Rape Happens Here

For 150 years, leafy, progressive Swarthmore College tried to resolve student conflicts in the best Quaker tradition — peacefully and constructively. Then came 91 complaints of sexual misconduct. In a single year.

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In the early 1980s, staff members in one of Swarthmore’s libraries began hanging reams of white computer paper in the bathroom stalls, which students would use to gossip about cute boys or gripe about homework. A few years ago, pieces of white paper of a different sort began appearing in campus bathrooms. They’re printed up by the administration and emblazoned with the words SEXUAL ASSAULT RESOURCES. One of those resources, as of a couple years ago, was a student named Lisa Sendrow. Last spring, for the first time, Sendrow herself needed to reach out to someone whose name appeared on the white piece of paper.

Sendrow is a 23-year-old brunette from Princeton, New Jersey. Her mother is from Mexico; her dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. She graduated last spring and works in health care in Washington, D.C. If 3,000 smiling Facebook photos are a good barometer, her four years at Swarthmore seem to have passed by untroubled. But in the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months. They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”

A month and a half went by before Sendrow paid a visit to Tom Elverson, a drug and alcohol counselor at the school who also served as a liaison to its fraternities. A former frat brother at Swarthmore, he was jolly and bushy-mustached, a human mascot hired a decade earlier to smooth over alumni displeasure at the elimination of the football team, which his father had coached when Elverson was a student. When Sendrow told him she had been raped, he was incredulous. He told her the student was “such a good guy,” she says, and that she must be mistaken. Sendrow left his office in tears. She was so discouraged about going back to the administration that it wasn’t until several months later that she told a dean about the incident. Shortly thereafter, both students graduated, and Sendrow says she was never told the outcome of any investigation. (Elverson, whose position was eliminated by the school last summer, emailed me that he would answer the “great questions” I raised, but never wrote back.)




As the issue of campus assault gains national media traction, stories about incompetent or callous administrators have become bleakly — almost numbingly — familiar. But Sendrow’s account is also quite specific to Swarthmore. The unrest that’s roiled the little U.S. News & World Report juggernaut 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia over the past year — including dozens of allegations of student-on-student sexual assault, two federal investigations, two student-filed federal lawsuits, and four (unprecedented) expulsions for sexual misconduct — nominally revolves around a campus rape problem and an administration accused of abetting it. But the conflict in fact runs deeper: Swarthmore’s 150-year-old Quaker-inspired governing philosophy has collided with the far less forgiving demands of contemporary campus life.


ON APRIL 25, 2013, Swarthmore sophomores Hope Brinn and Mia Ferguson stood on Independence Mall in Philadelphia and told assembled media that the college had badly mishandled claims of sexual assault; in response, they were bringing a Title IX complaint to the federal government. This was just days after the duo filed a separate Clery Act complaint alleging that Swarthmore had systematically underreported such incidents. The complaints were part of a larger strategy — they later met with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred — in which Brinn, Ferguson and a couple dozen co-complainants aimed to use their personal stories to shame and ultimately reform their college.

Ferguson, from Brookline, Massachusetts, wrote an op-ed, “Raped and Betrayed,” for a student newspaper. Brinn, from Wilmington, Delaware, stood before the school’s board and told how she was sexually assaulted, stalked, and then met with “grave indifference” by the administration. Within a couple months, the Department of Education began investigating the school for Clery and Title IX violations. The controversy only increased when the New York Times ran a story in which Ferguson suggested that she had been denied a campus job in retaliation for her activism. By the end of the year, it seemed everyone was lobbing one accusation or another at Swarthmore. In 2012, 11 incidents of sexual assault were reported to the school’s public safety department. In 2013, that number — covering everything from harassment to rape — spiked to 91. (One-third of them concerned incidents from previous years.)

Over the past few years, dozens of colleges have faced damning accusations surrounding campus assault. But the problem only gained national traction when elite schools like Amherst and Yale exploded, too. Like them, Swarthmore boasts the usual trappings of coastal gentility: stately stone masonry, vast campus greenery, students sitting under trees, etc. Same with the pamphlet stats: $58,000 price tag; 17 percent odds of admission; $1.6 billion in the endowment kitty; 1,500 students who graduated from high school at the top of the class.

But Swarthmore, as it likes to remind us, is somewhat different from its liberal arts rivals. This year, the college published a coffee-table book called Swarthmore College: A Community of Purpose, featuring essays by notable alumni who hadn’t already contributed to the 2004 collection The Meaning of Swarthmore. University president Rebecca Chopp summarized that quintessence in a 2013 address to incoming freshmen, invoking the school’s “Quaker values of simplicity, rigorous examination of conscience, generous giving, social responsibility, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.”

To be sure, the school dropped its sectarian status more than a hundred years ago and is hardly a bastion of religious sentiment — of any denomination. What was once Daily Quaker Meeting became Monthly Quaker Meeting, which eventually gave way to Optional Quaker Meeting. Meanwhile, frats and binge drinking and casual sex and MDMA and Adderall and all the other hallmarks of modern college life began to creep onto campus. During one recent Sunday service at Swarthmore’s handsome, unadorned campus meetinghouse, the only student attendee who spoke up was from Haverford College; the rest were AARP candidates wrapped in polar fleece.

Still, two powerful vestiges of Quakerism remain. First, there are the progressive politics of Swarthmore’s student body, whose incessant demonstrations are in keeping with the civil disobedience preached by the school’s founders. Even before Ferguson and Brinn filed their complaints, concurrent protests surrounding fossil-fuel divestment, a commencement speaker and Greek life caused President Chopp to dub the second semester of the 2012-’13 school year the “spring of our discontent.”

The second central remnant of the school’s Quaker legacy — the “peaceful resolution of conflicts” — resides not in the student body, but in the administration. “From the very smallest scale to the largest scale, the college does have a long history of finding a way through that won’t leave half the people in any room feeling like they lost,” says Swarthmore history professor Tim Burke. “It means, for one, we tend to defer difficult decisions.”

Last year, those two interpretations of the school’s Quaker mandate barreled into one another. For decades, Swarthmore’s permissiveness and tolerance formed a protective bubble over campus. But applied to the festering problem of sexual assault, that same permissiveness and tolerance catalyzed mass student revolt.

WHAT ENDED IN UNPRECEDENTED turmoil began with a stereotypically Swarthmore occurrence: a movement to abolish Greek life on campus.

First, a little context. In 1933, a group of female students successfully agitated to abolish sororities at Swarthmore, in part on the grounds that they discriminated against Jewish students. Two decades later, a referendum was called, unsuccessfully, to do the same for fraternities. Skip forward a half century, and the Greeks were under attack once more.


In late August 2012, as students began to trickle onto campus, word got out that a sorority had been reestablished by a group of students who were perhaps more career-minded and athletically oriented than the typical Swattie. Perturbed, a senior sent an email to the Swarthmore Queer Union listserv:

Wait — I thought the sorority thing was shot down pretty definitively last year. Why is this happening? Are we happy this is happening??

They were not. And so a petition was formed to gauge interest in abolishing the new sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, which soon turned into a referendum to eradicate Greek life altogether.

Frats at Swarthmore look pretty much like you might expect. There are only two, Delta Upsilon and Phi Psi, and neither provides housing. When a writer at the website TotalFratMove.com (Jezebel for fraternity bros) caught wind of the referendum, he panned Swarthmore’s frat scene: “To hear that there is anti-Greek sentiment at Swarthmore is about as surprising as finding out that a Lena Dunham shaped sex doll is the new mascot for Oberlin College.”

However harmless Swarthmore and its frats appear, they’ve long been maligned on campus. “Greek life at Swarthmore has always been precarious,” says former dean of students Bob Gross, who retired in 2006. “People resent that they have dedicated space.” Indeed, as the referendum heated up in March 2013, anti-Greek activists began pinning up fliers with messages like “Groups that exclude and frighten Swatties should not control 50 percent of the social spaces on campus.”

As the movement intensified, the anti-fraternity messaging began to suggest a relationship between “frat culture” and “rape culture.” A couple nights before the vote, in early April, several students asserted this more publicly through a familiar mode of expression at Swarthmore: chalked messages written on campus walkways. (Hope Brinn, one of the leaders of the movement, wrote about being raped in a message she planted in front of the campus library.) The next day, many of the chalkings had been scrubbed away by then-student-council co-president Victor Brady. Like many on campus, he was perturbed by the vitriolic and personal accusations they contained. President Chopp followed with an email condemning the “targeted anonymous postings.”

Mia Ferguson wasn’t involved with the referendum, but she was incensed by the notion that student testimony was being suppressed. “I had accepted what happened with me as sexual assault,” she told me as we sat in a Philadelphia restaurant in late January. What motivated her to go public was the sense that Swarthmore had abandoned its commitment to free expression and inquiry.

