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2 Swarthmore fraternities will disband after documents reveal references to 'rape attic' and racist behavior

Posted at 5:30 AM, May 01, 2019

Two Swarthmore University fraternity chapters say they are closing their doors in response to allegations of racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior against past members that emerged in recent weeks.

The disturbing accounts were included in documents from 2013 to 2016 that were leaked to two campus publications earlier this month.

One of them, the 117-page "Phi Psi Historical Archive," included rape jokes and racist tropes among the pages of fraternity meeting minutes and scavenger hunt lists.

The documents also included crude descriptions of sexual encounters and hazing and references to another fraternity's "rape attic" and "rape tunnel."

The reports roiled the private Pennsylvania liberal arts college and led students to stage a sit-in at Phi Psi's house. Protesters arrived Saturday with a list of demands, including the dissolution of the Swarthmore chapters of Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon, the other group named in the documents. That fraternity said in a statement that it was not aware of any past members using the terms "rape tunnel" and "rape attic" at any point, despite those terms being attributed to the group in the documents.

The protesters also sought the end of the building leases Swarthmore granted to the fraternities.

Protesters want the fraternity houses to go to groups that have been historically marginalized by fraternities, such as students of color, disabled students, and LGBTQ students.

In videos shared on social media, protesters cheered the two developments, which came one after the other Tuesday night.

"DU and Phi Psi have disbanded in a testament to the power of survivor-led student organizing and direct action," the protesters said in a statement Tuesday night. "They made the right decision, even as the College refused to. Our work is not finished yet."

Delta Upsilon made its announcement first on a Facebook page that appears to belong to the fraternity.

"Over the last few weeks, Swarthmore Delta Upsilon has listened to the concerns and feelings of the campus community. After much discussion, the members of Delta Upsilon have unanimously decided that disbanding our fraternity is in the best interest of the Swarthmore community. We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing."

Swarthmore Phi Psi Fraternity also broke the news on a Facebook page that appears to belong to the group.

"We were appalled and disgusted by the content of these minutes, which led us to question our affiliation with an organization whose former members could write such heinous statements. We cannot in good conscience be members of an organization with such a painful history," the post said.

"Since the start of our membership, we made it our mission to improve the culture and perception of Phi Psi. Unfortunately, the wounds are too deep to repair, and the best course of action for all those involved is to disband the fraternity completely and give up the fraternity house. We condemn sexual violence, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and discrimination in all of its forms, and we will continue as individuals to work to create a campus where these issues are eradicated completely."

Swarthmore President Valerie Smith condemned the documents and suspended all fraternity activity pending the results of an investigation to determine if any current students were involved in the behavior described.

She also said a task force would continue its work to make recommendations to improve campus culture, including recommendations for the fraternity buildings.

"While the recommendations will cover a broad range of issues related to social life, I know that the questions of fraternity leases and the future of Greek letter organizations are of foremost concern to many of you. I intend to resolve those questions unambiguously when I share my decisions on the task force recommendations."