Four alumni historians and current senior Ali Roseberry-Polier captivated a packed LPAC Cinema on Friday afternoon, thanks to Assistant Professor of History Farid Azfar, who organized the “Queer Histories of Swarthmore” panel that constitutes a crucial part of the College’s Sesquicentennial celebrations. The discussion also sparked an impressive dialogue between attendees and the panelists, who recounted their own queer histories of Swarthmore and added to an already-enriched understanding of the current college environment for queer students, faculty and staff.
As the panelists highlighted, such dialogues are critical in reconstructing an accurate history of the college, one which does not erase or ignore the struggles of groups for equality and inclusion on campus. In creating dialogue, raising questions and articulating alternative histories, the panel created a much-needed chance to hear the voices of community members with whom we do not often interact, such as those who no longer work at the college but who nonetheless played a key role in constructing the environment in which we live today.
In the wake of the panel, it is important to remember that including the event in the sesquicentennial celebration does not mean that all is well for queer students — or for any marginalized groups or victims of discrimination in the outside world. As we have continued to experience and to hear from our classmates, Swarthmore may be a bubble but is not a utopia and its community members are subject to the same systems of discrimination which shape the outside world. More similar events, which recount the histories and gather and elevate the perspectives of historically marginalized members of the College community, should certainly take place and should receive support from the broader campus as a step in the right direction.