So she joined Brinn for a second night of chalking. “We were really angry, chalking things everywhere, and then this staff member came up to us,” Brinn remembered in an oral history collected last year by a campus magazine. “He said, ‘Are you aware of the cover-ups, too?’ And he started talking about how the administration had literally been destroying evidence of sexual assault.” Brinn and Ferguson couldn’t track down any specifics, and the staffer stopped responding to my emails when I asked him about the claims. Whether true or not, the whiff of a wider conspiracy galvanized the two women. Within a few weeks, they had collected sufficient testimony of victim-blaming, underreporting and general administration insensitivity that they brought their complaints against Swarthmore.

For a dedicated band of student activists at the school, a broader politics of oppression linked frat culture and rape culture with concerns about everything from the Keystone XL pipeline to American imperialism. But where they saw “intersectionality,” others saw inchoate aggression. After the fraternity referendum failed, says David Hill, a 2013 graduate and DU brother well known on campus for his conservatism, there arose “a general culture of hatred towards the administration.” Gross, the retired dean, summed much of the activism up as “the way adolescents individuate themselves — by rebelling against the parents.”

The analogy may be flip, but it’s apt in at least one sense. Swarthmore represents a peculiar inversion of the “in loco parentis” once reliably promised by small liberal arts colleges: Students expect — and are granted — near-total autonomy. But that no-consequences freedom also sets up an expectation that students will be inoculated from any harm that befalls them on campus. I spoke at length with roughly a dozen victims of alleged sexual misconduct at Swarthmore and, through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained the Title IX complaint that detailed the stories of a dozen more. (Swarthmore’s Phoenix and Daily Gazette published several such accounts, too.) One theme was constant: The women felt betrayed less by their perpetrators, from whom they never expected much, than by their college.


HEARD BY THEMSELVES, the claims leave open the possibility of a misunderstanding between student and administrator, of signals tragically crossed. Taken together, a pattern appears to emerge.

“Sally,” a 2012 graduate, said she was at a party in the fall of her freshman year when a fellow student cornered her, pushed her against a wall, and began to kiss her, before being pulled off by a mutual friend. Later that night, Sally awoke to find the same student had entered her room and climbed on top of her. She managed to push him off. When she told associate dean Myrt Westphal she wanted to pursue charges through the College Judiciary Committee (CJC), she says, Westphal asked her to say “harassment” rather than “assault,” and questioned whether she really wanted to “pit her two friends against each other.” Discouraged, Sally declined to pursue judiciary action. (Westphal, who retired last spring, declined to comment.)

Similar stories are legion. Jean Strout, a 2010 graduate now studying at Harvard Law School, says that after she was pinned to the ground by a naked, drunk rugby player, she spoke to a male administrator by phone, who told her it sounded like a “misunderstanding” and that she should ask the offender for an apology.

A recent graduate who now practices law in New York City says that when she told an administrator she had been raped, the administrator said, "You don’t sound as if you were raped," and, noticing the cross hanging around her neck, asked if she wanted to see a priest. A first-semester freshman at the time of her assault, she says she sought support and guidance from multiple members of the administration in moving forward with her case. However, after months of conversations she calls “frustrating” and “invalidating,” she ultimately declined to pursue it: “I was tired of fighting, and wanted to focus on healing.”

Another student, according to the Title IX complaint, was raped in her dorm room by a friend of a friend with alcohol on his breath. Before he left the room, he looked at her, smiled, and told her, “It’s your word against mine.” After she recounted the incident in a long email to a member of the administration, her complaint says, school officials never got in touch with her or did any investigation.

As spokeswomen for fellow victims, Hope Brinn and Mia Ferguson often underemphasized their own stories, but they too joined the complaints. Ferguson says she was raped her freshman year in a dorm room by someone she considered a friend. After keeping it bottled up for a semester, she told two resident advisers who were required to report what she told them. They proceeded to tell no one. Hope Brinn says a male student burst into her room while she was naked and refused to leave, after having harassed her via text message. According to her Title IX complaint, when she reported the incident, an administrator laughed and told her she might consider having him write “knock” on his hand as a reminder before he goes out. (Brinn has also spoken about a separate incident of sexual assault.)

The administration, along with the specific school employees involved in each case, is hamstrung in its ability to dispute such claims publicly, thanks to the strict confidentiality requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. When I asked a Swarthmore spokesperson if there were factual errors in student newspaper accounts of similar incidents, she said there were many, but the school wasn’t permitted to correct any of them. Swarthmore also declined to make any of its administrators available for interviews for this story, responding to written questions through the spokesperson. Regarding the Title IX complaint, it provided this statement: “These are allegations only, and the Department of Education has stated explicitly that its investigation ‘in no way implies that [the Office of Civil Rights] has decided merit.’” (Click here to read the entire Title IX complaint and Swarthmore's response.)

Over the course of our conversations, a couple students teared up, while others couldn’t bear to recount their assaults. But for the most part, their testimonials had a somewhat bloodless, clinical aspect to them. Pain, it seemed, had hardened into disgust and cynicism. “Students still buy into this whole Quaker idealism,” says Ferguson. “You feel, ‘I really get this place, I know the administrators and I trust them intimately.’ So it’s this really disturbing level of deceit.”

IN 2011, THE OBAMA administration sent a letter to every college in the country, informing them that by neglecting to properly address claims of sexual violence, they were creating a “hostile environment” prohibited by the Title IX gender equity law. Early this year, Obama doubled down, announcing a task force on college sexual assault. The upshot? Schools that viewed Title IX in the context of athletics have been blindsided, while students have pounced. In 2009, a reported 11 student complaints were filed nationally with the federal government; in 2013, that number rose to 29.

Whether Swarthmore is in violation of federal law for ignoring or underreporting sexual misconduct is for government investigators to determine. But until recently, it wasn’t so obvious that schools would be punished for such lapses. Indeed, many observers argue that focusing the blame on wayward administrators misses the larger point: Colleges shouldn’t be involved in this stuff at all.

The group best known for taking this view is the right-leaning nonprofit FIRE, or Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has made a living defending the trammeled due-process rights of alleged bad guys. But even certain women’s-rights advocates are squeamish about a bunch of physics PhDs on an adjudication panel deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused rapist, without lawyers, evidence, or any other trappings of a typical court case. “My grave concern is the capacity, the competence, and the appropriateness of colleges dealing with rape outside the criminal justice system,” says Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project. Even if a college justly expels a student for rape, Tracy points out, he can transfer to another college and rape again.

One counterargument, which colleges have been making for decades, is that administrators steeped in campus culture are better equipped to resolve student-vs.-student disputes than unfeeling law enforcement. “What Swarthmore will claim is, ‘We want to make sure it’s educational, we’re not here to punish students, we’re here to help them grow and learn,’” says Mia Ferguson. “Which makes sense … but that is a way they skirted around punishment to a certain extent.”

Indeed, it was largely out of the school’s good intentions that its scandal took root. What current students see as shocking complacency is in fact consistent with an unofficial disciplinary policy that’s long governed Swarthmore.

Twenty years ago, Swarthmore also found itself embroiled in a national controversy over alleged sexual impropriety. The story involved two 18-year-old freshmen: Alexis Clinansmith, a white girl from the wealthy Detroit suburbs, and Ewart Yearwood, a Hispanic kid from Washington Heights in Manhattan. Clinansmith claimed Yearwood had been stalking and harassing her. Yearwood claimed he was just playing Romeo and was being maligned for his Latino assertiveness.

Clinansmith took the matter to a disciplinary hearing, where a jury deadlocked over Yearwood’s guilt. Then-president Al Bloom decided Yearwood had “intimidated” but not harassed Clinansmith and devised what he felt was an ingenious solution: He would pay for Yearwood to transfer to another institution for a semester while everybody cooled down. Bad move. The Wall Street Journal slammed the school for capitulating to the feminist lobby, while other conservative commentators attacked Swarthmore for going soft on Yearwood in deference to the (still vaguer) Hispanic lobby. Political correctness, the commentariat railed, had run amok.

The school had an obligation to be “just and compassionate,” Bloom told the Washington Post. Yearwood’s transgressions, he added, were “not a reason to abandon him.” Or as one freshman put it at the time, “I guess Swarthmore tried to do the right thing and not ruin this guy’s life, which reflects the college’s Quaker traditions.”

Such resistance to traditional punitive measures, it turns out, is a Swarthmore trademark. Edward Parrish, one of the founders of the college, was forced out by the school’s board for his disinclination to crack down on student misbehavior. One hundred fifty years later, an articulation of that ethos was broadcast to the graduating class of 2013. Myrt Westphal, the dean who came under fire last year for allegedly not taking student complaints seriously, delivered the baccalaureate address at Commencement. “Laws and rules and punishments don’t always work,” she said, standing at the base of the grassy campus amphitheater. “They are a necessary underpinning, but they don’t always fix the problem. It is too easy to turn to the law, but I feel if you have to use the law, broadly speaking, you have lost. We need more human and personal techniques to reduce the conflicts.”

