For the last several months, a great deal of justifiable outrage has been directed at Swarthmore’s administration. From calls of insufficient attention toward diversity to accusations of blatant violations of federal law, criticism has been frequent and furious. While the administration has responded to much of this criticism, and many positive steps have been taken, we feel that their responses have been more delayed than they could have been, and that they have been insufficiently transparent and communicative with the student body.
It is commendable that the administration has made efforts to change its policies concerning its handling of cases of sexual assault. The process is not yet over, and new policies are not complete, yet the administration seems to be taking steps in the right direction. What is concerning, however, is what was necessary for this process to begin. Student complaints have made their way to the administration for years with little to no effect. Even as students came together on campus to demand changes in administration policy, no concrete steps were taken. Actions that were confined to the college itself seem to have had little impact on administration policy.
The seeds of change only seem to have come once the conversation was no longer confined within the college. Faced with lawsuits and national media attention, the administration began to respond seriously, and eventually began to take steps towards changing its policies. Though the administration had seemed unwilling to act when confronted by students, they became willing once they were in the national spotlight.
This is not the first time that Swarthmore has received some measure of national attention but this last year the attention was greater than ever before, coinciding with similar issues being raised at other colleges, including Occidental, Oberlin, and UNC. This level of attention being directed at administration policies was unprecedented, and finally forced action.
This should not be necessary for the administration to act quickly and effectively. National media attention should not be required for the administration to listen to its own students. Lawsuits should not be necessary for the college to follow the law.
The primary constituency of the college should be its students. We urge the college to be more receptive to its students and to be more forthcoming with information about its intentions. While we commend the administration for its recent efforts and actions, we hope that in the future they will respond earlier, and to the students themselves. There is work left to be done, as there will always be, and Swarthmore is not perfect. If the administration were more responsive and more willing to make necessary changes earlier, matters would be less likely to ascend to the level of the national media.
As long as the college needs national attention to force it into action, national attention it will get, and students will continue to feel that they are unheard and unrepresented.