On Saturday April 27, a student accompanied by two friends called Public Safety claiming to have forgotten her wallet in the basement of the Phi Psi fraternity house. After an officer let her in, she allowed in dozens more students who had been waiting nearby to enter.
At times, over one hundred students were present at the Phi Psi lodge. The student activists, led by the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, sang chants, cleaned the space, and put up posters with messages including “this house is ours” and “decades of violence behind this door.” Hours into the protest, President Smith announced an external investigation into the leaked documents in an email to the community.
The Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, which was formed after The Phoenix and Voices reported on over one hundred pages of redacted documents, including meeting minutes, photos, videos and pledging plans, led the sit-in.
Three days after the sit-in began, both Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon fraternities each unanimously voted to disband their organizations and return the lodges to the college.
Once protesters entered Phi Psi, Public Safety and fraternity leadership each called the police at different times during the first day of the protest.
“Public Safety called Swarthmore Borough police as a result of the students’ behavior and to ensure that there was no escalation. One officer responded, assessed the situation, and later left. Public Safety works closely with Swarthmore Borough Police to ensure the safety of every member of our community and of visitors to campus,” Director of Public Safety Mike Hill said. “When Phi Psi learned the students planned to stay overnight, Phi Psi leadership independently requested police assistance.”
Fraternity leadership, on behalf of the Phi Psi fraternity said that they were given the option by Swarthmore Borough Police to have the protesters arrested, but declined to do so.
“We were also informed by the Swarthmore Police Department that it was well within our rights to have the student protestors removed from the leased property and arrest any individuals who did not comply with police. Ultimately, we decided as a fraternity not to move forward with this,” Phi Psi wrote in a statement to The Phoenix.
On Saturday, April 27, members of Phi Psi ridiculed and mocked protesters in the time before they called the police.
“[Members of Phi Psi] were mocking the things that we were doing because we were clapping and chanting and protesting and they were laughing at it … and videotaping it,” Sarah Leonard ’21 said. “It wasn’t one person ‘being stupid.’ It was a group of them.”
When asked to respond to multiple witness reports that members of Phi Psi mocked protesters, a statement on behalf of the fraternity noted that the brothers had been under strain.
“Some of our brothers were shocked to see the protesters inside the leased property. We were told to wait outside the property for college administrators to come address the situation. These past few weeks have taken an incredible mental toll on everyone involved, including us,” the Phi Psi statement said.
The presence of both Phi Psi brothers and police subsided by Sunday.
Hill said that multiple police officers were present after Phi Psi leadership called the police on Saturday but by the early hours of Sunday morning the police were gone.
“Swarthmore Borough Police left the area at approximately 2:00 a.m. [Sunday] and a Swarthmore College Public Safety Officer remained,” Hill said.
Olivia Smith ’20, an O4S core member, said that she feels that the leases are evidence of the college giving the fraternities power. She also said that Phi Psi called the police on their fellow students against the wishes of the college.
“The police presence, except for the very first time that Public Safety called [which was], as an immediate response … [was] a calculated move by other students on this campus. And the reason that they have the authority to do that was because they have the space that was given to them by the college,” Smith said. “The college didn’t want Phi Psi to call the cops. So Phi Psi called the cops against our will, and the will of the college.”
One of the central demands of the protesters was for the college to terminate the fraternity leases. Organizing for Survivors has called for the end to the fraternity leases since last spring, when the group formed and released their initial list of demands. The lodges are leased to the fraternities by the college. The annual lease ends on July 30th.
Four days into the protest, both fraternities disbanded and stated that they would be renouncing their leases.
Delta Upsilon was the first fraternity to announce that they were disbanding themselves at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday April 30.
“Over the last few weeks, Swarthmore Delta Upsilon has listened to the concerns and feelings of the campus community. After much discussion, the members of Delta Upsilon have unanimously decided that disbanding our fraternity is in the best interest of the Swarthmore community.”
Approximately an hour after DU’ s announcement, Phi Psi independently announced that they were also disbanding. The group cited their reaction to the released documents.
“We were appalled and disgusted by the content of these minutes, which led us to question our affiliation with an organization whose former members could write such heinous statements. We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history,” Phi Psi said in a statement.
The protesters celebrated the dissolution of the fraternities, which occurred on Tuesday night, with cheers, hugging, and crying. They also chanted.
In a statement to the community late Tuesday, President Valerie Smith called for civility, particularly online.
“We cannot tolerate unsubstantiated attacks directed at individual students or student groups—as too many students have recently endured. Social media posts by members of our community that target individual students or make gross generalizations about student groups are unacceptable. Nor can we tolerate attempts to exclude students from open campus events based on their affiliations.”
Later Tuesday night, some members of Phi Psi posted group photos online of the members at a local bar. The posts showed members of the fraternity drinking and smiling. According to Ben Stern, ’20, the attitude of the posts contradicted the statement that the fraternity posted.
“The photos and captions basically said that despite being kicked out of their house and ‘disbanding,’ they would forever be members of the frats,” he said.
In an update to the community, the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence said that they planned to remain in the house until administration formally terminates the fraternity leases and bans Phi Psi and DU. The Task Force charged with examining Greek Life is set to release its recommendations at the end of this week.