Phi Psi Lease Revealed: Four Big Takeaways

On Tuesday, April 30th, unsolicited, a Voices representative was handed a physical copy of the 2018-2019 Phi Psi building lease. The lease, in full, can be found below. Some significant terms of the lease are as follows.

1. Cost of the lease

The dollar amount of the lease has been widely-speculated over the years. The lease costs $13,210.32, to be paid in three installments of $4,403.44 – once in October, once in March, and once in June.

2. Occupancy of the building inhabitant

On Saturday, administrators visited students at the sit-in at Phi Psi fraternity. Jenny Xu ‘22, Organizing for Survivors (O4S) organizer, said to Voices, “we asked why they can’t move [the current occupant of the fraternity house] out of the bedroom already? [The administrator] said that to move [the occupant] out of the bedroom requires the college to terminate the lease of Phi Psi because he personally signed the lease. […] The house is leased to him is the language she used.” Morgin Goldberg ‘19 of O4s also said in an interview with Voices, “administrators told us the reason the student could not be removed from the room is because he was tied to the lease.” The lease is not signed by the student occupant, it is signed by John J. Purdy, identified on the lease as an “Alumni Council Member.” The lease also says it shall be signed by “Swarthmore Phi Psi Alumni Association on behalf of the Phi Omicron Psi Fraternity.”

Xu also mentioned that administrators said the house functioned, due to the lease, too dissimilarly from a dorm room for administrators to remove the inhabitant and move him into a dorm. The lease mentions some similarities to dorm room regulations. For example, Term 2 states, “The move-in and move-out date for the Property resident shall be the same as the dates for residence hall move-in and move-out,” and “the Member-resident must at all times be an active, currently enrolled student of Swarthmore College.”

3. Compliance with law and college policy

Term 13 of the lease states that the lessee and all Phi Psi members must comply with federal, state, and local laws as well as Swarthmore College policies or its lease may be terminated. While Phi Psi fraternity has been suspended several times for violating College policy and the law, Voices could find no recorded instance of its lease being terminated. Most recently, when Phi Psi was suspended for the spring and fall 2017 semesters, the lease was not terminated.

In an interview with Voices, Goldberg said “Priya Dieterich ‘18 and I, my sophomore year, met with many administrators asking for terms of the lease including […asking questions like] Does the group have any amount of Title IX violations [before they lose the lease,] is there anything they can do to lose the lease, is there any threshold on behavior?” The 2018-2019 lease reads, “Noncompliance with this provision will be grounds for termination of this Lease, at Lessor’s option” regarding following laws and College policies.

4. Inspection

Term 14 of the lease reads “Except in the case of an emergency when Lessee gives consent for Lessor to enter, Lessor shall give Lessee twenty-four (24) hours written notice of intent to enter, which Lessee agrees is reasonable.” In other words, the Lessor, Gregory Brown, VP of Finance and Administration, signed as a representative for Swarthmore College, cannot enter the building without 24-hour written notice, unless in case of emergency.

The lease reveals a significant relationship between the fraternity and the administration. Each year, the administration chooses to renew the Lease, often despite behavioral infractions that result in suspensions or probations of the fraternity. As of April 30, 2019, Phi Psi posted in a statement to Facebook that it had decided “to disband the fraternity completely and give up the fraternity house.”

Students have been calling for the lease to be made public since at least 2016, according to Goldberg. The lease, now publicly available for the first time, can is here:

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