Rape Happens Here

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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.

Swarthmore College Title IX Complaint and Official Response

There are 11 additional student testimonials contained in the Title IX complaint filed against Swarthmore College in 2013 — which Philadelphia magazine obtained earlier this year through a Freedom of Information Act request and is embedded below — that were not detailed in “Rape Happens Here.” According to the complaint, the administration discouraged victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment from reporting incidents, didn’t take student testimonials seriously, and didn’t adequately punish perpetrators. One student who says she was discouraged from taking her case to the local police also claims she was told “Swarthmore doesn’t expel people.”

Swarthmore provided the magazine with the following response to the complaint:

“Please note, these items are allegations only. While the Department of Education agreed to investigate the allegations, it has stated explicitly that its investigation ‘in no way implies that OCR has decided merit.’ We are cooperating completely with the Department of Education, and it is up to them to rule on the allegations’ veracity.

“At Swarthmore we care passionately about the health and welfare of our students. Since the complaint was filed a year ago, this college has worked tirelessly to institute a comprehensive series of major, intensive and expansive changes meant to turn Swarthmore into a model of proactivity in preventing, addressing, responding to, and adjudicating sexual assault and harassment. We are determined to let no instance of any such behavior exist unaddressed on this campus. We fully embrace the letter, the spirit, and the essence of the Department of Education’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, and other guidance.”

We Want Answers: Naomi Adler, the First Female CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

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Photography by Stefan Radtke

You’re moving here from Westchester County, New York, to take this job. Philly can be frosty to outsiders. Are you worried? Oh no, I’ve already received hundreds of emails, phone calls, letters of welcome.

I guess you don’t need a neighborhood recommendation, then. I think we’re going to end up taking a poll. You can follow up with me in a year and I’ll tell you what happened.

Federation is still the leading Jewish philanthropic organization in the region, but has switched leaders four times since the 1990s. And your predecessor was not exactly beloved by everyone. How do you correct the turnover problem? Well, this is the third time, maybe fourth time, I’ve come into an area where I was a newbie. I’ve learned you need to be listening to all perspectives and be very attuned to building relationships. I think that you become a part of the fabric of the community if you listen and respond to what people need. I can’t comment on Ira Schwartz or the other predecessors. All I can say is that my style is to incorporate the best management practices with really loving what you do.

Given the turmoil in Federation ranks, do you think your selection as the first female CEO was a statement that it’s starting fresh in some way? The fact that I’m a woman was not really a focus. I’m not blind to the fact that I’m blazing a trail in this community. However, it’s not the reason they hired me.

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The Time Brian Sims Confronted the Man He Accused of Talking to Plants

Photo | Jon Geeting

Babette Josephs (standing) chastising Brian Sims, seated in a bumper car. Photo | Jon Geeting

The words “Harrisburg” and “intrigue” are pretty much antithetical these days. Philadelphia’s relationship to the yawning capital consists mostly of being outraged at the governor, while taking occasional breaks to cackle mirthfully when he makes a gaffe. He is an evil buffoon, we are Rachel Maddow, and the show is on perpetual repeat.

Enter the Chimera of state politics, the three-headed monster that threatens to devour itself in its quest for Philadelphia delegation supremacy. The cast of characters: superstar 35-year-old Center City representative Brian Sims; his former boss, felled opponent, and now, primary challenger Babette Josephs; his colleague and recent antagonist, Northeast Philadelphia stalwart Mark Cohen.

The plot: Sims turns against several fellow House Democrats, including Cohen, endorsing their primary opponents. Shortly thereafter, Babette Josephs, the sweet 73-year-old lady you see walking her doggie in Fitler Square who lost a bitter political cage match to Sims two years ago, announces she’s coming out of retirement to challenge him in the primary. Amidst all this, Sims goes on an epic, unfiltered Facebook rant against Cohen in which he accuses the 64-year-old of having performance-crippling dementia.

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The Official Wiz Wit Man T-Shirt Is Here

Last week, we presented Wiz Wit Man, Philly’s “official” superhero. His angry dishwasher persona basically makes no sense, and his name apparently has more to do with his acerbic humor than with cheesesteaks. Still, there’s something magical about him. So half-jokingly, I asked someone to deliver a bunch of Wiz Wit Man t-shirts to our office. Two days later, Philly-based Rush Order Tees dropped off a dozen of them in our lobby, unprompted and free of charge. Here’s your humble narrator, looking his most heroic.

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Somebody Actually Got Killed by a Snowplow This Week

As we chuckle over Fox 29′s reporter Steve Keeley’s slapstick brush with snowbank tragedy, let’s take a moment to realize that snowplows actually can be quite deadly. The AP reports that a 72-year-old Reading man was struck by a plow Monday at 11:30 a.m. This just weeks after a pregnant lady was killed by a snowplow in Brooklyn. (The baby survived.) No GIFs of either incident is available. [AP]

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