Sorority Row: Swarthmore’s Greek Crisis

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.

In response to a pending proposal to create a sorority, The Daily Gazette solicited short opinions from a wide array of students on campus to capture the student debate on the issue: should Swarthmore reinstate sororities? Why or why not? The responses answer in the affirmative and negative and offer a variety of justifications for their positions. They are listed below, and here.

Women Deserve Equal Access
Rachel Branker ’12, Member of Ladies Soiree Society

Delta Upsilon Backs Sorority Proposal
Tramane Hall ’12 and Sean Mangus ’13, Delta Upsilon

Beware The Greeks
MC ’12, Former Head Tour Guide

Women’s Groups Diverse And Thriving
Joan O’Bryan ’13, Women’s Rugby, and Emma Thomas ’13, Grapevine

Large Hole In Swat’s Social Life
Carmen Perez-Leahy ’12, President of Ladies Soiree Society

Sorority Would Be Divisive
Lisa Sendrow ’13, President of Swarthmore Feminists

Gender Equality And Responsibility
Zack Wiener ’12, Sexual Health Counselor

A previous version of this piece referred to the article “Explainer: Does Title IX Apply to Greek Life?” which has been retracted while the editors are researching the question further.


  1. There are all kinds of sororities and fraternities. To assume that a sorority is going to end up being one particular thing is silly. For all the talk of diversity, there seems to be a lack of it – or at least of imagination – on campus.

    Number 1: Loosen up. Live and let live. If you don’t like a group, start your own frigging group.

    Number 2: to give an example of the wild variety of sororities/fraternities, let me tell you about one. It was a fraternity associated with a national organization. But it eventually evolved into a co-ed house on the regular housing draw. Rush was a week of “survivor” like games (e.g. scavenger hunts – nothing harsh) and social events for a week to get to know each other, with a ceremony at the end (with a few obligatory candles and latin so everyone would know it was a official). The girls (as well as a mascot dog) became official members of the national (male-only) fraternity under pseudonyms (Sam Moore rather than Samantha). The national fraternity link was maintained for the benis – money for pool tables and such for the house. National would come around sometimes and be given tours, but pretty much turned a blind eye – or perhaps it was suggested that the males in the house were exceedingly popular males and/or that only the males were part of the fraternity, not really sure. Anyway, it was a very popular house on the housing draw. The whole thing went on this way for years (close to a decade?) until the house elected a woman as their President. (And maybe she or another girl alum might have shown up for the national President’s conference or some such?) – anyway, it was a bridge too far and the national just couldn’t take it and decertified the house. Too bad. It was a lot of fun for everyone for years.

    But that’s the story of how one of the national fraternities happens to have a number of girls from a top tier college as official members – whether or not they realize it.

    So don’t assume what any new sorority is going to be like. It will all depend on the girls (or boys) who make it up. And they will all be Swatties. So it’s all good.


    • “And they will all be Swatties. So it’s all good.”


      It would be nice if people acknowledged the fact that the type of people who enrolled in this school would completely change if we had a sorority. Like-minded liberal arts colleges have totally abolished their Greek life. This would be a move in the wrong direction.

      • Or that just because people are Swatties, they can do no wrong. As if many of the problems associated with Greek life–assault, sexual violence, hazing-can’t happen here just because we’re Swatties.

        I know it makes everyone feel special to have gotten in here, but that doesn’t mean we do everything right, guys.

      • so when you decided to go to swarthmore you were kinda iffy on the whole frat thing but there was no sorority so you decided to enroll after all?
        There are clearly members of our community that feel that there is a need for a female run drinking friendly space, so that’s why we are discussing it. I don’t think its existence would necessarily draw the “wrong crowd” because Swatties are wonderfully weird and special enough to make it their own thing.

        • You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t think Greek life plays into people’s college decisions? What? I came here in spite of the frats, because I was told on my visit that DU was a small presence and that Phi Psi wasn’t a nationally affiliated group. If we are talking about re-instating sororities in order to provide both men and women with some ambiguous idea of Greek-style drinking space (assuming this is viewed as a legitimate argument) then I think we need to start talking about abolishing the fraternities. It would be a bummer for the men, but if people think there is inequality here, that is the answer. I am willing to bet that the majority of Swarthmore students do not want more Greek life.

