After the publication of 2013 Phi Psi internal documents revealing sexist, homophobic, and racist attitudes, O4S and the newly formed Swarthmore Coalition Against Fraternity Violence determined a course of action that would pressure administration to end the leases of fraternities on campus.
Shortly after The Phoenix and Voices published stories on the Phi Psi documents, the Swat Coalition to End Frat Violence posted an Action Network campaign to send letters, asking for the termination of fraternity leases, to Board Chair Schuchman, President Smith and The Committee on Social Life. As of April 24, the campaign has garnered 894 submissions.
The Swarthmore Coalition to End Fraternity Violence was formed by Daria Mateescu ’20, Morgin Goldberg ’19, Olivia Smith ’21, and Amal Haddad ’22, amongst others after the leak of internal Phi Psi documents. The organization was first conceptualized when the Swat Fraternities Tumblr was launched on April 3 by some of those who formed the Swat coalition. The Tumblr accepts anonymous submissions from people who wish to share either their own experience or others’ experiences of sexual violence, sexism, racism, homophobia or other issues at the fraternities on campus.
The Swat Coalition to End Frat Violence was formed to focus more specifically on the attitudes and violence created and perpetuated by fraternity culture. According to Mateescu, the objective of the organization is to help others in movements against the fraternities.
“The basic idea of the coalition, as I see it, is that the coalition is a way to bring more people in the room to organize around the fraternity structure, in all the ways it harms students.” Mateescu said.
Magda Werkmeister ’22, a core member of O4S, says that unlike the coalition, O4S seeks to focus less on fraternity-related issues because of the way that certain perspectives are prioritized in conversations about Title IX related issues.
“We talk a lot at O4S about not wanting to center the fraternities, because, in a way, centering fraternities also centers a privileged survivor dialogue,” Werkmeister said.
“Someone who goes to the fraternities is already in a privileged position and because there are communities on campus, students and women of color who don’t feel comfortable going to the fraternities in the first place, stories that are coming out of the fraternities from the victim side are often already privileged in different ways, like class and race.”
O4S and the Swat Coalition to End Frat Violence also met on April 18 to plan a protest during a Task Force on Student Social Events meeting in Parrish the next day. The task force met on Friday about a report that will “critically examine social life on campus — including Greek life and programming in campus social spaces.” The report will include recommendations for President Smith and will be released no later than May 10.
According to a recent Voices article, members of the Task Force at the meeting included co-chair David Singleton ’68, co-chair Professor Lisa Meeden of the CS department, ITS director of support services Aixa Pomales, O4S member Olivia Smith ’21, Phi Psi member Arjun Madan ’21, Charlotte Pohl ’21, Dean Tomoko Sakomura, men’s basketball head coach Landry Kosmalski, and Dean Shá Duncan Smith.
Protestors in Parrish demanded that the task force release their recommendations immediately.
After the meeting was over, Singleton told the crowd of around 100 people, “we [the task force] will not finish with our work today, so if you’re looking for a report from the meeting, I am sorry to tell you we will not have one today.”
While the task force was unresponsive to the demands made by protestors, another event called ‘Transforming the Frat Spaces: Takeover and Sleepover” was held the following night. The event was a collaboration between Sync-Up Zero Waste, O4S, and the Swat Coalition to End Frat Violence. The event begin at 9:00 p.m. and took place outside of the Phi Psi and D.U. houses.
The goal of the takeover, according to Goldberg, was “a way, following and preceding other intense direct actions, to reclaim and reimagine those buildings, which have served as locations of violence, harm, and exclusion for so many of us. It was a way to create different associations and meanings in the space. ”
Vanessa Meng ’20, founder of SZW, had planned on doing an event on April 20 months beforehand — SZW’s event just happened to coincide with O4S’ plans. Prior to the release of the documents, Meng was contacted by a core member of O4S who asked if SZW was interested in collaborating to throw a party.
“All of our parties in a way have been a protest, it’s all about manifesting values that we believe in which are these [eight] principles that we made up. The reason why [we collaborated with O4S] is that we’ve always seen the assault of the earth and the assault of women as a connected issue,” Meng said. “We truly believe that it comes from the same type of energy. The destruction to women and the destruction and disrespect to nature is really the same.”
