I Was in D.U. — Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go

In the Spring of 2013, I wrote an op-ed in the former Daily Gazette defending the continued existence of the Delta Upsilon fraternity based on my experience as a D.U. brother. In the final paragraph, I wrote: “If I believed that [D.U.] or any other organization were a credible threat to [Swarthmore], I would lead the charge for its abolition.” Though the time to lead that charge is long past, given the tireless and largely thankless work of individual students and alumni and groups such as Organizing for Survivors, I am nonetheless joining their call for the abolition of fraternities at Swarthmore, or, at the very least, the ending of fraternity house leases.

My experience with D.U. was a positive one for me personally. I formed bonds with my brothers, which led me to view them, and the organization, more favorably than I should have. This is not to say that all fraternity brothers are bad people. On the contrary, I believe most of them are morally good individuals who would condemn racism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexual misconduct. The problem is that when brothers fail to live up to that standard, the bonds of brotherhood serve more as a shield against consequences than a sword against the conduct. This not only protects the perpetrators of harm but increases the costs to the victims.

For years, and perhaps even decades, there have been reports of sexual misconduct perpetrated by fraternity members in the fraternities’ houses themselves and outside their confines. While I never observed any sexual misconduct at D.U. by D.U. brothers, I have been told first-hand by survivors about their experiences with such. I listened to these accounts, expressed sympathy, and, when required by Title IX, reported them to the appropriate authorities. I also reported these accounts, with permission, to D.U. leadership. Although they were sympathetic towards the survivors, absent an adjudication by the school or arrest by police, there was little that could be done under the bylaws of the organization.

To my immense shame now, I remained a brother, believing that these actions were perpetrated by bad apples and the fraternity itself was blameless. I was wrong. The fraternity, by building strong bonds between its members, while excluding others, inherently leads us to believe and protect, even subconsciously, our brothers and organization at the expense of non-members.

This bias is made worse by the fact that fraternities currently have exclusive possession of their houses. In D.U., we were required to memorize the history of the house, which spans more than a century. Additionally, almost all of D.U.’s brotherhood events, from pledging to initiation, occur in the house. That learned affinity, setting aside the advantages associated with having an exclusive wet-space on a campus with ever-increasing alcohol restrictions, serves as a tangible, home-like possession to defend against those who would take it from the brotherhood.

I freely admit that it is hard to give up something that means so much to many brothers, especially something that brothers have paid to access. But, for the good of the school as a whole, that bond must be severed and the fraternities’ houses opened for the good of everyone, not just a select group of men who can pay dues.

Delta Upsilon’s motto is “Justice, Our Foundation.” There can be no justice while exclusive organizations with well-documented and extensive histories of abuse maintain inordinate positions of power and privilege on Swarthmore’s campus. It is time to end the Swarthmore fraternities’ house leases, and it is time to end fraternities at Swarthmore.

12 comments

  1. 0
    DU Believe in Love after Love? says:

    David, were you lying then or are you lying now? From the 2013 article it seems that you were held accountable by DU leadership for your personal failings. Comparing both articles you seem to make strong, but contradicting arguments.

    You are a professional of law, a field governed by facts and evidence, so I ask you this: what new information about DU specifically did you gather from 2013-2019 (a time when you were absent from campus and pursuing further education) that caused you to shift your line? Please note that I’m referring to DU and not Phi Psi. I don’t buy this whole “both fraternities” rhetoric – Phi Psi should be held accountable independently for their actions just like DU should be held for theirs. If there was a scenario where Phi Psi goes and DU stays, would you support that?

    For the sake of your career I hope you are less biased and more objective at work than when you are slinging unbased accusations in the comments section. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Disclaimer: This article is solely reflective of my experience in Delta Upsilon and is in no way meant to contradict the experiences of other individuals or represent DU in any official capacity.

    When I came to campus in the fall of freshman year, I never imagined I would join a fraternity. “Bro culture” was something I had observed from afar and derided as juvenile. As my freshman year hall mates will attest, my prejudice led me to refuse to even set foot in a fraternity house for the first few weeks. I was eventually persuaded to attend parties at Phi Psi and DU but this was the extent of my involvement freshman fall.

