The Phi Psi sit-in was a climactic culmination of student activism that brought together students from different areas of interest around a common cause. Those involved ranged from committed activists who had been pushing this issue for years, to newcomers drawn by the prospect of changing the campus for the better.
Kathy Nguyen ’21 has been involved in this movement for over a year. “I was involved in O4S during the sit-in last year and was an active part of that movement. But I think something really changed this year now that I’m a sophomore reflecting on my first year here, a year of going to frat parties and seeing that culture and how it literally pervades this community,” she said.
Nguyen experiences in her first year drove her towards activism and, to improve the campus for future first years.
“The main reason I’m here is for first-years who will be here next year. I think about my cousins who want to go to Swarthmore and the harm that would come to them if the frats continue to exist. Because when you’re a freshman, it’s so easy to not be aware and to enter these spaces where the power dynamics are so dangerous, especially when you’re younger.”
Like many others, the revelations in the leaked documents and the Tumblr drove Nguyen to act.
“I am here for support and solidarity for future Swarthmore students. It’s just horrific, reading the documents and the Tumblr, I don’t know how you can read that and not be completely repulsed.”
Activism is also a way for her to process and work through difficult feelings about the fraternities.
“Whenever I’m feeling something strongly, I just have to channel it into something else, I can’t let it sit in my body and fester,” Nguyen said. “So joining O4S and being a part of this helps release that in a better and more transformative way.”
Luis Marchese ’20 has been active in Sunrise and in O4S. “I am here as a survivor, as someone who is disappointed and angry by an admin that continually betrays their values even as it emptily appeals to them, and I feel very intimately attached to this issue,” he said.
Marchese is motivated both by anger at the current administration, and by hope for a brighter future.
“I am here because I think O4S and the coalition have a vision that is transformative for what this college can be. So I am here both out of anger at what Salem Shuchman and President Smith and Dean Terhune have said and done.”
Jenny Xu ’22 is a core member of O4S. “I am here because all of us are literally physically exerting ourselves in these places so that nobody else will be harmed in this space. I think that by physically occupying this space we are making it a safe space for all students who are excluded and are preventing further harm.”
Not everyone at the sit-in has been heavily involved in O4S. While it is organized by a core group of students that have worked towards passionately for years rectifying mistreatment of survivors and preventing future harm,
“I was encouraged to come to the sit-in because I have friends (particularly on the track team) who are part of O4S and because I have friends on campus who have been harmed by the frats,” said Kayla Camacho ’19. “I haven’t been able to be very involved in a lot of the activism that O4S has done thus far, but I know that the college’s behavior and responses are unacceptable and it is becoming more and more difficult not to respond to that.”
Sierra Sweeny ’21, also a Track & Field athlete, was similarly compelled to join the protests. “As an athletic team on Swarthmore’s campus, I feel as though the track and cross country teams recognize that the actions of the fraternities are wrong and must end immediately,” she said. “I also acknowledge that there is often a toxic culture surrounding athletics that has harmed many. I fully support survivors and their protests to end the fraternities and hope to help the community heal and create safer spaces for students in anyway I can. I joined the protests Saturday night because I believe in the missions of O4S and other survivor organizations on campus and want to do my part to change the culture surrounding athletics.”
On Sunday afternoon, Fouad Dakwar ’22, Samantha Ortiz-Clark ’22, and Underboob (a student band consisting of Clay Conley ’20 and Lauren Savo ’20) performed in Phi Psi, reinventing the space through art. Wearing his signature “Dissent is Patriotic” ACLU shirt, Dakwar joked, “I never thought I’d perform anywhere grosser than Olde Club. And I never thought I’d see my parents and little brother in a frat,” referring to his family that had come to see him debut his new album.
“This album is called ‘Monarchs in Riverbeds,’” announced Dakwar. “It’s about revolutions. And what I think is important is that every revolution needs love too. And we have love in this movement too, for Swarthmore, for this community and these people that we fell in love with,” he said. “This building isn’t Swarthmore. But we’re getting there.”