Meng and other members of SZW made artwork for the event in the I.C. courtyard on April 19, the day before the event. After leaving their artwork in the I.C. courtyard, members of SZW discovered that their artwork had been vandalized with paint. A door of the I.C. had also been vandalized with paint.
“We left our stuff in the [I.C.] courtyard to go to Battle of the Bands and when we came back two bottles of paint were used to spray all over the walls, floor and one of the paintings. I was really upset. ” she said. “We spent all day trying to come together making art, it was only good things. I also thought this is so tone-deaf, we just got a leak and all of it was about how people vandalized the [I.C.] and how can someone be so tone-deaf and so unaware of themself.”
According to Mike Hill, director of Public Safety, multiple students reported the incident but no information about it has been publicly shared.
While neither D.U. nor Phi Psi held open or closed parties last weekend, O4S core members went to the Office of Student Engagement on April 22 to ask Andrew Barclay, the fraternity liaison and one of the individuals who approves of party permits, to not allow the fraternities to host parties for the remainder of the school year and to remove brothers currently living in bedrooms in the fraternity houses.
Werkmeister believes that if the fraternities continue to host parties, students could still be potentially harmed in those spaces.
“We’re worried that in the meantime, there will be more students who will be harmed. He [Barclay] told us that it was not his decision unilaterally. He told us that Dean Nathan Miller also has to sign off on this,” Werkmeister said. “We asked that he take a moral stand because he definitely has a part in it. He definitely has the ability to say ‘no’, but he did not want to engage in dialogue with us.”
In response to the action taken by core members in the OSE, Dean Jim Terhune released an email on April 23, denouncing the student protest,“a group of students went to the OSE office where they disrupted an existing meeting, harangued staff members, delivered ultimatums, and recorded and posted video of staff members without their permission.”
In his email, Dean Terhune also broadly discussed the response of activist groups on campus to the Phi Psi leak.
“I share your disgust at the vulgar, sexist, violent, homophobic, and racist content of those documents. But that outrage, or impatience with the process that is examining social life on campus, does not give license for disruptive, unproductive behavior.”
Dana Homer ’21, who attended the task force protest, believes that while the college emphasizes its Quaker values, the administration does not recognize students’ right to nonviolent protest.
“The email [from Dean Terhune] was a pretty clear sign that they don’t want us protesting. They [the administration] have been sending really mixed signals,” she said. “On the one hand Swarthmore is like we’re all about Quaker values and we support your right to protest, but when we [students] actually peacefully protest, they say that we’re bullying and harassing them and that feels very disingenuous.”
O4S released a statement addressing Dean Terhune’s claims about the nature of O4S’ actions.
“Our protest comes after administrators’ continuous, dangerous disregard for what is an urgent safety concern. And yet, those who demonstrate for what is right and just have been met with disbelief, accusations of being “combative” or “uncivil”, or directed to continue waiting for change that does not come.”
The statement also reasserted some of the organization’s requests such as taking interim measures like banning fraternity parties for the remaining school year, ending fraternity leases, and releasing the task force report prior to May 10.
On April 24, O4S members also protested outside of Dean Nathan Miller’s office, asking about his lack of oversight over the fraternities, as an associate dean of students and director of student conduct.
The same day, a meeting was also held between members of O4S and the Swat Coalition to End Frat Violence and faculty members. Goldberg, who attended the meeting, believes that the college should work to address the concerns of both faculty members and students.
“We did meet with faculty members as a way to inform and involve them as concerned community members. Many faculty members I’ve spoken with are pretty concerned about fraternity violence and the way the college has thus far neglected to meaningfully address it,” Goldberg wrote in an email to the Phoenix. “Faculty members should be aware of the issues impacting their students. O4S is, separately, pushing for a faculty governance model of college decision-making because we do think faculty members are well-equipped to responsibly weigh in on a variety of matters, from Title IX to divestment.”
Recently, a Google form titled ‘No Donation Pledge: Swarthmore must terminate its leases with fraternities’ has also circulated online. The form, created by Priya Dietrich ’18, is for alumni and parents of students who wish to stand in solidarity with current students asking for the college to terminate the leases of the fraternities. Interested individuals are asked to stop donating to the college until action is taken.
As the semester winds down, O4S and the Swarthmore Coalition to End Frat Violence have just weeks before the Task Force is set to release its recommendations to President Smith and the Board of Managers. President Smith will then make a decision on whether to terminate the leases on the fraternities.