Swarthmore Students Demand Closing of Fraternity That Boasted of ‘Rape Attic’


The fraternity brothers wrote of acquiring date-rape drugs and bragged about their “rape attic.” They wrote of sexual encounters with underage girls and suggested getting group tank tops that read, “We don’t drink during the day, we BLACK OUT.”

Dozens of students at Swarthmore College, the elite school in Pennsylvania, stormed a fraternity house this weekend after campus publications leaked these details from a lengthy document in which members of the school’s Phi Psi fraternity bragged about sexual conquests and referenced sexual assaults.

The protesters, who call themselves the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence, have been camped in and around the fraternity house since, calling on the school to dissolve Phi Psi and the school’s other fraternity, Delta Upsilon.

The occupation places Swarthmore, a small liberal arts school with a progressive reputation, at the center of a continuing national debate over sexual assault on college campuses.

The documents, the protesters say, are evidence of what they have been trying to tell university administrators for years: the school’s fraternity houses are dangerous places and should be shut down.

“I’ve told the fraternity liaison,” said Morgin Goldberg, 22, a senior who has been sleeping in the Phi Psi house since Saturday as part of the protest. “I’ve told the dean of conduct, I’ve told the old dean of students, I’ve told the new dean of students, I’ve told the president.”

Ms. Goldberg, who said she was sexually assaulted by a member of Phi Psi as a freshman, said that the presence of the so-called rape attic has been known around campus for years, and that she had notified administrators of the dangers of locked rooms in fraternity houses on at least 20 occasions.

In a letter to students, President Valerie Smith, a scholar of African-American literature who has led the school since 2015, called the fraternity documents “heinous” and said that “the racism, misogyny and homophobia described within them is antithetical to the values of the college.” She has temporarily suspended fraternity activity pending the results of an independent investigation.

The school is also in the midst of a larger examination of fraternity life on campus.

The documents, published by The Phoenix and Voices, both student-run publications, read like a series of meeting minutes between fraternity brothers and appear to chronicle life at Phi Psi between 2010 and 2016. This means many of the people mentioned in them have since graduated. But students say they are representative of the current atmosphere.

In early April, Ms. Goldberg and other students started a Tumblr account in which students could publish anonymous accounts of encounters at fraternity parties. One wrote of being raped in a basement with a “foreign object.” Another wrote of running away as two intoxicated fraternity brothers shouted a homophobic slur.

The Swarthmore police did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the assault accusations.

In a statement on Facebook, the fraternity distanced itself from the documents.

“We wholeheartedly condemn the language of the 2013 and 2014 notes, as they are not representative of who we are today,” the statement said. “All our current brothers were in high school and middle school at the time of these unofficial minutes, and none of us would have joined the organization had this been the standard when we arrived at Swarthmore.”

“Today,” the statement goes on, “Phi Psi is proud to be an open and safe social space for anyone in the community.”

Protesters, who entered the building on Saturday afternoon, have brought mattresses and sleeping bags into the fraternity’s party room and have pitched tents in the yard.

They are asking the college to immediately end leases with the school’s fraternities and allocate their buildings to groups that have been historically marginalized, like students with disabilities, black students and transgender students.

This week is the last week of classes at Swarthmore. Between class assignments, demonstrators have been singing protest songs in the fraternity yard. One of their signs reads: “This house is ours.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for the school, Alisa Giardinelli, said that Swarthmore has been involved in a larger discussion about the role of Greek life on campus, and that Ms. Smith had charged a task force with examining fraternity activity last fall. That task force is expected to deliver its recommendations to her on Friday.


Source link