On the evening of September 13, students gathered on Parrish Beach to participate in the time-honored tradition of watching the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate. As per the tradition, members of the Class of 2016 lounged on blankets and emphatically shouted “Sixteen!” as many classes have done before them. However, some members of the Class of 2016 were not present because the Student Government Organization, the planners of the event, scheduled the screening on the evening of the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the prominent Jewish holiday that marks the start of the Jewish calendar year. We at the Phoenix feel that this lack of foresight on behalf of SGO forced members of the Class of 2016 to choose between their faiths and an important Swarthmore tradition, a choice that is fundamentally in opposition to the college’s values.
Before SGO plans all-campus events, the Phoenix believes that they should do due diligence in checking with all aspects of campus life and be cognizant of the intersecting identities of the entire student body so that the events they hold are truly accessible to all students. It is irresponsible for SGO to fail to recognize the needs of a particular group, such as the Jewish student population on campus, when it claims to represent the needs of all students equally. Particularly relevant to SGO’s irresponsibility is the fact that the organization was restructured only last year; they should be doing more to establish themselves as a welcoming, accessible, and responsible group on campus if they truly feel that they want to represent the student body accurately.
This oversight regarding The Graduate screening reflects a greater problem inherent within the structure of many of the college’s traditions. When compared to peer institutions, Swarthmore does not distinguish itself as a leader in regards to the viability and resiliency of our student-centered traditions. This can partly be attributed to the fact that when the college or SGO in particular does not properly consult with all parts of the student body before scheduling traditions, less students attend them, and they lose their staying power as permanent aspects of a Swarthmore experience. The Phoenix feels that more should be done overall to ensure that traditions such as The Graduate screening remain a viable and integral part of campus life.