Are Swarthmore and its peer institutions unwelcoming to American veterans? Among Swarthmore’s 1,534 current students, there are precisely zero former U.S. service members. Wick Slone at Inside Higher Ed finds that statistic disturbing. He argues that Swarthmore, which accepts federal funding and Pell Grants, has an obligation to honor the United States by recruiting and enrolling veterans. Slone also pulls the Quaker card: He states that he, as a practicing Quaker, thinks it’s a priority to help returning vets readjust to civilian life and continue their educations.
In an email to President Rebecca Chopp earlier this month, Slone wrote:
The usual obfuscation is that a college would be happy to take veterans but none are applying. We both know that a college would need to recruit this population. And we both know, I think, that selective colleges, especially those as wealthy as Swarthmore, have exactly as many of certain types of students—soccer players, chemists, oboists—as they choose to have.
In reply, President Chopp contended:
We are geared in our work toward undergraduates in the age range of 18-22 and that fact sometimes makes choosing us less likely for older veterans. In recent years we have been focused on the children of veterans and we have at present seven children of veterans enrolled, which is a part of the support that veterans and their families seek and need. The community colleges and the large state and research universities are better able to enroll large numbers at once.
To some extent, it’s understandable that a veteran in his or her late twenties might not find Swarthmore’s young, highly residential atmosphere to be the most suitable place. And someone exiting the highly specialized ranks of the Army might not naturally seek out the liberal arts. Still, Swarthmore doesn’t need to “enroll large numbers,” as President Chopp erroneously suggests. Right now, we have no veterans at all. And doesn’t she find the fact only seven Swatties are the children of veterans astonishingly low?
President Chopp’s response earned sharp criticism from Slone, who called her arguments “preposterous.” Then again, she should be praised for at least engaging what is indeed a serious question. The presidents of Yale and Columbia ignored Slone all together.
But President Chopp’s response evades the obvious problem of politics: Swarthmore’s campus is so one-sidedly leftist that it no doubt turns away service members and their families. No one here at the Independent can recall a single Veterans’ Day event or lecture hosted at the College. Each year, Nov.11 passes entirely without formal honor or reflection. And without any veterans on campus, few people seem to think that’s strange.