          I have to say, though: sorority houses are almost always dry spaces.

          • yeah i came here in spite of the frats too and i clearly don’t know anything about sororities because i am definitely not advocating for a dry sorority house. maybe calling it a sorority is a bad call, but I stick by my feeling that there is something seriously off-balance gender wise in the swat social scene, and I think a lady wet space might fix that.

          • you, sir, are being a stick in the mud. If students want to take part in a sorority, by all means let them. You don’t have to join.

          • I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe that was the real reason or deciding factor why you came to Swarthmore…..

          • Alright. Let’s assume that Greek life IS a really really really important factor for you. So what? Phi psi and DU are still on campus. Even if they start a sorority, it would take them many years to go through all the paper work and stuff. Why are you hating on something that will not affect your time here at Swat.

            Hater just keep on hating.
            You might want to start a Swarthmore Anti Greek Association.

      • ME EITHER! one of my requirements in looking for a college was a non-existent or marginal Greek life impact on the campus.

    • Thanks for the example, think twice, but don’t really see how that supports the idea of a sorority on campus… If anything, it makes me ask why is no one bringing up co-ed (non-gendered) fraternities?! Honestly, people, this is what we should be debating.

    • hahahahahahha i thought maybe nobody would say anything and it could be my little joke with myself, sorry I’m clearly not mature enough for this and I’m getting kinda schooled all over the place so I think its time for me to withdraw before I get any sillier. Peace.

      • NO NO NO

        I was like literally rofling.

        Is that a word?

        I’m sorry you feel beaten out of the discussion. Between finding out about Title IX’s not-coverage of this issue and how a sorority couldn’t be a wet (lady) space, I think this discussion has been forced into new grounds.

        I’m wondering why the proposers hadn’t researched that last tidbit …

        Anyhow, feel free to shoot me an email if you want to talk more. o/

        • New grounds, I agree. Lots to think about, and still more to discuss until we figure out a plan to tackle the lack of lady space. 🙂

  2. Maybe we should found a fraternity, or sorority, or froroity, that’s co-ed, or better yet, multi-ed, that includes people of all genders and sexual orientations (and more), ages, SE classes, backgrounds, and experiences, and put it all in one big nature preserve and call it Swarthmore College.

    • Everyone is welcome! We’ll all get along and be best friends. On the surface, I have nothing against this sentiment at Swarthmore. It simply isn’t realistic to expect that out of Greek life.

      The fact that most of these comments about Greek life focus on the social scene or nightlife show a lack of understanding towards what the fraternities are about and what sororities at Swarthmore could become. While the majority of students that take part in Greek life activities only come down to the lodges when the fraternities are throwing a large party (which is fine by me), I feel that this limited exposure does not give many posters here a leg to stand on when they talk about the merits of Greek life.

      I can only speak for my fraternity, DU, but I’m sure the same applies to Greek life in general. It seems to be a common worry on these message boards is that “exclusivity” will be a problem. This boils down to the process of Rush, where potential new brothers get to meet the brothers in the house to get a feel for whether they would want to pledge and if the house would be a good fit. After this period of rush, brothers will meet and decide on which kids to extend bids to.

      Have there been kids wanted to pledge but were not extended a bid? Sure, just as I’m sure there have been other organizations on campus that have denied membership for “fit” reasons. I have yet to meet a kid that came down to the majority of rush events, made an effort to meet the brothers, and was a genuinely nice guy and respectful of the house that was not given a bid. During the bid meeting occurs at the end of rush, never has a kid been denied a bid because of his race, sexuality, or perceived family income. Take one look at the DU fraternity composite. While this also wasn’t the intent when giving out bids, the pictures look like a solid representation of the student body.

      You form bonds with other brothers in your fraternity because at some base level, there are shared values. Everyone who made it all the way through pledging shared the same experiences and has bought into the system of a fraternity as a means to enhance their college experience.

