Swat Overlaps

Silence and Burnout: An Account of Activism at Amherst College


by Maia M.

Yesterday, December 4th, 2013, this article was published in The Amherst Student. It’s an account of sexual assault (and further traumatic experience at the hands of Amherst College) from the anonymous co-complainant who, along with Angie Epifano, filed Title IX and Clery Act complaints against Amherst College.

From walking around campus, going to class, eating in Valentine, and generally existing at Amherst College, I would never know anything had even been filed, even though this is two-week-old news by now. Although Amherst College has yet to be officially notified of the complaint, it’s not as if the administration doesn’t know, since Epifano and her co-complainant have gone public with the complaint. Students have no excuse for ignorance either.

Yet there is silence.

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I don’t know if you saw the video of what went down at Brown today, but it is EERILY similar to the events of May. Students at Brown started a student union over the weekend in response to a boiling-over of energy following the College’s rejection of divestment in spite of a 74% student support rate. Then… this happened.

7:39 is especially strong in light of recent debates about Robert George, etc…. Stay strong!”

Freshman DU pledges returning from the frat house at 12:30 AM Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
Person A: (didn’t hear the beginning of the sentence)…Dominican Republic
Person B: the n***** republic?

Overheard in Wharton Courtyard.

(Semi-relevant: an African-American friend of mine was also within earshot.)

Maybe you don’t think a bunch of nude photos are all that big of a deal. That’s kind of disappointing, but seriously, I’m not the thought police and that’s your own business. 

I think that we can all agree, though, that rape is a big fucking deal.
It changes lives forever. 
It is trauma.
It can cause PTSD the same way that combat does for soldiers. 
There are examples everywhere of how rape can lead to suicide. (Hands up for Rehtaeh.) 
Recovery from rape is a long and difficult process that can cost people their academic standing, their employment, and their relationships. 
If you want to talk about having your life ruined, talk about rape. This is no joke. 

I don’t want to be friends with rapists—and I don’t think you do either. If the idea of being friends with a rapist doesn’t at the very least give you pause, I really don’t have any qualms about telling you to stay the fuck away from me, because that’s horrifying. 

One of my closest friends at Swat was a Phi Psi brother (’13 alum.) I’m pretty skeeved at him about this, but we’re still friends. I know that there are “good men” in the group. I know that you’re upset about some of the things you see happening. (And not the things visible to the rest of campus, like this bid became—the things that are secret, and more horrifying, that distracted you from even registering that this bid was a problem.) Why are you permitting the “bad eggs” to ruin your names? Why are you standing by and allowing them to harm your friends, your classmates, your teammates? Why do you watch harassment unfold, and do nothing? Why do you make rape jokes in front of your brothers, some of whom already stand accused?

I don’t agree with the suggestion in the petition—but I do agree that we need you guys to step up and do some stuff to actually

1) demonstrate that you’re not the same kind of scum who write TFM, and

2) change the stuff that goes on in Phi Psi that’s fucked up and hurting people.

These are just a few ideas. I hope to see more!! 

  • Publish meeting minutes online. To keep these minutes honest, have a non-brother be your secretary. I’m sure there will be plenty of people happy to volunteer as tribute, so you can be choosy. (And when you do choose, choose a woman, if you can.) You could set up a rota and have them switch weekly, or you could build some bridges by having stable relationships with one or two dedicated scribes. 
  • Think about your physical space, and the ways in which that space has been used to harm people in the past. People have literally been raped in your building. You control your building; this is in your hands to change. It would be both an important practical measure and a big sweeping symbolic motion if you were to close these spaces off. If people grumble about this making it hard to get hookups, or say that people shooing others away from these areas is a cockblock, remind them that if the short walk between Phi Psi and literally any other part of campus is enough to deter someone from a potential hookup, chances are that the hookup isn’t something that should be happening in the first place. 
  • Host a consent kegger. Here are some ideas. Go the whole hog with this. Think about your lighting (hint: yes to copious rope lights and paper lanterns, no to strobe lights and other disorienting horribleness), your décor, the music you play. 
  • The sober brothers programs at big events are super cool! Why not have a rotating schedule where every week there are 2-4 brothers who are “designated sober”? Nobody would have to serve more than once per semester. Publish the names at the start of the semester of who will be serving when, and then we can hold you accountable. Make these brothers visible. T-shirts, glow necklaces, arm bands, giant pirate hats—I don’t care how, I just want to be able to find them.

Woman: “Did you go to Jackson Katz last night?”
Man: “Fuck no that guy’s a male feminist he has no pride.”

— overheard by a student