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.
Greek Life Referendum
Attendees at last night’s StuCo meeting filled Parrish’s West Parlor as Joyce Wu ‘15 announced that her petition for a referendum on the right of greek organizations to exist had received the necessary signatures–ten percent of the student body. Because she did not formally present the referendum to StuCo, no date has yet been set for the vote.
The petition stated that the referendum will ask: “Do you believe that the presence of fraternities and sororities should continue to be permitted at Swarthmore College?” As of 12:15 Monday morning, the petition had received 182 unique signatures.
The petition did not take a position on the question, instead stating: “No matter your views on Greek life at Swarthmore, if you believe that a referendum should be held to determine its continued presence on our campus, please sign this petition.”
A simple majority of voters will decide the result of the referendum, but one-third of the student body must participate for the referendum to be considered valid, according to the StuCo Constitution.
The referendum appeared Thursday in an email sent to many members of the student body by Parker Murray ’15, who attended Sunday night’s meeting, and it was also circulated on Facebook. Thursday’s edition of The Phoenix included a staff editorial calling for a referendum on the existence of greek life at Swarthmore.
The referendum recalls the 1933 vote by the female student population to ban sororities. That decision was annulled in recent months on Title IX grounds before the group Not Yet Sisters could bring a chapter of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta to campus, said StuCo Co-President President Victor Brady ‘13. Because the upcoming referendum would apply to fraternities as well as sororities, Brady does not foresee that Title IX will be invoked again.
Wu said “The point of this referendum is to push for more conversations around greek life,” and as students quickly learn of the referendum’s existence, those conversations are beginning. Amanda Epstein ’15, who sat in on the meeting, said she believed the College community would need more than two weeks to discuss the vote.
Wu asked if StuCo is interested in helping to moderate campus-wide discussions on the issue. Brady said StuCo is interested, and he suggested that a fireside chat, possibly including Dean of Students Liz Braun, is one option. Wu said she is also looking to hold a collection on the issue.
Constitutionally, the vote, which Brady said will be held electronically through Moodle, must be held within two weeks of the time the petition is formally presented to StuCo. After learning this information, Wu decided to delay presenting her petition until a later StuCo meeting.
Brady said he and Co-President Gabby Capone ‘13 will meet with Braun on Wednesday to determine whether a ban could even be allowed under school policy. Some attendees said that this risked involving the Administration in a decision that they said rightfully belongs to the students under the StuCo Constitution.
“I think there should be a guarantee that the referendum should happen regardless [of what the Administration says],” said Emma Waitzman ‘14, who attended the meeting. Murray, who was also in attendance, asked whether there was a part of the Constitution that says it’s all contingent upon what Braun says.
“No, no!” said Brady. “But it makes much more sense, especially if [the petition] is not going to be submitted for the immediate future, to see what she says, and then if she says it’s not going to do anything and you also want to submit the referendum, then I would advocate against it. But if that’s the approach you decide upon, then that’s pretty black and white.”
In other words, if Wu is determined to bring the issue to a vote, the vote will occur, even if the proposition turns out to have no teeth.
“Maybe I’m being extremely naïve,” Brady said,” but I’d like to think that Dean Braun’s not going to say, ‘I really like greek life so it’s not going to mean anything.’”
SBC Chair Jacob Adenbaum ‘14, who regularly attends StuCo meetings, asked “If another referendum were submitted that said, say, any other group on campus can no longer exist, does the student body even have the power to do that?”
“Again, that’s all part of the larger discussion with Dean Braun on Wednesday,” said Brady. The results of that conversation will be communicated to Wu.
Article II Section 3 of the StuCo Constitution, which discusses referenda, reads as follows:
3.1 Any student may initiate a referendum with a petition with the signatures of at least ten percent of the student body. The petition must clearly state the referendum resolution as it is to appear on the referendum ballot.
3.2 SC may also initiate referenda by approval of specific referendum resolutions.
3.3 SC shall pay all costs of the referendum, excluding the costs of publicizing specific resolutions. SC shall notify the student body of the pending election. The referendum shall be held within two weeks of SC receiving a referendum petition.
3.4 Balloting for the referendum shall be conducted by the Elections Committee in accordance with the procedures outlined above.
3.5 A referendum resolution shall pass if a majority of those not voting “No preference” vote affirmatively and if at least one third of the student body votes.
3.6 Referendum resolutions may not supersede this Constitution.
SRG (Student Resource Guide)
The working group charged with coordinating the implementation of the SRG, a wiki page that StuCo hopes will be filled with information on all aspects of student life, has come up with a rough outline of the SRG. That working group is made up of Student Life Representative Tony Lee ‘15, Student Life Representative Jason Heo ‘15, Educational Policy Representative Rachel Stein ‘15, Secretary Sun Park ‘16, and Capone.
The outline divides the proposed wiki into four categories: “academics”, “the College,” “swat life,” which refers to social activities, and “groups and governance.”
StuCo members will meet with ITS next week to learn what options are available for the page. It remains to be decided how the wiki template will be structured, who will be able view the page, where it will be hosted, and whether the Swarthmore College Computing Society (SCCS) will be involved. Lee suggested that the wiki could appear at the top of the Dash and that students would have to sign in to view it.
StuCo members agreed that only students would be allowed to edit it.
“We really wanted this to be by the students, for the students,” said Stein. “We wanted people to give people honest information.” StuCo members were concerned that oversight from the Deans’ Office, Communicatons, Admissions, and other components of the Administration might interfere with information posted by students.
Stein said that the working group was encouraged by the existence of another wiki, created by the Northwestern University Student Theater Coalition, that showed the feasibility of online student-run encyclopedias.
Stein said the working group’s brainstorming session had come up with a few pages they’d like to see made on the wiki, including “special majors”, “what is screw really like?”, and “is it better to block?” She said that StuCo could get the wiki ball rolling by writing the first few posts themselves. All of their content could later be edited by students.
StuCo will encourage student groups to write pages about themselves come SBC’s spring budgeting process in April.
Student Outreach Coordinator Aya Ibrahim ‘15 said that at the most recent SWATT meeting, which brings together StuCo and members of the administration, the administration had expressed concern that the wiki would simply duplicate information already available online.
StuCo replied that while that may be the case, the wiki will provide clear organization, ease of access, and student control that is not present in current resources. Stein said “the goal is not to reinvent the wheel.”
Lee said he hopes students will refer to the wiki as “the swiki.”
Contrary to last week’s announcement, the distribution of free SEPTA tokens will not begin until next week. Students will be able to request one roundtrip ticket per week beginning Saturday. 40 roundtrip tickets will be distributed, by lottery if necessary, each Sunday, with no obligation to use the tickets at a specific time. Students who have received tickets many times will be de-prioritized in the lottery.
Brady said that the only remaining task is for the President’s Office to transfer funds from their discretionary budget to an SBC account before Saturday.
StuCo said that the Student Senate will meet for the first time ever after Spring Break or sooner. Each student committee will have a representative in the Senate, and all but four committees have responded so far.
Brady said that the corkboard calendar has been approved and will be going up this week in Shane Lounge. Students will be required to post their on-campus events on the calendar.
StuCo is serving dinner to students in Sharples this Thursday. Dining services will give them shirts. Brady is a size small, he said.