Phi Psi Leak Suggests Evidence of Hazing

The Phoenix obtained unsolicited Phi Psi internal files from an anonymous source that reveal details of the Phi Psi pledging process. The files include folders with documents, photos, and videos detailing aspects of the pledging process, among other information, as far back as 2010 and as recently as Fall 2016.

The leaked files contained photos and videos of fall break pledge tasks from the years 2012 to 2015. These images and videos depict inductees performing embarrassing tasks to be completed as part of the pledging process.

A smiling pledge dressed in a hat and holding a guitar stood with two girls who held separate signs which read “Help me go to clown school” and “It was this or a butt chug, please donate.”

One pledge had his ears pierced in a mall. Another pledge is shown dressed in a gorilla costume beating his chest at the top of a sightseeing location.

Another appeared in a video standing on furniture and dancing to the song “I Will Survive” in the library of an Ohio college. One pledge was filmed falling in multiple crowded restaurants.

Documents in the files also detailed a Philadelphia scavenger hunt for the 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2016 pledge classes. The scavenger hunt required pledges to take an early morning train and perform one individual task along with several group tasks in the city. Each pledge was assigned to one of the individual tasks.

Many of the scavenger hunt tasks were sexual in their nature, and some used women and homosexuality as a means for emasculation or embarrassment.

For example, one individual task was for two pledges to go to an establishment named “Doggie Style.” One pledge was to get into a “doggie style” position, hump the other for a full minute outside of the establishment, and then they were to switch. The instruction noted that the pledges should “get into it.”

Another task was to go into a women’s clothing store, try on clothing, and ensure that an employee was filmed helping the pledge try on clothes.

A pledge was told to purchase a dildo at a sex shop and take a photo with “hot girls” holding the dildo. Another task was to play pornography on a phone in a Starbucks while wearing headphones that were not plugged into the phone. The pledge was to pretend to be oblivious that the porn is audible to others and “[had] to sit there for at least a minute.”

Other tasks were less sexual and more comedic in their nature.

A pledge had to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art while wearing Swarthmore athletics gear, yelling and completing exercises at the top of the steps. One pledge was asked to find an Amish stand at Reading Terminal Market and perform an interpretive dance about the pledge’s love of Amish culture for three minutes. One of the last individual tasks was to ask for a continuum transfunctioner at an auto shop, and meow ten times during the conversation. The document instructed the pledge to bring back an order for a continuum transfunctioner.

The Phoenix presented Phi Psi leadership with the leaked documents, and gave them the opportunity to comment. Their official statement on behalf of Phi Psi Fraternity said that the “Philadelphia event” was a way for pledges to explore the city of Philadelphia and meet alums of the fraternity.

“We also teach our brothers about the history of the fraternity and coordinate a Philadelphia event where all brothers explore the city and meet with Philadelphia-based alums. All of these components provide our new brothers with the tools to be upstanding members of our community and active facilitators of safe social spaces,” the fraternity said in their statement.

The scavenger hunt tasks remained roughly the same across the years, with few additions or subtractions. Meanwhile, the college updated the student code of conduct for the 2013-2014 school year to ban hazing.

The 2013 policy, which lasted until 2018, defined hazing as “any action or situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of a student or willfully destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education.” It also specifies hazing as “forced conduct which could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the individual”

Swarthmore College policy currently bans hazing in accordance with the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law of 2018. The college’s current definition of hazing is:

“any behavior and/or acts of servitude that is designed or intended to humiliate, degrade, embarrass, harass, or ridicule an individual, or that which a reasonable person would deem harmful or potentially harmful to an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being, as an actual or perceived condition of new or continued affiliation with any organization, and/or team. Hazing also includes knowingly or recklessly engaging in such behavior and/or acts.”

The school has received reports on four separate occasions between Fall 2013 and Fall 2019 that the fraternities were involved in hazing, according to the college’s 2019 Hazing Biannual Report, but they have never found them guilty, on the basis of insufficient evidence.

Only leaders of student organizations are required to attend anti-hazing training, putting the onus of preventing hazing on those who are in charge of the pledging process, and potentially leaving new members uneducated about the policies and laws around hazing.

“Student leaders attend the trainings, but students joining the organizations are not required to attend an anti-hazing training. We are evaluating how we can educate all students about hazing since nearly every Swarthmore student will participate in a student organization during their time at the institution,” Andrew Barclay, director of student activities, wrote in an email to The Phoenix, in response to questions about the college’s policies and practices regarding hazing.

When asked by The Phoenix about how the college generally investigates hazing, Miller said that the college investigates on a case-by-case basis when they receive reports.

“We would investigate any allegation of hazing that we become aware of to the best of our ability,” said Associate Dean for Student Life Nathan Miller.

Miller also said that the college uses educational programs to prevent hazing.

“We try to educate organizations as part of training purposes [about] what is hazing and to be …  proactive in even educating members” Miller said.

Barclay described that the education program around hazing focused on educating members of student organizations about college policy and state law.

“We review the college anti-hazing policy and state laws related to hazing. This year, an additional training was offered to discuss the Timothy J. Piazza anti-hazing legislation which went into effect during the Fall 2018 semester,” he wrote.

The college can receive reports of hazing through the Public Safety reporting form.

“The college would take any allegations of hazing very seriously,” Dean Miller said.

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

Laura Wagner

Laura '20 is from Dover, Delaware. She is in the honors program studying political science and economics. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, her interests include running, politics, and really good books.

Bayliss Wagner

Bayliss '21 is from Vienna, VA. She is majoring in English literature and minoring in computer science and French.

Ganesh Setty

Ganesh studies economics & art history, and hopes to be a financial journalist one day. He enjoys reading non-fiction, running, tennis, and collecting gray shirts. Seriously. He has a lot.

Keton Kakkar ’20

Keton entered Swarthmore with the class of 2019 and graduated with the class of 2020. He double majored in English literature and computer science and was awarded Honors at commencement. A former editor of this newspaper, he was responsible for merging The Daily Gazette with The Phoenix, among other initiatives. He grew up in Sands Point, New York, completed the last two years of his secondary schooling at Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts, and is a member of the class of 2025 at the NYU School of Law.


      • “harmful or potentially harmful to an individual’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being, as an actual or perceived condition of new or continued affiliation with any organization, and/or team.”

        why does the college feel the need to legislate the emotions and feelings of individuals? I understand their hesitation but the erasure of individual emotion is over-reaching the school’s boundaries

    • Hazing definition:
      humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority.

  1. no one at Swarthmore is allowed to go to a typical US bachelor or bachelorette party anymore, either

  2. None of this sounds that bad tbh. It sounds like there was no harm done to anyone and if they want to use offensive language in their own private line of communication, then that’s their own god-given right as Americans. Sounds like every fraternity I’ve ever heard of

  3. The rules from 2013 define hazing as “forced conduct which could result in extreme embarrassment, or any other forced activity which could adversely affect the mental health or dignity…” None of the listed activities probably would qualify as hazing based on that standard. The activites listed in the documents sound embarrassing, but not extremely embarrassing. Having to act like you are watching porn at a coffee shop would certainly be embarrasing, but it wouldn’t endanger your mental health. I think these episodes need to be viewed from the perspective of the types of events that led to anti-hazing restrictions, such as cases where pledges have died after drinking too much alcohol or have been injured due to physical violence.

  4. Erm, some of those are actually pretty funny. Cancel me, angry millennials! I’m guilty, guilty, guilty.

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