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 Sorority Question
In a controversial move at StuCo’s last meeting, Campus Life Representative Ali Roseberry-Polier ’14 proposed a resolution for a referendum of the student body to further discussions about the creation of a sorority. While the resolution failed to pass council in a four to two vote with one abstention, if passed, it would have required StuCo to “host one or more open discussions on the topic of the proposed sorority.”
Student Council Resolution 2012.1 proposed that students respond to two questions, the first asking students if they supported the establishment of a nationally-affiliated sorority, and the second asking if students thought the topic merited further community discussion before a decision is made. If the majority of students voted yes on the second question, StuCo would be required to facilitate conversations and “set a timetable for this decision that allows substantial community input.”
Founders of the recently chartered interest group Not Yet Sisters (NYS), which is working to bring a sorority back on campus, Callie Feingold ’12, Olivia Ensign ’12, Christina Obiajulu ’12, and Julia Melin ’13 came to the meeting to oppose the resolution. Ensign said she thought the questions were biased and that asking men on this campus if women should be allowed to form a support group was both sexist and unnecessary.
“I think this could set a very dangerous precedent for any time a student group is being established on campus,” Ensign said. She said it doesn’t make sense for the majority of students to decide whether a small group of students could form an organization, when many students wouldn’t be interested in joining anyway.
“It really just feels like discrimination,” said Ensign.
While NYS has been holding weekly meetings to gauge interest and begin planning the particulars of the sorority, Roseberry-Polier said students are looking for a neutral place to discuss the creation of a sorority.
“I’ve talked to a lot of students who have said, whether or not they supported sororities, they wanted to see more official spaces for dialogue,” said Roseberry-Polier.
StuCo, Roseberry-Polier said, has the power and the duty to facilitate conversations when the student body feels it merits one.
Ensign said the point of the interest meetings is to have an official place for people to come ask questions and learn about their goals. She added that the founding members have made themselves visible and available to the community and will continue to do so. Therefore she did not see it fit for StuCo to spend its time on this issue. Several other StuCo members also questioned why StuCo would facilitate a campus-wide discussion about this group, when other groups are quietly chartered every week.
StuCo Appointments Chair Will Lawrence ’13 said the creation of a sorority is different from chartering other groups because of its greater impact on social life. Unlike other groups, NYS was created only through extensive discussion with administrators. He added that no other student group needs to be approved by the Board of Managers. This, Lawrence said, is enough to merit further campus-wide discussion to be sure that the Board of Managers makes a decision based on community input.
“That’s the thing that separates it from other student groups, which are simply going to the chartering committee and receiving approval there,” he said.
In addition, Lawrence said the sorority has been one of the most controversial issues on campus this year, citing discussions on campus and on The Daily Gazette. One issue that was brought to the campus’s attention in discussion on The Daily Gazette, he said, was the issue of gendered spaces and the exclusion of the transgender community.
Other council members were not convinced that using the sorority issue as a vehicle to talk about gender issues on campus was the right method, saying that the sorority should not become a scapegoat for gender issues on campus. StuCo Co-President Gabby Capone ’14 added that passing this resolution would reflect poorly on StuCo.
Capone said StuCo’s mission is to represent the entire student body’s voice and endorsing this controversial proposal would show a bias on StuCo’s part against the formation of the sorority, especially since President Rebecca Chopp and Dean of Students Liz Braun have voiced their approval of creating a sorority.
“One, [the referendum] is going to make us look bad and two it’s narrow in scope, so we’re not going to be able to address gender issues on campus,” said Capone.
While StuCo voted down the resolution, it said it would like to host discussions to facilitate larger community discussions on gendered spaces, party spaces, and sexual assault on campus.
StuCo will continue using paper ballots in the next election which will be held February 6-9 in Sharples. The ballots may also include requests for feedback on StuCo’s current performance and for issues students would like to see the council address.
Student Budget Committee (SBC) Manager Amelia Mitter-Burke ’12 presented an update on SBC. This year, Mitter-Burke says SBC is working to find a better way to allocate funds to student groups.
Currently, SBC allocates 80 percent of its budget each spring with the rest being set aside for special requests and other unanticipated costs. Yet, a lot of the funds SBC allocates ends up being unused and then wasted, while other groups need to request more.
Mitter-Burke said SBC definitely needs a more modern way to budget student groups that better reflects how groups spend their money. However, she did not specify what that would look like.
Wheel of Resources
The Deans’ Office recently created a “Wheel of Resources,” a diagram showing where students can access various resources for sexual assault-related issues. They will distribute them shortly.
Lawrence expressed interest in creating a stipend for StuCo representatives. This, he said, would allow more students, regardless of socio-economic background, to participate in student government. He also said it would improve the quality of both elections and the quality of candidates. If passed, the stipend wouldn’t take effect until after the current cabinet leaves office.
Correction: This story was edited on 2/6/12. The Daily Gazette originally reported the Board of Managers had voiced their support in favor of a sorority. The Board of Managers had not yet officially met to discuss the issue.