There is admirable idealism in that strain of thinking. But placid Quaker utopianism wasn’t the brand of reform students were looking for. “The problem that a lot of us have with ‘constructive dialogue’ is that ‘constructive’ is a code word for ‘nice,’” says sophomore Allison Hrabar, who went public with her assault story and who says her perpetrator was expelled last fall. “I had a lot of conversations with the school, but it wasn’t until the Title IX complaint that things started changing. And it wasn’t until I started dropping the word ‘lawyer’ that things started changing.”


INDEED, AFTER 150 YEARS of well-intentioned baby-splitting, Swarthmore has begun behaving in a very uncharacteristic way. In the wake of the unrest last spring, Tom Elverson’s job was eliminated. Two other controversial deans had their responsibilities shifted, another left for a new job, and five new Title IX staffers were hired. Instead of relying on a jury of students and faculty to adjudicate sexual misconduct cases, Swarthmore has tapped a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, Jane Greenspan, to do the job. Not least, for the first time in recent school history, the college expelled students for sexual misconduct — four in all.

But the Quaker counter-programming wasn’t embraced by everyone. One of the first to appear on the receiving end of Swarthmore’s new reform-mindedness was, of all people, Mia Ferguson. Last August the school denied her a job as a resident adviser for refusing to disclose the name of an alleged victim of sexual assault. Ferguson went to the Times, claiming she was being retaliated against for her activism. (The college denies this.) While it remains unclear whether the fine print of her contract was interpreted
correctly — she says she wasn’t mandated to disclose information she learned before starting the job — there is an irony to her charge: One of her grievances is that her RAs didn’t report her assault, as they were mandated to.

A couple weeks later, with the bitter referendum movement behind it, campus frat Phi Psi let its guard down and distributed a recruitment poster featuring tiny pixilated photos of naked women. Quick to condemn the imagery, which had been used in the past to no great consequence, the administration forced members of the fraternity to attend sensitivity training. A conservative campus publication decried the move, while familiar foe FIRE slammed the sanctions.

Ferguson and FIRE have little in common. Ferguson’s aim was to protect student privacy; FIRE was concerned with First Amendment rights. But these cases hint at the widespread sense that Swarthmore, if it wasn’t directly betraying its students, was somehow betraying its mission.

Last spring, for instance, Swarthmore alumnus and Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen sent a sympathetic email to a conservative student after she wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed critiquing a group of campus activists (which included Hope Brinn) for hijacking a public board meeting at the college. Cohen voiced concern that a “college founded by Quakers and based on essential principles of tolerance could be so intolerant of contrary views.”

Members of Swarthmore’s nascent sorority, who wouldn’t have been edgy at all on most campuses, felt similarly persecuted. “I perceived that I was coming into an open or welcoming environment,” says Jessica Seigel, a sorority member and the leader of a centrist political organization on campus. “That [perception] has been destroyed.” Her fellow sister Elena Schlessinger, a co-president of the student council, says her conservatism on certain issues, along with the toxic sorority association, made her persona non grata to campus activists. “It’s really fucking sad,” she says. “Because you’re with the smartest people in the world … but [they’re] only debating people who are one degree away from them.”

This echo-chamber issue, of course, isn’t new. “What I didn’t like so much was this overwhelming sense of pious liberalism,” wrote novelist and alumnus Jonathan Franzen in his contribution to A Community of Purpose. “I’m a left-wing Democrat, but even for me it was a bit much. We should have been problematizing things, doing the kind of intellectual searching that was happening in the classroom, but instead there was this unexamined consensus.”

What is new is the intensity of the competing claims of victimization, leading even the most unlikely of students to claim they were sold out by the school. Which brings us to “John Doe.”

LAST MAY, A JUNIOR AT Swarthmore hailing from North Carolina was expelled for sexual assault and harassment. In January, he sued the school for violating his rights under Title IX, the same law that Brinn and Ferguson accused the school of breaking. He seeks $75,000 in damages along with readmittance to the school. He and his accuser, the suit claims, met in a coed a cappella group and had three consensual sexual encounters. The first was a kiss; the third was intercourse. It was the second that proved problematic.


Late on April 30, 2011, according to the suit, “Jane Doe” sent John Doe a text asking him to come study with her in her room. He did, and after some brief chitchat, the two engaged in consensual oral sex. The next day, Jane confessed the encounter to her boyfriend, who didn’t attend Swarthmore. He proceeded to send a threatening email to John. (The boyfriend said he had a gun.) Later that day, Jane came to John’s room and apologized for the email, after which the two had consensual sex. Nothing ever happened between them again, according to the suit. Nineteen months later, while studying abroad in Scotland with the same boyfriend, Jane told a dean at Swarthmore that the second encounter hadn’t been consensual and that she wanted to press charges through the campus judiciary system.

By early June, John Doe had been found responsible for sexual assault and immediately expelled. John Doe claims he was made a sacrificial lamb after Brinn and Ferguson had brought their claims against the school. So he sued, making him one of more than a half dozen “Reverse Title IX” complainants in the country. (Swarthmore, in a court filing, released an email in which the plaintiff told Jane Doe’s boyfriend “I agree with you” after being accused of actions “tantamount to rape.” The college also claims that Jane Doe resisted John Doe during the second encounter, which it says included digital penetration and caused her to bleed.)

The irony of Swarthmore’s position is that months earlier, it was beating back a separate lawsuit filed by women claiming the school hadn’t done enough to address sexual assault. (That case was ultimately dropped.) Where Ferguson, Brinn and others felt betrayed by the school’s complacency, John Doe felt betrayed when Swarthmore tried to stop being so complacent. As he claimed in the suit, “Associate Dean [Myrt] Westphal assured John that no student had been expelled for sexual misconduct in her 25 years at Swarthmore.”

Swarthmore has become something of a higher-education Rorschach test. Victims of sexual assault see a school that willfully ignored a pervasive rape problem. Campus conservatives, free-speech groups and, now, at least one alleged assailant see extreme political correctness infringing on students’ rights to free speech and due process.

“Consciously or not,” says a former administrator, “they’re so invested in protecting this bucolic campus, this elite liberal arts college that is Quaker and consensus-driven and radical and progressive.” Anything that bursts that fantasy, the former administrator says, “they just can’t deal with.” That sentiment refers to deans and professors, but in truth, it applies to most everyone on campus. What makes Swarthmore unique isn’t that it had a sexual-assault problem. What makes it unique is that its administration was hard-wired to address that problem in a way the student body was hard-wired to reject. Sooner or later, in other words, the Swarthmore bubble was going to burst.

THE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE between the two sides — and between the old way of doing things and the new legal realities of campus compliance — became stark one afternoon in mid-January, when I met Bob Gross, the former dean of students, at a coffee shop. Gross, wearing the muted-wool-and-tweed uniform of retired academics everywhere, for many years presided over the disciplinary hearing processes at Swarthmore.

“One day I was reading the paper about asteroids hitting the Earth, you know, a certain chance that the Earth could be struck by an asteroid and civilization would be wiped out,” he said. “And we used to say, ‘Do we want to spend our last days on Earth in a fucking CJC hearing? You know, let’s put it off.’” He chuckled. “The thing about deaning is, you’re always at the mercy of a drunken 19-year-old. Like it can just knock your weekend to hell.”

“Or more,” I reminded him.

He looked at me: “Or more.”

Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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  • The Pragmatician

    In all honesty I think word “rape” is becoming completely trivialized by such definitions as seen on the first page here. Bringing government into the bedroom to solve minor squabbles about those dabbling in hook-up culture at a colleges sounds much too tedious and intrusive, encouraging litigation between parties that would really be better off handling it on their own. The sexual encounter depicted here about Sendrow sounds to me like trying to press charges against your roommate for eating your leftover pizza after you explicitly told them “no”. Is it unfortunate? Yes. Is it worthy of national attention or time tangling up the courts? Absolutely not.

    • YJ2011

      Wait, did you actually just compare being forced into having sex and having your slice of pizza eaten and decide it’s on the same level of atrociousness?

      • The Pragmatician

        “Wait, did you actually just compare being forced into having sex and
        having your slice of pizza eaten and decide it’s on the same level of
        atrociousness?”

        The description in the article does not sound like forced sex. I don’t buy into the idea that run-of-the-mill college sexual experiences should be considered on the same level as rape. It diverts energy and resources from real traumatic rape experiences.

        • Lisa S

          Okay, I will say that I can see where you’re coming from by diminishing my experience. Honestly, I don’t think that any of our experiences were given justice in this article, and they are all very basic summaries of what we went through and what we faced. There’s a lot more to my particular experience that is not detailed, but I also think that Simon mostly wanted to focus on the administration’s role which is why everything that happened that night and other experiences we talked about in interviews are not mentioned. I will not talk about these experiences as I don’t want to justify myself to you, but I just want you to consider that.

