Statement to Student Social Events and Community Standards Task Force

On Friday, April 19th, members of the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence protested outside the Student Social Events and Community Standards Task Force meeting. At this protest, they read the following statement.

We are here because we know these documents, along with the recently published Tumblr archive, show there is no need for further debate on the fraternity leases at Swarthmore College. The Tumblr archive of over fifty submissions of violence in both Phi Psi and DU, and the leaked Phi Psi documents with over 117 pages of horror, show us that there is no question about whether the fraternities are disproportionately racist, homophobic, and sexually violent. There is no need to question how this committee can weigh the happiness and weekend enjoyment of fraternity brothers –– students, alumni, and board members –– on one hand, and the safety of everyone else on the other. There needs to be no further discussion: the fraternity leases must end immediately. We are here to say students have already decided the fraternity leases must end immediately.

The college has known for years about harm in the fraternities. Administrators have listened to and dismissed pleas for change for years. Almost none of the patterns displayed in these documents are new. They are not new to us and they are not new to administrators. While we all may be disturbed and outraged to find it in this form, we cannot pretend we are shocked.

Dean Terhune, we have respect for our fellow students. We do believe in and uphold community standards of justice, care for others, and community. It is because of these values that we refuse to allow another year of violence and harm to happen in the fraternities as the college renews the leases. It is because of these values that we reject the call for so-called civility, which looks like waiting on a right decision we don’t have faith will come.

In 2013, it was written: “Also how embarrassed would you be if you were in DU right now? Your parties suck, you have both a rape tunnel AND a rape attic (gotta choose one or the other).”

In 2019, this was shared on the Tumblr: “I have had many friends be taken to the room upstairs by a fraternity member and the door be locked when I went up there to get them.” So was this, “I’m a member of the tri-co, my friends and I frequented the frats regularly at the beginning of college. My partner was a brother, but he stood by and watched as multiple of my friends were led into the back room of the basement. When I asked him to lead me down there, he told me “If they went into the back room, there’s nothing I can do”. My friend came to me the next morning crying about being assaulted.”

In 2013, it was written: “Nothing better than basement takedowns and tiny Asian chicks getting pummeled with full sheet cakes bearing the one and only [NAME]’s face. You guys make the minutes, I just sit behind my laptop and craft offensive shit.” The entry continues, “[NAME] had some lady friend upstairs late night (May or may not have a different skin color). Well [NAME 1] and [NAME 2] (mainly [NAME 1]) wanted a peak. After perfuse banging on the door [NAME 1] finally screams, ‘[NAME 2] WANTS TO SEE SOME BLACK NIPS!!!’”

In 2013, Asian women were discussed with derogatory and fetishizing language. There are accounts of violently harassing Black women in relationships with fraternity members.

In the files, there is a picture of the Intercultural Center (IC) door, with urine and a photoshopped image of a urinal on it. This references an actual incident of vandalism in 2013 in which the IC was actually urinated on, by unknown students.

In 2019, the Tumblr says: “A friend of mine made out with a Black student while at the frat. A fraternity member videotaped her, texted it to people, and told her “that’s really low of you.”

Currently, Phi Psi has a venmo-based penalty system for rampant uses of racial and homophobic slurs, that directs fines right back to the fraternity. Students report ongoing systemic slur usage, marginalization and racist aggression by fraternity members and party-goers that make fraternities dangerous spaces for students of color.

In 2013, Phi Psi says: “The funniest part about this story is how the house smelled like we were hoarding 8 pounds of weed in the walls and pub safe didn’t do shit. Like they garner no respect from anyone. No one even stopped their illegal activities when they entered the house. I said this before and I will say it again, being a public safety officer at Swarthmore is like being assigned the caboose of the line in 1st grade. Absolutely zero respect. Everybody knows the line leader got all the fame.”

In 2019, just last week, Pub Safe attended Phi Psi’s barbecue, and smiled for pictures with fraternity members. Phi Psi later posted the picture to their public Instagram, as criticism of both organizations –– and their relationship –– emerge from students.

In 2013, sexual assault is continuously mocked. “[NAME’ just absolutely smacked [NAME]’s ass for no reason. It was a good windup too. He made solid contact and acted like it aint no thang […] It is a really good thing that [NAME] and her “Clery Clan” did not find out about this one.” The “Clery Clan” refers to a group of survivors pursuing legal complaints against the College for Title IX mishandling.

In 2019, it is reported that, At an event soon after the Kavanaugh hearing, fraternity members chanted “I liked beer, I still like beer” (a quote from Kavanaugh’s testimony) in unison.

It is also reported that a student was found not responsible in a Title IX hearing and convened a “found innocent” drinking gathering with his friends.

Just a few weeks ago, fraternity members were heard loudly using derogatory language to describe activists in this room.

What else is there to discuss here? The violence, harm, bigotry, and exclusion of 2013 is the violence, harm, bigotry, and exclusion of 2019. The hazing tasks have stayed the same, and so have the attitudes of entitlement and impunity. Consent mentorship programs haven’t worked

We need to figure out, as a community, about what comes after the leases go-- how to transform social life and create safer healthier party cultures, how we should repurpose those houses, a form of social power, to marginalized students who need institutional resources, what pressing needs can be addressed with these buildings, how we can root out all white supremacy and homophobia on this campus wherever it may be-- but we have no questions about what must be done about the leases. It is time to abolish fraternity houses once and for all.

The fraternity is not the only source of sexual violence, racism, homophobia, or misogyny on this campus and ending the leases will not alone end these dynamics that harm so many of us every day.

At the same time, there is no world free of oppression without dismantling fraternities, here and everywhere else. They are, at their very foundation, about excluding and harming others. They have no place in a safe and just world, and they have no place at Swarthmore College. Accountability for these horrors looks like systemic change, and systemic change begins by ending the leases.

We will be waiting outside of this meeting, and we hope at the end you can come outside and tell us you are standing on the side of justice: that you are recommending to President Smith a complete termination of fraternity leases, that you are standing with us, students, and especially survivors and marginalized students who are being actively harmed through inaction. We need to know you are with us.