    In the spring of my freshman year I became a Party Associate (PA) and over the course of the semester and the following year I PA’d many parties at the fraternities. This is when my opinion of fraternities began to change. Back then, we were lucky to have one PA work a major party, an overwhelming task given the number of party goers. The brothers of the fraternities were the only party hosts that not only asked how I was doing or offered to bring me water or snacks but also the only ones who would actually help regulate the party. I know this may not mean a lot to many of you but it meant a lot to me that the brothers of both houses clearly cared about what happened to the party goers in their space.

    In the spring of my sophomore year I was selected to be one of the PA coordinators and my role shifted primarily to one of management. Although I was not required to work directly as a PA during this time, the fraternities still requested that I be there to lend support. It is important to note that I was still not a brother and that these organizations wanted someone at their parties who was relatively well known to be especially rigorous when it came to enforcing party regulations, which was quite surprising to me. It was during this semester that several of the DU leadership asked me to consider pledging the following fall. Although I initially rebuffed them, the idea gained in appeal and in the fall of 2011 I expressed interest in joining the fraternity and was given a bid.

    Despite being on campus for two years, I had no idea what to expect in regard to actually becoming a brother. It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can say with utter certainty that because of DU I will be life-long friends with people I would have never otherwise met, much less gotten to know. This may come as a surprise to readers who know me but I do not make friends or trust other people very easily. DU provided me with that opportunity and I will be forever grateful for it. My experience at Swarthmore would have been substantively different without DU, almost certainly for the negative, and I believe that a vast majority of brothers would echo this sentiment.

    I fully believe the accounts related in other op-eds to be honest recollections of terrible instances but my experience with the institution of DU has differed. To share a personal failing, during a DU event last fall I made an off-hand remark that offended a guest in our house. Although I had not meant any offense, I was immediately taken to task by DU leadership, asked to apologize and informed in clear terms that this type of behavior was not acceptable for a DU brother. I cannot think of single instance in my life where a friend had said such a thing to me and had it resonate, much less change behavior. DU’s motto is “Justice, Our Foundation” and its slogan is “Building Better Men”. Both of these were demonstrated here and in other incidents that I am aware of. Brothers, like all Swatties, are not perfect and we sometimes do things that we shouldn’t.

    To this end, I fully support the creation and maintenance of enhanced structures of accountability, while maintaining the rights to privacy that all students enjoy. I love my brothers in DU and will support them as much as I possibly can. That said, love for them does not mean I will cover up their mistakes or excuse their transgressions. I truly believe that the principles and foundations of DU are commensurate with those of Swarthmore College and its student body. It is, however, the duty of my brothers and I to demonstrate this through our conduct and to take corrective measures if we fail.

    Through my positions as an RA and PA, the campus has entrusted me to look out for it as a fellow student. If I believed that DU or any other organization were a credible threat to it, I would lead the charge for its abolition. I do not believe this to be the case and I therefore ask the community to help us become better men, not clamor for our abolition.

    Op-ed submitted by David F. Hill, IV ’13

    1. 2
      David F. Hill, IV says:

      1) My arguments, regrettably, are consistent. My personal experience was an enjoyable one. Many of the DU brothers are good people, on the whole. DU leadership tried to rein in some bad conduct, though it was inconsistent and dependent on relationships. A fraternity is inherently unable to police itself. A brotherhood cannot stand in unbiased judgment of its brothers, especially with serious offenses. That is ludicrous on its face.

      2) I also once believed in DU’s exceptionalism. But a weaker poison is still a poison. While fraternities remain, the harms remain. It is better to be rid of them both than to try to save one at the expense of the many.

      3) I sincerely regret my delay in speaking up. But I try to hold myself accountable for my failings. You quote the entirety of my article but I direct you to the final paragraph. I believe the fraternities are a threat to Swarthmore and should be abolished. I hope you one day also join the side of justice and agree.

  2. 0
    Phoebe Cook '15 says:

    Thank you for clarifying. Given these ambiguous cases and the basic statistics about the rate of sexual violence on college campuses, it seems clear to me that even the most well-intentioned fraternity leaders cannot possibly prevent or learn of all assaults committed by their members or at their parties. It is therefore a question of what changes are needed to make guests safer and more comfortable in these spaces. Many survivors of sexual violence including myself, other recent alums, and current students, have said that the most important step is to reduce the baked-in power dynamics caused by fraternities owning party spaces. These dynamics cannot be erased by statements of good intentions, or by a couple instances of especially egregious behavior leading to consequences.

