Op-Ed: A DU Brother’s Experience

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.

Disclaimer: This article is solely reflective of my experience in Delta Upsilon and is in no way meant to contradict the experiences of other individuals or represent DU in any official capacity.

When I came to campus in the fall of freshman year, I never imagined I would join a fraternity. “Bro culture” was something I had observed from afar and derided as juvenile. As my freshman year hall mates will attest, my prejudice led me to refuse to even set foot in a fraternity house for the first few weeks. I was eventually persuaded to attend parties at Phi Psi and DU but this was the extent of my involvement freshman fall.

In the spring of my freshman year I became a Party Associate (PA) and over the course of the semester and the following year I PA’d many parties at the fraternities. This is when my opinion of fraternities began to change. Back then, we were lucky to have one PA work a major party, an overwhelming task given the number of party goers. The brothers of the fraternities were the only party hosts that not only asked how I was doing or offered to bring me water or snacks but also the only ones who would actually help regulate the party. I know this may not mean a lot to many of you but it meant a lot to me that the brothers of both houses clearly cared about what happened to the party goers in their space.

In the spring of my sophomore year I was selected to be one of the PA coordinators and my role shifted primarily to one of management. Although I was not required to work directly as a PA during this time, the fraternities still requested that I be there to lend support. It is important to note that I was still not a brother and that these organizations wanted someone at their parties who was relatively well known to be especially rigorous when it came to enforcing party regulations, which was quite surprising to me. It was during this semester that several of the DU leadership asked me to consider pledging the following fall. Although I initially rebuffed them, the idea gained in appeal and in the fall of 2011 I expressed interest in joining the fraternity and was given a bid.

Despite being on campus for two years, I had no idea what to expect in regard to actually becoming a brother. It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can say with utter certainty that because of DU I will be life-long friends with people I would have never otherwise met, much less gotten to know. This may come as a surprise to readers who know me but I do not make friends or trust other people very easily. DU provided me with that opportunity and I will be forever grateful for it. My experience at Swarthmore would have been substantively different without DU, almost certainly for the negative, and I believe that a vast majority of brothers would echo this sentiment.

I fully believe the accounts related in other op-eds to be honest recollections of terrible instances but my experience with the institution of DU has differed. To share a personal failing, during a DU event last fall I made an off-hand remark that offended a guest in our house. Although I had not meant any offense, I was immediately taken to task by DU leadership, asked to apologize and informed in clear terms that this type of behavior was not acceptable for a DU brother. I cannot think of single instance in my life where a friend had said such a thing to me and had it resonate, much less change behavior. DU’s motto is “Justice, Our Foundation” and its slogan is “Building Better Men”. Both of these were demonstrated here and in other incidents that I am aware of. Brothers, like all Swatties, are not perfect and we sometimes do things that we shouldn’t.

To this end, I fully support the creation and maintenance of enhanced structures of accountability, while maintaining the rights to privacy that all students enjoy. I love my brothers in DU and will support them as much as I possibly can. That said, love for them does not mean I will cover up their mistakes or excuse their transgressions. I truly believe that the principles and foundations of DU are commensurate with those of Swarthmore College and its student body. It is, however, the duty of my brothers and I to demonstrate this through our conduct and to take corrective measures if we fail.

Through my positions as an RA and PA, the campus has entrusted me to look out for it as a fellow student. If I believed that DU or any other organization were a credible threat to it, I would lead the charge for its abolition. I do not believe this to be the case and I therefore ask the community to help us become better men, not clamor for our abolition.

Op-ed submitted by David F. Hill, IV ’13


  1. Awesome article, thanks so much for sharing the perspective of a fraternity brother! Really great to be able to see how much it has meant to you and your development as a person! I’m sure there are dozens of stories like this from every member of Greek life here at Swarthmore.

  2. Thanks for this op-ed. I appreciate hearing a public statement from an individual brother who is able to acknowledge the flaws of the system. It’s always a little hard for me to take the anonymous commenters seriously (particularly the greek-affiliated ones), and your role as an initial outsider makes it easier for me to believe that you can be objective (probably a logical fallacy, I know). I’m glad that DU made you a better man and that it has provided you with an avenue to make friends and that you would be willing to “lead the charge” if you felt that DU posed a credible threat to the community; would you be able to address how you would judge the threat? Isn’t it possible for you to underestimate the problem? It’s just something I was wondering; I do think this piece was very good overall. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  3. David, thanks for your great op ed. I know we all make fun of DG comment threads, but I have really appreciated hearing multiple voices in this debate.

    From your testimony to the fantastic op eds written by Hannah Grunwald ’14, Marian Firke ’14, and Parker Murray ’15 (amongst others), it’s clear that the Greek Life debate goes far beyond the simple binary of ‘getting rid of it’ or ‘keeping it,’ since it has a very complicated role in Swarthmore’s community.

    I am still wary of any institution that would cover up homophobia or sexual assault, so I think that something about Greek Life and its place on campus needs to change. Becoming more transparent through op eds like all of these has been a good step, I think.

    • “I am still wary of any institution that would cover up homophobia or sexual assault.”

      Who isn’t?

      Be careful to distinguish managing internally rather than covering up, which is the case as it relates to homophobia. Regarding sexual assault, there were no instances of sexual assault ever brought to the Phi Psi membership during my tenure. What you are suggesting is libel.

      While you are right to say the houses could benefit from a couple of changes, it is inappropriate to perpetuate mistruths, and an ineffective way to promote those modifications.

      • I cannot speak for the time you were at Swarthmore, but I can assure you I have brought reports of sexual assault to Phi Psi members over the past year and a half.