          Regardless, it is not for you to decide what is a “real traumatic” rape experience. I am not sure what your experiences are with assault/ rape, but the fact is that many survivors don’t come forward because of comments like that — we don’t feel like our experiences are valid even if we do feel scared, powerless, and traumatized. Rape doesn’t have to be in a back alley in the middle of the night by a total stranger, yet this is what we grow up to believe. And at a small school like ours, we see these people everyday and are afraid of the repercussions of reporting.

          Whether or not your mind changes about the very basic summary of my experience is not for me to decide, but I hope that going forward you can see that rape and assault look different for everyone.

          • Brendan Reynolds

            I read this story because of the George Will column. I don’t expect you to provide details of what happened. I want to offer apologies at the beginning for imposing myself on a very personal and painful experience. I am drawing all my questions/conclusions based on what is quoted in the article.
            The description of this assault gives me reason to wonder if it was explicitly clear to the assaulter that he was forcing himself on you against your will. I have those questions because of the quote “I BASICALLY said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ … combining that sentence and the vagueness of the word “basically” with the idea that you “were tired and just wanted to go to bed, and I let him finish”, and it leaves open the possibility to me that, if your “basically” saying “no, I don’t want to have sex with you” was in fact, verbatim, “I’m tired and I just want to go to sleep” (or something else along the lines of “I don’t want to have sex right now for whatever reason” but you didn’t explicitly state “no I do not want to have sex with you”), I must ask whether your eventual acquiescence could have been construed by your assaulter to constitute non-verbal consent. Without question, the guy here is an a##hole. It is clear from the description that he pushed himself on you, and the right thing would have been to just leave you to sleep. In a situation like this it is impossible not to engage in victim blaming when asking questions that are meant to elucidate whether consent was explicitly given or rescinded. But while it is clear to me that the guy is an a##hole, it is not clear to me that he is a rapist.

    • Girl you’re referencing

      Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. My current roommate has stolen my pizza three times when I told her “no,” and I finally decided to press charges. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my chances– she doesn’t have the best record.

      • JustaGurlinseattle

        I have to say… YOU have a really good attitude and funny sense of humor…. :-)

        It is too bad that the article does NOT truly depict what happened….
        as I too felt that if it happened as it did in the article than that would not be assault…. I am sorry that the paper did not quote you properly :-(

    • Haett Klukka

      In many third world nations, the laws hold that a husband cannot be convicted of raping his wife because he has the absolute right to force himself on her. Evidently, you believe that the more advanced nations should not have abolished such barbarically misogynist laws.

      Do you find your advances repeatedly rejected by by college educated women?

      • David Murphy

        So you trivialise this with low insults. Not a good way to be taken seriously.

        • Haett Klukka

          Do you really imagine that anyone who has the opinions of “the Pragmatist” will be responsive to gentle persuasion?

          If so, why aren’t you attempting to reason with “the Pragmatist?”

          Life in America is becoming increasingly “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” And posting hypocritical barbs on the internet is not going to civilize us.

  • College Girl

    Being a victim of rape I understand how the girl feels on the first page. But at the same time, the fact you’re lying with a former hook up partner in bed doesn’t indicate well you have just agreed to be friends.

    In fact when I was raped I too was raped by a former hook up partner. For two years we were what you’d call “friends with benefits”. The main reason was because I was so busy I didn’t have time to commit to a relationship, and he agreed and didn’t voice any problems with it until I tried to break things off after he started becoming emotionally abusive.

    I was desperately trying to break things off for months— but he was stalking me. Not only was he stalking he was talking about killing me, my family, my parents, my sisters. The final day of stalking, he physically assaulted me by giving me a blow to my head. I walked calmly to my house after crying for a few moments, knew I was in danger and told him to leave so I could call the police, but he kept following me. I told him to leave— he then pushed me and tried to force me in car. I was able to get to my room but he kept following me. He then forced himself on me although prior to that I told him to leave over 30 times. When I realized he was forcing himself on me I said NO and he said “yes” and i just kept crying. I was very passive like the young woman on the first page, all I did was say no, but my passiveness was because this 200 pound man had attacked me— and now was sexually violating me– I knew in my mind I could’t fight him– he was stronger than me. He could kill me. Also prior to that day, I had called the police on him over 4 times for stalking/harassment and he knew that.

    By the time it was over, I literally drove to the police and stopped in the middle of a road where I saw a Sheriff and broke down crying telling him I had been assaulted and raped. Two years later my rapist got 8 years in prison, 6 felonies and there is a criminal protective order against him. By raping me he not only ruined my life he ruined his own. He had many chances to avoid the incident, he didn’t stop, it was his choice to go to prison.

    So although I agree with the girl on the first page that it was indeed rape– she shouldn’t have been laying in a bed with him after they agreed to be friends and after considering their hook up history.

    As a victim of a very violent, traumatic rape I know you should **NEVER** blame the victim, but it sounds as though there wasn’t any attempt to stop him aside from saying no, and not any attempts prior which is concerning– and if you think and know it was true rape— go to the police! That is so important.. Don’t go to your school official– go to the police!

    However, I don’t blame her on page one because sometimes we forget many things when we are raped. In fact, my rapist had actually raped me a year and a half before the rape crime he’d go to prison for. But in my mind at the time, rape wasn’t something that happened between someone you knew, plus I thought he was a friend. I told 1 person about that event and then I told myself to shake it off, although I told him no, and he forced himself on me, I just laid there in disgust and then went home to finish a college assignment. At the time he hadn’t been emotionally abusive either so after his weeks of begging to hang out I naively agreed to see him. It was very naive and innocent on my part to forgive a rapist. I do wish after the first time I was raped that I would see it as it truly was —- rape— and that I would have never affiliated with him after that incident.

    I wish you the best in your recovery.

    • Girl on first page

      So, this is the girl from the first page speaking here. I guess the article doesn’t really go into this, but we had an hour or two hour long conversation and he fell asleep on my bed at 2 am. Although I don’t want to get into details here because of comments like the one above yours and I don’t feel the need to explain all of my experiences to defend myself, we had that agreement and I said “no” many times. All I wanted to do was sleep and get up early for a meeting. 2 days later, he did send me very violent messages which is why I decided to pursue further action. If I say “no,” regardless of what sort of relationship we have, and you still pull down my panties and put your penis inside of me, that is assault/ rape. And assault/ rape can look different for any individual. While my experience is not necessarily the most violent possible (although I believe that all rape is violent), I only explained the experience I had at Swarthmore and with our administrator for the purpose of this article. All of the survivors who are mentioned in here have more to their story than could be fit, so what you see is not the full extent of any of our experiences.

      I am very sorry about your experience and I appreciate your sharing on a public forum.

      • steve5656546346

        A very good clarification, but assuming that it is accurate, then the article was grossly inadequate.

        People are commenting upon the article: there being nothing else to comment upon. If the article is not accurate, then that is a different matter.

      • phipittmom

        Unless you were misquoted your description here of what occurred is vastly different from your description in the article. Either way I do think you have some responsibility to make sure your wishes are absolutely clear. Some women do say no and then change their minds, it happens. I don’t think you can just lay there and let it happen because you were tired, and then call it rape. Personally if I did not want to have sex and someone persisted, I would get up, turn the lights on, and say “Please leave, I’m trying to sleep.” Well, I would probably not crawl into bed with them in the first place, but that’s a separate issue. There has to be a modicum of fairness to both parties. This guy sounds like kind of a pushy jerk, but he doesn’t sound like a rapist. There is a big difference.

      • http://www.asplint.com/ Jeffrey Deutsch

        You said:

        If I say “no,” regardless of what sort of relationship we have, and you still pull down my panties and put your penis inside of me, that is assault/rape.

        I agree completely.

        • bsbfankaren

          That’s too bad. Seriously sir, that’s too bad. Indeed “no means no” but allowing yourself to remain in a situation that you know has already lead to a particular individual touching you, means that you failed to protect yourself. If he sexually assaulted her, she attempted to use the legal system to assault him.

          • stlslostl

            I’m trying to think of some other crime where we tell the victim that if they don’t adequately protect themselves it’s not a crime. “Sorry, grandma, you should hire a bodyguard if you want to go out at night and not get mugged.” “Sorry, homeowner, if you leave a window open then we can’t think of convicting the burglar of robbing you.”

      • bsbfankaren

        O.K. so if you are truly the young woman in the article, I want to feel your pain, I truly do. However, what occurred between you and your particular hook-up partner is a case of two people making poor decisions, and not something that rises to the level of sexual assault. It scares me to think that there are other woman responding here who think you had a case. If this had gone to trial, I would have been shocked to see you win, as there is just too much grey area here. YOU allowed him to fall asleep on your bed….not on the floor, but your bed. YOU made the decision to climb into bed with him…not to sleep on the floor or in a room with a friend, but with him. Instead of jumping up and out of bed when he first made moves on you, you stayed there, and admit you allowed him to remove your clothing because you “were tired.” I support rape victims regularly as I am a victim myself. However, I have a very, very hard time seeing your situation as a case of rape. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it.

