Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature have voted to change their name to Psi Phi in order to better reflect what they see as the group’s mission. Revan Williams ’09, one of the three co-presidents of Psi Phi, explained that “we wanted to change the name in order to make the group more accessible to campus. SWIL was kind of a mystifying name, and we felt that it didn’t represent us as well as it could.” Daniel Jamison ’08, another president, explained that “we’ve divested ourselves of a lot of the aspects of a literary club.”
The name change process went through several phases. First, current members of SWIL voted on whether or not they wanted a name change. SWIL as an organization has been around since 1978 and boasts a significant alumni network. Jamison explained that “we faced significant disapproval from the alumni organization.” Some current members were also against the change, “citing the potential to tear apart the group or display to the rest of campus some sort of shame over the reputation of SWIL.” That said, the vote came down 20-7 in support of changing the name.
A second vote culled the first list of approximately twenty possibilities to a final four contenders. Swarthmore Fun and Games and League of Whimsicality both received three votes, SPQR received six votes, and Psi Phi received ten votes to emerge as the clear winner.
Jamison explained that while “some might argue that Psi Phi is no more descriptive a name than SWIL was… I think it’s catchy and pretty funny, and it’s certainly geeky.” Furthermore, “it conjures up the idea of a faux frat, which is something the group has operated as for years. Many of our in-jokes and our overall meeting design play off that.” He also thinks that the new name “downplays the complicated and intimidating side of SWIL… Just as the old acronym, SWIL, was unnecessarily indecipherable unless you use the word ‘warder’ in normal conversation, I think the old group may have been inaccessible. Today’s Psi Phi, on the other hand, is trying to make a bigger effort to reach out to the campus community as a whole.”
Psi Phi’s first campus-wide event will be a game of Capture the Flag with super soakers running Friday May 4th. In the fall, students can look forward to “Geek Week,” co-sponsored by Psi Phi, the Swarthmore College Computing Society, Free Culture and Anime Club among others. Jamison says, “there’s nothing like the feeling of being president of a club with a new name and 120 super soakers… although the twitchiness I’ve been sensing is probably due to the super soakers.”
The name “Psi Phi” is quite similar to that of Phi Psi, one of two fraternities on campus, and Jamison admitted that “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it an amusing idea to have a name so close to a current group.” It seems that both groups are amused by the coincidence. Drew Bonessa ’08, Phi Psi treasurer, wrote in an e-mail, “we are flattered that SWIL chose Psi Phi instead of Upsilon Delta. Similar to how SWIL views themselves as a ‘faux frat for geeks,’ Phi Psi sees ourselves as a more informal and ‘chill’ frat.”
Bonessa continued, “Phi Psi’s presence on campus certainly strengthens the value of the new name, but again, we find it humorous that by simply reversing the two Greek letters that two completely opposite groups (from the Swat Bubble’s perspective) are represented,” and while there is certainly some potential for mix-ups between the two groups, Bonessa feels that any such mix-ups “would be humorous enough to compensate us for any inconvenience incurred.”