Students Discussion Works Towards Campus Change

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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.

Students gathered in the Intercultural Center (IC) building on Monday afternoon for an event titled “Toward Future Coalition Building: Revisit Spring 2013 Student Demands.” The room was packed, with students filling both seats and the floor. Several members of staff were also present.

Matthew Chen ‘17, one of the organizers,  said the impetus of the event “was to revitalize the energy that was created from the Spring 2013.”

Laura Laderman ‘16 and Sanaa Ali-Virani ‘15 facilitated the event, which kicked off with a writing activity. Participants were to discuss with those next to them on what changes they wanted to see in Swarthmore, and whether the college is meeting their needs. After that, those present shared their thoughts in a large-group discussion.

Participants raised many issues they saw with the College—often met with snaps if the audience found a sentiment particular insightful. The first few grievances concerned the seeming lack of student’s ability to affect dynamic change in the College. People called for a change in the way the Board of Managers operated and are elected, while others called for more student input before the administration enacts policy.

People called on the Board to spend more money from the endowment, echoing calls from previous editorials. Some proposed improving the committee system so that the agenda is not set by just one staff member. Emphasis was put in distinguishing between listening to students versus actually allowing students in the decision-making process.

A large topic of discussion was to introduce a student calendar of events, which related to many in the room who came from a variety of cultural and activist groups. They wanted to ensure that events don’t clash between student groups, and if so, consider the possibility of holding joint events. A former attempt at this calendar by the Student Council was recalled, although the project is now taken up by the Office of Student Engagement (OSE).

One student said faculty should be more empathetic to students wanting to prioritize attending certain events over academic work. A staff member then raised the issue of how the existence of student events are not being relayed effectively to faculty and staff members. The staff member said communication was key to gain understanding and trust for all stakeholders.

During dinner, students divided into small group discussions. Further issues raised included the lack of a pro-Palestine, pan-Arab and Middle Eastern cultural group, wanting a low-income dental and healthcare plan for students, and urging for care for mental health. In particular, students called for more diverse staff and diverse therapy at CAPS, as well as for psychological needs be be taken into consideration when it comes to housing in addition to physical disabilities. The event wrapped up with a call for those who led small groups to meet further if possible.

Reflecting on the event Chen said “towards the end it got better because everyone started talking briefly about a wide range of interests and breadth, which is the purpose of this meeting, and in working groups after the big group is over.”

Participant Bryan Lin ‘17 said, “This event was eye-opening for me. I didn’t know there were so many problems.” He appreciated that both staff and students were present, saying “there were some students who complained about administration not adjusting their needs, and the administration countered that by saying ‘it’s more complicated than that’ and that’s a good way to see both sides of the story.”

Upperclassmen who were present for the Spring of 2013 noted the large presence of underclassmen and the diversity of the crowd. Daniel Orr ‘16 said, “First there was a lot of underclassmen there which was really cool, and then there were lots of people from different parts of campus community. Lots of people that I know don’t like each other so much were there, but everyone was really energized and ready.”

Isaac Lee

Isaac is an economics and political science major. He is a Singaporean who grew up in Hong Kong. In America he discovered the wonders of Netflix and Uber. Other than devoting his time to The Daily Gazette, he is probably reading The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal, or skim-reading the hundreds of pages assigned to typical Swatties.


  1. I’m really encouraged to hear this happened. I think that the calendar for student activities is a great idea.

    I also think that the DG or the phoenix (or both) should send semesterly summaries of student life on campus to Alumni in order to complement the Alumni magazine and give a fuller, more student-focused view.

  2. How is increasing the endowment spending rate related to the demands of 2013? I think it is very fallacious to assume more money will invariably make a better Swarthmore. Per student, hardly anyone spends more than us as it is.

  3. It truly amazes me how people who have so much, relative to the general population, can still find so much too whine about. Attending Swarthmore is an incredible privilege. It spends an incredible amount, compared to other institutions, to provide for the student body. Where does that money come from? Alumni, parents and, in very low amounts, student loans. The entitlement of Swatties is laughable, until it becomes maddening. Swatties, you have earned very little in your life. That isn’t your fault, you’re 18-22. But you could show a little gratitude for the largesse extended to you. In any event, the real world is coming fast. The people who attended, and whined at, this event, are going to take it harder than most.

    • There is ALWAYS room for improvement, for institutions and for people. Your comment reeks of self-defeatism. And self-defeatism, my friend, is perhaps the most spoiled act you can make.

      Swarthmore as a college exists to educate and serve students–if there are no Swatties, there is no Swarthmore. It’s only logical that a college should reflect the valies and the needs of students. It’s called accountability.

      We should never be satisfied with the status quo if there is work to be done and things to improve. We should hold ourselves and Swarthmore at a level nothing less than the best.

    • If a shit ton of money goes into this school, why not continue to try and make it a better experience for the student body? What use is the money/endowment if it isn’t used in a way that benefits the people it’s supposed to be benefitting?

      • Alum: You clearly conflate the wants of the students with the needs. All of the demands above are for more and expanded privileges, in that they are not a available for the general population or most other college students for that matter. You are essentially arguing for greater selfishness on the part of students. That’s fine, but I have a feeling you would protest if other privileged groups demanded more privilege.

        Not: The demands above were for MORE spending, not more rational spending of the funds currently being spent. This would either bump tuition further, an eye watering figure as it is, or reduce the funds available for future swatties. Special interest spending, when you have economies of scale issues to begin with, is a bad idea.

  4. Ask not what you can do for your college, ask what your college can do for you!

    The more I think about it, the more I believe that these are the results of the first generation coddled by helicopter parents reaching the college age.

  5. In high school, they charged us a quarter for breakfast. There were kids–not a few but a like sizable chunk of the population there (>50%)–who couldn’t afford this. Who couldn’t shell out a quarter a day.

    fast forward one year, i’m getting a lavish education at one of the wealthiest schools in the world. I read a DG article a few weeks ago–couldn’t find it, I apologize–that estimated the average price of a Sharples swipe at like ~10$. The sticker price for four years in this joint is a quarter million dollars.

    I seriously have no fuckin’ clue how you’re supposed to reconcile these two things. Check your fucking privilege swatties. smh. I’m not trying to say that class divides are all Swarthmore’s fault, but seriously, I wake up a lot of mornings and look out at all these beautiful trees and a fancy arboretum and shit and like all I can think is that I’m sitting in a paradise.

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