The phrase Rape Haven was painted on the front of a Swarthmore College fraternity house this week, and college officials said they were investigating.
The vandalism at Delta Upsilon was discovered Tuesday morning, less than two weeks after a member of the fraternity wrote an opinion piece for the student newspaper, the Phoenix, touting the house's positive contributions.
In the aftermath of "deplorable behavior" at a University of Oklahoma fraternity in which members were caught chanting racial slurs in a video, Nathaniel Frum wrote, Swarthmore "can take pride" that Delta Upsilon "has set a model that should be followed."
The fraternity, he noted, helped sign up students for a blood drive, volunteered for a program that provides horseback-riding lessons to the disabled, and raised money for a program that gives food to the hungry.
It also invited a Swarthmore alum to talk on the women's suffrage movement. The house also participates in annual workshops on sexual-assault prevention and drug and alcohol safety, he noted.
Frum's piece drew critical comments from several letter writers, who countered that fraternities tend to be homogenous groups of straight white men who fail to do enough to stand up to racism and sexual assault.
"Fraternities were founded on exclusion tied to race, class and gender/gender presentation," wrote Peter Amadeo, a senior. "Although it may seem less explicit now, they still operate under these exclusions, thus resulting in homogenous groups of white heteromasculinity. As a result, they tend to perpetuate racism, misogyny, and homophobia, which is why people of color, women, and queer folk often feel uncomfortable/unsafe in these spaces."
A Swarthmore spokeswoman declined to speculate on the source of the vandalism or whether it was linked to the letter-writing.
Ben "Scoop" Ruxin, president of the 41-member fraternity, also declined to speculate.
"We were surprised and dismayed," Ruxin and Brian Kaissi, the vice president, said in a statement. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms both the act of vandalism itself and, more importantly, the message that it displayed."
Only one member lives in the fraternity house. The graffiti were removed by the college maintenance staff Tuesday.
"We truly appreciate the support we have gotten from members of the Swarthmore community since this incident and we look forward to continuing to work with the campus to create positive change," Ruxin wrote.
Asked whether the college was investigating any sexual-assault cases at the fraternity, a college spokeswoman replied: "Federal privacy laws prevent us from commenting on such matters, including whether there are any investigations or not."