      The members of Lass are pushing for a sorority on the grounds of equality with fraternity life that the college has provided. Not only do I feel that this is justified, I think it should be supported by the school even if there wasn’t Greek life in the status quo.

      • I agree with your view, but it’s not LaSS that’s pushing for a sorority. There are women outside of LaSS who want a sorority and there are women in LaSS who wouldn’t join a sorority (myself included).

        Can we please take LaSS out of the equation?

  3. As a recent grad, I think the only thing that “the real world” has over Swat is the nightlife. For #genderequality, get rid of the frats and build #clubz.

  4. i love going to the fraternities, but i agree that, as a female (even more as a non-brother), it can be kind of awkward to be there when it’s not a “big night,” if that makes sense. i also think a lot of the concerns that have so far been raised about starting a sorority are valid (ie excludes those who do not identify with either gender, sororities can’t be “wet” (lolz) anyway, etc).

    i don’t know if this has been brought up already (haven’t had the time to read them… swatties comment A LOT on dg articles!!!!!), but what about starting some form of social houses instead of a sorority? i know they have them at bowdoin and [a quick google search told me] at middlebury, too… not that we should use exactly their models, but just listing them as a starting point for a discussion about some sort of middle ground/compromise/whatever/etc. or maybe this is totally beside the point and is just going to complicate things further. if so sorry bout it!!!!!

    don’t know what social houses would mean for the future of the fraternities (though i don’t know why the establishment of social houses would have to have any effect on the fraternities), but i don’t know, just a thought!

  5. More safe spaces for fun things? Awesome! But being affiliated with national sororities, which are pretty high on the heteronormativity, racism, & class-ism scales, and kind of entirely “un-Swattie”?

    I mean, I don’t want to generalize about what is “Swattie-acceptable” and “un-Swattie” but I’m pretty sure that even the pro-sorority Swatties aren’t unequivocally delighted with the national organizations, as institutions.

  6. I’m pretty sure the idea is to propose a gender-neutral, multicultural sorority. FYI, the founding members pushing this are: White, Black, Jewish, & Queer, if that helps anyone…

      • Because no one has asked them. No one on these threads gets their opinions anywhere except the Phoenix and DG. The Proposal is still being drafted at this point. Everyone is assuming this is going to be a stereotypical sorority, which is just completely wrong. There would barely be an issue here if people would actually ask the founders directly what their plans were, because a lot of the articles do an awful job at framing this.

        Ian Anderson
        Phi Psi Fraternity consultant on the Sorority proposal

        • Speaking for myself, and not representing anyone else, I take issue with your claim that the The Gazette didn’t make a significant effort to “actually ask the founders directly what their plans were”… if that’s what you’re saying, Ian.

        • The Daily Gazette conducted a lengthy interview with one of the organizers of the proposal prior to publishing the seven student op-eds, but the interview was retracted by the interviewee due to personal reasons and The Gazette honored this request.

  7. If we’re trying to decide whether the women in the Swarthmore community should establish a sorority, we need only ask ourselves one question: who will protect and control our women when men are excluded from the organization. Sure, we let women have sports teams here and there, but always in the full sight of a man, just in case. I’m all for the advancement of the modern American woman, and that’s precisely why we need to ensure that their inherent insecurity, instability, and self destructive nature doesn’t bring an end to their livelihood. Lets be clear, a woman should be her own woman, should be able to have friends of her own, should control her own environment…so long as a man says its ok.

  8. Some of the many schools with no Greek life:

    Vassar College
    Bowdoin College
    Skidmore College
    Clark University
    Bates College
    Haverford College
    Princeton University
    Sarah Lawrence College
    Williams College
    Juilliard School
    Harvard University
    University of Notre Dame
    Rice University
    Boston College

    …Why does Swat still have any nationally affiliated Greek life at all? I don’t think it fits the kind of institution that we are. I am 100% against adding more Greek life to this tiny campus. Prospective students who know they want Greek life always have the choice to apply somewhere else.

