Swarthmore College fraternities disband amid protests
SWARTHMORE, Pa. — The only two fraternities at Swarthmore College have opted to disband amid outrage over years-old documents containing derogatory comments about women and the LGBTQ community and jokes about sexual assault.
Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi announced their decisions in separate Facebook posts Tuesday night.
“We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history,” Phi Psi said in its statement.
Dozens of student protesters at Swarthmore, a highly selective, private liberal arts college in suburban Philadelphia, had occupied the on-campus Phi Psi house during a four-day sit-in, calling for both fraternities to be shut down and the buildings put to other uses. Swarthmore had suspended fraternity activity while it investigated. Its lone sorority wasn’t affected.
In mid-April, two campus publications, The Phoenix and Voices, released internal Phi Psi documents from 2012 to 2016 that they said were anonymously leaked. The redacted documents included jokes about sexual assault; derogatory comments about women, minorities and the LGBT community; videos and photos of sexual encounters where all parties might not have known they were being recorded and a reference to a “rape attic.”
The authenticity of the documents has not been verified. The college said Wednesday it was reviewing them.
In an open letter posted Wednesday on the college’s website, Swarthmore President Valerie Smith wrote that “we respect these students’ decision” to disband the fraternities, “and we appreciate their strong condemnation” of the behavior described in the leaked documents.
Smith also condemned what she called “unsubstantiated attacks directed at individual students or student groups … as too many students have recently endured,” taking aim at social media posts and “attempts to exclude students from open campus events based on their affiliations.”
She said there’s no evidence that any current student took part in the behavior recounted in the documents.
Delta Upsilon said on its Facebook page Tuesday night that disbanding was in the “best interest” of the Swarthmore community, adding: “We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing.”
In its post, Phi Psi said its members were “appalled and disgusted” by the contents of the documents, “which led us to question our affiliation with an organization whose former members could write such heinous statements.”
Both houses are on campus and are owned by the college. The Phi Psi house was primarily used for parties and other social activities. The college said Wednesday that both fraternities had decided to relinquish their houses, but no decision has been made about future uses of the properties.