Swarthmore Delta Upsilon Disbands after Decades of Harm Accusations and Anti-Frat Activism: “Newsletters” Circulated in 1983, “Minutes” from 2013 Leaked, Tumblr Story Revealed
Content Warning: Sexism, ableism, racism, anti-semitism, and graphic descriptions of sexual violence
DU Disbands on Fourth Day of Sit-In
On Tuesday evening, the fourth day of a sit-in in the Phi Psi fraternity house led by the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence and Organizing for Survivors (O4S), Delta Upsilon’s (DU) Swarthmore chapter voluntarily disbanded, after generations of accusations of sexism, racism, homophobia, and sexual violence. DU’s statement about the disbandment can be read on its Facebook page.
In an interview with Voices, an anonymous member of the recently-disbanded DU said of the decision, “I think we realized that there was no way in which we could operate as an organization on campus at this point and we had two options: either wait for [President] Val Smith to, I’m assuming terminate the leases [...] or do what I think was ultimately the right thing and decide to sort of take the proactive step in this way.”
After interviewing alums from as early as the class of 1983, investigating an unsolicited, anonymous leak of internal DU “minutes” from 2013, and speaking to current students about their alleged experiences of harm at the hands of now former DU members, in the following piece, Voices documents much of DU’s history of harm accusations and student resistance to the fraternity.
Alums Say Internal DU Documents Containing “Rape Jokes,” Hitler Quotes Circulated in 1983
After the publishing of the leaked “Phi Psi Historical Archives” on April 18th, 2019, alums expressed their outrage and disgust at the documents. Others, however, were much less surprised. According to Dan Feinberg ‘83, the leaking of internal fraternity documents is not new; he has participated in it himself, in the spring of 1983, after Kate Bond ‘87 received internal DU “newsletters.” This chain of events began when, in the fall of 1982, as Bond said, “I was asleep and I woke to find a guy in his underwear at the seat of my bed. And I woke up and he ran out.” After reporting it to Public Safety, she received threats, including vulgar messages on the board outside her dorm room and in her mailbox. In the spring, two weeks into the semester, she found in her mailbox, “what looked like the minutes of a fraternity meeting in which there was a reference to [her] having been raped by one of the brothers.”
Feinberg added in an interview to Voices, “There was a lot of misogynistic comments in the newsletters, a lot of homophobic statements in the communications, and then also quite offensive, there were a number of quotes from Mein Kampf.”
Bond remembered taking these documents to administration and recalled a moment where an administrator told her, “eventually this is what happens in the real world and you’re going to have to learn how to live with it.” At this point, she said, her brother, Patrick Bond ‘83, decided to force the administration into action.
According to Feinberg, a group of students, including Feinberg himself, printed out about 1,400 copies of the documents and stuffed them into the mailboxes of every student, faculty member, and administrator on campus. Feinberg said, “That was our way of sending an email to the entire campus, so the administration could not keep things under the rug. We thought that it would lead to serious action. We saw, in our minds, the only way to solve the problem was to shut down DU given [...] what these newsletters revealed about how these people viewed many members on campus - how they viewed women on campus, how they viewed gays and lesbians, how they viewed Jewish students.”
Danny Weitzner ‘86 also recalled these documents, saying in an interview with Voices “there were excerpts from Mein Kampf and all kinds of disgusting things.” Juan Gelpi ‘84 also recalled this incident in an email to Voices. He wrote, “In February, or March of 1983, [...] an internal newsletter was circulated via campus mail. [...] The newsletter was eerily like [the “minutes” in the leaked Phi Psi Historical Archives]. It contained racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language, and referred to the rape or sexual assault of a specific student. In addition, it contained quotations from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.”
Gelpi continued, “None of us were surprised. In many ways, it confirmed what we had always believed about DU, in particular, and the fraternities in general… there was sufficient outrage, though, that many of us felt that the entire Greek system ought to be reevaluated.”