  3. 0
    DU Believe in Miracles? says:

    David, our knight in shining armor, so handsome, with a ridiculously large vocabulary to match… 🙂

    In all seriousness, I would like to point out that for every one brother who is anti-fraternity, there are hundreds of individuals on campus who are not affiliated with the fraternities who do support them. The picture that has been painted of the fraternities is far more dark than reality shows, and I stand by that 100%. I don’t support the minutes that were released, how could anyone? They are wholly deplorable and the author of them should be ashamed. And it’s clearly had a massive impact on many people, and as aided the anti-frat movement immensely, even drawing Callen and David (who just last week was defending the frats on his world famous social media account) to write op-ed’s that may seal the frats fate.

    But I still feel that the students should ultimately decide the fraternities’ fates. Maybe even separately, as DU and Phi Psi to me are not one organization, and do not act as one organization (99% of the time). If I had to guess, a referendum tomorrow would have different results from 2013; both frats would be abolished. I would fully support the decision from the student body, but this is a decision to be made by the students on campus who experience the campus’s culture first hand, not two alumni who wrote op-ed’s, especially since there are hundreds of fraternity alumni who could have followed suit and have chosen not to do so to this point. No disrespect to the thoughts and opinions of David and Callen, but they are two outliers. Two heavy outliers. And there may be a few more out there, butt is not a common belief by former/current brothers that fraternities on campus negatively impact the lives of Swarthmore students. Don’t let David convince you otherwise.

    If the fraternities’ fates are sealed, it’s just a shame to me the light in which they exit. To anyone reading, know that the leaked minutes, Tumblr stories, and the accounts from these two former brothers are not what DU is about. It’s about brotherhood, service, and having a good time with all, and that will be my lasting impression despite the best efforts of several vocal groups on campus. We may have our house (which we paid for, continue to pay for, maintain, and share), but the rest of you anti-frat warriors have a hold on campus’s one media outlet, and boy is it a sorry one.

    SIDE NOTE: Someone above asked about kicking brothers out for accusations made against them. With the last one I heard about within DU, a brother was kicked out because of accusations made against him in a horribly written, horrifically inaccurate Phoenix article published in 2015. And I know this individual, I consider him a friend, and I still don’t think he’s recovered from the backlash he received on campus following that article. Take the Phoenix’s rhetoric with a grain of salt please, they really are biased and write some heinous journalism.

    1. 8
      David F. Hill, IV says:

      I freely admit that I was an overly zealous advocate for DU for over a lustrum. That zeal, regrettably, blinded me to the vast harms suffered by those who I had previously discounted in favor of the brotherhood. I really liked my time in DU. As I said, it was great for me personally. But, again, those benefits do not outweigh the numerous and documented harms the continued presence of fraternities impose on the campus at large.

      You seem to be familiar with me, at least through social media. If that is the case, you should know that I am exceedingly difficult to persuade that I am wrong, on damn near anything, much less something I hold dear. That happened here, which alone should speak to the seriousness of the issue.

      I ask you to reflect upon your experience with DU. Can you truly say you didn’t observe casual racism, misogyny or homophobia? Can you truly say that you heard or saw nothing about sexual violence or predatory behavior?

      I’ve had more than a dozen brothers, from both fraternities, reach out and express similar thoughts to Callen’s and mine. They, quite reasonably, are less inclined to brawl in the public square than I am.

      I truly hope you reconsider your position in light of DU’s motto and follow the path of justice.

      1. 0
        DU Know the Muffin Man? says:

        Did I experience casual racism, misogyny or homophobia? Sure. Was this behavior exclusive to the fraternities? No! And if you step off campus, the beautiful bubble that is Swarthmore, these attitudes are abundant. I’m not defending them, but I’m realistic. Eliminating the frats will not change the existence of these attitudes. The fraternities are not machines that take upstanding freshmen, have them pledge, and spit out hateful bigots. Simply not the case. If you believe that the fraternities attract these types of people, that’s a different issue that will not be addressed by eliminating the fraternities. In this scenario, as I see it, you currently have a space on campus that can be easily avoided if you are an individual who is worried about experiencing these behaviors (which are far less prevalent than the current rhetoric suggests, which I feel can largely be explained by the recent minutes leak). Now, with no more frats, these brothers will integrate into whatever parties they can find around campus. Now you can’t avoid these people at all!

