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Community Values and Accountability

Clothier Hall

Vice President and Dean of Students Jim Terhune sent the following message to students on Tuesday, April 23.

Dear Students,

As I said last week when I first saw the disturbing materials relating to Phi Psi members from 2013-16, we are reviewing the documents and will take action as appropriate to address any ongoing behavior or actions involving current students. I also stated that Swarthmore is a community that is built on, and relies upon, respect and shared responsibility for meeting and upholding community standards.

Outrage over these materials is well justified. I share your disgust at the vulgar, sexist, violent, homophobic, and racist content of those documents. But that outrage, or impatience with the process that is examining social life on campus, does not give license for disruptive, unproductive behavior.

Over the course of this semester we have seen numerous incidents of behavior directed at individual community members that are at odds with our values and that have made students and others feel unsafe and unwelcome. Public Safety and other members of the administration have responded to and investigated a range of concerning incidents. This includes multiple anonymous threats made against both students and staff members about a range of different issues in recent weeks, as well as incidents of bias and vandalism.

Yesterday, soon after a seemingly productive meeting with President Smith and Chief of Staff Ed Rowe to discuss concerns about Greek life and other issues, a group of students went to the OSE office where they disrupted an existing meeting, harangued staff members, delivered ultimatums, and recorded and posted video of staff members without their permission.

Mischaracterizing conversations and demanding processes and policies that are already in place disregards the thoughtful and deliberative work of community members, including the task force and others. Similarly, acts of vandalism seemingly targeted at student groups or individuals is personally harmful and damaging to our sense of community.

All members of the community should understand that disorderly conduct is unacceptable and violates policies stated in the student handbook. We will continue to hold students accountable to our community standards.

I also want to make clear that threats or promises of retaliation, no matter who is making them, are never acceptable. Bullying is never an appropriate form of dialogue or an effective way to express dissent or make change.

My staff and I are available and eager to meet with students who want to engage around even the most challenging issues. But the work of making Swarthmore a stronger and more just institution must be undertaken in good faith and with a spirit of mutual respect.