When asked about retaliation from fraternity members, Feinberg recalled that, one morning, after Tom Finholt ‘83 was identified as a leader of the group who distributed the DU documents, fraternity members allegedly nailed a dead chicken to his dorm room door. In an interview with Voices, Finholt said, “I can remember the immediate consequence for me was that I had a headless chicken hung on the doorknob of my dorm room. I can’t remember whether other people got these or not - it was clearly meant to be some form of intimidation or warning.”
Bond also recalled a frustration with the attitude of the other students on campus, saying that the conversation “was more about who had the right to share those minutes, and so it just kind of shows you how at that time there were debates about free speech versus the right to safety of a freshman student.” Finholt mentioned a similar sentiment, saying “I know there was some concern over the privacy of the protected communication of the fraternity had been violated, but I don’t think anyone found they had a leg to stand on given the nature of the content of the newsletter.”
According to Feinberg, administrators were largely silent during this time. “Things were kept quiet and we were pretty much kept in the dark. It’s just much harder to keep things quiet, to keep students in the dark these days, just because the information is so widespread,” he said, commenting on the ease of sending campus-wide emails. Gelpi echoed this, writing, “DU lost their franchise, and was ‘kicked off campus.’ Of course, all of the members remained on campus, and, as far as I know, no individual member ever faced legal or administrative repercussions for the content of the newsletter, or the sexual assault.”
Bond also expressed frustration over the administration’s response. “The administration sort of treated it as - ‘here’s a problem between a few students,’” she said. “They didn’t see this as a more fundamental problem of culture of behavior in the fraternity. I think their view was, ‘let time pass. Let these students get through this, and then reinstate.’” When a discussion around the reinstatement of DU arose in the fall of 1984, Bond wrote an op-ed in The Phoenix, sharing her experiences with the fraternity.
In her interview with Voices, Bond outlined the lasting effects of her first year at Swarthmore. In the fall of 1983, she took a leave of absence and again decided to study abroad during the 1984-1985 school year. “It was really kind of just, for a period of time trying to decide if I would actually transfer somewhere else,” she admitted. Thinking about her interactions with administration, she said, “I felt a real betrayal that someone’s rights and privilege were more important than my safety.” She also confided to Voices that, because of her experience as a student, she has not returned to Swarthmore since she graduated.
These documents were, according to alums, part of a larger culture of misogyny and bigotry at DU. Bond recalled being invited to fraternity parties in the fall of her freshman year. “I think the practice was, you look at the pictures of the freshman class of girls coming in and then target individuals to be invited to these parties,” she said. Weitzner added that “at least once and maybe more times, there were DU members who burned copies of Penthouse and Hustler and maybe some other [pornographic] magazines in front of the Women’s Center door. There were a whole series of allegations about sexual assault, claims about high school-aged women being brought to parties, there was a whole set of incidents like that.” Gelpi furthered, “There had been several incidents which had threatened the continuation of the fraternity on campus. The first was something called the ‘hat party,’ at which, if I am remembering correctly, there had been threats leveled at a gay man.”
Additionally, Jamie Stiehm ‘83 recalls an incident on “Blue Jeans Day.” She said in an interview with Voices, “that was the day the gay students group had asked people to wear jeans in silent support of gay rights. […] DU men purposely dressed up in suits, in blazers and ties, and were burning a pair of jeans, an effigy [on the Sharples patio]. I looked [a DU member] squarely in the eye and I said this cannot happen here.” Gelpi also recalled this incident, writing to Voices, “[in] the notorious jeans burning incident […] the overtones of cross burning and the KKK were not lost on any of us.”
Weitzner said the ultimate decision to create the Committee on the Status of Delta Upsilon had to do not with bigotry or sexual violence perpetrated by the fraternity, but with a tree being cut down on campus. “Ironically enough, the straw that broke the camel’s back that finally got the administration to do something was that DU had a Christmas party. […] and they needed a Christmas tree and they cut down what was apparently an incredibly rare pine tree part that was part of the arboretum collection. They invited the head of the Scott Arboretum to the party and he saw his tree there and that is actually what precipitated the more aggressive administration action which we all found outrageous and ironic. Then there was the committee.”
