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What I Won’t Miss about Swat: Reflections Before leaving for the Summer

in Campus Journal by

Ah, summer, so close and yet so far. Various seedy “moving” companies have started emailing students, offering to take our clutter off our hands (they don’t say anything about returning it, though). The Rose Garden is starting to vaguely live up to its name. Shirtless show-offs fling frisbees around Parrish beach. How can I abandon all this for a 40-hour/week internship in D.C.? As a fun intellectual exercise (read: to actually contribute something to the last Campus Journal of the semester), I’ve decided to list the few things I won’t miss about Swarthmore this summer.

First, food: I am a lowly freshman. I am therefore overloaded with Sharples meals and am constantly bankrupt on Swat Points. For three brief months there will be no pasta bar, no badly boiled carrots, no fluorescent juices made out of suspicious ingredients. Also, I assume that D.C. has more than two streets of restaurants to choose from.

AND YET: Thanks to the OneCard, I can pretend that Swat Points aren’t “real” money and occasionally spend irresponsibly. In the world beyond Swarthmore, you actually have to pay with fun, adult things like dollar bills.

Second, housing. Shout-out to Willets residents: You do not have to spend the rest of your life in lounges furnished like a 70s waiting room in a dodgy doctor’s cabinet. There are floors without beer stains, toilets without vomit, kitchens without mice, and refrigerators without large amounts of moldy food. It’ll be hard to lose the smell of weed in the air, but I’m sure I’ll adapt quickly.

AND YET:…there is a Willets community. Sort of. We all get annoyed when someone dumps their ramen in the sink. And this dorm is a nice common enemy for everyone. Who will share my pain this summer? Nothing like irritation to bring people together.

And, lastly, Swatties. My fellow students, sufferers, lovers, thinkers, complainers, or whatever it is that brings us together. Believe me, I love you. You are all, for the most part, amazing people who will go on to do great things. And that is why we need a break from each other. Sometimes, I just need to walk around with my head in the clouds and not recognize everyone around me. I’d like to glimpse a stranger’s face and briefly imagine what their life may be like before losing them in the crowd, rather than recognizing them from a class or knowing way too much about their romantic history. It would be nice to not feel crushed by the weight of everyone else’s accomplishments and intelligent contributions to classroom discussions.

AND YET: I’ll miss late night discussions about random topics and having people to rant about French politics at. I’ll miss brilliant idealists describing a communist utopia and late night songs in Urdu and the most flamboyant figures tearing through campus in leather shorts and velvet headbands.

It’s been quite a year, Swarthmore. We probably need some time apart before I officially become a McCabe-dwelling bat that lives off Essie’s snacks. And I doubt I’m the only one who’ll be glad to take a break. Mountain Justice activists will probably enjoy not getting random citations for the grave crime of shredding documents. Members of the Conservative Society may not miss being one of twenty conservative students on a 1600 person-campus. Anyone who has struggled with Eduroam crashes (actually, that’s the entirety of the campus) will, hopefully, have the pleasure of finding a functional network; and, even if we miss our favorite professors and fondly recall our best classes, will we really long for the days of hunching over a laptop at 3 am, only halfway done with an essay due the next day?

No. Definitely not. The Swarthmore Bubble doesn’t mean the school is a perfect place, and a lot of people would benefit from a trip back into the real world. But then again, there probably will be the odd pang of nostalgia. We are Swatties, after all. Being here requires at least a small dose of masochism.

First Generation Flex

in Campus Journal by

On Saturday April 21, a group of first generation students gathered on Magill Walk to let the rest of the campus celebrate their existence and have their voices heard. The event was a fashion show organized by AynNichelle Slappy ‘20 in honour of national first generation week. Slappy said she was surprised that Swarthmore wasn’t doing anything to commemorate this week, so she sought to change that. She spoke of the fact that most people simply didn’t know about first generation week being the reason behind the lack of events being planned on campus.

Slappy said that in the creation of the event, she thought of events and support structures that were empowering to her as a first generation student. She said that the event was meant to function as an act of solidarity on the behalf of first generation students.

“ [I wanted to] make a statement that ‘we’re here and we’re together’… and one of the most visible things that you can do is a fashion show.”

Slappy wanted to ensure that everyone who walked was able to submit a mini bio mentioning the things they are passionate about and proud of, stating that it was a way to let people know that first generation students are thriving on this campus.

National Gen Day is held on April 25 to celebrate first generation students and their accomplishments, as well as acknowledge the unique challenges they face. This year was the first annual Gen Day, and as a result not many people knew about its existence, Slappy hopes that this will change in coming years at Swarthmore. After all, the stories and voices of first generation students are important and deserve to be celebrated. Her plans for the future?