    • ^very misleading post. Look, you’re entitled to your own opinion but you’re standing on stilts here. Throwing out some academically prestigious names and asserting that they have no “Greek life” doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

      I can list Yale, Princeton, Vanderbilt, UVA, Pomona, Davidson, Dartmouth, and Duke. So my conclusion is that Greek life would better the social scene at our campus…?

      Your list consists of two schools that started out as all girl’s schools and a arts conservatory? Princeton has fraternities btw, and they also have eating clubs. For the “more respectable” clubs, fees run upwards of almost $10,000 a year. There are finals clubs at Harvard? I also noticed you left off the other Ivys that do have significant Greek life. And a couple of the schools you listed even have football teams and a strong commitment to their athletic’s programs. Using similar institutions as a method of comparison is fine, but what the hell is with this “If they do it, we gotta do it” crap?

      • My sister attends one of the institutions with prestigious names you mentioned. She hasn’t told me whether or not Greek life has bettered the social scene on campus, but she has told me many, many stories about her and her friends being sexually and physically assaulted, disrespected, and harassed by those who partake in it.

        Perhaps this adds something to the discussion?

        • I’m sorry about what has happened to your friends. But look, I’m not some national spokesperson for Greek life. And I’m sure there are bad things that have happened at fraternities at other schools. That’s why the reputation of Greeks is the way it is.

          “Perhaps this adds something to the discussion”. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. Just like in my previous post, I feel like that shouldn’t hold any weight when we talk about Swarthmore. If there are cases that arise at either fraternity, I’m sure the brothers as a group would sort it out. I hope I don’t come off as mean in my response. I just don’t get what your post is trying to accomplish.

          • Yeah, I’d like to apologize. I misread the sarcastic part of your other comment and got angry when I thought you were serious.

            I just have issues of trust when it comes to Greek Life as a result of certain experiences I and others I know have had. And as much as I try not to let it shade my judgement, it’s there, and it’s really, really unlikely to change unless someone can show me–not tell me–a reason why it should.

            Once again, my apologies.

    • Dude. Get your stuff straight. That’s one of the most irritating comment I’ve seen here, especially your list of school with no “frats”. Which just proves that colleges with no Greek association have all sorts of finals clubs, dinning clubs, whatever you name it.

      If you really hate on Greek life so much. Gather your fellow haters and start Swarthmore Anti Greek Association. Then work your way up and remove Greek life on Swat campus.

      Go ahead and remove Greek life on campus. Peope will just come up with something else. Peace.

  9. Unfortunately, the information you have provided is not entirely accurate nor accounts for the issue at hand. Some of the schools, Princeton for instance, do in fact have Greek life. If Greek life is not present, many of the institutions do have other forms of purely social institutions. Take for instance the houses at Harvard. Not only do these schools recognize the importance of social outlets, but provide alternatives to Greek life if not present, ones that are not comparable to other organizations Swat has.

    As a Swarthmore alum out in the real world I cannot stress how important a ‘social education’ is, one that Swat doesn’t readily provide. While we may be incredibly versed in philosophy, politics, and every mode of research possible, there is more that a college education should provide. One should have the ability to develop and foster relationships and flex the muscles of sociability that we, as humans, are born to use.

    • Princeton does not have any officially recognized Greek life. I got my list from

      I also don’t see your point, as I believe Swarthmore should have the kinds of alternatives to Greek life that you refer to. I don’t agree that fraternities and sororities are the only way to get a “social education,” and I stand behind what I said.

      • Of course they aren’t the only way to get a “social education”, but they are one way. The reason that there is a proposal is because a group of people do not feel the same way that you do.

      • There’s a difference between nationally recognized and local Greek life, of which Princeton has a locally recognized Greek life.

        Other alternatives to sororities and fraternities are not feasible logistically at Swarthmore such as residential houses and supper clubs do to size and the student body. Sorry, but what Swat has does not cut it at all.

        What is it that your opposed to with sororities and fraternities anyway? If Swarthmore had a Sorority how would that be a detriment to your education?

  10. Re: me being sexist

    I’m a woman. Also, I never said having one sorority would change the campus culture. I said having solid Greek life would change the campus culture.

