The Phoenix, Swarthmore's student newspaper, gives a sense of Auden's impact on the campus, both during his years as a professor and in the decades that followed. The poet became part of Swarthmore's history and its mythology; every few years, a Phoenix staffer would peruse back issues of the newspaper and seek to uncover the real Auden, as well as a particular moment in the social life of the college. In many of these exposés, Auden is portrayed as a beloved eccentric, a cranky nonconformist, a professor who looked like "a thatched cottage" and wandered around in his slippers. He was, for at least three decades, Swarthmore's dearest celebrity.
Elsewhere in the annals of the Phoenix are the articles contributed by Auden himself. In these pieces, he reveals much about his attitude toward the college community. In the first, a theater review, he gives thoughtful praise and gentle criticism, but ultimately suggests that the college would be better served by producing plays that are less safe ("merely better and cleaner fun for the students than...the bars of Chester") and more challenging and artistically "highbrow." In another article, Auden exhorts "fellow Irresponsibles" to refuse to get taken in by student government and by the tyranny of the Big Man on Campus - being "nice and cooperative" can come later in life, but between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, feel free to be "outrageous, affected, snobbish, and very foolish indeed."
All of these articles - those penned by Auden as well as those written about him - are located in the Auden Phoenix archive.
*From a question-and-answer session with visiting professor Brendan Kennelly's class (1971), transcribed in the College Bulletin (May 1972): "I am very puzzled when they ask for student participation because later in life, when one sins, one has to sit on committees. If they knew what it is like to sit on committees, how very boring it is...Thank God when I was a student nobody ever asked me to be on a committee!"