Aja Letter of Solidarity with the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence
As members of Aja, a collective of Black womxn, femmes, and non-binary people at Swarthmore College, we write to express our solidarity with the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence. We demand that Swarthmore College permanently terminates the leases of both Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon.
It is important to highlight the deep history of racist, sexist, homophobic, and classist violence that unifies American “social” fraternities. Their very existence rests on the foundation of exclusion. Young, white, wealthy men created social fraternities to separate themselves from their middle-class peers, and rose to notoriety during a period of widespread and largely forgotten campus violence. Claiming belligerence as their birthright, social fraternities cultivated a lifestyle that revolved around recklessness, elitism, and sexual violence. It was customary for fraternity members to sexually violate women, particularly the Black women that they enslaved. Black women were, and continue to be, the most vulnerable to exploitation and harm by these institutions. To resist pushback, these fraternities secured their power by placing their own members in positions of authority on campus, and conspiring to ensure that only they received scholarships, leadership positions, and awards. These egregious practices persisted until the early 1900s.
Today, social fraternities are examined with little attention paid to their heinous history, and this has allowed them to escape accountability for decades. Swarthmore’s fraternities exploit this, peddling the false narrative that they are one of the “good” fraternities, but they are equally complicit in reproducing the exclusionary legacy of social fraternities. In Phi Psi’s leaked “minutes”, along with the display of bigoted language and behavior, they cite the fact that “5% of [the] population has Greek Life [sic] background, but 80% of fortune 500 companies were Greek” as a reason why one should join the fraternity. This figure only highlights the insidious cycle of elitism that fraternities sustain. If Phi Psi was truly committed to producing “agents of meaningful change”, as their statement suggests, why would evidence of their organization’s complicity in America’s epidemic of wealth inequality be a source of pride?
It is true that everyone is capable of “positive and transformative change”, as Phi Psi’s statement puts forward. But we have yet to see their alleged capabilities of change even attempted to be brought to fruition. Transformative justice does not exist without accountability. What we have seen from Phi Psi’s leadership is defensiveness and deflection. The only way we can hold Phi Psi accountable for their actions is to revoke their privilege to be an an exclusive, elitist organization on this campus. We believe that Swarthmore can do better. We believe that Swarthmore cares about the violence that permeates the actions and existence of Phi Psi, from its origins to its actions of the present day. We affirm the vision of the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence. We invite our fellow students, including those who are affiliated with the fraternities, to do the same.