There isn’t (and may not be for some time) a single narrative account of the recent turmoil at Swarthmore College, but the timeline looks something like this:
1. Fall 2012-Spring 2013: The campus organization Mountain Justice steps up a campaign for Swarthmore to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies.
2. Early April: The invitation to former World Bank President and Swarthmore alumni to accept an honorary degree at this year’s Commencement draws strong criticism from some students. Zoellick withdraws his acceptance, sparking further debate.
3. Early April: a six-part advisory referendum on Greek life at Swarthmore concludes. Five of six proposed restrictions or changes in Greek life are rejected by the majority of voters. The sixth passes, calling for all Greek organizations on campus to be co-ed.
4. Mid-April: a series of investigative reports in the online campus newspaper the Daily Gazette documents persistent problems with the reporting and adjudication of sexual assault and harassment on campus. At the same time, a group of students files a Clery Act complaint with the federal government about these persistent problems, followed by a Title IX complaint.
5. May 2: For the fifth time this academic year, someone urinates on the door of the Intercultural Center. Students inside report overhearing several men who were looking for the right door to piss on.
6. May 3-4: Students stage a protest that moves around campus about the incident at the Intercultural Center and a general series of microaggressions, drawing some inspiration from similar protests at Oberlin College. A large group of students who include but are not limited to the organization Mountain Justice take over an open session with the Board of Managers to recount their grievances and press for action on a series of demands.
7. May 4-5: Activist students discuss and further refine their demands and plan to restructure Monday meetings announced by the administration.
8. May 6: College administration agrees to the proposed restructuring. 3 hours of discussions in Parrish Hall between about 150-200 students and a small number of faculty and staff focus on the action agenda drafted by the students and on discussions about procedure. An hour-long all-college collection at 2pm is attended by many students and a large number of faculty and staff and largely centers on individual students telling stories about their experiences and struggles at the college.
9. May 7: A series of mandatory “teach-ins” are held all day, facilitated by faculty and student organizers.
YouTube video of the open meeting with the Board of Managers.
Facebook Discussion Group. (I think there are others that I’m not privy to.)
From the Facebook group, Nell Bang-Jensen’s summarized version of the student demands. (I think these have been revised by the students: if someone has a link to the revision, I’d be glad to add that.) :
Press Release: “We are students who have grown sick of talking about our community’s problems, when what we really need are actions to fix them. We have put in extensive work trying to make our campus safer and more supportive. We have been on committees, met with administrators, met with the Board of Managers, and have already come up with concrete proposals for change. Yet every time hateful acts occur on our campus–in our home–we are told that we need more words. For years this pattern has played out on campus, and our years in dialogue with the administration have led to no change. Today we organized an action meeting on Parrish to lay out our proposed solutions, which we will present at this afternoon’s Collection. Parrish is where decisions are made–so we are bringing our decision-making process to Parrish. We invite you to join us any time from 10am-2pm in Parrish and to stand with us at the Collection in the ampihtheater at 2pm.”
LIST OF DEMANDS (my own summary):
1. creation of ethnic studies department as a long term goal
2. making classes in ethnic studies and gen/sex mandatory, for example as part of the distribution requirements
3. having the histories of marginalized communities and past student organizing represented i the sesquicentennial
4. more queer/trans faculty and faculty of color in tenure track positions
5. more students of color/international students from underprivileged backgrounds
6. better support for students of color
7. count undocumented students as domestic students
8. increased transparency from administrators and board of managers
9. increased documentation of responsibilities and processes (as opposed to unwritten understandings or constant re-hashings), allowing for greater accountability of those in power
10. increased institutional support for the IC, BCC, RA team, DART and SMART
11. creation of an office of survivor advocacy with legal, trained student advocates and comprehensive rights education.
12. immediate revision of the CJC process, so that sexual assault cases are no longer confidential
13. immediate implementation of the emergency alert system to notify student of sexual assaults and violence on campus as in compliance with the law
14. a public apology from the administration admitting gave mishandling and wrongdoing towards survivors of sexual assault in violation of federal law.