Phi Psi Flyers and the Ted Cruz Playbook

Ladies and gentlemen, Ted Cruz has come to Swarthmore.

Apparently taking their cues from the Tea Party, Swarthmore activists are petitioning the Student Budget Committee to defund our two fraternities on campus, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, until they achieve at least 10% female membership. Triggering this movement was a batch of flyers sent out by Phi Psi to this year’s crop of pledges. Along with a welcome message, the flyers depicted a mosaic of pictures of half-naked women.

While we find the flyers sexist and call on Phi Psi to apologize to the Swarthmore community, campus activists have truly outdone themselves with the ridiculousness of this “defund” movement. Not only would defunding be almost entirely symbolic (most of the fraternities’ funding comes from member dues), but it would also no longer require the fraternities to make their parties open to the entire campus – creating exactly the culture of “exclusivity” so dreaded by Greek Life opponents.

Moreover, defunding the fraternities on the basis of these flyers, however offensive, would set a dangerous precedent for all funding decisions to follow. Under the petition’s standard, SAC funding could be withheld from any group engaging in speech that any subset of the student body finds offensive. Will Drama Board be starved for cash, since they funded two shows last year that included female nudity? What about student art shows that include paintings or photographs of unclothed individuals? These things may receive protection, it could be argued, because they represent a form of “art” – but where does one draw the line? Should Genderf**k, with its hyper-sexualized and derogatory “girls wear less” slogan, also get the ax?

Of course, this isn’t really about a Puritanical reaction to the flyers but, rather, activists’ desire to reinvigorate last spring’s failed referendum. Let’s take a look at the sole question that garnered majority support among the student body. The question read:

“Do you support admitting students of all genders to fraternities and sororities?”

Activists have used the results of this oddly worded and non-binding referendum, which passed with an unconvincing 53% majority, as justification for their push to force the fraternities to include at least 10% female membership. But there is no mandate in the referendum for such an arbitrary quota system. Given the existence of a sorority on campus, neither is there a mandate for even admitting women to fraternities. The “all genders” language of the referendum implies that the question has to do with transgender and gender-non-binding students, which is a different issue entirely.

Student activities funds, which all students contribute to, should not be used to advance the extreme agenda of a subset of the student body. Campus activists should, by all means, fight speech with speech and continue their public shaming of Phi Psi, but defunding a campus group unless it adheres to an arbitrary set of standards is a step too far.

4 comments

  1. Correction: naked (not half-naked) female bodies.

    I support this campaign because I see this poster as underlying institutional practice of Phi Psi — that to be a member of Phi Psi it means you accept this as normal. It means that no institutional practice of Phi Psi has changed despite the past spring. So we need external pressure.

    Rather than blaming it on the desire of activists, I think it will be more productive to think about what the result might look like, like your point about risk of exclusivity, which I appreciate. So, suppose there are a few women in Phi Psi, what would that look like? What problems would that solve (like, internal logs calling women creature? Like rapes in the frat house?) and what complications would that create?

    Attacking “the extreme agenda” doesn’t really make sense to me. I mean I could also attack your agenda. But that’s not gonna move or prove anything.

  2. Phi Psi is a private club and should not be forced to accept any member for any reason. They should be able to pick and choose who they extend bids to for any reason they see fit. Social fraternities have always been all male, its a place where men can develop a bond of brotherhood that is unique to males, much as sorority sisterhood is unique to females. To force a female quota would be to effectively destroy their brotherhood and tradition. Who Phi Psi lets in and doesn’t is no ones business but Phi Psi. A brotherhood can not include women. What is the problem here? I truly do not understand what people see wrong with a place of male companionship? Those of you who would like to destroy something as precious as true friendship and brotherhood are cold and cruel. Make sure you understand what you wish to destroy before you go about destroying it. Fraternities are not anti-women because they are all male (trust me, we love the ladies). Its just a place where boys can be boys, its our private little club (Im not a Phi Psi for the record, or even a Swathmore student) Help me understand what the issue here is besides the admittedly disgusting flyer they used. I agree the flyer was a low-ball move that cheapens the appearance of the organization but again they have the right to choose those kinds of images if they want, its their club. Let me hear the otherside of this argument I am curious. A silly little poster cannot truly upset people this deeply. What are the real underlying issues here that are motivating this insane 10% female quota? Thanks in advance for any intelligent replies.

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