Both Fraternities Disband Following Sit-In by Coalition to End Fraternity Violence

On Saturday, April 27, students from the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence at Swarthmore college began a sit-in in Phi Psi Fraternity. The main stated goals were to 1) terminate the leases of the fraternity college-owned houses, 2) disband the fraternities and 3) reallocate the houses to students who have been historically marginalized by the presence of the fraternities. Four days after the sit-in began, both of Swarthmore’s fraternities - Delta Upsilon (DU) and Phi Psi - voluntarily announced their disbandment. At around 9:10PM on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019, Delta Upsilon posted on its Facebook page that its members had unanimously decided to disband the fraternity. It continued by saying, “We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing.” Immediately after the announcement, cheers erupted out of the Phi Psi house, and students rushed next door to the patio of the DU house to celebrate.

One hour later, Phi Psi posted a similar announcement on its Facebook page, writing, “At 8:00 PM tonight, April 30th, the brothers unanimously voted to dissolve Phi Psi fraternity on Swarthmore’s campus following a week of deliberation.” It also acknowledged the leak of internal documents two weeks prior, writing, “Since the start of our membership, we made it our mission to improve the culture and perception of Phi Psi. Unfortunately, the wounds are too deep to repair, and the best course of action for all those involved is to disband the fraternity completely and give up the fraternity house.” Students celebrated inside the house, chanting “we did this,” and “they’re never coming back.”

At 12:43 am on May 1st, President of the College Valerie Smith, sent an email to all students addressing the disbandments, saying the Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards, set to finalize its recommendations about fraternities this Friday, will continue its work. The email read, “Earlier tonight, we learned separately from both Phi Psi and DU that they each decided to disband and relinquish their houses. We respect these students’ decision to take this action, and we appreciate their strong condemnation of behavior described in the 2013-16 materials that have recently come to light. Regardless of their decisions, the work related to the Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards will continue as planned and as we have articulated.”

The email continued, “We have heard heartbreaking stories from students who feel unwelcome to the point of wanting to transfer out of our community. Those stories have come from across the spectrum of our student body—from student protesters to fraternity members. [...] We cannot tolerate unsubstantiated attacks directed at individual students or student groups—as too many students have recently endured.”

President Smith also referenced the leaked Phi Psi Historical Archives published in Voices and the Phoenix in her email, writing, “At this time, we have no evidence that any current student participated in the behaviors documented in those materials. An external investigator will still analyze the documents to confirm whether this is the case.” On April 18th, Voices reported on these documents, suggesting evidence of hazing occurring as recently as the pledge class of 2016, current Swarthmore juniors. The Phoenix also reported on the hazing.

In this email, President Smith did not acknowledge the 67 submissions of alleged instances of harm in both fraternities documented on the Tumblr page Why Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go—testimonies which, according to the creators of the Tumblr, span the years 2015-2019. In its original article on the leaked archives, Voices verified that at least one of these submissions is from a current student.

Daria Mateescu ‘20, a member of the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, said last night that the sit-in will continue indefinitely, to ensure the reallocation of the space to marginalized student groups and to push administrative action to make these disbandments and lease terminations official and permanent.

Cover photo by Grace Dumdaw ‘21