BREAKING NEWS: Protesters Move Sit-In to President Val Smith's Office, Physical Force Used By Public Safety, Police Present
At approximately 1:00 pm on Thursday, May 2, 2019, the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence declared that the Phi Psi Fraternity house on campus was officially “our house.” A group of about 100 students marched from the house to Parrish Hall with signs that fraternity members had stolen from bars, streets, and other locations over the years to hang in their fraternity house. Swarthmore Borough Police arrived on scene at the fraternity house and forced, under threat of arrest, at least two students who had remained inside to leave the building. They then locked the building. Many students’ belongings including bedsheets, cell phones, air mattresses, chargers, and more remain locked inside the former fraternity house. Students were told that college administrators are unsure when their belongings will be returned to them. Former Phi Psi Fraternity members were spotted speaking in a group outside of Tarble at the time.
Meanwhile, at Parrish Hall, ten students are currently locked inside President Valerie Smith’s office and are not being permitted to come and go freely. Dozens of supporters from the Coalition line the hallway, chanting songs like “which side are you on?”
Officers are currently at both the sit-in in Parrish and the Phi Psi fraternity house. Students have video evidence of physical force and verbal threats from Public Safety officers and Police officers, including a Public Safety officer pushing Jordan Reyes ‘19 to the ground, which students are circulating on Facebook and Twitter. O4S tweeted this video of a police officer saying to student organizer Amal Haddad ‘22 “don’t test me.”
At 2:01 pm, President Smith sent the following email to all students, faculty, and staff:
“Dear faculty, staff, and students,
I write to inform you of a situation currently unfolding in Parrish Hall.
Earlier today a group of students entered my office and refused to leave. They said that they wanted to deliver a letter to me, but they have not yet produced it.
As many of you know, I am now my mother’s primary caregiver. I’m working from home today to help care for her because she cannot be left alone. I explained to the students by phone that I would speak with them in person if they all left my office; that I would meet with them in the Rose Garden; and that I would have to bring her with me.
The students refused my offer.
Right now, there are serious safety concerns in Parrish Hall, and the students are in clear violation of our policies. I am willing to meet with them after my office has been vacated.
O4S published a response to this statement on Facebook, reprinted below:
“RE: PRESIDENT SMITH'S EMAIL: We are peacefully sitting-in in the President's office as a way to remind the College they must be accountable to us, and to symbolize the gravity of this decision. We have no need to speak with President Smith at this time, we did not request a meeting, and we very much respect her need to care for her mother. We have heard her decision to wait for the task force, and we are not protesting her absence in the office.
Earlier, we said: ‘As she makes her final decision, at the end of this painful and frustrating process, we will be watching and waiting. We will be in President Smith's office every day until we know our demands are being met and fraternity violence will come to a permanent end at Swarthmore College. We need President Smith and every administrator to stand with us, with survivors, with all students harmed, marginalized, and excluded. We need to make sure the College finally comes down on the side of justice.’
That is why we are nonviolently, peacefully outside of her office in Parrish.”
This story is developing.