  • JW45Cya

    This is pretty disgusting… how these people get away with filing fake rape charges and lying through gritted teeth. They should be ashamed of themselves, and possibly even stoned.

  • Swat Alumni’ 12

    The girl on the front page was well known to sleep around and to lies about it. This doesn’t really surprise me. And one of the other girls was definitely an attention seeker who wanted a crusade. Mia was awesome though and it is terrible what happened to her.

  • John Pettimore

    Swarthmore, as a community, works hard to turn out some of the worst young women imaginable, and this controversy is a perfect example of the consequences of that. They are taught, in a 24/7/365 echo-chamber environment, that they are victims, whether or not they know or believe it. They are taught that things like facts and evidence are unimportant — if someone even questions your version of events, they’re “diminishing your experience.” They are taught that they are brilliant, unique, superior and should be taken VERY seriously, despite the fact that they’re nineteen years old, have almost no life experience, and are protected by a wall of money from the real world. They are taught that men, unless they’re carefully reeducated, are inherently bad — violent, narrow-minded, racist and stupid. And they’re taught that the ideal stance is a combination of delicate-Victorian-flower-overwhelmed-by-the-brutishness-of-the-world and finger-wagging moralizing scold. So you get this — completely normal awkward young-person sexual fumbling gets turned into a political and legal weapon, and as Gross pointed out, nineteen year-old rebellion against Mummy and Daddy becomes a lot more fun when you can do it in court, or in the press, secure in the knowledge that you’ll leave in two years and (of course!) go to law school anyway. After all, you went to Swarthmore.

    • Suitcase Jefferson

      I’m willing to accept as true every fact asserted, and every characterization of those facts. All that tells me is that we need to bring back in loco parentis.

      There is no place on Earth more progressive than Swarthmore. Every far-left piety is accepted without question, much less criticism. “White Male Privilege” means that white guys are automatically wrong, “Rape Culture” is Serious You Guys, and sex is only consensual if the woman has no regrets about it. If under these conditions, women are still getting raped – and not by the College Republicans or Future Patriarchs of America, but by members in good standing of the Privileged-Oppressed Alliance – then the fundamental underpinnings of the college model are completed fuçked, and need to be scrapped.

      You want to see “Rape Culture”? Take hundreds of 17 to 22 year-olds, remove them from their parents, give them unrestricted and unsupervised access to alcohol and each other’s bodies, tell them that they’re mature enough to handle adult choices, and teach them that there’s no virtue in sexual restraint. THAT is “Rape Culture.”

      • Snufflupagus

        I went to one of these horrible schools that churns out terrible women like Swarthmore, and we had both co-ed dorms AND co-ed bathrooms. No curfew. No 12-inch rule.

        The huuge difference is that we also had no Greek system and drinking was allowed on campus, and in dorms. So were drugs, for the most part. (You could get punished for selling drugs, but not using them). “Security” was there to make sure no one got hurt, not that nothing “immoral” happened. You were required to live in dorms for the first two years of school, and social life was centered on campus.

        I can’t be sure, but I really think this curbed a LOT of terrible behavior. There was no need for off campus “party organizations” like frats and sororities. There was PLENTY of people getting their freak on, but I heard of very few (I can only think of two) instances of drunken haze sex where two parties told a different story, and one of those cases was a male student claiming he didn’t want to have sex and felt pressured to. Rape, unless it simply wasn’t reported, was almost unheard of…

        • nesne

          co-ed bathrooms?!?! I wouldn’t have taken a crap for four years.

      • emi2994

        “Single-sex dorms, no visitors after ten, doors ajar when there are
        visitors, room checks by RAs…and there’s no chance that progressive, sensitive, feminist men will ever rape you in your dorm room”

        Right, because as we’ve learned again and again (with alcohol, with sex, with drugs…), making something “against the rules” is a surefire way to make sure it doesn’t happen. That’s why nothing illegal ever happens in the post-collegiate world, ever.

        I shudder to think what a student raised in that environment would experience once they got out into the “real world” where your RA doesn’t come lock you into your apartment at 10pm every night…

        Anyone who agrees with this commenter and still insists that Swarthmore students are the naive, sheltered, immature ones…. I don’t even know what else to say to you.

        • Suitcase Jefferson

          …because if a solution isn’t “surefire,” then it isn’t worth doing, right?

          Why have laws against murder? They’re not “a surefire way to make sure it doesn’t happen,” and therefore they’re worthless.

          • David Murphy

            Are these women (and men) adults or children?

    • Jean

      I would like to hear an explanation of why my experience of being physically attacked, screamed at, and bloodied by a drunk, naked male student, then told 20 minutes later by a dean that I should just ask him to apologize and move on, then have him show up at my door the next morning because he found out I went to public safety about it – go ahead and tell me how that’s the result of my learned victimhood.

      This is not to say I agree with any of the comments suggesting other experiences described in the article were not ‘real rape’ because someone ‘only’ said no or didn’t physically resist ‘enough’ or foolishly thought that they could spend one night with a friend or former lover without getting raped. I’d just like to know how far you can extend the victim blaming explanation before you realize how disgusting you are.

  • A ’12 Alum (not that scumlord)

    The survivor community knew about the cover-ups well before Hope and Mia pushed for legal consequences.

    We knew, from 2008 and before, that Myrt Westphal would not allow some cases to be seen by the College Judiciary Committee (which she had the power to arbitrarily decide). There was absolutely no transparency around the CJC, which meant we didn’t know which students, professors and administrators were on it, and — coincidentally — any sexual assault hearings simply didn’t have their results posted like every other hearing did, in the hallway where all the administrator’s offices are. I heard many, many stories about Dean Karen Henry, who still works at Swarthmore but no longer is “in charge” of survivors; what I heard is that she routinely told survivors that they hadn’t been raped or intimidated them when they wanted to file a report. Administrators routinely did not file Clery reports, and the Clery reports were not made accessible to anyone on or off campus. Rapists who were convicted through the CJC were told to take a semester off, to get anger management, to take one year off — but never to take enough time off that their survivors could graduate. It was usually only serial rapists, btw, that the CJC convicted pre-investigations, and so you are talking about rapists with six survivors who had come forward getting one semester off. In fact, the administrators encouraged a lot of rapists to leave before the CJC hearing, so that their record remained unblemished, and coming from Swarthmore, you’d pretty much be able to transfer anywhere…

    Whatever some of you ignorant bros (I’m not touching most of these comments) think a college’s role should be in handling sexual assault, for administrators to purposefully retraumatize survivors in an effort to protect their own interests (money) is wrong. It’s wrong, period. And that’s what we had at Swarthmore and possibly still have — we had an administration who would rather do violence to their students on a systemic level and certainly in individual moments. For us older survivors, who simply formed support groups and communities basically underground because of a total lack of resources, this current push is amazing. Seriously, most of us have had our minds blown, and we’re following the cases very carefully.

    An Epilogue:

    I was lucky enough to never deal with the bulk of my stuff in a way that required Swarthmore administrators, but after breaking ties completely with my abusive parents, I received an email from Myrt Westphal, asking me to come talk to her about it.

    I was a senior; I knew very well who Myrt Westphal was; I had no idea why I had been summoned.

    I sat down in her office, and she asked me what had happened with my parents. My request to be granted emergency winter housing from Rachel Head, the dean of housing, had somehow made its way to Myrt, apparently. Which, by the way, getting the college (an “ethically intelligent”) to grant me access to my room in a dorm that was already in use by athletes, was like pulling teeth.

    “I’m not really interested in getting into the details,” I said.

    She nodded and did, actually, help me do some really useful things — stopping mailings to them, sealing my records from them, all of that razzle dazzle. Then, she said, “I’d like you to call them every week.”

    “No. That would escalate the situation,” I said.

    She argued with me for a few more minutes — it would make them less worried, it’d make them less likely to start something (Myrt has never met my parents, to my knowledge, whereas I lived with them for 18 years and escaped at the earliest moment possible), it’d be better. Finally, I said, “I’m a legal adult. They can’t cause any trouble that I don’t call them or give them my school records.”

    And then Myrt said, “Yes, but they could sue.”

    I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, but they’d have no case because the school is not doing anything illegal by withholding my information.”

    “Yes, but lawyers cost money,” Myrt said.

    So that’s a venerable Swarthmore administrator’s understanding of and compassion for a DV survivor’s situation. Lawyers cost money, so it’s better that you risk death (actually; I’m positive the neckbeards who would accuse survivors of being liars below still won’t believe me, but those were my stakes) than us having to litigate some angry entitled abusers. She stammered and tried to recover, but I politely told her I would not be calling them and I had to go.

  • http://www.phillymag.com/ Philadelphia Magazine

    Commenters, please keep the discussion civil and relevant to the larger issues raised in the story. Insinuations about and direct attacks on any of the subjects of the story or other identifiable members of the Swarthmore community will be deleted.

