The Swarthmore College administration received permission this week from the board of managers to move forward with its plans for the house that formerly belonged to the College’s chapter of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. Swarthmore’s oldest students will remember that Delta Upsilon was one of two fraternity chapters (along with Phi Psi) that disbanded and were subsequently banned following a large-scale student protest in the Spring of 2019. The administration’s plans for the building were announced in an email to the campus community on Thursday morning.
“The heinous actions of the fraternities that used to exist on campus at Swarthmore went overlooked for far too long,” the email began, “and it is with that heavy past in mind, and with a progressive and forward-thinking attitude, that the college administration has officially designated this building for use by a new ‘promising gentlemen’s club’ made up largely of members of the men’s lacrosse and baseball teams.”
Longtime members of the campus community will recall that the now defunct fraternities, Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon, were both revealed to have histories of rampant sexual assault and racist and bigoted language. Anti-frat sentiment on campus came to a head in the form of an extended sit-in in the Phi Psi frat house, leading first to the self-disbandment of both frat chapters and then to the administration’s banning of all Greek life on campus.
“The history of Greek life at Swarthmore is a troubled one,” continued the announcement email, “and this administration is deeply committed to moving beyond that dark past and creating a safe and nurturing environment for all of its students.” The announcement explained that this commitment has led the administration to dedicate this house to the male lacrosse and baseball teams as a space in which to grow and thrive in an institutionally-supported brotherly allyship.
“Members of this exclusive boy’s club will be asked to pay dues, undergo entrance rituals, and conform to the cultural standards of the club’s leaders and elder members,” the email said. “It is to these processes that we entrust the maintenance of the club’s moral fiber and particularly its honorable, masculine backbone.”
The administration’s announcement went on to specify that the dangerous and immoral fraternity behavior that once haunted this house will be warded off by a careful selection process: prospective members will need to “rush” the club. Because the administration has left the details of this process to the club’s founding leaders, it is unclear whether hopefuls intent on a spot in this new “cadre of fellows” will be forced to woefully over-drink, wear uncomfortable or emasculating clothing, strip naked in front of their fellow “brothers,” or something else entirely as they attempt to prove that they are prepared to live up to the club’s high ethical standards.
“Social events will be hosted by the club, and any member of the campus community will be welcome to come into the club’s space, drink the club’s alcohol, and perhaps (if any guest can prove to be so lucky) be invited into the club’s underground ‘sanctum,’ where they may be allowed to sit with the club’s members and to enjoy the status privileges that come along with such proximity.”
Student activists have expressed a deep sense of relief that a repeat of the harmful history of fraternity activity at Swarthmore will be so deliberately avoided by the administration’s new plan for the building.
“I’m just so glad to know the administration has our backs on this one,” reported Philip Schmitt ’23 in an interview with the Phoenix. “I look forward to having a progressive space on campus where I can go on a Saturday night to stand around in a sweaty group of men and listen to bad music while drinking Natty Lite.”
The email concluded with a statement of sincere hope that with some time this new “lad’s salon” might come to exist as a “chapter” of a larger, national consortium of similarly-minded young men.