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Sit-in at Swarthmore fraternity continues; students say temporary suspension is insufficient

The school has hired an external investigator to look into leaked internal fraternity documents in which members talked about women, minorities, drug use and sexual assault.

The sit-in at Phi Psi fraternity at Swarthmore College continued Sunday with students calling for the school to terminate the fraternity's lease.
The sit-in at Phi Psi fraternity at Swarthmore College continued Sunday with students calling for the school to terminate the fraternity's lease.Read moreGrace Dumdaw

A sit-in at a Swarthmore College fraternity continued Monday morning, marking the start of a third day of action at the house by campus activists demanding the school permanently ban two Greek organizations.

The protests at Phi Psi, which organizers said swelled to more than 100 participants over the weekend, came a week after two campus publications released a trove of redacted, internal fraternity documents from 2012 to 2016 that they say were anonymously leaked. The X-rated “meeting minutes” described members’ derogatory comments about women, minorities, and LGBTQ people, and included crude jokes about parties, illegal drugs, and sexual assault.

On Saturday after the start of the protest, Swarthmore College president Valerie Smith said in a letter to students that fraternity activities were suspended pending the outcome of an investigation, a decision made after consultation with an “external investigator” whom the school didn’t identify. Officials wouldn’t answer further questions about the probe.

While the school requested “support” from Swarthmore Borough Police, no arrests had been made as of Sunday night, the police department said.

Morgin Goldberg, a Swarthmore senior and member of student advocacy group Organizing for Survivors (O4S), said Sunday activists had no plans to end the sit-in. She said that although the group is glad fraternity activities were suspended, it wants Swarthmore to terminate the leases of both Phi Psi and the campus’ one other fraternity, Delta Upsilon, and “reallocate the space” to an organization for women or minority groups. The leaked paper asserted that Delta Upsilon’s house has a “rape attic.”

“We’ll be peaceful,” she said, “but we will stay put.”

Goldberg, who reported to administrators that she was raped by a Phi Psi member in 2015, said students are sitting and sleeping both inside the house — in the very room where parties were typically held — and in tents on the front lawn. They hung banners on the building reading: “This house is ours” and “Nothing has changed. Admin knew all along.”

No arrest has been made in the attack; Goldberg did not report it police, but says the college disciplined her attacker.

Swarthmore College, a highly selective liberal arts school in Delaware County, has about 1,600 students.

Phi Psi, which is not affiliated with a national organization, reopened to parties a year ago after it was suspended in 2016 for violating the school’s drug and alcohol policy. The building serves as more of a clubhouse than a residence, as just one student lives there. Student protesters said they agreed Saturday night to briefly stay in the basement and allow him to retrieve belongings.

After publication of the documents, which The Inquirer was not able to independently verify, current Phi Psi members apologized, saying in a statement the language in them is “not representative of who we are today.”

A former Phi Psi member wrote in a column in the Phoenix, the school’s independent student newspaper, that the fraternities on campus should be disbanded. The man, Callen Rain, wrote that the fraternity didn’t punish members for bad behavior, “which primarily took the form of sexual violence, and homophobic and misogynistic language.”

On Friday, a task force convened to examine Greek life at the school held its final meeting and will make recommendations to Smith next week.

In 2013, Phi Psi was condemned by school administrators for circulating a recruitment flier with photos of naked women. That year, the student body voted in a referendum to uphold the fraternity presence on campus after highly publicized Title IX complaints alleging the school mishandled reports of sexual misconduct.

Last year, O4S staged a nine-day sit-in at Swarthmore’s administration building, demanding new sexual-assault reporting procedures. The group ended the protest after meeting with school leaders and, a week later, the dean of students announced her resignation.