Cult of Misogyny: Leaked Internal Documents Reveal Silence Around Harmful Culture at Phi Psi

Content warning: violence, sexual assault, offensive and racist language

I’m baaaaaaccccckkkkkkkkk. So after a nice 4-month vacation in paradise, [NAME] is back to boom roast some Phi fellows and bimbo rats at the same damn time. SO far, I dig the hustle. Nothing better than basement takedowns and tiny Asian chicks getting pummeled with full sheet cakes bearing the one and only [NAME]’s face. You guys make the minutes, I just sit behind my laptop and craft offensive shit.

For all you newcomers out there, if you show these to anyone outside the frat you are dead to me. … . Leaks will probably get my room in Mertz burned down while I’m sleeping so just don’t do it (lookin right at you [NAME]).

This is how the author begins a 12-page, 1997-word description of the happenings of an annual Phi Psi tradition, Paint Party, on Feb. 5, 2014 — a tradition that recurred only last weekend at the college.

The author uses racist language to describe a fellow member’s sexual interaction with a Black woman. He describes a member vomiting on a woman during sex. He insinuates a woman bribed a police officer with sex.

Phi Psi, which disaffiliated from its national Phi Kappa Psi chapter in 1963 in order to admit a Black member into its pledge class, presently leases an on-campus house from the college. Phi Psi has historically included most or all of the men’s lacrosse team roster.

These “minutes,” as they were referred to by members of the fraternity, were written during spring 2013 and spring 2014; they contain photos, videos, memes, and graphically detailed, written accounts of drinking, sex, parties, and campus events at the time. The Phoenix began an investigation after an anonymous source sent the minutes, unsolicited, along with numerous other internal Phi Psi documents.

The events chronicled in the minutes range from “drunken nights” to purported accounts of private sexual encounters with women, and include pictures, videos and memes of students, including Phi Psi members themselves.

A PDF of what The Phoenix received can be found here. All names and identifiable information have been redacted. Video footage, miscellaneous photographs, and drafts of public statements have been omitted from this PDF.

It is unclear whether the author(s) of these minutes incorporated information that members reported to them, or whether the author incorporated this information without members’ consent in some cases. There is also no evidence to suggest that all events, both described and insinuated in the minutes, actually occurred.

Minutes of this nature were circulated to Phi Psi members on a fraternity-wide listserv that contained numerous college email addresses. Pledges were given access upon completing the initiation process, 2015 Phi Psi president Conor Clark ’16 said in an interview with The Phoenix.

The minutes were circulated in this fashion between March 18, 2013 and February 7, 2014, the date the above excerpt was created. The above excerpt is from the last known set of minutes of such nature to be sent through Phi Psi’s listserv.

Minutes written after this date continued to circulate, but among a smaller subset of Phi Psi members who opted into a separate listserv with private email addresses.

“I’m very surprised that those [the minutes] came back up,” Clark said. “That happened very early on in my time at Swat and generation over generations, we worked very hard to distance ourselves from that point in time, and grow into a more mature and a better organization,” Clark said.

Accountability & 2013 Referendum

These minutes were written and circulated during the Spring of 2013, a period that would become known as “The Spring of Our Discontent.” During this time, a confluence of events precipitated unrest amongst the college community.

These events included a student referendum on Greek Life, multiple urinations on the door of the Intercultural Center, and two federal Title IX complaints submitted by Hope Brinn ’15 and Mia Ferguson ’15. That spring also marked Kappa Alpha Theta sorority’s controversial return to the college, which had been without sororities since their abolition in 1933.

Notably, these minutes circulated among the fraternity-wide listserv at a time when the student body debated existence of Greek life on campus. In Spring 2013, the debate led to a vote conducted by a campus-wide, non-binding referendum which concluded by a 20-point margin that a majority of students were not in favor of the eradication of Greek life.

Shortly before the referendum vote, then-Phi Psi President Zach Schaffer ’14 told The Phoenix in a 2013 interview, “The Greek groups on campus will continue to work together with the leaders of the referendum to figure out how we should proceed going forward.” Schaffer could not be reached for comment on this article.

A flurry of op-eds, Facebook posts, and sidewalk chalkings displaying messages about the referendum as well as student protests characterized the sense of divisiveness on campus. Several incidents of urinations on the door of the Intercultural Center shook campus, as reported by The Phoenix. But no perpetrator was ever found.

