to manage what they say officially. Stories and reporting tactics are hampered because the honest quotes — the less-than-polished, off-the-cuff words of people — are refined by bureaucracy and management.

Now, the problems for college journalists are not of the same sensitivity or degree as those of national news organizations; they are, however, persistent and ubiquitous on our campuses. At Swarthmore, as a small college community, not only does everyone know each other, but everyone knows what others say. This fact can often cause friction for college papers. Sources understandably want to ensure their images are not marred in the publication of a controversial piece or in the leak of sensitive information. However, these intentions conflict with journalism’s goals of telling honest, well-rounded, and meaningful stories.

Previously, the Phoenix has maintained a quoting policy through which sources could retract quotes that were once on the record. This policy was meant to serve the campus community and help constituents maintain their reputations. In recent years, however, the policy has had unintended consequences of limiting writers’ ability to cover stories earnestly and the Phoenix’s ability to report campus events accurately.

As a result, the Phoenix has decided to change its quoting policy, so the campus benefits from better reporting while it maintains access to quotes. The new policy states that sources who had previously provided quotes on the record cannot retract quotes. Less frank quotes reduce stories’ ability to convey the truth. To offset worry, in the event of an extenuating circumstance, a source may withhold their quotes pending a meeting with Phoenix staff. Furthermore, although we will not allow sources to retract or revise their quotes, sources may request for their quotes to be sent to them before publication.

It is also important to clarify the distinctions between information that is on the record and off. On the record information is information that can be quoted or used toward a piece’s final published form and is attributed to the source. This information is usually obtained over in-person interviews, phone calls, and email correspondence. Off the record information cannot be reported in the final published piece. However, off the record information can be used to motivate further research and find new sources who can provide the same or different information on the record. Once a Phoenix reporter identifies themselves as a reporter to a potential source, all correspondence thereafter is assumed to be on the record unless otherwise specified. Also, a source may be referred to as an anonymous source, pending a meeting with Phoenix staff.

For reference, this change comes after many other established institutions have made similar policy changes or comments. The New York Times, in addition to other college publications like the Harvard Crimson, holds similar quoting policies in order to avoid these skewed and sterile quotes.

The Phoenix recognizes that we are not the New York Times, and the situations both papers find themselves in are very different. Our change is not because of a concern with “getting the scoop” or catching people in a bad light. Although we do want to hold the college and community accountable, this reasoning is not the root of this policy change. Instead, quote revision prevents dialogue and the exchange of ideas from taking place. This change ensures that we are a place of discourse where ideas are offered up for discussion and comparison.

Administration aggravates party policies

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Over the course of the past two academic years, the college has taken steps to drastically change the on-campus social scene, especially with regards to student-planned events. We at the Phoenix believe that these policy changes have had a detrimental effect on the overall social scene at Swarthmore by directing most campus events to a limited number of spaces. We would encourage the Dean’s Office to rethink the current trajectory of their policy decisions and to invite more student feedback and participation in the policymaking process.

As the Class of 2018 arrived at Swarthmore, one of the first e-mails they received was from former Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Lilliana Rodriguez. In the email, Dean Rodriguez articulated several changes to the college’s drug and alcohol policy: the introduction of a medical amnesty policy, the prohibition of hard alcohol at registered campus parties of more than 30 individuals, and the prohibition of drinking paraphernalia. Because of these policy changes, and the ripple effects that the policy changes incurred on student groups’ ability to host large-scale events, social life at Swarthmore began to change. These ripples included the phasing out of the Social Affairs Committee, a vital resource for students to secure funding for student-run events and the increased involvement of the Office of Student Engagement in student affairs.

Many upperclassmen at the time lamented the policy changes as an institutional move to “regulate fun” at Swarthmore. The prominence of events organized by the fraternities and the OSE began to increase, while parties organized by other student groups in other spaces began to decline. Pub Nite’s future was placed on shaky ground as senior class officers struggled to obtain adequate amounts of funding and turned to a GoFundMe campaign to ensure the event’s survival. For better or for worse, these policy changes fundamentally altered the way that student events at Swarthmore are planned and run.

At the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, Assistant Director of Student Activities, Leadership, and Greek Life, Mike Elias, left his position to pursue other career opportunities, and the Office of Student Engagement was forced to operate without a member of its core staff. Dean Rodriguez also left her position which remains vacant to this day, despite the fact that a search for her replacement is currently in progress. In addition, the absence of a third Residential Community Coordinator put even more strain on the already overtaxed office. The shortage of staff members who are deeply invested in student life has led to a lack of institutional support, which has allowed the shortcomings of the updated student event policies to continue to alter the social scene of the college. Currently, Greek-life-sponsored student events every weekend appear to be the norm for a Swarthmore weekend, while supplemental events held in Paces Cafe and Olde Club appear only sporadically. We at the Phoenix believe the reduction in number of locations and number of student organizations hosting student events on the weekend is detrimental to social life because it limits the diversity of social spaces and types of events on campus.

As the OSE began to rebuild its core staff with the hiring of Kyle Miller and Carl Starkey as interim Coordinators for Students Activities and Leadership, many hoped that the policies regarding student events on campus would change in a positive way, allowing for an increase in the number and diversity of events. However, there have been no such positive changes yet, which we deem a cause for concern.

We at the Phoenix do not believe that changes to the policies surrounding student events are beneficial to the student body; rather, they make it more difficult for diverse populations within the Swarthmore community to participate in the broader social environment of the college. The Office of Student Engagement and other members of the Dean’s Office would benefit immensely from rethinking these policy changes and including more feedback from the student body at large, instead of in focus groups, one-on-one conversations, and closed committees. Cooperation and open collaboration between students and college staff is essential in creating a social environment that benefits all parties involved.

Go to Top