Following last month’s petition for a referendum, controversy, and subsequent campus-wide discussions about the future of Swarthmore’s Greek life, Joyce Wu ’15, founder of the first petition, has created a second petition on the matter. The new petition, which received 172 signatures — well over the required 10 percent needed to present it to Student Council — consists of a proposition for a referendum with six questions, only one of which calls for abolishing Swarthmore’s Phi Psi, Delta Upsilon, and Kappa Alpha Theta. The other five questions concern making Swarthmore’s DU and Theta separate from their national chapters (Phi Psi already is not affiliated with a national organization); accepting all genders to sororities and fraternities; making the fraternity houses substance-free; merging the Greek spaces into one building; and having no campus space specifically for Greek life.
“There is a significant number of people from all over the student body who see the abolition position as too extreme, so the additions to the referendum take their suggestions for alternatives into account,” Wu said. “I’d also like to clarify that the solutions proposed in the referendum are by no means the only possible solutions. It’s only changes that involve major changes to the structure of the Greek organizations that should be put to referendum.”
Among these changes, according to Wu, could be mandating more workshops or creating new committees relevant to making the Greek spaces safer for everyone. According to some of the comments on the new petition, other students agree that this movement is not necessarily about abolishing Swarthmore’s Greek life, but rather about discussing what changes should be made.
“[The petition] appears to be an effort to invoke change here on campus in a very democratic way — allowing the student body at large to voice their opinions on issues that repeatedly come up during discussions on Greek life,” Paul Cato ’14 commented with his signature on the petition. “Whether or not one stands in favor of the presence of fraternities and sororities on campus, I urge them to sign the document and allow for such democratic efforts at reform to take place. The power to improve campus life is often taken out of the hands of the student body at large and placed instead in those of StuCo and the Dean’s Office. We now have an opportunity to shape our community as we see fit and I strongly suggest we take it.”
While representatives of the fraternities have remained relatively quiet throughout the entire movement, they acknowledge that changes to their institutions need to be made and are confident that the necessary modifications can and will happen.
“I do think this whole situation has caused DU to hold a mirror up to ourselves to examine where we can all improve,” DU President Rory McTear ’13 said. “DU guys have been making even more of a concerted effort to make sure our house and the campus as a whole is a safe place for all students. We recognize as an institution and as a group of individuals that we are far from perfect, and this situation has spurred us to try to rectify certain concerns people may have.”
Zach Schaffer ’14, president of Phi Psi, feels that not only do changes need to occur in the near future, but he also believes that progress has already been made within Swarthmore’s Greek life.
“Through our weekly meetings with [Alcohol Education and Intervention Specialist] Tom Elverson and continued discussions among the Greek organizations on campus, I feel that we have definitely made progress in identifying the key issues and beginning to formulate solutions,” he said. “The Greek groups on campus will continue to work together with the leaders of the referendum to figure out how we should proceed going forward.”
Wu plans to present the petition at StuCo’s meeting Sunday, March 31. StuCo then must hold a referendum no later than two weeks from then, meaning the future of Swarthmore Greek life will be determined by mid-April.