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.