Swarthmore student protests dismantle campus Greek life

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

Parrish Hall is the iconic building of Swarthmore, known for being the college’s original building and the divide between residential and academic life. However, Swarthmore became known for something a lot worse than its iconic main hall. (Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Swarthmore College is located approximately 30 minutes from Drexel University. The college has drawn national attention after students responded to leaked minutes from fraternity houses on campus.

The leaked minutes held discriminatory language and had an overall demeanor exhibiting sexist, homophobic and racist remarks. The campus, which only has two fraternities and one sorority, took action in a number of ways. A Tumblr page was created for students to anonymously share their experiences at the fraternity houses, while protestors held demonstrations including sit-ins and a hunger strike.

The criticism from the student body appeared to be over slow-moving administrative action to the misogynistic practices exhibited by the fraternities on campus, which perpetuated sexual violence and discrimination. The protestors demanded that the fraternities dissolve completely in hopes for a safer campus community.

Both fraternities dissolved following the protests. Phi Psi released a statement on Facebook citing the “long-term impact of the documents on our fraternity’s culture as a toxic element that cannot continue to exist on Swarthmore’s campus.” It was also noted that the leaked Phi Psi documents were from 2013 and 2014, when many of the current members were in middle or high school. Despite the statement repeatedly referring to issues from the past or painful history which lead to the group dissolving, current accounts from recent experiences can be found on the Tumblr page with various student experiences exhibiting similar sexual violence.

The media attention Swarthmore has drawn from protests and student action may reflect a larger commentary on the changing dynamic of Greek life, which has often been synonymous American college drinking culture. The Hill reported in 2018 a rise in Title IX inquiries by 54 percent over the past two years. This shows a willingness to address discrimination and reject a degenerative culture.

With the changing political sphere and more specifically, the #MeToo movement, it might appear that students are willing to speak out against the misogynistic and discriminatory practices. In this time of shifting expectations among college campuses and drinking culture, the Swarthmore protests might be viewed as a culmination of many accounts surfacing from the past.

The Swarthmore protests successfully dissolved Greek life from their campus and might foster a time for healing for the campus community. The marches are not only a testament to the power of student body protests, but also a shifting paradigm of college campus community life.

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