        Which is why I guess I don’t really understand this whole movement. I really don’t think this is a solution to campus’s problems. I don’t have a good solution to share, it’s not an easy fix, but it’s certainly not as easy as just kicking the frats off campus and expecting everyone to suddenly understand how consent works and expect them to make good decisions when influenced by alcohol. And I think you’re bluffing about your dozens of brothers, I’m sorry but there is just no way.

        I’d feel better about all of this too if I thought that the group of students most heavily advocating for the fraternities’ removal was reasonably informed about how the frats work, or reached out to the frats to learn more about them. David, do you believe that fraternity members refer to the bedroom in each house as “rape attics”? Do you think someone would actually call them that? Do you think that brothers used these as places to draw intoxicated women to make sexual advances? Have you seen this? Have you ever seen a single event as bad as anything on the Tumblr page? I have not, and it’s not my selective memory that causes that. Somehow these Tumblr submitters, many of whom I would safely assume have been in the frats at most a handful of times, have experienced these events dozens of times over. I’m not trying to silence them, but I am suggesting that the majority of them are falsified or hugely exaggerated, which takes away from the handful that may have actually occurred.

        Here is my view from 10,000 feet – those involved in this movement are largely delusional. They’re trying to make a difference on campus but they have minimal knowledge of how the fraternities work (painfully evident, see “rape attics” above), and have no plan to leverage this into an actual decrease in sexual/verbal violence on campus. And people have always understood that. Until the minutes were leaked. This was a turning point, and rightfully so. Because after all, this is a representation of Phi Psi and Greek Life as a whole. I just think it’s an incredibly poor representation of what DU has always been about. I will not change my position, I still believe DU to be one of the most serviceable, outgoing groups on campus, and campus will not be the same upon their removal. I’m sorry you no longer agree.

        1. 0
          Get over yourself says:

          I find it interesting that you take your personal experiences and extrapolate them to the experiences of others. Judging from your comments, I feel like I can safely assume that you were heavily affiliated with DU during your time at Swarthmore. That’s great for you, I don’t have any qualms with that, but I’m really struggling to understand how you can’t see that some of your friends may not have been as nice to other people. Going as far as to call student activists “delusional” and labelling submissions to the Tumblr page “falsified or hugely exaggerated” (which actually does count as silencing them, I’m sorry to break it to you) is indicative of an astonishing lack of empathy for people who have been harmed at the frats. Your positive experiences actually don’t negate the negative experiences of others, and they’re allowed to be mad at your friends and organize against the frats, if they so choose. You’re allowed to disagree, but insinuating that they’re liars is as unhelpful as it’s ridiculous.

  4. 0
    John Cena says:

    DU has (admittedly after your time at Swat) included bylaws that allow for a internal judicial process and integrate with the external process. These bylaws HAVE been properly used to kick members out of the fraternity, help survivors, and aid in investigations by the school or Title IX office. And despite all of this, these new bylaws have rarely had to be used because (as PubSafe statistics have shown), DU parties have lower rates of Title IX issues than elsewhere on campus AND DU has taken action to prevent these nefarious individuals from entering the fraternity (either the brotherhood or the house party space).

    You say that “if I believed that DU… were a credible threat to Swarthmore, I would lead the charge for its abolition”, but you clearly have no idea about the recent preventative, cooperative, and proactive actions that DU has taken.

    Phi Psi and DU should be regarded separately. DU has shown a willingness recently (in the past 3 or so years) to improve and have acted upon it. Their brothers and their space are not by any means “a credible threat” and the removal of their lease would only decrease oversight, accountability, and safety at parties.

    1. 13
      Phoebe Cook '15 says:

      In Title IX research, it is widely known that a campus or organization with lower rates of reporting is not necessarily safer, and in fact increases in rates of reporting are often interpreted as progress in making students feel more comfortable coming forward. It is not surprising to me that students do not feel that they can report assaults at DU, to either an administration with a poor track record of supporting survivors or an unspecified “internal judicial process” organized entirely by the friends or hosts of the person who hurt them.

