Students Concerned over SLAP Petitioning Tactics

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.

Swarthmore students have grown accustomed to encountering Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP) petitioners in Sharples and McCabe, and have respected the protest SLAP members threw during the Board of Managers meeting on behalf of a neutrality agreement for the Town Center West Project. But SLAP members emerged in an unaccustomed and utterly inappropriate location last Thursday as they collected signatures from obviously intoxicated students exiting Pub Nite.

Clearly, the Swarthmore Conservatives oppose many of SLAP’s politics, which have centered on violating National Labor Board Policy, instituting card-check union tactics in the workplace, and proposing transparency in the College endowment. But our concerns previously dealt with disagreements over policy, not passion.

Regrettably, SLAP’s otherwise defensible fervor for free speech has stepped out of bounds. Make no mistake: this was not merely an overzealous student who happened to make a few campaign points outside of Tarble. SLAP demonstrated Pub Nite as an organized petition stop, as the representative was stationed outside of Paces and armed with names of registered voters on Swarthmore’s campus, presumably in the hope of garnering the signatures of their inebriated peers.

SLAP’s newest attempt appears to be agitation masquerading as a cause. Representatives claim a desire to end Swarthmore College’s “monopoly” over town liquor — despite the fact that not so much as a shovel has been scratched for the proposal thus far. Since the restaurant within the proposed College inn will have permission to serve alcohol, SLAP members are evidently worried the inn will serve as a gatekeeper over the otherwise banned borough liquor sales.

Apart from the Swarthmore Conservatives’ opinion on whether or not a “dry” community is tenable, SLAP’s efforts to change the law based on cries of “Monopoly!” are hyperbolic, seeing as borough residents are perfectly able to travel a marginal distance to Springfield, Media, or Chester for access to liquor stores.

Bringing the “dry” versus “wet” debate to ballot is a residential matter, not a College one. If those who live in the town — as in families and individuals residing in local homes and apartments, not Swatties in dorms — would like to see this issue reflected in referendum, that is certainly their prerogative. Otherwise, it appears patronizing and misguided for Swarthmore students — many of which are not even of legal drinking age — to lecture town residents on a fantasized College booze cartel.

Understanding the consequences of this petition, the lengths to which SLAP has gone to achieve its agenda is astonishing. SLAP said in its letter to the Town Center West Committee, “If we cannot be certain that concrete protections for the future employees will be in place, we will work to make sure the community is able to have a vote on an issue that would affect the Town Center West project, regarding the granting of liquor licenses.” SLAP is a group that has gained notoriety for attacking the apparent unethical intimidation practices of employers. Perhaps it ought to reexamine its own bullying playbook.

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