The Phoenix does not have sufficient evidence to draw conclusions about these incidents. However, a video dated April 9, 2013 at 1:08 a.m., depicts a person filming a stream of urination onto chalk letters that spell out “REFERENDUM.” Due to the sensitive nature of the video, The Phoenix has chosen not to publish it online.

In April 2013, the student body voted against five out of six questions on the referendum, indicating that the majority did not wish to eliminate Greek life on campus but did want to make Greek institutions coed.

When asked to comment on the minutes, 2012 Phi Psi president Mike Girardi ’13 stated that he did not recall if he had read them. He described the “The Spring of our Discontent” as a time of conflict both within and without of the Phi Psi house.

“There were those who saw issues that should’ve been addressed and others who didn’t quite understand the issues at hand and thus believed everything was fine,” Girardi said. “I believe that [a] culture regarding racism, sexism, sexual assault, and homophobia were all at a crossroads at Phi Psi and a choice was to continue building on changes that were focused on rooting out the negative aspects of our culture or to go backwards.”

Minutes throughout the spring of 2013 into the spring of 2014 include the following statements:

[2/7/14]

“[NAME] had some lady friend upstairs late night (May or may not have a different skin color). Well [NAME 1] and [NAME 2] (mainly [NAME 2]) wanted a peak. After perfuse banging on the door [NAME 1] finally screams, “[NAME 2] WANTS TO SEE SOME BLACK NIPS!!!” Absolutely laid it all out there. Hey [NAME], never change for me. “

[4/8/13]

“We just took a nice sloppy poop on that referendum and we control the social scene. I feel like the only move at this point is manifest destiny. I mean am I wrong? Expand our territory and wipe out every other group in our path. First stop WRC next stop BCC (sorry [NAME] and maybe [NAME] it’s just a pawn in the grand scheme of things). Just taking over one building at a time until we possess enough building space to start our own milf sex trafficking ring. God that would be hot. Anyways, it was so packed in Phi after the concert that I was legitimately scared of being accused of sexual harassment for rubbing up against so many tits. Every time I turned around I felt like I just whacked a girl in the cans. Sluts.”

[4/8/13]

“Up to this point, I honestly thought that a male getting sexually assaulted was a hoax. A myth. A masquerade fashioned by elitist feminists to legitimize their own troubles. I just could not comprehend how a man could allow a woman to sexually conquer him without putting up a fight. This view, however, completely changed after this past Thursday. [NAME] was legitimately assaulted. Deflowered, if you will. Some broad rolled into Phi Psi and was not going to take “no” for an answer. She tickled his tits, groped his cock, and rubbed her wet vag all over his neatly pressed khakis. An all out estrogen mugging.”

[3/25/13]

“At around 12:30 he was already elbow deep in soggy puss. I made my way down to the sanctum to blow molly off some chicks kankle and what do I see? [NAME] just wrecking a chick on a Phi Psi couch. Fuck yea. Hopefully he creampied her too. You know what? I know he creampied her. That’s all [NAME] does. Buzzcuts and creampies coming at you whether you like it or not.”

[4/22/13]

“On Saturday he decided to take one of these strolls and came across a chick passed out faced first in front of trotter. We weren’t given any real details as what occurred after he found her. I have no further comment on this story.”

[5/19/13]

“One of the funniest stories from formal of course involved troll [NAME]. Hot dick over here just absolutely smacked [NAME]’s ass for no reason. It was a good windup too. He made solid contact and acted like it aint no thang. Let me tell you something. [NAME] was not at all happy. She looked at him like he had just killed her 3rd grade pet guinea pig.”

[3/24/13]

“I just want to warn all of you that if I happen to make out with you late night in Phi Psi it is completely not my fault. [NAME] syndrome is unavoidable. One second you are bouncing around looking like an Italian [NAME] and the next you are sucking face in an empty house with someone who also has a penis.”

[4/8/13]

“Hopefully all of you are bottling up all the consent you have for this weekend. Should be a good one!”

In a statement to The Phoenix, current Phi Psi leadership, on behalf of the fraternity, condemned the minutes.

