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Update on 2019 Investigations

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I hope you are excited for the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year.

I am writing to update you on two separate and independent investigations that began this past May. The first investigation (Documents Investigation) focused on a review of unredacted versions of the 2013-16 fraternity documents that were initially published by student media outlets in redacted form in April, as well as a Tumblr account page entitled, “Why Swarthmore’s Fraternities Must Go.” The purpose of this investigation was to gather relevant information to help the College identify any potential violations of College policy by or against any current students, as well as to identify any previous or on-going activities by current students that may be reportable offenses, such as those pertaining to Title IX, Clery, and hazing.

The second investigation (Campus Events Investigation) focused on the actions of community members during a series of campus events and protests that took place between April 19 and May 2, 2019. The purpose of this investigation was to gather relevant information to help the College identify any potential violations of College policy by or against community members. We initiated this investigation following concerns raised by students regarding the behavior of their fellow students and staff members related to these events.

Both investigations were fact-finding in nature. The investigators were not asked to determine if any member of the campus community violated College policies, nor were they asked to make recommendations related to policy violations, conduct charges, or disciplinary actions. The sole objective of these investigations was to prepare reports based on the available factual information so that the College could reach its own conclusions on each matter.

Both investigations have now concluded, and their findings are summarized in two separate executive reports linked below.

As you will see from the summary of the Documents Investigation, the review of the fraternity documents did not produce evidence of substantive policy or code of conduct violations by any current students.

Stemming from their review of the Tumblr account and subsequent related conversations, however, investigators referred information about possible sexual misconduct violations to the Title IX Office. While some of these instances had already been reported, Title IX Coordinator Bindu Jayne reached out to students who could be identified to ensure they have access to resources and understand their options.

The facts produced through the Campus Events Investigation warrant further consideration. We will continue to assess those findings and make appropriate decisions based on the facts and in accordance with our policies and procedures. Should disciplinary actions be taken, we will be as transparent about them as possible while respecting the privacy of the individuals involved.

I want to emphasize a few important points:

  • The contents of the fraternity documents and the Tumblr page are deeply disturbing and at odds with our community values. Our community has serious work to do to rise above the kind of sexist, racist, and homophobic language and behaviors described in these documents.
  • In both cases, investigators sought throughout their reviews to hear from students who were identified as being directly or indirectly involved in these matters. While a number of students participated in the Documents Investigation, regrettably, many students who may have had information to share chose not to speak with the investigators in the Campus Events Investigation. Clearly, we need to commit ourselves to strengthening the fabric of our community and finding ways to engage in difficult conversations with candor, respect, and a presumption of good faith.
  • The College will always encourage critique and dissent and provide students the opportunity to engage in protest and other forms of expression. As I said last semester, we will hold each other accountable. In instances where a community member violates College policy, our response will be in line with our mission to teach and help each other learn and grow. Where all parties consent, we will consider restorative justice and other alternative approaches, as appropriate.

I am eager to think anew with you about possibilities for expanding social outlets and further enriching life on campus. As always, I remain firm in my commitment to ensuring a safe and supportive environment in which all students can thrive.

Jim Terhune
Vice President and Dean of Students