      Can you lay out the details of this internal judicial process, in the interests of making people who might come forward feel more confident doing so? Exactly how have members of DU have been kicked out for sexual (or racist, homophobic, transphobic etc) violence under these bylaws? Exactly how many have gone through the process for an allegation of sexual violence and not been kicked out? Concretely, how have survivors been helped by them?

      All of these are questions which can be answered without revealing identifying information, so if you have the authority to make the claims you have, they should be easy to answer.

      1. 0
        John Cena says:

        To address your first point, I understand this interpretation but I can only speak to the cases that I am aware of – the ones that were reported. In such cases, survivors have said they were empowered to report to DU, supported in their own decision to report externally, and acted out of their own volition. I wish I could provide specific, anecdotal evidence, but must respect the requests of survivors for anonymity and closure – something that DU has done throughout these debates.

        Furthermore, I, like Mr. Hill, would leave DU in a heartbeat if I knew of a single current brother involved in such an incident. Phi Psi is a different story: a different organization with different members and standards. But I think that this sentiment has been echoed in these conversations before: most brothers are good people with the right intentions. We just simply do not know of any incidents that were not handled appropriately, we do not even know of accusations against current brothers. We have read the Tumblr and found that the most horrendous stories focus on Phi Psi or non-brothers, and all other issues went through appropriate internal and/or external judicial processes. What we do know is the character of our fellow brothers and believe them to be well-intentioned and upstanding people. In this sense, we not only welcome, but encourage reporting, so that we can be more aware of what our fellow brothers are doing and can improve.

        I am not going to include the bylaws in this comment because I would butcher them (they are long and I do not have them as a non-active member). I would encourage anyone to reach out to DU leadership though for the exact procedures. We also are constantly working with Title IX admin and welcome feedback from other students on our policies to best meet the needs of all guests.

        However, in my time, there were only a couple of reports and brothers were found guilty and kicked out in EVERY trial. We do not have as much power in the internal process to affect perpetrators that are not in the fraternity, but we have banned guests from the house for Title IX issues (and far less severe issues as well.) Furthermore, in I would say 75% of instances of other conduct violations (drugs, disrespect of guests especially marginalized groups, academic violations, etc.) the perpetrator was found guilty and given appropriate sanctions (temporarily banned from the house, suspended, community service required, kicked out, etc.) and NOT FINED for conduct issues like Phi Psi.

        Finally, we have encouraged administrators to kick former brothers out of the school before, we have provided as much impartial evidence for both sides as possible from our own oversight of parties, we have allowed survivors to make their own decisions with our unconditional support, we have formed relationships with resources available to survivors and pointed survivors towards the appropriate more qualified help, we have taken measures to encourage survivors to feel free to come to our parties by banning their perpetrators so they are not at risk of further trauma, we have listened to feedback on our process from students, lawyers, and admin, and we have done all of this consistently over the past few years. The actual bylaws can speak further to our power to affect change and help survivors concretely.

        Please help us be better, but understand that change is a process and we have made major strides already. The actions of past brothers cannot be fully rectified, and we are appalled. However, we believe that we have addressed issues appropriately and have formed a strong and trustworthy current brotherhood constituency.

        1. 10
          Phoebe Cook '15 says:

          Some of this is reassuring if true, but there is at least one glaring issue: the majority of the stories of violence shared on the tumblr do not name a specific frat, and so I have trouble understanding how you are so confident in saying that all incidents described there have been dealt with appropriately by DU. The fact that only a couple of incidents were reported to DU leadership remains a symptom of deep problems which cannot be solved by loudly proclaiming that you trust your brothers, and not an indication that all is well.

          1. 2
            Bob Saget says:

            Hi Phoebe, with regards to how we (speaking as a DU here) are able to determine whether tumblr reports, although anonymous, are attributable to DU or phi is because there is generally some sort of tell in them. For instance any time a basement back room is mentioned, that is referring to the sanctum in phi. No such room exists in DU. There have also been events that are claimed to have happened at a specific time, and often one of the two frats is closed down so that also helps us narrow it down. In addition, there are certain stories of incidents in phi that have become open secrets. Having gone extensively through the tumblr, i have been able government often attribute a certain incident to one frat or the other. Some are indeed ambiguous and we can’t determine if it is a DU brother or which one it is. But i can assure anyone that if we were determine that someone who is a current brother was mentioned in the minutes, that would be grounds for removal from DU.

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