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.
We have something to say as members of LaSS and as Swarthmore students.
This move for a sorority is not, nor has ever been driven by LaSS, and if that is how it has been portrayed in publications, well, we have nothing to say about that. If you think the action being taken to introduce sororities on campus is only being organized by white, athletic, affluent girls (you know, “sorority” girls), you are wrong. The group of women advocating for a sorority come from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, creeds, and sexualities, far from the stereotypical “sorority” girl. We have read every article and comment addressing this issue and it has never been stated that a Swarthmore sorority would be exclusive of anyone. That line of thinking does not espouse the Quaker values that Swarthmore stands for. We feel that LaSS is a casualty of the divisive nature of this argument. Yes, a few LaSS women are supportive of a sorority, but they are not representative of the group as a whole. It is truly distressing that so many untrue assumptions about the beliefs and goals of LaSS are being purported as truth.
We, as in Emily Richardson ’13 and Layla Helwa ’12, honestly didn’t have much to say about the sorority when we first heard about it because we were more preoccupied with building LaSS and getting freshmen interested. We were both of the mindset that while we were hesitant to push for a sorority, it seemed like it would be okay if there was one, and wouldn’t affect us. Why deny these women an opportunity? The truth is no one is being forced to join and no one is blatantly being excluded. This whole idea is still in its infancy, there are still many kinks that need to be worked out; we see no reason why the idea cannot be changed again. There is still room for compromise, after all this is Swarthmore.
Having said that, we have our own opinions. We know we wouldn’t want to pay dues for a sorority. The hazing, binge drinking, and un-academic nature of some sororities does disturb us. I had a strong image of the stereotypical sorority in my head, and the lack of Greek life was certainly a factor when choosing Swarthmore College.
Since then, we’ve had to re-asses these generalizations. Some of our friends are in nationally chartered sororities, and some are involved in co-ed social houses. But, we have our doubts about gender equality, and sympathize with the argument against the exclusion Greek life has become infamous for. I know that the constructed gender binary is a fallacy and creates an unfair balance of power, however this does not necessarily have to be a feature of a Swarthmore sorority. We can make this into whatever we want it to be, and we believe their vision consists of an open environment where women and come together and experience the bonds of sisterhood without having to congregate in a male-dominated atmosphere.
As for the comments in recent Daily Gazette articles, it is truly alarming just how quickly this argument escalated from typical Swarthmore discussion to hypocritical, offensive, and inappropriate attacks on multiple groups and individuals on campus. The open and accepting environment we loved and cherished at Swarthmore seems to have disappeared from under us; and this is truly lamentable.