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.