Anna Sheffer
May 01, 2019 10:55 am

Over the past few years, fraternities at colleges across the country have come under scrutiny for issues like hazing, racism, and sexual assault. These reports have led some to wonder if the Greek system should be phased out of college culture once and for all. Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that two fraternities at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania have disbanded after leaked documents showed pervasive racist, homophobic, and misogynist comments—including a joke about a “rape attic.”

Student-run newspapers The Phoenix and Voices recently published internal documents from the fraternity Phi Psi that cover the organization’s activities from 2010 to 2016. The documents contained graphic descriptions of sexual activity, accounts of sexual assault, and racist jokes—including derogatory language about black and Asian women. In one 2013 “minutes” document, Voices found that Phi Psi referenced the other fraternity on campus, Delta Upsilon, writing: “Your parties suck, you have both a rape tunnel AND a rape attic (gotta choose one or the other).”

According to The New York Timesa group of student protesters known as the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence began occupying the Phi Psi house on April 27th. The demonstrators reportedly demanded that Swarthmore give the fraternity houses to organizations representing marginalized groups, such as black or disabled students.

On the night of April 30th, Voices reported that both Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi had voluntarily disbanded. Both fraternities shared statements on Facebook about their decisions, saying that the decision were reached unanimously.

In an earlier Facebook statement, Phi Psi wrote that the language in the leaked documents was “not representative of who we are today.” The organization’s April 30th statement echoed this sentiment noting that “the current members were in high school and middle school at the time of the writing of these documents.”

In a statement shared to the Swarthmore website on May 1st, President Valerie Smith wrote:

Smith went on to clarify that although no current Swarthmore students were implicated in the leaked documents, an investigation into the fraternities would still be held. Her statement did not say what would happen to the actual fraternity houses going forward.

The behavior described in these documents is nauseating, but we’re glad that concrete action has been—and continues to be—taken.