Swarthmore College Bans Fraternities & Sororities After Massive Student Protests

by Morgan Brinlee
Jay Paul/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In the aftermath of a public scandal involving two college fraternities, Swarthmore College has issued a lifetime ban on fraternities and sororities. The decision to end Greek Life at the private liberal arts school comes roughly two weeks after leaked internal documents from one fraternity sparked allegations of racism, misogyny, and homophobia that spurred student-led protests and widespread public outrage.

"Fraternities and sororities will no longer exist at the College," Swarthmore College President Valerie Smith said in a statement released Friday. "Exclusive, dues-paying social organizations no longer effectively meet the needs of our residential liberal arts environment."

Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon, the college's only two fraternities voluntarily disbanded earlier this month in the wake of significant public outrage over allegations of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comments. According to Smith, the college's only sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, will be allowed to continue to exist through the spring of 2022, at which time all of its current members are expected to have graduated, allowing for a natural termination of the chapter. Going forward, however, the sorority will not be allowed to recruit or initiate any new members.

On Friday, Smith said the voluntary disbanding of Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon reflected "a broader change in student needs and desires."

Leaked internal documents dated from between 2012 and 2016 and alleged to have been written by Phi Psi members at Swarthmore were published in April by Voices and The Phoenix, two college publications. They included what appeared to be summaries of the fraternity's members' various activities as well as a number of derogatory comments about minorities, women, and LGTBQ+ community members.

More than a week after the leak, Swarthmore College officials moved to suspend all fraternity activities on campus until an external investigation had been completed. At the time, Smith said the college respected students' rights to express their views and beliefs, a reference to the then-ongoing student protests on campus, but urged students to show civility along with their dissent.

Along with banning fraternities and sororities, Smith said Friday that the college would also end its practice of leasing space to student groups. As Delta Upsilon was not entered into a lease agreement with the college this year, Phi Psi's decision to voluntarily disband and terminate its lease with the college on May 1 represented the end of the college's last lease with a student group, Smith said.

Swarthmore's president also expressed hope that students would use recent events "for self-reflection and growth" and unification. "I recognize that serious fissures in our community remain open, and I am sorry that this has been such a challenging time," Smith's statement read. "As we move forward, I call for each of us to examine how we live up to the aspiration of inclusivity. We must try to do so together, without giving up on one another and without giving up on our community." She urged students to "practice the art of deep listening" and reject division. "Remain in difficult conversations, especially with those with whom we disagree. This work will not be easy, but we will all be the better for it."