Gelpi also recalled this incident, writing to Voices, “We did joke that homophobia wasn’t enough to get you kicked off campus, but boy, chop down the wrong tree, and you were out. There was a feeling that the administration didn’t really take seriously the homophobia and misogyny of the organization.”
The committee, according to Weitzner, recommended measures that were “more aggressive than what the administration eventually did. We certainly thought at the time that the Board of Managers which at the time was shared by Neil Austrian [‘61], a DU alum and significant donor, I certainly remember feeling as if […] he basically ignored a lot of what we had to say because he was ultimately loyal to DU.”
According to an article published in the February 11th, 1983 edition of the Phoenix, the committee had “planned to propose an annually renewable release subject to a three-year probationary period” but decided to completely revoke the lease after the leak of the documents and DU’s response, which, as then-Swarthmore President David Fraser was quoted saying, was “that (they) [were] not sufficiently aware of or sensitive to the important values of the community.” President Fraser was also quoted saying, “I have determined that Delta Upsilon shall continue not to exist here at least through the fall semester of 1984,” and that the lease would not be reconsidered for two years. In the following week’s edition of the Phoenix, Dean Janet Dickerson was quoted saying, “Throughout the many months on the D.U. issue, we were certainly aware of the alumni factor - the support that they provide to the College.”
Alums Say Not Much Has Changed, Advocate for Ending Fraternities on Campus
Stiehm said of the leaked archives from two weeks ago, “I was shocked. That was not the character of Phi Psi when I was there. It was known as the mild and friendly faced fraternity. DU was the problematic one.” Bond was similarly shocked by the descriptions outlined in the “minutes.” She said, “All I can do is feel, first very saddened about the number of people who’ve had to experience that, knowing and seeing what I saw so many years ago in terms of the underlying culture of what was driving that kind of behavior and the unwillingness to look at that and address it at that time. Second, I truly admire and appreciate the students’ courage and actions in achieving today what we couldn’t back then.”
Feinberg expressed his disappointment in the College for its seeming lack of action in the 1980s and now. “It was very upsetting because you just hope, you have a belief in progress even though there’s so much evidence that constantly hits you in the face to undermine that belief. [...] It made me very sad that not much has changed, that the College still gives support to these fraternity houses that unfortunately are a negative influence on the College community and have caused a real, disproportionate amount of problems, and make many people who are members of the community feel unsafe or unwelcome. There are other schools that have done away with the Greek system. I think those schools are the better for it, and I think that Swarthmore would be better off without the fraternities. That was clear to me 35 years ago, and that’s clear to me today.” Feinberg also sent an email to the Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards documenting his frustrations and calling on the College to terminate the fraternity leases. The Task Force has not responded to his email.
Gelpi wrote to Voices, “It is depressing how little has changed at Swarthmore between 1984, when I graduated in 2019.” He continued, writing to Voices that he signed the currently circulating “No Donation Pledge,” asking alumni to cease donations to the College until fraternity leases are terminated, because, “It is long past time to address this. Generations of students have been victimized, with, at best, an anemic response by generations of administrators. [...] These organizations have long past outlived their usefulness to the community, and remain as anachronisms of white male privilege. The lack of institutional memory, and the turnover of students, has allowed this behavior to go, essentially, unchecked.”
David Hill ‘13, an alum who was a member of DU, said to Voices, “I am 100% behind the anti-frat activists. [...] I fully support the ending of the leases of both fraternities, not just Phi Psi. [...] Even though I personally benefited from it at the time, and I guess it’s perhaps hypocritical to call for their abolition now, I still think it’s the right thing. I support the efforts to end, at the very minimum, the fraternity leases.”
As of Tuesday evening, both fraternities have voluntarily disbanded and given up their leases.
Internal DU “Minutes” and “Election Notes” From 2013, Leaked
Last week, only a few days after publishing the leaked “Phi Psi Historical Archives,” Voices received another anonymous leak, this time containing 21 pages of internal “minutes” and notes from Swarthmore’s other recently-disbanded fraternity, Delta Upsilon (DU). These leaked documents can be found here. These “minutes” were seemingly circulated in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013 going into the summer; the same time as the “minutes” in the Phi Psi leaked archives were being kept. The redactions you see in this 23 page document were made before Voices received access to the documents; this PDF and the excerpts printed below are published exactly as Voices received them, with the exception of three additional name redactions on its final page, made by Voices in white.
