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.
The results of the referenda released by Student Council (StuCo) on Tuesday morning showed that, of the six referenda voted on by 1268 students this week, only one referendum question, which asked students if they “support admitting students of all genders to sororities and fraternities,” had passed. These results will be presented to the President’s and Dean’s Offices and the Board of Managers for consideration.
Phi Psi President Zachary Schaffer ’14 indicated that, as a group, Phi Psi was very pleased with the results. He said that the fraternity plans to wait and hear what the Dean’s Office will say about the passed referendum question before making any decisions.
Other members of the three Greek organizations on campus expressed similar happiness at the referenda results. Delta Upsilon President Rory McTear ’13 said that “DU will continue to improve as an institution and as a group of individuals.”
“This referendum has been a great opportunity to hold a mirror up to ourselves,” McTear said. “We will continue to both extend our support to various students groups and educate our brothers to be better members of the Swarthmore and global communities.”
McTear said DU would be in favor of adding a gender-neutral Greek organization on campus. He said that DU would lend its support in a movement to do so.
Kappa Alpha Theta member Ashley Gochoco ’14 expressed gratitude that the Swarthmore community had allowed her sorority to remain in existence and talked of progress on campus social issues. “Members of Kappa Alpha Theta wish to work with the larger campus toward the common goal of making the culture of social life at Swarthmore as safe and inclusive as possible,” she said.
All three said that going through the referendum process had helped the campus work towards greater inclusivity and safety for everyone.
Parker Murray ’15, an organizer of the Swat Vote Yes campaign in the days before the referendum, said he expected none of the resolutions to pass and was surprised that one had. He said he believed the fact that one resolution did pass indicates that serious change should occur.
“I am hoping that the singular passed referendum will be taken seriously by the administration,” Murray said. “Even though the other referenda didn’t pass, they still got hundreds of yes votes. If about 500 people voting yes on one proposition isn’t a good enough sign that there is indeed something wrong with Greek life, I don’t know what is.”
Hope Brinn ’15, another organizer of Swat Vote Yes, said that what most amazed her was the voter turnout—1268 students. “That alone speaks volumes to how critical this issue is to our campus,” Brinn said.
Schaffer expressed discontentment with the way certain students handled the referenda. “A main concern that came up during this process was the rise of direct attacks and false accusations towards members of Greek life, specifically the fraternities,” he said. “The fact that these individuals felt that it was acceptable to write these things around campus without supporting evidence or revealing their authorship should raise issues with students and administrators.”
Some chalkings that members of the Greek community considered offensive were erased by students without direct consent from members of the administration. Associate Dean for Student Life Myrt Westphal said, “Some students came to me informing me that they were going to do it. I did not say yes, I did not say no. I guess that by not saying either I gave my tacit acceptance of that person’s decision.”
Joyce Wu ’15, who submitted the petition for the referenda to StuCo and organized Swat Vote Yes, said she had heard concerns that some of the campaign’s messaging had been seen as over-aggressive by members of the community. She said others had complained there was too little discussion and civility during the process.
“All I can say is that I worked very hard on pulling together the first two discussions both on very short notice while trying to keep as many people happy,” said Wu. “I obviously had the support of many students but the students who were most interested in discussion seemed to be the ones who were members of Greek organizations or people who were apt to vote no on the referendum. Yet I didn’t hear anything about people actually taking steps to making that happen.”
Wu, Brinn, and Murray all said that they would talk to College administrators about the future impact of the referenda results. “We also plan on contacting the [outside] press in the next few weeks,” said Brinn.