Greek life at Swarthmore College is no more.
School president Valerie Smith announced Friday that fraternities and sororities will no longer exist at the Delaware County liberal arts college. The move came weeks after one fraternity’s purported internal documents were leaked, showing the men had used racist, misogynistic, and homophobic language, and joked about sexual assault.
After a national outcry over the “meeting minutes,” in which a member of the Phi Psi fraternity referred to rooms in the neighboring frat as a “rape attic” and a “rape tunnel,” both organizations voluntarily disbanded on April 30. Swarthmore has one sorority, a chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, which may continue with current members through spring 2022 “but may no longer recruit or initiate additional members,” the school said.
After the fraternities voluntarily closed last week, activists on campus who had staged a multi-day sit-in inside the Phi Psi house were not satisfied. They wanted the school to permanently ban the organizations and staged a protest inside Smith’s office. A handful of students this week continued protesting with a hunger strike.
At the same time, a task force that was convened last year to study Greek life on campus was wrapping up its final recommendations, sent to Smith last week. The committee of students, staff, and faculty indicated that it received thousands of emails in the wake of the Phi Psi “meeting minutes” release, most calling for the school to stop leasing on-campus houses to the fraternities. Ultimately, the task force recommended that Smith end that practice.
“It is inequitable for any student organization to have exclusive, long-term control over a college-owned social space,” the task force wrote.
But the group didn’t come to a consensus on “whether Greek organizations play an appropriate and constructive role in campus life.” That decision was left up to the Swarthmore administration.
“I’m really glad the decision was made,” said Tiffany Wang, a Swarthmore sophomore and activist, “but this was the work of the students that really made this happen.” She pointed specifically to student groups such as Organizing for Survivors and the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence that planned protests and executed a five-day sit-in inside the Phi Psi house and the school president’s office.
Meanwhile, a review of the Phi Psi materials is ongoing. The school hired Christine Wechsler, an attorney at Elliott Greenleaf, to review the documents, identify any current students implicated in violations of college policy, and find “otherwise reportable offenses” pertaining to Title IX and hazing, a spokesperson said.
Wechsler, a former prosecutor who has conducted grand jury investigations and worked on issues related to Title IX, didn’t respond to a request for a comment. The school hasn’t said how long the review will last.
The move to ban what the college called “exclusive, dues-paying social organizations” follows decisions by other schools such as Harvard and Amherst that ended single-gender organizations like fraternities and sororities in the last five years.