“Our current brothers were in high school and middle school at the time of these unofficial minutes. We unequivocally condemn and reject the obscene and hurtful remarks made in these documents. We are thankful for the extensive discussion and exceptional dialogue between the Swarthmore Administration and other student groups that has led to a transformation of the fraternity in recent years,” the statement read. “We want to reaffirm our commitment to these causes and to continue developing a culture of accountability and inclusion. We are proud of who we are today, a diverse group of 59 brothers who are members of the community like everyone else.”

The Phoenix hopes to hear further from individuals who were affected or involved in the incidents described. If you have information related to these incidents or would like to send a private message to the author, please go to swatphoenix.sarahah.com to submit a secure message or contact editor@swarthmorephoenix.com receive the authors’ contact information.

An explanation on our process, including that of authenticating the documents, can be found here.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article stated that the documents spanned until Feb. 5, 2014 instead of Feb. 7, 2014. The article has been updated accordingly.

Bayliss Wagner

Bayliss '21, currently a managing editor of the Phoenix, is from Vienna, VA. She is majoring in history, minoring in computer science and English. She has written news for four years and hopes to continue doing so for many more. Find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/baylisswagner

62 comments

  1. 30
    Frat Vindicator says:

    “Trust us, we all had a spontaneous change of heart in 2014…or 2015…or… what’s the date of the most recent document you found? Yeah, just after that.”

  2. 22
    Leo Elliot ( User Karma: 12 ) says:

    I don’t understand why the conversation here would start by assuming an absolute moral transformation between Phi Psi then, and Phi Psi now. The most recent of the documents is from 2016. It’s not long, long ago. This semester Swarthmore students have created a tumblr for CURRENT stories about the frats: swatfraternities.tumblr.com. Major trigger warning for those who haven’t seen it. Where is the evidence for us to believe that these problems have improved in one generation? These documents were created during the last challenge to the Frats in Spring 2013, when members of the Fraternity were publicly advocating for reform of their institution rather than its end. They’re doing the same public relations effort now. Isn’t the implication of these documents that a lot of horrible things can happen while the fraternities publicly ask us to trust that they’re working on it? Where’s the basis for asserting an unequivocal difference? I can’t find it anywhere.

  3. 20
    Swat 2016 says:

    You did an awful job of keep individuals (non-brothers, especially) anonymous in the publicly accessible version of this report. You should blur out people’s pictures better, and you should think about the implications of what you’re publishing.

    I appreciate that you’re trying to expose a real problem, but be a little bit thoughtful. What if you were one of the women about whom these things are about?

    Please email me for specific areas that need to be edited out.

    1. 1
      Not impressed says:

      100% agreed

      Having been at Swat while these were circulating and having spent a lot of time at phi psi, I can identify almost every person without even trying that hard.

      If you post images of a hundred people at a 1600 person school, even with faces redacted, and combine that with the knowledge that they were connected to phi psi or spent time there, it makes them very readily identifiable. You really should consider removing the images from this document.

      There is a lot that can be said about the content but I think protecting the people who were not in the fraternity and we’re not responsible for this in any way should be a top priority in addition to exposing the horrible content.

    2. 0
      Anonymous says:

      As someone who was at Swarthmore during the time the document was created, I can second that more than half the photos are not truly anonymous. I find it disgusting that the Phoenix thought it was ok to release these in the current state and embarrass those individuals who may not have even been associated with the fraternity.

      1. 0
        Shreya Chattopadhyay ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Hello,

        Thank you for taking the time to communicate with us about your concerns.

        We know that the documents are filled with some disturbing content, and understand that this has caused inadvertent harm to individuals. Unfortunately, it was important to release them in their entirety in order to represent transparently and accurately the nature of the documents. Our responsibility with redactions was to guarantee that the photographs would not be publicly identifiable. That being said, we understand that Swarthmore is a small college and have thought a lot about the impacts of this document. As such, we have encouraged any alums with specific redaction requests to reach out to us at editor@swarthmorephoenix.com, where we have been taking any extra requested redactions on a case-by-case basis, and have added additional redactions since the article was released. Because of the nature of Swarthmore, we can’t guarantee that individuals will never be able to recognize themselves or their friends, but please know that we have not taken this process lightly.

