One Referendum Passes, Students Wait to Hear from Administration

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.

Uncertainty remains about the interpretation of the referendum that was passed this week, which asks Greek organizations to admit students of all genders.

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.


  1. “I also pointed out that the students in question hadn’t really bothered to ask some basic questions about how things worked and they still weren’t asking them–I was sitting right there ready to answer, but they’d rather complain and demand instead of being curious and asking open-ended or basic questions. One student countered that this was, essentially, above their pay grade–that they should be able to propose and someone (faculty, administration, “Swarthmore” in the abstract) should then dispose. Which really did nettle me as much as it would if a student skipped four or five class sessions and then asked me what was on the test. I’ve been pointing out for almost two decades that most of what students want to know about things work is readily knowable, but they have to put the work in–and when they’re given indirect answers accept that sometimes that’s because the way things work is indirect, when they involve confidentiality it’s because there’s something that probably should be confidential. For all of the invocations of democracy, consultation and consensus, I find that students harbor the belief that when it’s something they want, there should be a quicker and more authoritarian way of making it happen, that all it takes is a declaration, a policy, an order. Or that there are no costs, conversely, to turning every decision into a massively consultative and communal process, as if no one will have to actually work on that process”

    – Tim Burke

  2. “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.”

    More like you annoyed the fuck out of everyone with your chalking and posters and aggressvr tactics.

  3. What about the controversy over what the second question actually means? I’ve heard a lot of discontent about the way that the second question is being interpreted.

    • Yeah, I might have (but did not) interpreted the question as meaning: trans* people should be allowed in to all frats as a requirement of their existence. Which I would have voted yes for a million trillion times.

  4. ““We also plan on contacting the [outside] press in the next few weeks,” said Brinn.”

    These people are so thirsty for attention. It’s not enough that you got the entire campus riled up with your provocative hate-chalkings and aggressive posters everywhere? Now you have to make sure everyone knows all about your little crusade? You have your own newspaper, what more do you need? Seriously the Phoenix Editorial board and the SwatVoteYes group are like the same thing. I’m pretty sure all the signatories on the SwatVoteYes op-ed that came out the Monday of the Referendum are editors at the Phoenix.

    • Could someone explain to me desire to go to the outside press? You’re just opening the door for more TFM trolls.

      • I’m guessing the logic is to bring more pressure for the administration to change (see the Amherst administration’s response to national news about their mishandling of sexual assault).

    • I want to reply to every comment that implies repeated and unaddressed instances of sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and transphobia is not worth our attention, but there are just so many…

      • So, if someone does think we should abolish the frats or are angry with how the SwatYes campaign has been conducted or are pissy with the Phoenix, they are necessarily advocating the viewpoint that: “repeated and unaddressed instances of sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and transphobia [are] not worth our attention” … ??? I think that’s a very dangerous leap.

      • Let’s say there’s a zoo. In the zoo are some dangerous animals: gorillas, lions, tigers, you get it. Sometimes, the animals manage to grab and savage a tourist. This is awful! It is rightfully decried! Something absolutely, completely, definitely and immediately needs to be done about it.

        But what’s a better thing to do about it? Close the zoo and let all the animals free, in the community, where they’ll still eat people, and call the issue fixed because it’s no longer happening in the zoo? Or do you shore up the restraints that keep the animals in their cages and revamp your protocols for dealing with when they bite someone?

        Nobody is saying they’re ok with animals biting people; they’re saying that there is a better way to stop them then just giving up on the whole zoo concept and letting the animals out into the streets.

        • That’s not an accurate metaphor at all. A better one would be:

          There’s a zoo in which many people have been mauled by the animals within the zoo, but every time this happens, the police decide to do nothing about it, because one of the chiefs of police is the Zookeeper’s brother.

          If the “zoo” weren’t there, the maulings would be dealt with appropriately. Why not get rid of it?

  5. “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.”

    Wait… now I’m confused…

      • Please tell me what the voting is for. First you wanted the vote. Okay. Then the majority votes No. Then you say that there is still 500 something voting yes so it means something. What on earth do you want? Even though I am not greek I am so sick of the annoying ones wasting everybody’s time for the past semesters. I honestly feel bad for the greeks on campus and I do not understand the people who are trying to get rid of the greeks and still go to their houses, drink their beverages, use their space and make a fool out of themselves. Seriously?

  6. Don’t you three have anything better to do than to spread rumors, beg for attention, and instigate problems? You’re like little kids throwing pebbles at people and when the people finally turn around, you point your fingers at another group of kids. Just shut the hell up already, and get a life.

    • Jennifer, your comment is unfair. Neither you nor anyone else at Swarthmore has any right to shut any one up. You may disagree with what Swat Vote Yes is doing but it’s not up to you whether they continue their activities or not.

      Silencing of all forms is not okay and is especially not the Swarthmore way.

      So, as a wiser alum, I ask you to let them be.

    • The sad truth is that they don’t have anything better to do. The referendum and the chalkings were the most fun they could have. Now they need new material to stir up the next one.

  7. It’s funny. I go on websites like TFM when they mention Swat and I think “at least we don’t talk like that on our forums” and while we have yet to recourse to death/violence threats on the DG (as far as I know)I do find it sincerely disheartening that this is how we’re talking to each other.

    If you are looking into a situation and find it so very hard to understand why people are upset, maybe you’re missing something. And maybe you should grow up and expend the mental effort to actually try and understand how policies on campus and attitudes of student organizations can be actively harmful (and not just irritating and obnoxious- I’m fine with stupid and annoying-I can ignore stupid and annoying- it’s the harm part I’m not ok with).

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