“I have a lot of ideas for next year – I would like to get more groups involved and actually create an entire week of programming for generation week.”

Hopefully next year we will be able to see these plans come to fruition, and first generation students can be given the voice they deserve.

Coping with Trump’s presidency

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

We unlocked the door with our twisted imagination. Beyond it was a dimension with sounds, sights, and perspectives that we had never seen before it. Shadows descended upon our senses and judgment to nullify any real substance, and since November of last year we’ve been living in a 21st century Twilight Zone. Most people on this campus didn’t expect Trump to win the presidency. I was one of them; in my mind, I was convinced that the America that I knew growing up, despite its contentious and problematic history, always strove for progress and inclusion. The country wouldn’t, in the span of an election, voluntarily decide to go back to the America of the 1950s. Although in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was with the outcome. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are the daughters of bigotry and hatred. They’ve been woven into the fabric of America since its tortured beginning. I knew this already, so I don’t understand why I’ve been so infuriated by Trump’s presidency.

It’s been about two-and-a-half weeks since his inauguration, but each day feels like an eternity. Each day he (or maybe Steve Bannon at this point) declares a new executive order from his little box of horrors. From reinstating the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to instructing federal agencies to weaken Obamacare, he’s already shown complete disregard for the communities that are most vulnerable. Since his inauguration, he’s signed more than twenty executive actions. While he’s been busy turning D.C. on its head, I’ve been trying to ignore him but to no avail. Whether it be on TV or on the internet, I’m frequently stressed out as the consequences of his actions loom over me like the clouds did the day after he won the election.

With the prospect of declaring my major relatively soon, applying for research and study abroad opportunities, and dealing with back-to-back 8:30 classes for a heavy course load, Swarthmore has been difficult for me. Maintaining mental health takes just as much work as maintaining physical health and the last thing I needed was to get enraged over something which I have no control over. There’s a limit to how much you can react angrily on Facebook. Besides, at this point nothing that he says or does really surprises me.

That changed about a week ago when I20 hosted the Immigration Panel Discussion regarding the possible repercussions as a result of his executive orders changing the H1B/H1B1/work visa programs. As a natural-born citizen, I was privileged about not having to worry about this, so I didn’t go to the Immigration Panel Discussion. In retrospect, I’m ashamed that I didn’t go since shortly afterwards I realized for every problem that didn’t directly affect me, it would affect someone I knew. He/She/They would have to carry that burden with them, only for the cycle of fear and anxiety to repeat itself each day. There’s a difference between dedicating time to yourself and being selfish, and I’ve erred on the wrong side for too long.

Of course, Swatties already know about the multiple ways to resist Trump’s fascism: protest, call your senators, donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc. and yes those are all wonderful courses of action to take. However, there’s something else that I want to suggest for those who are currently afraid of our increasingly uncertain future.

I asked a good friend of mine how he was going to live through Trump’s presidency and his response stunned me. Even though he firmly believes everyone should have and should continue to fight for equal rights, we can’t expect to live the same life as those with privilege do and we have to reconcile with that. My grandparents who witnessed the Civil Rights Movement believed that one day we’d live in a more equitable and just society. They carried that hope with them until they passed away, gave that same hope to my parents who in turn passed it on to me. Whenever all feels lost, through this hope I find the strength to persevere. Hopefully, someday my future children and grandchildren can find the same solace. Regardless for now, I suggest that there are two actions you should perform:

Find Joy. It doesn’t matter how but this is important. Whether it be through your friends and family or socializing, making it a priority to find joy in your life is one of the greatest acts of self-love that you can do for yourself.

Be content in who you are and live your life. No matter what Trump does, he can’t determine how far you go or the dreams you make for yourself. The fact that you exist and there can be no other human being like you is proof of your uniqueness. Just by doing what you already do on a daily basis is the ultimate form of resistance and signals how powerful and indomitable you already are.

The next four years will be difficult for sure, but that doesn’t mean your life has to be made any worse. Whatever you decide to do, I hope that you can find your own peace and happiness.

As seniors graduate, how will the spring of 2013 be remembered?

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

Many seniors are soon approaching the scariest part of college: the end. Each class leaves, a new one replaces it, and the campus seems to change a bit. Leaving with this senior class is a very important piece of institutional memory from only three years ago: the Spring of our Discontent. Although many current seniors were not involved in the actions, their hazy memory of the anger, the actions and the coalition of students coming together is really all we have left. Students coming onto campus have no idea what the Spring of Discontent even means, let alone its lasting impact on the school as a whole. It seems almost purposeful to let it remain that way. Because once these seniors graduate, who will tell the story? With no students who experienced the emotion and turmoil of the spring, how will the narratives change?