Last Thursday, Voices published a quote from an anonymous alum who was a member of DU, divulging to Voices that DU shared “minutes” similar to Phi Psi’s, internally via email listserv, at least while he was a member. Unlike the Phi Psi listserv, however, the DU listserv did not use Swarthmore server email addresses. The anonymous DU alum said to Voices, “It was DU policy that all pledging individuals and all members of DU have a Gmail account from which to receive official emails and minutes and other communications from the fraternity, separate and apart from any Swarthmore email that we had.”
The original emails containing the “minutes” appear to have been sent to a DU Google Group, which Voices was told contained all members of the fraternity at the time. The anonymous DU alum told Voices in an interview that “we would receive meeting invitations or just general updates or sign up sheets for parties, etcetera, [this] was also the means by which the minutes were distributed.” He added that he believed that all members were removed from the listserv when they graduated. He continued, “we were supposed to have a weekly meeting. I would say we had a meeting three out of the four weeks a month, and theoretically there were to be minutes kept at every meeting. The reality was that minutes were very inconsistently kept.”
In an interview with Voices, the anonymous member of formerly DU said that the fraternity does not currently keep minutes to his knowledge.
The earliest entry in the document is titled “election notes” from December 12th, 2012, sent on February 24th, 2013, with the text in the body of the email reading, “The notes will be coming in for the next few days, trying to make up for lost time.” A reply to the email from another DU member reads, “Its [sic] been two months, 21 hours, 46 minutes, and 33 seconds since our last minutes,” suggesting that the fraternity kept “minutes” predating the earliest ones Voices was sent from December of 2012.
This, earliest, December entry reads, in reference to a position of leadership within the fraternity, “This has become a much more important position recently, as some of our brothers have apparently decided to get wasted and make a few too many racist/sexist remarks.”
The documents also contain “awards” with various names like the “Struggle Award” and the “White Knight Award,” which the anonymous DU alum explained “was for someone who did something that was laudatory or they did a good thing...It was intended as an ‘attaboy’ award.” According to the alum, another award referred to specific members of the Swarthmore community, not in DU. For example, the “Angry Man Award,” according to the anonymous DU alum, was named after a female alum who graduated prior to 2013 who “had a reputation for getting angry at the fraternity and engaging in altercations with the brothers.” He continued, “So that award was contingent essentially on people being dumb and angry. Or destructive in some manner. It was to make fun of her and whoever did the thing that was listed that week.”
The “meeting minutes” labeled 4/24, sent to the listserv on April 26th, 2013, reference Phi Psi, and demonstrate ableism. They read, “This also applies to you little shits that have talked openly about post gaming at a different frat (fuck phi psi) IN FRONT OF DELTA UPSILON BROTHERS. Are you people fucking retarded? That's not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you're mentally slow so I can make sure you don't go to anymore night time events. I will fucking cunt punt the next person I hear about doing something like that.”
The minutes labeled “May-August 2013,” sent on August 6th, 2013, reference a fire that occured in the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in the summer of 2013, in addition to the referendum to end fraternities on Swarthmore’s campus that circulated in spring of 2013. They read, “Earlier in the Summer, as you might remember, the WRC decided that in an display [sic] of feminine strength and freedom, that it would go topless for this upcoming year. By this I mean that it got its shit fucked by Zeus. Following the incident, prominent Swarthmore feminists stated that they suspected that DU brothers summoned the Greek God of Lighting as an act of revenge. Referendum question 7, ‘Do you think Fraternities should have the right to interact with ancient deities’, is pending.”
The same “minutes” also read, “While picking a color to paint our mold ridden, beer stained basement walls, I asked the opinion of [REDACTED]. He replied that he thinks a flesh tone would be ok. I made the assumption that he meant off white/tan. When I sent him a picture of the paint sample he was disappointed and said he wanted more of an ‘MLK brown.’”