  • Revolted Citizen

    I’ve never commented on a post and I’ve rarely been so disgusted. You, Sunny Exton are the FARTHEST from an advocate to rape victims. How can you think trivializing these girls’ stories is of help? You, as an outsider, have no right to judge how someone is affected by an assault. Period. And to further discredit your ignorant opinion- this may be the beginning of the assaults by those boys, but condoning it? It allows them to think this behavior is ok. They may become the serial rapists of which you speak. And people like you are at fault for that- for not supporting bringing justice now and stopping them before they become the people in the stories you so proudly bring up to shift blame to the victims rather than the assailant. Your ignorance is revolting. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • The Pragmatician

      “How can you think trivializing these girls’ stories is of help? You, as
      an outsider, have no right to judge how someone is affected by an
      assault.”

      A) Many of these girls’ stories are trivializing themselves.
      The girl on the first page hopped in bed with a man she had been sleeping with for months. The grey area that she was toying with is well within the lexicon of common experience for young adults, men and women alike.

      B) Any person reading this article has *every right* to judge the outcomes of the situation based on the information provided. That is the very point of the article, public scrutiny.

    • http://4chan.org/b Coolface.jpg

      You, as an outsider, have no right to judge how someone is affected by an assault. Period.

      Yes she does. You are asking a community – whether Swarthmore College or Pennsylvania – to come to your aid and punish someone you have accused of a crime. We’re open to doing just that, but not on your say so. We’re willing to do violence to him, but only if we’re sure that it’s right. So your credibility is at issue. The objective facts – not your subjective experience – are what matter.

      • Haett Klukka

        “The objective facts”

        As extracted from a partisan newspaper column summarizing an anecdote out of context from another magazine column that identifies 91 incidents in a year and expressly states:

        “HEARD BY THEMSELVES, the claims leave open the
        possibility of a misunderstanding between student and administrator, of signals tragically crossed. Taken together, a pattern appears to emerge.”

        You really don’t have any idea how a to properly research a topic of prove a legal case, do you?

        Do third and fourth hand media reports inform all your learned judgments?

  • http://www.lovelyrants.com/ lovelyrants

    Although you see yourself as a “rape advocate,” I find myself wondering if you perhaps have a very limited understanding of rape. Although rape can include horrific “gang bangs,” beatings, weapons, drugs, internet harassment and other forms of brutality, these forms of violence are not required in order to qualify an incident as rape. Rape is forced sexual intercourse. The “force” does not require a weapon or a beating nor a webcam- actually, in 8/10 rapes, no weapon is used aside from physical force and verbal threats. While this story did seem to breeze over the details of the incidents at Swarthmore College, I think that was largely because a few of these women’s stories have been making headlines for over a year- and I don’t think the point of the article was to rehash the experience – but instead to increase awareness about these very real issues. The fact that these women have been fighting for this for so many months suggests that these women do not see rape as “trivial.” Rather, they are continuing to work towards making changes in Swarthmore’s policies, procedures and culture in order to create a safer campus- and safer community- for everyone.

    • Notbuyingit

      Sorry I am not buying this. These women are in some hothouse of indignation that reverberates among themselves. And they are no where near as impressive as they/you think you are, just sensationalist. Every woman learns how to deal with unwanted advances. There is a huge difference between that and rape. There are so many things adults learn to handle without running to ask someone else to fix it. This group seems very immature to me. Are they in middle school or college? Acting like middle school. Too bad, Peter Pans in college, not wanting to grow up, but sure happy about their publicity. Not buying it.

      • Haett Klukka

        You seem surprised to discover that young college women are “immature.” Of course they are immature, which is why they need support and protection, as do many of the boys.

        Never attended college, did you?
        Never had children, did you?
        Always judgmental, aren’t you?

        • Dan Tillman

          But the boys in question are also college students. If you admit that college girls are immature and need protection but you also admit that college boys are immature and need protection then who is responsible for making decisions?

          I’m not going to say that these incidences aren’t rape, because we really don’t have the details. The story on the first page honestly doesn’t seem like it though. If the facts given here are all of them and I was on a jury hearing this case I wouldn’t say guilty.

          The problem with the idea of “Just because they didn’t say no doesn’t mean they said yes.” is that it takes a great deal of responsibility away from the woman in any sexual encounter. As it is now the double standard between men and woman regarding consent is absurd.

          Do you think for even a second that a sober woman would be charged with rape if she had sex with a man that had a blood alcohol content of .08 (the legal limit)? If a man slept with a woman half as drunk he’d most likely be charged.

          There was an incidence recently in Texas where a 42 year old female teacher gave a 15 year old male student a lap dance. A fox news Pundit, Carlson Tucker said any idea of charging the teacher with sexual assault is ludicrous, because all 15 year old boys would want that.

          If it was a 42 year old man teacher giving a lap dance to a 15 year old female student there would be no hesitation charging to teacher.

          The problem with these double standards is harmful to both men and woman. To men it creates the societal expectation that all men should want to have sex all the time. For the record, that isn’t the case. I can assure you if a female teacher gave me a lap dance when I was 15 I would not have enjoyed it, regardless of how attractive she was.

          This perception that men need to be “good to go” at all times is what keeps men from reporting rape and sexual assault. It creates a stigma with not being able to perform sexually. Also guys are taught from a young age that they are supposed to want sex all the time so inevitably they feel a great deal of pressure to do it before they’re ready.

          Ladies if you think you felt pressure to have sex in high school imagine being a teenage boy and watching any TV show or movie where EVERY male character is constantly trying to get laid.

          The double standard also hurts woman because it coddles them. If they’re told they aren’t accountable for it then they won’t assert themselves enough. I don’t mean to say that a woman can ever deserve to be raped or that she can ask for it. I simply mean that we should teach girls that if they don’t want to have sex then they need to say I do not want to have sex. With their words.

          Most men won’t force themselves on woman or threaten them. If you tell them in no unclear terms that you don’t want to go any further most will oblige.

          In relationships it’s not uncommon for men and woman to progress things without verbalizing their desires. I’m sure most people can agree that they do not usually ask their partner if they want to have sex before making a move.

          In the story described on the first page imagine the genders reversed. A man lies in bed with his girlfriend. She tries to initiate sex. She starts undressing him. He says he doesn’t want to do it. She says okay.

          A few minutes later she starts again. He doesn’t say anything.

          Would anyone call that rape?

          • Haett Klukka

            I appreciate the time and effort you put into your reply, however, I knew after the first paragraph that you had not carefully read my post, which stated:

            “as do many of the boys.”

            After you have reconsidered what I actually wrote, maybe you want to reconsider much of the content of your reply?

            I refuse to stretch for any conclusions about the incident briefly mentioned in the articles for precisely the reason your response to my post was non-responsive to my remark. Your response was premised upon incomplete and therefore incorrect comprehension of the facts – in our case, the quoted comment you overlooked.

            It is for all practical purposes impossible to reach prudent judgments about particular people and events on the basis of media reports. Attempts to do so are naive and often irresponsible.

          • Dan Tillman

            I did read your statement carefully. My whole post was specifically in response to your remark about college boys and college girls being immature.

            I was posing the question, if we acknowledge both parties as immature who do we hold accountable? I then when on to argue that in today’s society men are overwhelmingly held accountable. I discussed why this was bad for both genders.

            I also said “I’m not going to say that these incidences aren’t rape, because we really don’t have the details.” However for the purpose of discussion we kind of have to go off of this article.

          • Haett Klukka

            I am disappointed and discouraged by the past few decades of gibberish about “law and order,” “zero tolerance,” “justice for the victim,” “personal responsibility” and, of course, “accountability.”

            After decades of practicing law, active involvement in politics and education, I still have no idea what “hold accountable” actually means. Does it mean “punish?” Require to remedy or compensate for harm caused? Personally live with the consequences, whether good or bad? Compel to confess and repent? Target for vengeance?

            I think “hold accountable” means different things to different people at different times and under different circumstances. The phrase is too ambiguous and plastic to serve as a guide to public policy.

            In the case of non-consensual sex on campuses. I don’t think that “accountability” has anything even close to a conventional meaning because there is not even a consensus as to what responsible sexual activity is. Sex has always been a problem and always will remain a problem until society expends the time, energy and resources to better understand more of the myriad natural and social factors driving people’s behavior.

            One thing I know with a high degree of certainty is that any society that offers half of its hormone-drenched teen-agers no better guidance than the piously stupid admonition to “abstain” is going to continue to raise generations of ignorant, confused, undisciplined, and sexually irresponsible young adults.

            Bottom line, I think it is unprofitable to endlessly debate accountability when we have not yet formulated generally accepted accounting principles for sexual behavior.

          • Guest

            nail, meet head.

