It’s been three months since the Class of 2014 pierced the Swarthmore Bubble and, clearly woozy with my newfound freedom, I’ve put off writing this farewell to the Swarthmore Independent. But goodbyes and gratitude are much in order.
Our small cohort of Swarthmore conservatives, libertarians, moderates and other fringe counterculturists had murmured about founding an alternative student newspaper for a while. But after “the spring” of 2013, Tyler Becker ’14, Savannah Saunders ’16 and I knew it was past time to get started. Right-of-center perspectives definitely exist at Swarthmore but, like the Quakers, too often remain mum. So last July, the three of us met at a Collegiate Network conference to hatch a plan, and the blog was up and running well before the start of the school year. Preston Cooper ’14 emerged as our go-to managing editor, and Nat Frum ’16 and Joe Warren ’16 kept us laughing with their “Swat8” sketch comedy videos.
I’m proud that our writers provided much-needed reporting on Title IX and free speech issues. It was the Independent that first brought attention to the administration’s ill-conceived plan to solicit student activists to sit on sexual assault juries. And it was the Independent that covered the administration’s handbook breech, when the deans decided to reeducate the Phi Psi brothers for their lewd but legal pledge invitations. Our writers also offered a unique voice on the College’s ever-evolving alcohol policies, the Cornel West/Robert George symposia, and the notorious “fat justice” workshop, among other dustups.
By now, I imagine the “Spring of our Discontent” is part distant memory and part myth—like that time in the 70’s when Bruce Springsteen supposedly held a concert in the Crum. These days, there are new deans in Parrish, and Rebecca Chopp is manifesting her administrative destiny out West.
But so long as there are students—and professors—who think free speech is “a shield” for the privileged or that “trigger warnings” should be slapped on the cover of every great work of literature, the Independent remains necessary. Thankfully, Tyler Becker and I leave you in good hands. The Independent’s writers are proud to contribute to the intellectual diversity of Swarthmore. Many students have told me they don’t always agree with our editorial stances but find our articles provocative and worth considering. That’s precisely our goal: good old-fashioned liberal discourse.
Last semester, I was inspired by the level-headed Q&A periods after John Tomasi’s “Free Market Fairness” lecture and Samantha Harris’s presentation on academic freedom. It is my hope that the Independent and Swarthmore Conservative Society will continue to sponsor such events. Better yet, I hope that Swarthmore students and faculty will consider adopting symposia akin to Brown’s Janus Forum or Yale’s Political Union in order to generate more consistent cross-campus discussion. Regular high-quality debate and conversation are the only cures for a student body that, too often, has regarded the prospect of controversial scholars as simply intolerable. For every student who shouts her barbaric yawp of “intersectionality” from the rooftops of McCabe, there ought to be another Swattie crunching the economic effects of divestment or asking What Would Socrates Do?
Our summer, as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “has made her light escape / Into the Beautiful—.” But, for Swarthmore students, the autumn leap into rigorous seminars and late-night study sessions has its own beauty. No matter how stressed or frazzled or politically persecuted you may feel, a four year liberal arts education at Swarthmore is truly a privilege. I trust the Independent’s writers will uphold that privilege with intelligence and wit. To quote the Class of 1927, Use Well Thy Freedom.
Danielle Charette ’14 is beginning a Ph.D with the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and busy contemplating whether or not she’ll have to vote for Rahm Emanuel.