Chester County

Swarthmore Student Sit-In Enters Day 2 Over Anger with Sexual Violence Response on Campus

Student protesters are calling on three administrators to resign over lack of Title IX enforcement and responses to sexual violence on campus.

A few dozen students at Swarthmore College remained camped for a second day inside an administration building, protesting what they believe is a lack of urgency in responding to sexual violence on their Delaware County campus.

The group called Organizing for Survivors (O4S) initially arrived at the administration building Tuesday. They refused to leave in the evening, and the sit-in turned to a sleep-in.

Students said Wednesday morning that the protest would move at 12 p.m. to the office of the associate dean of students, Nathan Miller.

"Nathan Miller is our associate dean of students and is in charge of student conduct and discipline," student organizer Priya Dieterich said. "We have demanded his resignation and are using today to put pressure on him to meet that demand."

President Valerie Smith said in an email to students Tuesday that monthslong searches to fill two administrative positions, Title IX coordinator and violence prevention educator, are nearing conclusions.

"We are profoundly committed to improving our Title IX policies and procedures and to making sure that our students are heard and helped in the most sensitive, proactive, and effective ways possible," Smith wrote. "These key leadership positions will be central to our efforts to uphold and maintain an inclusive campus environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment."

The Title IX coordinator position has been vacant since October 2017 and only six of 11 Title IX liaisons remain at the college, according to a report in the college newspaper in April.

O4S is now calling on Nathan Miller to resign, as well as Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun and Associate Director for Investigations Beth Pitts, according to The Phoenix newspaper.

Smith, the president, said in another statement Wednesday that she "will go to great lengths to protect our students' rights to peaceful protest and assembly. However, I can’t support ad hominem attacks on individuals. I am evaluating every allegation that has been brought against members of the staff."

"I deeply regret any pain or burden students have borne unnecessarily due to our Title IX processes and procedures," Smith said in the statement. "I remain firm in my belief that we all share a commitment to ensuring that every member of our community is safe from violence of all kinds and able to live, work, and thrive on our campus."

The student group's protests date to spring 2013, or as the newspaper calls it, "The Summer of Discontent" on the Swarthmore campus.

"That semester, student activism surged around a variety of issues on campus, including mishandling of Title IX cases," The Phoenix reported in the April 5 story. "The college came under national scrutiny when in April 2013 a group of survivors filed a Title IX complaint and a Clery complaint against the college. The survivors testified that Swarthmore had systematically underreported and mishandled sexual violence on campus."

Title IX is a federal law signed by President Richard Nixon as part of the Education Amendments of 1972.

"Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity," according to the U.S. Department of Justice. "The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices."

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