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Swarthmore College (Wikipedia)
Swarthmore College (Wikipedia)

Toxic masculinity

Two Swarthmore fraternities disband after leak of documents describing a ‘rape attic’

By WITW Staff on May 2, 2019

The two fraternities at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania have decided to disband after campus publications unearthed racist language and references to sexual assault in minutes from meetings.

According to the New York Times, the documents were written by members of the Phi Psi fraternity and published by the Phoenix and Voices in mid April. The materials discuss, among other inflammatory topics, the acquisition of date rape drugs, sex with underage girls and the existence of a “rape attic.” The documents also include homophobic comments and racist language about black and Asian women. “The leaked archives contain graphic depictions of sexual encounters, rape jokes, pornography, and photos and videos of urination and other disturbing acts,” Voices wrote.

The documents reportedly date from 2013 to 2016, meaning that many of the fraternity members mentioned in them have since graduated from the college. But news of the minutes sparked an outcry among students who say that fraternity culture encourages sexual assault and that frat houses are dangerous. In early April, in fact, students had set up a Tumblr page where users could anonymously post their negative experiences with the college’s fraternities.

“It was my first party of freshman year at the frats and a brother took me to the basement and raped me with a foreign object,” one of the entries reads. Another poster says that a fraternity brother offered to walk her home after a night of heavy drinking and then had sex with her; the poster’s friend reportedly found her with her pants down, confused and vomiting. Still other entries describe non-consensual kissing, groping and harassment.

After the leaks, protesters camped out at the Phi Psi house and demanded that Phi Psi and the school’s other fraternity, Delta Upsilon, be dissolved. The protestors also asked the college to end its leases with the fraternities and redirect their houses to historically marginalized groups, like black and disabled students.

NBC News reports that Swarthmore President Valerie Smith subsequently suspended all fraternity activity on campus while the university investigated whether any current students were implicated in the documents. But the two fraternities opted to voluntarily disband.

“Delta Upsilon has listened to the concerns and feelings of the campus community,” the fraternity wrote on Facebook. “We hope that our former house will provide a space that is inclusive, safe, and promotes healing.”

In its statement, members of Phi Psi wrote that they had unanimously voted to disband the fraternity, and that they 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.”

Read more at the New York Times and NBC News.

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