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.
On the morning of April 7th, 2016, sleepy-eyed students leaving Parrish encountered a red T-shirt duct taped to the ground near Parrish steps. The collar and sleeve bore words just small enough to be indiscernible at first glance. Upon closer inspection, the writing said “Trigger Warning: Rape.”
The shirt’s body read:
“Dean Braun is
Letting my rapist
There is nothing
else I can do but
try to ignore it. Happy Sexual Assault
At 1:21a.m. that morning, a photo of the shirt was posted on the Swarthmore Phoenix Facebook page, and the comments became a stream of speculation, conversation, confusion, and outrage. Snapchats were taken, anonymous comments on YikYak were posted, upvoted, downvoted, and commented on.
The T-shirt was removed by an unknown source before the morning information sessions and tours began. Both the identity of the person responsible for the shirt and the shirt’s current whereabouts are unknown.
When asked to provide a statement regarding the incident and the allegation against her, Dean Braun did not reference the shirt specifically. She maintained her commitment to survivors and safety efforts on campus, writing “we’ve greatly appreciated and benefited from the feedback we’ve received from survivors and other members of our campus community.”
The choice to use a red T-shirt is likely a nod to The Clothesline Project, which invited Swarthmore survivors of sexual violence to hang shirts in front of Parrish Hall to raise awareness, but seems otherwise unrelated to that event. In 2015, Swarthmore did not display physical shirts but did host events for survivors to make new ones. This year, the event was not held at all.
Because the shirt provided no specific details, the Gazette can only speculate as to why Dean Braun was mentioned. It is most likely a reference to her role in the appeals process in College Judiciary Committee cases, including those of sexual misconduct. It was up to her to either grant or deny an appeal from a student after the hearing reached a decision of “responsible” or “not responsible” and sanctions were determined. The grounds for appealing a CJC decision of any kind are limited to:
- New Evidence
- Procedural Errors
- Disproportionate sanctions
To the knowledge of the Gazette, Dean Braun never granted an appeal and did not return any cases for review in her time as part of the CJC. This was her only role in issues of sexual misconduct, and she is no longer involved in the appeals process under the current policy.
This public statement about the administration’s handling of rape is not an isolated incident. Almost exactly three years ago, a group of survivors and allies involved in the fraternity referendum campaign known as “VoteYes” chalked messages around campus. The chalkings were erased by facilities staff and tour guide/Student Council co-president Victor Brady ’13 before that morning’s tours. Last April, graffiti reading “RAPE HAVEN” was found on the front wall of the Delta Upsilon Lodge.
The Daily Gazette reached out to Nina Harris of the Title IX Office for comment, but has not yet received a response.
Featured image courtesy of The Swarthmore Phoenix.