    • “self hating sexists…they’re the worst” 🙂

      In all seriousness, Greek life used to be a huge part of our campus culture. One of our alums at a banquet told me more than half the men on campus were affiliated with Greek life when he was here. This guy is like at least 60. And now there is just the lonely twosome of DU and Phi Psi. I think a huge resurgence to those levels would be shocking, but that’s not what the discussion is about and you’d have a hard time convincing me of that slippery slope.

      This is a single proposal for one organization on campus. From the quantity of comments about this, it’s not hard to see that there is a strong contingency of support. If this were any other organization without the “social stigma” of Greek life, Swarthmore would be throwing money at the cause.

  11. You applied to Swarthmore full well knowing that there were two fraternities. The only thing that would change this dynamic is that women would have a comparable organization to call there own.

  12. I just want to make it clear that I respect the men in the fraternities, and I’m sure Greek life is an enriching experience for many people. I can’t claim to know too much about it, since I’ve never been involved in Greek life myself. I think people make a lot of good points about problems of inequality posed by the current two-fraternities-no-sororities system. I don’t harbor any hard feelings against the proponents of the sorority.

    However, it’s my personal opinion that we should not become a campus with a large portion of space devoted to Greek life. This is a very small place, and yes, I do believe that having one more Greek house would completely change the culture of a place I love very much. Greek life, to me, represents an archaic way of thinking and a very clear adherence to gender binaries. If women on campus feel oppressed by men at parties, as many commenters have stated, creating a sorority does not seem (to me) like a good solution. I would, however, be in full support of a women’s union.

    • Now that you’ve gone on record and said you “respect me”, what more is there to argue?

      I get where you’re coming from in terms of one social group having a large effect on a small campus and I know Lass tried to distance themselves from it. But I think the women that would be interested would be those girls and maybe a couple more since their recruiting efforts would be bolstered by their own space on campus. And maybe the proposal eventually does turn into a women’s union, but this discussion would have never happened unless the sorority proposal happened in the first place.

  13. I am going on the record as saying I didn’t write this [comment written by someone pretending to be “Eddie Montenegro ’13” deleted].

  14. Dearest Friends

    it occurred to me recently that maybe it is, in fact, time to get the fuck over ourselves– reading these comments is like a soap opera– a really good one (and don’t get me wrong i’m loving it), but maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what we are really arguing for (or against). our options are not as binary as everyone seems to be making them out to be. screw keeping the system the same, and screw eliminating it altogether.

    frat boys, calm down about your brotherhood and consider (just consider) opening it up to new people. by all means, hoover, keep your system the same..rushing, bids, pledging, i’m all for it. but co-ed frats are actually present on a ton of campuses (google my dear friends, google) and seriously how cool would a multi-ed frat be? maybe it doesnt have to be about the name or the system or the random labels we assign to ourselves and others. maybe it can actually be about creating small communities of people (people, mind you) that allow for family and support and space that is our own on campus. i’d be so down to join du. and hoove i have a genuine respect for it, the building, the people, the history (it doesnt hurt that kurt vonnegut is my personal hero and i will follow him anywhere).

    unfortunately i have breasts (i know, true bummer).

    why are we even talking about creating sororities when there is the potential for an already great system in place?

    let’s all calm down, pretend we almost respect one another, and go gets blitzed like krieg in mother Russia. because in my experience, girardi speaks only truth (no like seriously, the man is a god. a hairy beautiful god.)

    • Why are you dropping my name? I feel like nothing you said was in response to any of my comments.

      And just a thought, having breasts don’t make you special. We have lots of brothers with breasts.

  15. I find it despicable, no, downtight deplorable that one of you ghouls would have the audacity to mimic a fine young man like Michael Girardi. Through his steadfast practice of hand relief and fighting the good fight that is the bourgeois struggle he has proved to be a stellar representation of the LGTB community. Kudos to Mike and shame on you pagan blasphemers basking in the tarnishment of his name!

  16. Aye foolie sooport thee gewd kawz payple lyke senor montenegro argh fiting, man… yew jooveeneyell punks, thatz all yew argh…

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