Elite US college fraternities disband in abuse scandal
By Agence France-Presse
Two fraternities at a prestigious US college are disbanding after reports emerged of former members making racist and sexist remarks, and boasting of sexual assault, the college’s president said Wednesday.
Former students of the “Delta Upsilon” and “Phi Psi” frat houses at Swarthmore, an elite liberal arts college near Philadelphia, are accused joking about using date-rape drugs and boasting of a “rape attic.”
The scandal came to light two weeks ago when the campus paper published anonymous accounts of meetings of the fraternities held between 2013 and 2016.
Dozens of students have occupied the Phi Psi house since Saturday, demanding that both groups be dissolved.
The university had already temporarily suspended the groups pending the findings of an external investigator examining the allegations.
But on Wednesday, Swarthmore’s president Valerie Smith confirmed that the fraternities had decided to disband and relinquish the buildings they occupied on the college campus.
“We respect these students’ decision to take this action, and we appreciate their strong condemnation of behavior described in the 2013-16 materials that have recently come to light,” she said in a statement.
But she also deplored the climate of division and denunciation swirling around the campus since the story broke, reminding students there is “no evidence that any current student participated in the behaviors documented.”
“We have heard heartbreaking stories from students who feel unwelcome to the point of wanting to transfer out of our community,” Smith said, saying such stories had come from both protesters and fraternity members.
Sexual abuse has been a major source of tension on American campuses for several years, with the #MeToo movement adding fresh impetus to students taking a less tolerant view of the all-male fraternities, which have reputation for excessive drinking, drugs and sex.
Those tensions were stoked in 2016 when a student from Stanford University in California was sentenced to just six months for raping a young woman after a night of heavy drinking.
Since the #MeToo movement emerged, a number of schools and universities have been forced to apologize following accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers and students.
Late last year, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had his confirmation process delayed by charges of sexual abuse and heavy drinking dating back to his high school days.