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From Referendum to Democracy

6 mins read

On Monday, after almost two months of petitions and deliberation, students will finally be presented with a referendum on Greek life. This may be the greatest opportunity we as students have to affect the future of Swarthmore. It is time for the Greek system at Swarthmore to be reformed, in keeping with the college’s efforts to maintain a safe, inclusive campus. Monday’s referendum will present students with six questions, all of which pose serious questions that deserve the consideration of the student body. In particular, The Phoenix supports voting ‘yes’ on Questions 2 and 5, which may be the most important steps to dealing with the issues posed by fraternities and sororities on campus.

The Phoenix wholly supports voting in favor of Question 2, which asks: “Do you support admitting students of all genders to sororities and fraternities?” The passage of such a resolution would open up both fraternities and sororities to all students, regardless of gender. Greek life should be as inclusive as any regular campus organization, where gender should be no boundary.

There is little conceivable reason why any campus organization should be closed to certain people on the basis of gender. Not everyone identifies within the gender binary, or with a gender at all. These differences must be respected, and no one should be made uncomfortable by institutions on the basis of their their gender. Yet Greek organizations on campus maintain policies of only admitting students who identify as male, in the case of the fraternities, or female, in the case of the sorority.

This sort of gender-based exclusion should have no place at Swarthmore. Students should be free to join the organizations they choose to without having to think about their gender. Gender should not be a consideration. What interest do Greek organizations have in maintaining their present gender exclusivity?

The passage of this resolution may violate the charters of those Greek organizations affiliated with a national organization, currently Delta Upsilon and Kappa Alpha Theta. It is not our intention to advocate for this side effect. We encourage the national organizations of Delta Upsilon and Kappa Alpha Theta to move themselves from gender exclusivity, to accept members regardless of gender, or at least to allow the Swarthmore chapters to do so.

Beyond this, The Phoenix urges everyone to vote in favor of Question 5 of the referendum, which asks: “Do you support having no campus buildings expressly for the purpose of housing Greek organizations?” The passage of this question would level the playing field, putting Greek organizations on equal footing with all other student groups.

We see no reason why Swarthmore’s fraternities should maintain their dedicated spaces as they do now. No other student organization has a wet space, and building, to themselves. There is nothing that distinguishes them such that they ought to receive special treatment. The fraternities should be treated as any other campus group, they should not have additional privileges.

At the moment, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi control two of the four major party spaces on campus, with Olde Club and Paces open for anyone to reserve. This is a monstrous imbalance. The fraternities should have no greater access to party spaces than any other group. If they are to host parties, they should have to reserve the spaces the same way as anyone else, and anyone should be able to reserve any party space.

The current Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi houses could be used for many things on campus if they were open to any group. They could remain party spaces, à la Olde Club, and allow all groups greater opportunity to host events. Or they could be converted to any number of other purposes. The campus at large could benefit from these spaces if they were not each controlled by a single group, full time.

We see no reason why Greek organizations should be given preferential treatment by the college; what makes them different from any other student group. As such, they should be required to act like any other student group. They should not have dedicated spaces, these spaces should be open to anyone and any group. They should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of gender; students should be permitted to join whatever organizations they want, without having to consider gender at all. These changes to Greek organizations would make them more equitable and inclusive.

Beyond these two questions, we encourage everyone to consider the questions posed by the referendum, and to vote on the issue. There are many competing opinions as to what the future of Greek life should be at Swarthmore: the only way to have your voice heard is through your vote.

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