Swarthmore College students gather at the Phi Psi fraternity house during a sit-in, Monday, April 29, 2019, in Swarthmore, Pa. Students at the suburban Philadelphia college have occupied the on-campus fraternity house in an effort to get it shut down after documents allegedly belonging to Phi Psi surfaced this month containing derogatory comments about women and the LGBTQ community and jokes about sexual assault. (AP Photo)

Student protesters occupy fraternity house, want it closed

April 29, 2019 - 4:47 pm

Student protesters at Swarthmore College occupied an on-campus fraternity house Monday following the leak of documents purportedly describing some members' derogatory comments and sexual assault jokes.

The demonstration is aimed at shutting down the Phi Psi chapter at the private liberal arts school in suburban Philadelphia. On Monday morning, about 30 students were sitting at the college-owned building, which is mainly used for Phi Psi parties and other social activities. As many as 100 protesters were there over the weekend.

"We're trying to force the college to make the right decision on this," senior Morgin Goldberg, 22, said.

Earlier this month, two campus publications, The Phoenix and Voices , released internal Phi Psi documents from 2012 to 2016 that they say were anonymously leaked. The redacted documents included jokes about sexual assault; derogatory comments about women, minorities and the LGBT community; videos and photos of sexual encounters where all parties may not have known they were being recorded — and even referenced a "rape attic."

The college said Monday that the authenticity of the documents has not yet been verified.

Goldberg said the school must terminate the fraternity's lease. Signs hanging read, "This house is ours" and, "Nothing has changed. Admin knew all along."

Phi Psi, which is not affiliated with a national organization, was suspended in 2016 for violating Swarthmore's alcohol and drug policy. It reopened for parties a year ago.

"We're hoping the college and board will understand the gravity of what has been occurring," Goldberg said.

A task force charged last year with exploring the role of Greek life on campus — Swarthmore has two fraternities and one sorority — is continuing its work and will be sharing its findings later this week, the college said in an emailed statement.

Swarthmore's Phi Psi chapter posted on its Facebook page, condemning the language in the documents.

"They are not representative of who we are today," the post read. "None of us would have joined the organization had this been the standard when we arrived at Swarthmore."

After the protests started Saturday, Swarthmore College President Valerie Smith suspended activities at both Phi Psi and the school's only other fraternity, Delta Upsilon. But demonstrators want the school to go even further.

"We don't think (fraternities) have a place on campus," Goldberg said.

The school's only sorority functions as a community organization and does not have an on-campus house like the two fraternities. It does not hold parties, she said.

Swarthmore is home to about 1,600 students. It's located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) southwest of Philadelphia.

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