Administrators Respond to Leaked Archives, Student Activists Frustrated by Seeming Inaction

In the week since Voices and the Phoenix published articles containing the leaked Phi Psi Historical Archives, students have gathered to form a Coalition to End Fraternity Violence; circulated a petition with now over 890 signatures to end fraternity leases immediately; protested outside of the Student Social Life and Community Standards Task Force meeting last Friday; held a space with music, art, and food, culminating in a sleepover outside both fraternity houses last Saturday; disrupted a meeting in the Office of Student Engagement on Monday, calling on Fraternity Liaison Andrew Barclay to cease giving alcohol and party permits to either fraternity; and protested outside of Associate Dean of Student Life Nathan Miller’s office. Priya Dieterich ‘18 has also created a pledge asking alums and parents not to donate to the College until it terminates its leases with both fraternities.

In a campus-wide email on Thursday, April 18th, with the subject line “Reflections on today’s disturbing news,” Dean of Students Jim Terhune wrote, “Although we are just beginning to fully review all that it includes, we share the outrage that has been expressed today.” Terhune indicated that the College is investigating the documents in the leaked archives in another campus wide email on Tuesday, April 23rd. He wrote, “As I said last week when I first saw the disturbing materials relating to Phi Psi members from 2013-16, we are reviewing the documents and will take action as appropriate to address any ongoing behavior or actions involving current students.”

Mike Hill, Director of Public Safety, echoed Terhune’s statements about investigating the contents of the archives as they relate to current students. He wrote to Voices, “The comments and behavior that are described [in the leaked archives] are antithetical to our community and to our values. If anything that is described is found to pertain to current students, we will work with our colleagues in the Deans Division and the Title IX Office to address it.” Miller also reiterated that investigations are taking place, writing “These documents raise important questions about current/ongoing practices within Phi Psi, and we are investigating those carefully. […] I am committed to investigating any allegations of violations of the College’s Student Code of Conduct.”

As of today, no members of the Swarthmore administration have reached out to Voices to request the original, unredacted documents, which include evidence of hazing Phi Psi pledges as recently as 2016, a group that includes current juniors, and at least two of whom are currently in Phi Psi leadership.

In the same April 23rd email, Dean Terhune condemned “disruptive behavior” and “disorderly conduct,” seemingly referencing public, nonviolent protests that Organizing for Survivors (O4S) and the newly formed Coalition to End Fraternity Violence has engaged in since last Thursday. He wrote, “outrage over these materials is well justified. 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.”

O4S released a public statement the evening of April 23rd, in response to this email, that read, “[Dean Terhune] described student protest as ‘disorderly’ and ‘unproductive’, citing ‘community values and accountability’, and threatening disciplinary action. We wish to ask Dean Terhune and the College: what are our community values? [...] While we wait on the task force, Phi Psi and DU are allowed to continue to host parties, parties where fraternity brothers have access to a bedroom that locks from the inside—bedrooms well-documented as spaces of sexual violence from at least 2012 to the present day.”

The O4S statement also references that the aforementioned Student Social Life and Community Standards Task Force, charged with investigating the role of fraternities on campus and making recommendations to President Valerie Smith, has allegedly pushed back the release of its recommendations, which were originally set to come out by the end of April, to May 10th. O4S wrote, “The pattern of hearing concerns and continuously, dangerously delaying action is deeply troubling. If the College cannot commit to basic measures to prevent further violence, how can we trust they will make the right decision regarding the broader issue of fraternity violence and exclusion?”

Lisa Meeden, co-chair of the Task Force, wrote to Voices, “The Task Force has been gathering input from the community for more than three months and has received hundreds of additional emails just in the past week. The Task Force will be considering these leaked documents very seriously as we work to develop our recommendations for President Smith.” When asked about the alleged extension of the Task Force’s recommendation release, Meeden wrote, “Our goal was to have the report completed by the end of April so that President Smith would have a week to review it prior to the Board meeting in May. We have one final meeting, this Friday, and are focused on completing our report.”

In an email to Voices, Dean Miller wrote of the Task Force, “I think it’s important to separate the student conduct process (investigating allegations against either specific individuals or organizations) and the overall work of the task force. The task force is looking at these issues holistically, and when President Smith receives their recommendations and makes her decision, I’m confident it will take the whole picture into account.”

Yesterday, the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence protested outside of Miller’s office expressing frustration that administration had not requested the unredacted files. When organizers confronted Miller at his office, he refused to speak to them, attempting to close his office suite door and enter his private office. Organizers read stories from the Tumblr page “Why Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go” as Miller retreated into his private office. The student organizers ultimately decided to slide the papers from which they were reading under Miller’s office door, saying that they would return to continue this protest.

O4S has been calling for Dean Miller’s resignation since last spring, when they conducted a sit-in in his and former Dean of Students Liz Braun’s offices. Amal Haddad ‘22, O4S organizer and member of the Coalition, said, “Yesterday Andrew Barclay said that our asks of him were mostly up to conduct, so we brought our demands to Nathan Miller. […] He has known about and enabled systemic sexual violence and violent exclusion in the fraternities for years, while continuing to target activists at Swarthmore.” According to a Huffington Post article, during Spring of 2013, Miller sent letters to ten students activists who protested the administrative mishandling of sexual assault at Dartmouth, informing them that they faced possible adjudications for violating the student code of conduct. This rhetoric is mirrored in Terhune’s April 23rd email where he wrote, in reference to the O4S protest directed at Barclay, “All members of the community should understand that disorderly conduct is unacceptable and violates policies stated in the student handbook.” Voices could not confirm whether Miller was fired from his position at Dartmouth for the above incident.

In a Facebook post with a video of their Wednesday protest, O4S wrote, “students were willing to disrupt the workday and refuse to let business go on as usual, because we are desperate for the College to act—first, to enact both short term measures and, then, to end the leases for good.” In a direct call to supporters, they concluded, “we hope you will stand with us as we continue to use the power of nonviolent direct action to seek justice.”