One Philly College Makes Forbes’ Top 10 List

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Well, Forbes has published its 2015 list of the Top Colleges in the U.S., and it’s bound to cause some consternation among status-conscious grads hereabouts, given what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni has called these rankings’ “quasi-biblical power.” Alas, the only local school to crack the Top 10 was Swarthmore, weighing in at number seven. (True, Princeton stands in fourth place, but we can never quite decide whether it’s “local” or not.)

For the curious, here are the Top 10 in order: 1) Pomona College; 2) Williams College; 3) Stanford; 4) Princeton; 5) Yale; 6) Harvard; 7) Swarthmore; 8) Brown; 9) Amherst; and 10) MIT. In case you’re wondering, these are Forbes’s all-around rankings, based, it says, in this “new age of return-on-investment education,” on “outcomes.” Factors taken into account include low student debt, student satisfaction, and four-year graduation rate.

Other local schools in the top 100: Read more »

Campus Rape Doc The Hunting Ground Screens Tonight

still from The Hunting Ground

An image from the movie “The Hunting Ground”

Tonight a new widely acclaimed documentary about sexual assault on campus, The Hunting Ground, will screen at the Ritz Five at Second and Walnut in partnership with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) to mark the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. After the film, there will be a panel discussion moderated by Tara Murtha, a journalist who’s written extensively about sexual violence and who now works for the Women’s Law Project.

The documentary was directed by produced by Amy Ziering and directed by Kirby Dick, the team that also made The Invisible War, the Academy Award-nominated documentary about sexual assault in the American military. When The Hunting Ground premiered at Sundance, Ramin Satoodeh wrote for Variety:

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Hate Speech Messages On Swarthmore Campus Target LGBT and Asexual Communities

swarthmore sidewalk chalk

Photo from Swarthmore’s “Daily Gazette”

This Monday night, in honor of LGBT History Month, some students at Swarthmore College got together to write some pro-gay messages on sidewalks around campus. The writings comprised funny little sayings, like “Queers eat here,” scribbled outside popular dining spot Sharples, and “George and Molly are queer,” was written outside Clothier in reference to two dogs who call the bookstore home.

It was all fun and games, meant to spread a message and put a smile on people’s faces the following morning, but things turned ugly before the sun came up. Around 2 a.m., students found the original markings replaced with hate speech, phrases like “Gays can’t make kids w/o a petri dish,” “For true equality let the women rape the men.”

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Morning Headlines: NIMBY Drama Stirs Up Between Residents and Swarthmore College

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Three things are set to happen once construction ends on the new development Swarthmore College has commissioned: First, more books will be available; second, the borough will get its first liquor license; third, Route 320 (Chester Road) will see a shift in traffic flow. Two of these are unwelcome changes for some Swarthmore residents.

As the Inquirer’s Laura McCrystal reports, an inn, bookstore, and roundabout are going to to be constructed in the area, the latter development starting this week. Hopes for the roundabout, which is planned for the intersection of Chester Road and Rutgers Avenue, include it “improv[ing] a dangerous intersection and connect[ing] the college to its community.”

However, opponents of the roundabout see it a different way: Read more »

Swarthmore Applications Drop Due to Extra 500-Word Essay, School Says

Applications to Swarthmore College dropped 16 percent this year, and the school has a culprit: The extra supplemental 500-word essay the school required in this year’s app. By contrast, applications at Penn — which dropped an essay this time — saw applications to the school rise 15 percent.

“Twice as many essays at twice the length was too much,” one prospective student who chose not to apply told the Inquirer. To be fair to Swarthmore kids, lots of people go there for math and whatever. But also it’s an extra 500-word essay for a liberal arts school. You’ll be writing much longer papers if you decide to attend the school!

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Rape, Rape-Rape and Sexual Assault at Colleges

shutterstock_no-to-rape-940x540

If you haven’t read Simon van Zuylen-Wood’s terrific piece in the May issue of Philadelphia magazine on sexual assaults at Swarthmore College, do so. It’s called “Rape Happens Here,” and it starts off with a young woman’s description of an incident in her senior year as a Swattie. Here is that description:

 [S]he 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,” [the woman] 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.

After one of my colleagues read the page proofs for the piece, he came into my office. “Did you find that first incident to be a little … ambiguous?” he asked tentatively. I told him I didn’t find it ambiguous at all; it didn’t meet my definition of rape. Another colleague overheard our conversation and joined us. She, too, said what happened to the woman didn’t sound like rape—“Or if it is,” she added, “I’ve been raped in every relationship I’ve ever been in.”

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Rape Happens Here

Parrish_Hall-940x540-pd

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.”

Expelled Swarthmore Student Sues College Over Sexual Assault Allegations

Courtesy of Swarthmore

Parrish Hall, Swarthmore College

Last April, Swarthmore students Mia Ferguson and Hope Brinn helped bring two very public complaints against their college, alleging that the prestigious liberal arts institution was in violation of federal law for misreporting and mishandling sexual misconduct cases.

In July, the Department of Education deemed those complaints serious enough that it opened an investigation of the school, which is still ongoing. Behind the scenes, as an increasing number of survivors of sexual assault came forward and reported their experiences to the school, Swarthmore took what many in the college community believe to be unprecedented disciplinary action against alleged perpetrators. Now, one student who was found guilty of sexual misconduct is retaliating.

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