Slow to Justice

Summer+Fall 2020

The national turmoil over racial injustice takes me back to Swarthmore in the late ’50s when the late activist Bayard Rustin called an upperclassman asking for “a Southern white girl” to participate in a March on Washington, D.C., to demand better integrated education. I found myself on a stage at the base of the Washington Monument, sitting between Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Belafonte. King told me how as a seminary student in Chester, Pa., he would come to Swarthmore to listen to guest speakers. The event turned out to be a dress rehearsal for 1963. How frustratingly slowly human progress crawls.



Grateful for Their Courage

Summer+Fall 2020

I so appreciate your highlighting in “Behind the Takeover” (spring 2020) the book Seven Sisters and a Brother.  

Having been on campus when it all happened, I rushed to buy the book. The authors’ different experiences of President Courtney Smith, Dean Hagedorn, and others clarified exactly their point. I just assumed those campus officials were warm and friendly with everyone, and it was startling to understand more fully the unacknowledged racism and paternalism pointed at the authors and other Black students. 

I am grateful for their courage and vision, and for their insistence that Swarthmore live up to its ideals. And for telling their stories. 

I also really appreciated their work for the campus workers to be treated with dignity and respect. The warmth of the kitchen staff, the housekeeping staff in the dorms, and Jack (whose last name I unfortunately never learned) in the library all helped me stay sane and provided a humanity that mattered deeply. 

Please pass along my thanks to the authors.

— JANET MATHER ’70, Philadelphia, Pa.


Ethical Investments

Summer+Fall 2020

In “Change-Makers” by Elizabeth Redden ’05 (spring 2020), Redden writes, “Morgan Simon ’04 wants you to know one thing about money: Investing it wisely can help bring about social change.” Tell that to Swarthmore College! The alumni profiled in the article are pioneers in ethical investing. Yet, ironically, if their own alma mater hired them to manage its endowment, it would bar them from making ethical investments. 

In 1991, just one year after fully divesting from apartheid South Africa, the Board of Managers instituted a policy to manage the endowment based solely on financial returns, not “other social objectives.” This policy has been in place for nearly 30 years. 

The Board has repeatedly used it to dismiss student-led divestment campaigns around fossil fuels, Israeli occupation, and the prison industrial complex. Such dismissals seem even more out of line with Swarthmore’s values as COVID-19 reveals the ways in which these unjust systems lead to disproportionate suffering. 

Swarthmore students started the college fossil-fuel divestment movement in 2011, yet the College still lags behind Yale, Brown, and numerous other peer institutions who have already adopted ethical investment principles. 

Swarthmore should praise its ethically minded alumni. It should also learn from their example. 


Old yearbook photo of a man and dog

Come, Pip, come!

Summer+Fall 2020

A few issues back (winter 2019), there was a circa-1927 campus map reproduced, along with a question about the dog on the map, “Who is Pip Pollard?” Pip was my mother’s and her brother’s (my Uncle Spots Pollard) dog who was a campus fixture for several years in the 1920s.

I am told, although I have not seen this in print, that in Uncle Spots’s Class of 1922 Halcyon there is an entry and photo for Pip Pollard along with the other seniors. Actually, Pip was around after the Class of 1922 graduated. Still on campus when my mother was living there (which she did only during her freshman and senior years), Pip easily climbed the Parrish stairs to find my mother’s room.

Hope all else goes reasonably well in these uncertain times. Looking forward to another return to campus.

— BOB FETTER ’53, Cockeysville, Md.