        Shreya Chattopadhyay, EIC

  4. 9
    Curious--Follow Up? says:

    Another idea for a story: Why not call all of the male board members and find out who was in DU or Phi Psi? See if you can find them in the phoenix or other archives. Help us get to know their histories on campus…Or see if you can find it in alumni records? Maybe that will shed another form of light on why there has been no action to shut down the frats. The Board meeting May 9-10 should also be an interesting time for students to voice their concerns about former frat boys weighing in on these issues.

  5. 8
    Anon. says:

    There are some truly disgusting comments in here. I am appalled. Thank you to the current brothers who have worked tirelessly to address these monstrosities and prohibit them from reoccurring in these spaces. We see your effort to make real cultural changes and it does not go unnoticed, and I personally unequivocally differentiate between the fraternities as they existed when none of us were even remotely close to being here, and the fraternities as they stand now. To the brothers who committed these crimes, I hope Swarthmore retracts your degrees.

    1. 8
      Annoyed says:

      The assumption that bigoted behaviors have been “prohibited from reoccurring” in fraternity spaces is as worrying as it’s false. Yes, most of the featured comments were made in 2013, but let’s not act like people don’t still get assaulted in fraternity spaces, or that a black student wasn’t called the n-word just last year at a Phi Psi party. The current brothers may be working tirelessly, but who are they working with? Are they having honest, difficult conversations with people who have been harmed at the frats? Are they making the people who have caused harm take accountability? This strategy of ‘deflect and wait for everything to blow over’ is tired, and as a community, we can do a lot better than that. It’s not enough to “retract the degrees” of the people who made these comments. What we should be doing is addressing the root cause of why people feel like it’s okay to behave like this at fraternities in the first place. What behaviors do we let slide from our friends? Who do we make excuses for?

    2. 2
      Annoyed says:

      The claim that bigoted behavior has been “prohibited from occurring” from fraternity spaces is as concerning as it is false. Yes, most of these comments were made in 2013, but let’s not pretend that people don’t still get sexually assaulted, or that a black student wasn’t called the n-word at a Phi Psi party just last year. It is dishonest to suggest that gross behavior left with the 2017 graduating class. It’s not enough to “retract the degrees” of the alumni who made these comments. We have to get to the root of why people deem fraternities as an acceptable place to say stuff like this in the first place. What behaviors do we let slide from our friends? Who do we make excuses for? This strategy of ‘deflect and wait for everything to blow over’ is tired, and we can honestly do a lot better.

    3. 0
      Max Jets says:

      There’s no way this started in 2010—it takes years for an institution to normalize such revolting behavior—and current seniors were freshmen or sophomores when their brothers authored the most recent document (that we’re aware of). A rape factory doesn’t start churning out model citizens overnight. Even without the Tumblr testimony, there’s no reason to believe they weren’t sexually assaulting underage girls up to the night before this article was published. If there were justice in the world, the police would conduct a criminal investigation and the brothers’ names would be fed to the Twitter outrage machine. Fingers crossed.

  6. 6
    Raven Bennett says:

    Speaking as someone who has worked with the fraternities, upon their request, to create sexual violence prevention programming, I by no means believe that there has been a complete solution to a continued legacy of harm. If the fraternities have truly embraced a commitment to developing a culture of accountability and inclusion, they would recognize that participating in trainings is not sufficient to repair the harm that has been done, and the only way of taking true accountability is for current and past members to endorse forfeiting their houses.

  7. 1
    Curious--Follow Up? says:

    Will you please do a follow-up story with your source (the person who gave you these unsolicited documents and videos) to find out if they have given these documents to the administration, when, and what the administration did? And who in the administration knew about this? And when? Very curious about this.

      1. 0
        AH16 says:

        Michael Hill and Lilli Rodriguez were told about these documents in October 2013. Hill said he couldn’t investigate them unless copies were “slid under his door.” Even though they were kept on swatmail accounts, which the school is able to look st…

  8. 0
    Jon Ashton says:

    Why are the alums concerned now about being identified? They weren’t concerned then. Phooey on them. Karma is a bitch.

  9. 0
    alum2013 says:

    Please remove the PDF document of the minutes. You did not remove all identifiable information and it is hurtful to alumni and victims who are identified in the document. Blurring out faces doesn’t mean we can’t figure out who’s being talked about. Please just use the necessary excerpts to make your point.

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