While colleges across the country grapple with allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and dangerous hazing that frequently bubble up in the fraternity system, frats are now continually shuttered or banned entirely. But what isn’t explored enough is what happens to these houses after the frats which occupied them are shut down, and why students can’t envision those spaces for a new kind of community.
Students at Swarthmore who arecurrently protesting their college’s two fraternities with a sit-in have an idea. The Washington Post reports that documents were leaked earlier this month from Swarthmore’s chapter of Phi Psi that detailed “graphic descriptions of members’ sexual encounters, including a reference to a ‘rape tunnel’” and a “rape attic” as well as “conversations about women, minority groups and sexual assault that often contained offensive language, such as homophobic and racial slurs.” In response to the leaked information, students demanded the college terminate its housing leases with the frats. When Swarthmore didn’t budge, a group of what eventually became 100 students organized a sit-in at Phi Psi in protest, shortly after which it was announced fraternities would be suspended.
The ultimate goal, student Maya Henry tells the Washington Post, is for the houses to “get completely and radically transformed inside and out” and that the spaces be devoted to first-generation students or minority women and non-binary students. While fraternities at other colleges have been pushed by students to welcome women or become gender-neutral, these students at Swarthmore take that idea one step further in reimagining what this space could be and who it supports on campus.
Clarification: This post has been edited to clarify that Phi Psi is not affiliated with the national Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.