        • This disappoints me in so many ways.

          Why hasn’t the administration acted? Such transgressions warrant more than just fraternity sanctions.

          • I would guess the administration hasn’t acted since we have people calling reports of sexual assault “mistruths” and “libel”.

          • Yes, but having fraternity sanctions in the first place would help too. Just because the administration is also accountable doesn’t take any responsibility off of the fraternities’ shoulders.

          • Replying here due to DG limitations.

            @ Allison
            “Mistruths” and “libel” are directed to the idea that the fraternities are actively trying to cover up sexual assault, not the accusations themselves. It was not MY experience that cover up ever occurred. Maybe things have changed for the worst, but in the name of fairness, realize that the institution as a whole is considerably bigger than the current iteration of students.

            Regarding your next point, I would assume, despite your snide remark, the administration is fully capable of delivering fair and unbiased disciplinarian actions. However, my question was meant to test this assumption for a realistic understanding of the current environment.

            I agree with you to the fullest extent. With this recent referendum push, I have contacted the current President of Phi Psi and urged him to prioritize solidifying the process with which they deal with such transgressions. However, as it relates to determining the fate of Greek life, everyone must ask the following basic questions before throwing other members of our community under the proverbial bus:

            1) Are instances of sexual assault more prevalent in fraternity houses vs. non-fraternity spaces?
            2) Do brothers commit sexual assault at a higher frequency compared to non-brothers? (Zero tolerance policy should be instated either way, but I digress)

            I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions, and I’m really not sure ANYONE posting on the DG is capable of answering these questions without the help of the administration. Hypothetically, let’s say we answer both of those questions “no”. I still believe that it should be a function of the fraternities to educate its members how to prevent sexual assault, and, g-d forbid, determine proper protocol for disciplining its members for doing such a thing. (Again, my personal opinion is one of zero tolerance.) If we answer in the negative to both questions, it must also be said that this issue is greater than the fraternities themselves, and it would be clear to me that the administration is not doing their part to educate, prevent, and punish. In this case, ending Greek life wouldn’t address the fundamental issues the community faces. Now, if we answer those questions in the affirmative, then I believe that this referendum has considerable reason to be voted upon.

            Now, my GUESS would be that the answer to both questions is “no”. These are my ASSUMPTIONS based on current administrative stance towards the Greek life, and my belief that they are credible community leaders. Do take very careful note of the capitalized words, as these are only guesses and assumptions, which only the administration is capable of addressing fully.

            But for the sake of intellectual honesty, we must ensure that we are effectively eradicating the issues on campus, and not associating these misdeeds with groups that seem the most convenient. I understand that we might all have different experiences, but is the collective truth which should determine this referendum.

  4. very good post. Being level-headed, strong, and clear in your language and mindset is something I think is severely lacking in the ongoing banter being thrown around by both sides. This provided a necessary calm, balance, and mediation between a suffocating binary that was faulted by unhealthy anger, small-mindedness, and really just all-round petty juvenility. Hopefully this campus conversation continues to grow in self-control and open dialogue.

  5. David seems to summarize a common position of the fraternity brothers: “DU helps its members develop and the problems ostensibly associated to the fraternities must end.”

    Somewhat problematic though are the channels by which benefits and costs of fraternities seem to flow. Concretely, fraternity brothers like David say DU gave him “one of the greatest experiences of [his] life”, while female and queer students report that DU and Phi Psi were involved in creating some of the worst experiences of their lives. So, it seems that the benefits of the fraternities seem to flow to usually white or privileged heterosexual men, while the costs seem to most often burden the non-male, non-white, not-heterosexual students.

    Why then is it okay for fraternity members to revel in and develop usually already-existing privilege while possibly burdening those already saddled with social disadvantages with hate or violence?

    • Nice Life,
      While I generally avoid engaging with anonymous comments, I feel a response is warranted here. Your remark is utterly unfair and unfounded. The positive events that I was referring to did not impact queer or female students in any negative manner whatsoever. I do admit that individuals from those communities have had negative experiences but these were an aberration of our values, not something we foster or support.
      I do not hate members of these communities, many are my friends. I have never committed violence against them, I would risk my life to protect them, a claim few on this campus could truthfully make or substantiate. DU’s values do not tolerate of these and if you ever wish to register a complaint, our leadership is always available. On the incredible chance that they do not respond, I personally pledge my support in pursuit of justice.

        • Not sure if “I Would Disagree” just told told David to risk his own life or if I’m just having problems understanding people again…

          • I do not hate members of these communities, many are my friends. I have never committed violence against them.

            Actions speak louder than words.

    • Nice Life– please be wary of making broad generalizations– i agree that a big part of the problem with greek life is that it is, to some extent, representative of (and, with respect to socio-economic status, exclusive to) privileged groups. that said, i would ask that you avoid comments like “while female and queer students report…” Not all female and queer students have been victimized, and you certainly make it into an us and them binary that i would argue does not have to exist. remember, i state this only from personal experience: both as a queer woman who has felt at home at the frats, and also as an eternal optimist– i think we can work together to change the mentality of the frats, but only as long as we acknowledge that it’s not a battle between us and them

    • As a gay, non-white member of one the fraternities, I can definitely echo David’s sentiment. I have had an amazing experience as a member of Greek life at Swat. And EVERY one of my brothers knows that if I ever saw or heard anything that could even be construed as racist, homophobic, or predatory I was never afraid to get in said brother’s grill about it.

      Unfortunately, there were instances where I had to give some of the newer brothers a not so gentle verbal reminder of our values. But I can say that not everyone that is a member of the frats comes from a position of privilege and too have had an amazing time as a brother.

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