The summer minutes later reference an alleged sexual interaction involving an underage girl. They read, “[REDACTED] and I observed a level of promiscuity that would be considered a display of a woman’s sexual freedom if it occurred at Swarthmore. As we look to our right, we see a young red-headed lady, who despite being of high school age, for the sake of this story, we will assume was 18. [...] The young female attempted to make a sexual advance upon [REDACTED], and proceeded to thrust her hindquarters into [REDACTED] pelvic region. She then engaged in open mouth kissing with the aforementioned. [...] Grade A USDA Slut. [...] She then applied the same moves on [REDACTED], what a sloppy bitch.”
These “Summer Minutes” also reference a trip that DU members took to a Phillies game, driving through West Philadelphia. They read, “As you can see, it was no coincidence that Will Smith ‘got in one little fight, and his mom got scared’, because when you Google ‘West Philadelphia’ the suggested search options are not ‘Safety’ and ‘Steady Income Households.’”
The final entry in the document is the text of the body of an email that references the “Delta Upsilon Regional Leadership Seminar.” Sent to the Swarthmore DU listserv on February 2nd, 2013, with the subject line “RLS Update!” the email reads, “There was also a talk on good party themes and T-shirt slogans. I'm not sure why, I just woke up and this was the topic of discussion up on the projector screen... so here they are…” The email then lists the “themes,” which included “‘our brotherhood is tighter than your little sister,’ ‘you have to be 21 to drink, but only 18 to cum,’ and ‘giving girls their first pearl necklace since 1834.’”
When asked if the “minutes” were kept a secret, the anonymous DU alum said, “I don’t recall being told not to share them. I don’t think they were some kind of shameful secret. Like obviously there were people’s names in them in a less than flattering light, and I guess it was just understood that we wouldn’t tell them they were there, but I don’t have any recollection of being instructed to keep them secret.”
Alleged Harm in DU Today
Content Warning: Graphic descriptions of sexual violence
Since the creation of the Why Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go Tumblr page in mid April of 2019, dozens of stories of harm in both fraternities have been anonymously shared. Although the stories do not specify the fraternity at which they took place, an anonymous female student confirmed that at least one of the alleged experiences of harm on the Tumblr references a DU member, taking place initially in the DU fraternity house, later moving to a dorm room. The anonymous member of formerly DU told Voices that although he was unaware of specific alleged instances at the time they occurred, retroactively “looking at the Tumblr, there’s sort of things that you can see on there that are, there are tells where you’re like, ‘obviously this is Phi or this is DU.’”
The anonymous female student, who regularly attended Phi Psi and DU parties during her first two years at Swarthmore, utilized the Tumblr page to tell one of her own alleged instances of harm involving a current member of DU. Her submission details becoming drunk to the point of blacking out and spending time in DU on a non-party night with a few other women and several DU members.
Her story explains that her friends realized she was too drunk to be at the fraternity, and a DU member walked her home, and then “had sex with her.” She said a friend found her “half naked on my floor and covered in vomit. I had thrown up several times uncontrollably. [...] I had no idea there had been anyone else in my room. ” In an interview with Voices, she said “I should’ve been sent to the hospital, probably. I’ve never been that drunk in my life.” She was allegedly manipulated into silence by the DU member, who told her she was “lucky a nice guy like him had walked me home and taken care of me.”
In an interview with Voices, she elaborated on the aftermath of this alleged instance of harm. She said, “He asked mutual friends if I was going to ‘do a Title IX on him.’ [...] He got so defensive. He said ‘you were so drunk that I had to walk you home, but not that drunk that I couldn’t have sex with you.’ [...] He recounted the whole thing and told me he remembered everything, but then when other people found out about it [...] he said he didn’t remember much of anything.”
Another anonymous student told Voices about a similar alleged experience of harm with a different DU brother of another class year. She said, “Something that happened to me with a DU brother didn’t happen in the house. I was totally black out [drunk], couldn’t remember anything, and he gave me a story afterwards that didn’t make sense. He said, ‘all my friends and all my brothers think I’m a really good guy, they will tell you. You’re lucky a good guy like me took you home.’” She continued, “That was really startling to me that he invoked the fraternity. [...] When I found out [what happened to the other anonymous student], it was doubly startling. I wondered ‘is this something they tell you you’re supposed to say?’”
