New Greek Life Petition Still Lacks Sufficient Support; Creator Optimistic

Swarthmore's Greek organizations, Delta Upsilon, Phi Psi, and Kappa Alpha Theta, no longer face any threat of a ban. But uncertainty remains about interpretation of referendum Question 2, which asks the Greeks to go gender-neutral.

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.

A second online petition for a referendum on the subject of Greek life went live at noon on Monday. The new petition, a link to which has been shared on Facebook by Swarthmore students, has been primarily promoted by its creator, Joyce Wu ‘15, who also created a petition on the existence of Greek life in February.

The last petition for a referendum on the existence of Greek Life at Swarthmore received the necessary votes within a couple days. This time around, it appears to be taking longer for Wu to rally the necessary 155 signatures to present the petition to StuCo for a campus wide referendum.

As of last night at 7 p.m., the petition had received 126 electronic signatures. But Wu says she’s optimistic and won’t stop until it has enough signatures. 

“It’s definitely going to happen,” Wu said.

Both petitions include a question about banning Greek life, though this petition includes five additional questions about reforms to Greek life. Responses to the individual questions would be independent of one another. Each question begins with the phrase “Do you support…” suggesting that if the petition becomes a referendum and goes before the student body, any votes would be merely symbolic. Dean Braun has stated that the student body does not have the power to ban Greek life on campus.

The questions read as follows:

1. Do you support ceasing Delta Upsilon’s and Kappa Alpha Theta’s affiliations to their national chapters?2. Do you support admitting students of all genders to sororities and fraternities?3. Do you support making fraternity houses into substance-free spaces?4. Do you support merging all sororities and fraternities into one campus building?5. Do you support having no campus buildings expressly for the purpose of housing Greek organizations?6. Do you support the abolition of sororities and fraternities at Swarthmore College?

Text proceeding these questions states, “While the two campus-wide meetings that took place following the last referendum aided in determining how some students felt about Greek life and social life on campus, there is no tool as effective as a referendum to make it clear that the questions being asked need to be about a complete structural overhaul of the fraternities and sorority.” Wu stressed that the goal is “structural reform that goes beyond the surface level.”

Wu said that these new refinements were made to widen the discussion about Greek life. “A lot of people raised concerns that the original campaign was just about abolishment, and that was too extreme of a stance,” she said.

She said that further discussions may be held before the end of the year. She said small group discussions in Sharples are being planned. “I would like to have a plan for the student body and StuCo before the end of the semester,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever reach the intensity we had at the beginning of the discussion, but I’d like to keep the momentum going.” She worries that crucial momentum will be lost if students leave for summer break before the discussion can reach the next step, whatever that may be.

StuCo, which helped facilitate one of the last two discussions, is interested in helping with any new discussions. StuCo Co-President Victor Brady ‘13 wrote in an email that StuCo is “hoping to have a series of facilitated events in which we maybe convene as a large body to begin with and then break down to smaller tables with one facilitator each to begin to really look at policy solutions.”

StuCo has “really been thinking about ways to generate some solutions to many of the issues and concerns raised in the conversations we’ve had so far,” he wrote. As far as defining a long-term goal, Brady said the Swarthmore community should work “to make the substantive changes we need and that will ensure a safe, fun, and inclusive social life.”

Students speaking out against the new petition include David Hill ’13, a member of Delta Upsilon, who called Wu’s recent move “irritating.”

“I was quite displeased because I thought that we were making good progress,” he said.

“DU is trying to do its best,” he said, citing the new sober brother program, in which two to three DU brothers wearing bright orange t-shirts will be sober at every event on Thursday and Saturday nights.

“It was mentioned explicitly that the purpose of the first referendum was to create more dialogue, and I think there was improvement there,” Hill said. “I think the best way to step forward is for DU to maintain its commitment to be open and welcoming.”

By contrast, he said that the atmosphere of discussion is not open enough. “I have a legitimate feeling that whatever I say or do will be used against us, based on behavior that I have seen so far,” he said.

An initiation ceremony for the first pledge class to Kappa Alpha Theta, Swarthmore’s first sorority since the mid-1930s, will take place this Saturday and will be attended by Wellness Coordinator Satya Nelms. Wu said she was not aware of the initiation ceremony. “I’m not trying to stir anything up,” she said.

This article has been changed to reflect the following information: Joyce Wu ’15 did not know the Kappa Alpha Theta initiation ceremony would be taking place Saturday. An earlier version of this article overlooked that fact.


  1. Of course DU is trying to do everything it can right now. Putting their hand prints on a sheet, having some brothers wear orange t-shirts, and walking around talking about how annoying people are for having “personal vendettas” against the frats just because there are some DU brothers who are rapists.

    Glad to see that’s your best effort.

    Maybe that’s why we need structural change.

  2. Correction. Some DU brothers have raped THEM. As in the people with the “personal vendettas.”

  3. Clarification: I told Thomas this in our interview, but I guess it didn’t make it into the article — I said I wasn’t trying to stir anything up in the context of not knowing that it was initiation weekend. The last paragraph implies that I already knew about it and decided to launch the petition anyway for kicks. Not so.

  4. While I don’t disagree with you, Woohoo, I think there was certainly a more civil way you could have worded that argument. While the “sober brother program” may not solve every problem associated with Greek life, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Having brothers commit to being sober at every event is not insignificant, and it shows at least some commitment to change on the part of DU.

    DU has been getting criticized, discussed, and debated for months now. Their horse is anything but high.

  5. ^with all do respect…piss off.

    Making an effort is the first step to change..and while I am unaffiliated nor do i attend swat anymore (class of 2004) berating them for trying to put their best foot forward is counterproductive

  6. Sobriety pledges!
    Wellness Co-ordinators!
    Campus wide meetings to discuss who might we exclude for the sake of inclusiion!

    Reefer Madness comes to “radical” Swarthmore with an insularity guaranteed to induce hilarity for those of us who are actually having an impact on the real world of poverty, privelege and the absurd sanctimony of the academic elite.

    Try this one on for size “inclusive” Swarthmore: True diversity is diversity of thought. Fight that, and your are an oppressor.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Metaphorically of course. Sobriety is necessary for college students. Greek ones, at least.

    • racism, homophobia and misogyny are actions!

      Sez who? You’d be surprised at what people are truly thinking.

      The reason why Swarthmore Crusaders can’t do both at the same time is because they are caught in the vortex of ideological hysteria. Hysterical people are never helpful. Only oppressive. And dangerous. Dangerous because they rationalize all their expunging of the really “bad” groups as supremely noble and necessary for the cause of true freedom.

      Why can’t we do both at the same time?

      Because the effort of ‘othering’ on campus takes a lot of time and energy from wider, more life giving efforts. Why, Rene Girard might even point out that “othering’ is practically a religion. Ritual sacrifice is always designed to make the communitas feel safer. But it never really does. Before you know it, other sinners are discovered and must also feel the maced glove of “tolerance”. And so it goes.

    • Actually, I think if you look at the sociopath thread, you’ll find that the frat brothers get more benefit of the doubt. The referendum seeks to disband the frats, not expel every swarthmore student who is in a frat. Several commentators said that we should reveal who the sociopaths are and expel them.

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