The Spring of our Discontent, which refers to the spring of 2013, was defined by actions regarding a number of different subjects. Mountain Justice was advocating for divestment, the IC and BCC were responding to underfunding and consistent incidents of urination on the door to the IC, and frustration toward the frats and the administration due to sexual assault misconduct. All the issues represented interests of oppressed students on campus and frustration at the lack of institutional support they received. The first action students pushed as part of this movement was a petition to have a referendum about Greek life on campus, which received 172 signatures, and was presented to the Student Council (now SGO). The referendum proposed six modifications to Greek life, on which students could vote yes or no: separating DU and Kappa Alpha Theta from the national chapters, making all genders eligible for both fraternities and sororities, making frat houses substance free, pushing both frats into one house, having no designated houses for either frat, or the abolition of Greek life all together.

The referendum was released on Moodle. 53% of students voted ‘Yes’ on making Greek life gender-inclusive, but all other amendments to Greek life failed to pass. Substance free frat houses received 65% ‘No’, 19% ‘Yes’ and 12% no preference and 3% with no answer. Pushing both frats into one house received 54% ‘No’ and 30% ‘Yes’, while having no designated houses for either frat received ‘No’ 52% and ‘Yes’ 36%. Abolition of Greek life altogether received 61% ‘No’,  and 29% ‘Yes’. With the frats still intact, the focus shifted from Greek like to problems within the administration

Students filed complaints with twelve testimonies through Title IX and the Clery Act, charging that the administration had mishandled their cases and had not adequately addressed their reports of sexual assault. Reported failures included discouraging victims from coming forward, underreporting incidents of sexual assault, intimidating victims of sexual assault, and other failures to publicly report to the government or local community. This resulted in a dramatic change within the administration. Several members of the administration left the school or changed positions. Margolis Healy and Associates, a firm aimed to create safe campuses for colleges and universities, did an assessment on the sexual assault policy which resulted in a new policy that included the creation of a Title IX coordinator position that reports directly to the president. This also resulted in the creation of positions in departments such as the dean’s office, the athletic office, and the office of human resources to specifically support the Title IX office, among many other revisions to consent education and alcohol and other drugs policies. The final revision, and probably the most talked about change on campus, was the new alcohol policy and the death of the DJ fund.

In response to the actions and emotions on campus, the school offered several sessions for students to process the campus climate fully. “The activists concluded, ‘we’re not here to process feelings, we’re here to make change’” said Nathan Graf ’16, a member of Mountain Justice and an active participant in many of the actions during the spring of 2013. The focus of the actions turned a bright light on the administration and the many incidents they had mishandled, which allowed students to see the connections between the issues and demand a greater level of accountability from the administration in the areas they had neglected.

Mountain Justice voiced frustration at how the board of managers rejected movements to divest from fossil fuels, and the IC groups shared in frustration of feeling isolated and neglected on campus overall. The collective frustration led MJ activists to plan the board of managers takeover. The plan was for students who were negatively affected by the school to voice their concerns to the board of managers directly. The meeting was in Sci 101, and students came into the room from both sides and sat along the sides and in the middle, some holding signs expressing the issues they were representing. One by one, students stood at the podium and told of their experiences and expressed the need for change to the board of managers. Survivors of sexual assault, MJ members, and members of IC groups like SQU spoke honestly about their concerns and changes they wanted for the institution. This action had the most lasting impact on campus and is often thought of when addressing the spring of 2013.

Obviously, the activists who were at the forefront of these actions still had academics to worry about, and the looming finals season slowed the momentum of action for the spring. Then the senior class that had spearheaded the movements all graduated, and by the time the fall of 2013 came about, the movement had lost steam. The same emotions and frustrations with the school were still present, but the collective movement for action had faded. MJ has continued to fight the board of managers for divestment from fossil fuels, as over hundreds of other colleges and universities have divested as Swarthmore still lags behind.

Former College President Rebecca Chopp described the spring of 2013 as the community ‘frayed at its edges’. But what was so “frayed” about students coming together to make their institution better? Was their anger not handled peacefully through protest?

The general message sent from the administration through their actions of the spring of 2013 is that students need to settle for ‘good enough’. But I don’t think any Swarthmore student has ever really settled for good enough. Swarthmore students exceed expectations. It’s why we’re here, it’s what we do. They ask us to exceed; why can we not ask them the same?

The students involved in the spring of 2013 loved this institution. They loved it so much, they did everything in their power to fix its gaping faults. There’s so much left that wasn’t accomplished in 2013 that still affects students on campus today. The spring of 2013 has ended, but The Spring of Our Discontent is not over. The issues of the discontented have not been rectified. Students at Swarthmore today, tomorrow, and for as long as this college exists, need to continue to push and fight and love this institution until it’s the amazing place we know it can be.

 

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