            (’cause you just got hit)

          • Westsider

            It’s just a part of the matriarchy that is developing amongst my millenial cohort.
            Women receiving more college degrees.
            Women outearning men.
            Female unemployment lower than male.
            These are all the same kinds of metrics that – in the past, and with genders reversed – were used to vilify society as “patriarchal”.
            Well, what about now?
            Oh, I suppose that when men are the ones starting to become underrepresented, it’s our fault, right? (be careful about blaming the victim here, since that’s what we’re not supposed to do with any female rape victim ..)
            I bet it has nothing to with one-sided quota systems force-feeding 50% female classes into engineering programs, but not the contrapositive with English classes.
            Or a school system that still values female traits [being able to sit quietly for long periods without causing a disturbance, etc.] over male [being more engaged by hands-on/physical learning, and spatial reasoning more than verbal]?
            Today’s “passive” discrimination on our boys and young men seems to be having just as corrosive an effect on male outcomes, as the “aggressive” discrimination females often faced in the past.

    • phlhui

      “Rape is forced sexual intercourse.”

      Sendrow says “She let him” because “she was tired.” Her words. That’s not rape.

      I’d love to see her in a rape support group:

      “How did you resist, Miss Sendrow?”
      “Well, I climbed into bed with him, basically said no, then just let him because I was too tired to resist sex. So sleepy!”

      I’m about as left-wing as you can get, but this girl receives no sympathy from me at all. She sounds like a brat.

  • http://www.lovelyrants.com/ lovelyrants

    I would love to understand why Philly Mag is deleting my comment in response to this article.

    • http://www.phillymag.com/ Philadelphia Magazine

      I see only two comments from you in our system — a reply to Sunny Exton and this one, both of which are live. Were there others? If you didn’t see your first comment right away, it was most likely a Disqus caching issue.

      • http://www.lovelyrants.com/ lovelyrants

        Thank you for your response – I contacted Disqus and the issue was on their side. Thankfully the comment did finally get through!

  • http://www.phillymag.com/ Philadelphia Magazine

    A note to A ’12 Alum: Your comment predated the guidance note at the top of thread, and portions of it could arguably have been interpreted as an attack on an identifiable member of the Swarthmore community. I have accordingly removed it. You are welcome to repost a revised version with the guidance in mind.

  • AnOldiebutaSwattie

    I understand the author needed to make a narrative for the article to be interesting. But Swarthmore’s administrators aren’t perpetuating a culture that is unique to it. In every case I have ever encountered, at every institution I have ever been a student or an employee (including Swarthmore) where students have a claim of harassment or abuse or assault, administrators are incredibly prone to will the problem away, and by doing so push back against the alleged victims. This is a fundamental issue in any institution — need I highlight the Catholic Church, Penn State, etc.? As an academic, I would argue that is most critical in academia, where passivity of action is a general, often accepted, cultural phenomena, and one where simple standards of action can be easily defined and made automatic.

  • phlhui

    lol OK timeout.

    This Sendrow girl climbs into bed with someone she’d been hooking up with, says she “basically said ‘no, I don’t want to have sex with you,'” then lets him “finish” because “she was tired.” Then calls it rape a month and a half later.

    Right.

    I don’t know if Swarthmore has a rape problem or not, but this girl has a lying problem.

  • tay

    Rape is a crime. Did any of the victims file a police report? At the very least, the school should advise all rape victims to report the incident to the police.

  • dailypenny

    Well, I realize rape is rape and that is something that cannot be explained away, so to speak. But to climb in bed with a guy after you sort of called it of in and expect that, at some level he is not going to think that it’s OK to try and have sex? I think that’s a little far-fetched. Granted, the guy was wrong to do it, but in the real world, that just doesn’t happen. All women I know, (unless under the influence) are very specific about exactly when and where they would like to have relations or make love-and I find it hard to believe that at some point (unless violence was used) the first women in this story, for instance, could not have just walked away, instead of just saying “I’m tired” let it happen. Lets hope that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often.
    As for trivializing, pain is pain- and comparing one group or person to the other is like saying mine hurts more than yours. Its pointless.

  • Michki067

    That campus is much too beautiful to waste on such out-to-lunch young people.

  • Michki067

    Oh, and by the way, kiddo, that wasn’t rape.

    • Rebecca

      The article says she called it sexual assault, which it absolutely was.

  • Renaissance Nerd

    What I don’t understand about all this is: who cares what the stupid school administrators think? Why would anyone go to them for anything serious? They are not real authority figures any more. Call the cops. Call your dad, or your brother, or your uncle. AND your mother, sister, aunt, somebody who actually cares about you. School administrators are administrators. They’re not judges, they’re not cops, they’re not leaders. They’re just paper pushers.

    If something like some of these stories happened to one of my sisters (or nieces) I’d spend the rest of my life in prison and gladly, but her assailant would be residing down by the lake…of fire and brimstone.

    That said, why does a ‘strong’ woman need help from anybody? Colonel Colt didn’t make men equal; he made women equal.

    • http://www.asplint.com/ Jeffrey Deutsch

      Yeah, the call-your-family/friends option is called “vigilante justice” — generally an oxymoron — for a reason, and you’d belong in prison.

      Just because someone is your daughter, niece, friend or whoever has nothing to do with whether she’s remembering everything accurately, filtering things through all sorts of biases, overly broadly defining harassment or rape…or even outright lying.

      Just like you said in the beginning, call the cops. They’re not perfect, but we have due process for a reason.

      Good point about guns and self-defense. That option isn’t perfect either, but it does help.

      • http://sunderedsheres.com Renaissance Nerd

        I’m very aware that accusations of rape or seduction are the weapon of choice used by women to commit murder down through the ages, so I would not be going vigilante in some of these cases I’ve read about. And in any situation where I would feel like I needed to go that route, the cops would be motivated so it would likely be superfluous and I wouldn’t have any chance to do anything about it. However there are cases where it might be necessary. And the fact is, the government has been delegated the right to administer justice from the people. When in instead inflicts injustice on the people, then that right ceases. As Adam Smith said, a polity can survive without beneficence, but it cannot long survive widespread injustice.

        That said, in the post above, when I wrote that you should tell your father, brother etc, it doesn’t necessarily mean so they can dispense frontier justice. After that kind of experience it seems to me that having family beside you to support you when dealing with the cops and DAs etc would be a good thing.

        And I’m sorry to say this, but if you don’t report it to the police, it’s not rape. Anyone willing to let the guy go with nothing but a reprimand or expulsion so he can do it again has not been raped. He may be a jerk, but that’s not illegal. Rape is.

        • http://www.asplint.com/ Jeffrey Deutsch

          That’s just it: In a civilized society, it’s the police, prosecutors, grand jury, judge and petit jury — after appropriate procedures with special protections — who get to decide where punishment might be necessary. Not you. That’s precisely what’s involved in delegating the right to administer justice that you mentioned.

          Yes, there are times when vigilante justice is a necessity. Namely, massive, systematic nonfeasance, misfeasance or preferably malfeasance of justice, not remediable (which is to say, brought down to a tolerable level) in court or at the ballot box.

          Like, say, the sheriff who rules his county with an iron fist…including swinging all elections for judges, the DA, county council and obviously sheriff in his favor, whose son is a horn dog and rapes at will, the sheriff blocks any and all investigations and somehow no state or Federal attorney general, legislature or court is able to intervene. Those conditions exist in many countries, but nowhere in the United States that I know of.

          Last but not least, you may believe that every rape victim should report to the police. You may also believe that colleges and universities are not competent to handle rapes themselves and should refer all complaints to the police. Both are perfectly reasonable in my book.

          But in fact, many bona fide rapes are indeed not reported to police for various reasons…not all them bad. Hopefully, a higher proportion of rapes are reported to police than, say, 40 years ago (that is, before rape shield laws and widespread training for police on handling these matters). But it isn’t 100% and I’ll bet it isn’t even 80%.

          • http://sunderedsheres.com Renaissance Nerd

            I ought to have clarified; if you report it to the dean, and not the police, it’s not rape. I know there are many women who don’t report it even when there is no ambiguity.

            However that begs another question: are women equal, or are they not? If women are equal to men (as I believe they are), then they are responsible for their own actions equally. Which means they not only should, but have a duty to report this kind of crime, lest the perpetrator get away with it, not only in the first case, but in who knows how many cases more. Added to that is the duty to tell the truth in these situations; a liar is a liar, whether male or female, and the kind of perjured witness of either sex that ruins a man’s life is equally despicable. A false accusation of rape, given to the dean instead of the police because it’s not really true, is vile and detestable.

            As far as vigilante justice is concerned, as a civilized society decays it becomes more prevalent again, because when all one can expect from the courts and police is injustice, the people will of necessity take back the rights they delegated to the governments. The right does not belong to courts and prosecutors and police etc; it is entrusted to them so long as they maintain that trust. Errors are not indicative of trust betrayed, but increasing injustice is, and many judges today are simply oath breakers. It’s a question how long the so-called social contract will survive judicial activism, but it certainly won’t survive forever. As judges routinely abuse their offices to promote their political agendas, their moral authority erodes and before long vigilante justice will be the only kind. Thankfully only for a little while–it doesn’t take long to reconstitute a justice system once it’s broken up.