The anonymous student also told Voices, “The brothers in that fraternity [DU] seem to have this pattern of actively reassuring girls that they’re – especially now in the wake of the Phi Psi stuff – they start with the gaslighting before you even ask them to, and then say ‘you know we’re not like Phi Psi. You know we’re good guys.’” She continued, “It was frustrating to hear from them that they thought that they might get away with something, with all the focus being on Phi Psi. [...] It’s really important that they [DU] be held just as accountable for the harm that they cause that Phi Psi is.”
The anonymous female student told Voices that she and her friends would often be invited to the fraternity houses when there were no open parties occurring, not unlike the gathering she attended on the night she was allegedly harmed. She said, “My freshman year we did this all the time. Especially in the fall, when DU was the only frat open. We would go all the time, and we would get to go upstairs and they’d all be playing poker and smoking. [...] They definitely used it as an exclusive space to invite girls in and definitely wasn’t seriously monitored by PubSafe.” She continued, “It felt [good] to be included in an exclusive space as a freshman for sure. [...] PubSafe – especially during my freshman fall – would just kind of let us play games and be there at like 4am.”
She told Voices that this year, she and her friends tried to create their own party spaces outside of the fraternities, but were often punished for it, making them feel like the fraternity houses were their only options for party spaces. She said, “We tried to throw stuff where we would have our friends over. PubSafe came in one time--we had maybe twelve girls singing and dancing in the room--we didn’t have any [drinking] games or anything going on. I think there was a handle on the desk. [...] A PubSafe officer came in and told us to go to Phi Psi. He said, ‘Go to the frats, you won’t get in trouble there’ is essentially what they said.” She continued, “The frats are the safest place where we can drink on campus [without getting in trouble]. We’ve tried to have parties in our dorm rooms.”
The anonymous female student said her perspective on fraternities has changed recently, as she has come to terms with the harm they have caused her and other people on campus. “My freshman year, the Phi president would come up to me and say, ‘you know, anything you need, I’m there for you. We try to be great to girls here. We look out for you like older brothers.’” She continued, “It’s definitely a space that I’ve now realized privileges white and straight and cis-gender female athletes for sure. [...] That’s definitely who their parties are for. [...] Even after that [my own instance of harm] had happened to me, I dismissed it. [...] At a certain point, I was just trying to be willfully ignorant because I wanted to have a fun weekend. It was definitely the easy choice to go to the parties.”
She also said she was scared of feeling isolated if she were to speak out. She told Voices, “If you say, ‘hey, I don’t want to go to these parties,’ you’re the only one. All my friends are at those parties. I’m gonna sit home by myself? Or try to make new friends? I don’t even know.” The anonymous student echoed this feeling of social pressure, saying, “Since it is such a small campus, there is a part of me that felt like maybe I would be missing out on seeing everybody [if I didn’t go. ...] Those places were the places that everybody that I really talked to a lot went. A lot of the pressure also came from myself wanting a place to go out and wanting those social connections to always be made and these were the spaces that had the monopoly on that.”
She also noted that, despite being welcomed into the fraternity houses, she doesn’t always feel respected in these spaces. She said to Voices, “One time I was dancing on the stage and one of the fraternity brothers at Phi came up to me and said, ‘get off the stage you slut.’ [...] I didn’t find that funny in the slightest, but I smiled, because it was easier than saying, ‘that really upset me.’” She continued, “He also that same night asked my friend how many guys I had slept with. So that’s happened to me in those spaces – someone who belongs there and is privileged and fits all the labels – I can’t even imagine how it would feel if I felt like an outsider.”
The anonymous student said, “It’s not even a DU problem or a Phi Psi problem or whatever bad people they claim are in their frats or have been in their frats. It’s this toxicity that is necessarily bred from these male spaces and this monopoly that they have over the social and party scene. The way they choose to engage with each other in these spaces is always hurtful to somebody, it seems.”
Voices has reached out to several other former DU members, past and current students, all of whom either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.