          • Mike M

            I don’t understand why so many people report what seem to be serious crimes to midlevel paper pushers who are probably in their job because they’re not very good at anything else. If you’re raped, call the police. If your child is molested, DEFINITELY call the police.

  • theakinet

    “I basically said, ‘No, I don’t want to have sex with you.’ And then he said, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and stopped,” Sendrow told me. “And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.”

    That’s not rape. Girls say “I’m not having sex with you,” all the time as a test.

  • Jackie DeLister

    Note to people: regret does not equal rape

  • MBlanc46

    If that was rape, then we’re living in a Fun House Mirror world.

  • teapartydoc

    I get raped by “progressive government” every day. I want my freedom back.

  • Joey Fudgeplant

    Thanks to Mr. Zuylen-Wood for this fair and nuanced piece. I think the key question brought up in the story is whether or not college administrators should be put into the position of investigating/adjudicating sexual assault accusations. For me, the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Sexual assault is a crime. It’s a felony. An accusation of sexual assault cannot be resolved by the same mechanisms that were designed to deal with students accused of cheating or plagiarism. Sexual assault accusations need to be investigated by the police. Both the accuser and the accused need to have legal representation. Even with the best of intentions, college administrators cannot provide any of this.

    • David Murphy

      Sounds reasonable

    • rightside100

      Call the cops. His life is over.

  • Andrew Schwerin

    Yes, and yes. I’ve been following this issue for the past few months, and I can definitely understand – and to a large degree, sympathize with – student-led efforts to end tacit approval of sexist institutions and traditions.

    But I cannot understand why colleges are in the business, so to speak, of adjudications. We have a reasonably (but by no means perfectly) good justice system for dealing with criminal and tortious behavior. All of colleges’ well-earned criticism for failing to effectively deal with cases empirically show that colleges should not be in the business of adjudicating criminal disputes. Do exactly what Suitcase recommended: refer the victims to professional law enforcement and health professionals, but in addition, provide counseling for victims.

    The “twist” at the end just goes to show: we can’t subsidize victims’ rights with the rights of the accused. That’s just per se “rough justice.” Doing so results in cases like the Duke Lacrosse Case. The accused deserve their sixth amendment rights just as much as the victims deserve to be vindicated. Why not just avoid a forum – the CJC – that apparently fails to do both?

  • Concerned from Philly

    this type of “experimentation” instead of its true purpose, education? Coming from a family with little means, I knew that any stupidity I engaged in was my own fault because my mission in college was to study and thank God for the chance to do so. I knew the overall goal wasn’t beer pong and jelly shots. Many of the terrible experiences young woman have in college and the degrading behaviors men engage in during their college years are easily fixable but no one wants to talk about self-control and accountability.

  • Adam Sinclair

    My thoughts exactly. This girl found out she was prego and claimed rape 6 weeks after the fact.

    • Haett Klukka

      Do not confuse your prejudices with thoughts.

      • bsbfankaren

        While his wording is course, I cannot help but wonder why the first young woman mentioned felt she was raped? Perhaps she did indeed make a poor decision in getting into bed with someone she had intimate relations with over the course of three months, but is it not also possible that the young man in question also made a poor decision? When I look at cases like this it concerns me that anyone, including some of the women responding to this post, would want to see a young man’s life ruined over a case that has so many grey areas involved? Rape is rape, and I stand behind women on line who are targeted for making rape allegations on a regular basis. However, I also would hate to see anyone labeled as a sex offender…which is what would happen if the young man in question were charged with and convicted of rape, without some really, really strong factual evidence that indicates that young man is indeed a rapist and not someone who got his signals crossed with a young woman he had been in intimate contact with over the course of months.

        • Haett Klukka

          No, his wording is is not merely course. His assertion is factually baseless, prejudiced, and mean-spirited. In the terms of the 70s, Adam Sinclair” is a prototypical “male chauvinist pig.”

          I share your concern about ruining lives of the wrongly accused. I extend that concern even to many of the “guilty.” Aggregating teen-age statutory “rapists” together with violent serial rapists under the same label, “sex offender,” is a blatantly barbaric and cruel punishment. The appropriate solution for that is to civilize our social attitudes and reform our laws. It is not appropriate to sacrifice the victims by ignoring excessively aggressive sexual behaviors, as Swarthmore and other colleges seem to be doing.

          The solution requires a bona fide, thorough examination of sexuality in America. A solution will not be achieved by pretending that American culture is not so pathological that otherwise decent young men and women really do not understand each other or how to behave toward each other. A solution will not be achieved by continuing to ignore the frustrations and anger triggered by America’s schizophrenic obsession with sexuality in media culture that is being thwarted by a Puritanical fear of sexual intimacy among real people, especially teen-agers stewing in hormones.

          We really are a diligently uniformed and gleefully stupid society.

          • bsbfankaren

            However, getting back to the specific case being discussed here. There was nothing “excessively aggressive” in either the reported narrative or in what the reported victim has posted here.

            Apart from that, America is not the only society that uses sex to sell items, we are just the one that then turns around and tells girls they aren’t supposed to have sex. However, that is not the issue here. Again, the “victim” in this instance has stated she was sexually assaulted, but is not clearly taking responsibility for the actions (before and immediately after) that lead to her reported victimization. To disagree with her does not make us uninformed or stupid. It simply means that there are those of us who don’t see in this situation what the “victim” here wants us to see. Perhaps those of you who are fervent supporters should take a step back and realize that we are all right and at the same time all wrong, on both sides of the issue.

          • bsbfankaren

            And to state this again, I would not as a jury member or if I were a prosecuting attorney, be willing to ruin a young man’s life with the evidence this young woman is presenting here.

          • Haett Klukka

            To repeat, if you were a jury member, you would know a lot more about this matter than you do. You are in effect judging a hypothetical situation constructed by your own mind from the four or five fourth-hand sentences you read here.

            If you cannot understand this, you never should be allowed to sit on any jury.

          • bsbfankaren

            Repeat to your hearts content, but understand that someone here is claiming to the be actual “victim” and has posted more details that what was listen in this article. Therefore, I am judging based on that information. While I understand that may not work for you, it is something you are simply going to have to deal with!

          • Haett Klukka

            Actually, bsbfankaren, I do not have to deal with your irrationality. I can simply laugh at you, which I am.

          • bsbfankaren

            And for some odd reason, you believe that statement bother’s me. Odd…

          • Craig Smith

            But of course, you are not judging a hypothetical situation by the four or five fourth-hand sentences you have read here.

          • Haett Klukka

            Craig Smith,

            You proofread better than you read for comprehension.

            My entire point was that there is not enough information to make an informed judgment. If you still think otherwise, please quote my language where I reach any judgment about the merits of that particular incident.

            Perhaps you should confine yourself to editing punctuation and leave the thinking to others?

          • Haett Klukka

            Third and fourth hand media reports do not provide enough information to support your analysis or judgments. You simply do not know enough to be jumping to conclusions about that incident. Your brain is over-reaching its available resources.

          • bsbfankaren

            Perhaps not, but then again in a trial we would get his side of the story, and not simply her’s providing that additional grey area you choose to ignore, despite the fact that the so-called “victim” has posted as a part of this discussion. That’s not a third or fourth hand media report, but is apparently one side of a two sided occurrence. YOUR problem is that you are so geared to solely believe a victim’s account that there is no room for you to see another side of an issue, and that’s not a good thing. Not at all!

          • Craig Smith

            It is coarse not course.

          • Haett Klukka

            Your spelling is correct, but pedantic. I did not feel it necessary to point out “bsbfankaren’s” trivial error. What drove you to focus on my remark? Officiousness or diversion?

  • David Murphy

    The story as written does not describe a rape. She was not forced and although she had said no originally, he tried again – and she didn’t say no that time, just let it happen, got her panties on and went to sleep with him still there.

    • rightside100

      Exactly then weeks later tried to have him jailed or expelled. Sick lady.

  • rightside100

    She is a tramp not a rape survivor. She needs a shrink not play the victim. I know women who survived rape including date rape and neither was too tired to bother to resist. That she was willing to have a friend, lover, fellow student spend years in prison to enhance her self esteem is sick.

  • FrankPoole61

    Why did Miss Sendrow not go to the police?

  • STLSLOSTL

    You are confusing civil and criminal law. There is no comparative negligence in criminal law. Could she have made better decisions? Perhaps. Does it absolve his criminal behavior? No.

    • bsbfankaren

      IF in fact his behavior would have been seen as criminal. Even if by some miracle this case went to trial, there is no way a jury would have found him guilty, given that this was not simply a case of poor decision making, but knowingly putting one’s self in a position for an act to occur, then crying foul after the fact!