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Politics at Swarthmore?

interestedpersoninterestedperson Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
edited April 2010 in Swarthmore College
Today I was told about a demonstration that took place yesterday at Swarthmore where Palestinian students built a fence around the main Swarthmore hall, Parrish. They then dressed as Israeli soldiers and stopped students, questioning them, often harshly, before letting them go into the building. These surprised students were either taken aback, scared, or thought it was a useful demonstration. Although there are some people there who seemed not to agree with this demonstration, this has brought up a lot of discussion about Israel, portraying it in a very negative light. This occurred on the last days of Passover.

A student I know there was very upset. Apparently there was no context placed as to why the actual Israeli government had enhanced security fences, i.e. in response to suicide bombers. This dramatic demonstration apparently had the approval of the Swarthmore administration, which allowed them to build this fence.

It seems to me that this is an invasion of a student's privacy, to be stopped and searched like this. I am posting because I am advising a student about going to Swarthmore, and now I think that, as she is shy and nonpolitical, this would not be a good place for her. I think that somewhere friendlier would be better. What do you think? She has other good choices, and I think this would scare her.
Post edited by interestedperson on
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Replies to: Politics at Swarthmore?

  • hellohowareyouhellohowareyou Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    students have done "demonstration checkpoints" like this at colleges and universities of all kinds, all over the US. All the Jewish and non-Jewish, right and left wing students I knew at swarthmore felt comfortable and safe expressing their political opinions. Certainly some people disagree with the use of a checkpoint to get a message across, and many disagree with the message, but I wouldn't equate that disagreement to discomfort - Swatties can have an honest and respectful discussion about it. Please PM me with any questions about this issue in particular - Israel/ Palestinian conflict on campus, etc.
  • ForgetmenotsForgetmenots Registered User Posts: 506 Member
    As a student who did not want to participate in the checkpoint simulation for a variety of reasons, it was very clearly marked on either side of the simulation that if you did not want to participate, you could use another door into the building. The students didn't dress up as solders - they all had similar tee-shirts, but nothing intimidating - and it wasn't a fence all around the building like this is making it sound.

    While I'm not sure this was very well thought out or planned well - I think there should've been more advertising of what the "wall" was and discussions about it before it went up - it hardly reflects on Swarthmore as a whole as some kind of in-your-face political space. It also hardly signifies how friendly we are: Swatties are notoriously friendly people. There are plenty of "shy, nonpolitical" students at Swat who fit right in. You can always choose to opt out of a dialog or event, although most students would encourage their peers to participate in those discussions. :)
  • dramaticadramatica Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    Interestedperson

    My D attends Swarthmore. We are Jewish. Monday night she called and we spoke about the "checkpoint," among other things. She expressed no fear and saw the “checkpoint” as an opportunity for dialogue. She was more disturbed with some of the anonymous comments allegedly coming from outside the community because some were offensive and not conducive to an exchange of opinions. It is my understanding that if someone did not want to go through the checkpoint, there were alternatives, thus invasion of privacy would not seem to be the issue.

    If you are truly an interested person trying to help a young adult make an educated decision about where to attend, you may wish to point her to the Daily Gazette. There she can read for herself about the reaction of the students in the comments and opinion letters. She can then make a well informed decision as to the climate at the school and whether she would feel comfortable, or not, at a school where students are free to explore many issues, even controversial ones.

    I am a firm believer in Israel’s right to protect its very own existence and its people, for I fear that it could otherwise be annihilated in an increasingly hostile world. However, I am also a firm believer in our right to exercise our guaranteed freedom to express ourselves freely in this great country of ours, regardless of the subject matter.

    My parents fled my country of birth so that I would not have to grow up under a totalitarian regime and could live without fear of repression and free to express myself. The KKK terrifies me, but I respect the ACLU for coming to its defense and fighting in court for its right to peacefully demonstrate. For it is this inalienable right that keeps us secure and makes this country great.

    The timing of the checkpoint may have been insensitive, perhaps even deliberate, but I applaud the school administrators for showing restraint and “allowing” the students to go ahead with their "demonstration" What better place than a liberal arts college campus for students to explore the depth and breadth of issues that are important to them, our country, the world, regardless of content or orientation?
  • dramaticadramatica Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    My post "crossed" with Forgetmenots' post. I am glad to see that she was able to clarify and give detail about alternatives to the "checkpoint."
  • A.E.A.E. Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    Just wondering, but how many Palestinian students are at Swarthmore?
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Four. Two international students with Palestinian citizenship and two American students with dual US/Palestinian citizenship.

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/Documents/administration/ir/citznations.pdf
  • momof3sonsmomof3sons Registered User Posts: 5,116 Senior Member
    I am glad that the OP raised this issue because my son, a prospective fall matriculant, happens to be doing an overnight at Swat later this week. We are Jewish and I was somewhat concerned after reading the original post. I am lucky that my older son, a Swat grad, is home on break from grad school. He was very active within the Hillel organization while he was on campus. I showed him the Daily Gazette editorials this morning and he said that while on campus he never experienced any sort of hostility between groups. Demonstrations of all sorts, yes. But, it didn't carry over into day-to-day interactions.
  • dad427dad427 Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    editorial from among others, pres. and treas. of swarthmore organization for Israel

    "Three Days in Palestine" and the Purpose of Checkpoints :: The Daily Gazette
  • EndicottEndicott Registered User Posts: 1,435 Senior Member
    My kid told me about this today. He thought it was kind of obnoxious and immature, but it didn't phase him much. He has friends who are liberal, friends who are conservative, and friends who could care less. This kind of stuff happens at colleges all the time--college students are at a very dramatic stage of their lives. If this young lady has a problem with gay and lesbian students, however, Swarthmore may not be a great place for her.
  • A.E.A.E. Registered User Posts: 398 Member
    My kid told me about this today. He thought it was kind of obnoxious and immature, but it didn't phase him much.

    I guess the point the demonstrators were trying to make is that the checkpoints to which Palestinians are routinely subjected are obnoxious. Anyway, now that ID has confirmed the low number of Palestinian students at Swarthmore, it's hard to imagine that this was anything but innocuous. They don't have even enough people to cover all the entrances into Parrish, and that's with 100% of them participating all day long (which is unlikely). It was obviously something people could easily avoid, so the choice to go through it and experience it was just that, a choice.
  • EndicottEndicott Registered User Posts: 1,435 Senior Member
    Whatever the point of such protests are, they are happening on a leafy, affluent college campus. It's just a little stagy and "safe" somehow. Nice idea, but . . .
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    The Phoenix cover photo

    The Phoenix photo slide show

    Simulation aims to spark dialogue - The Phoenix article


    Apparently, the administration insisted that this demonstration be staged in a way that gave students the opportunity to avoid it. Actually, this was a good site: very visible, but the main traffic to this building is from the left (dining hall, student center, dorms), to the right (library, dorms) and out the back (academic buildings).
  • interestedpersoninterestedperson Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Thank you for responding. The family reviewed everything they could find about this, and prefer that their daughter go elsewhere. She will stay on the West Coast, and go somewhere that has less radical politics. They also want a university with a more experienced administration, as the father thought that this demonstration was done in a way that either reflected bias by the administration or inexperience, especially as it appears the school actually built this wall. Also the legal issues with this barrier and the impersonation of a foreign power bothered him. The family is very oriented to family values and kindness, and this looked way too rough to them, particularly as she is close to her family and Swarthmore is 3000 miles away. So she is looking at probably Stanford, or maybe Cal Tech, either of which will be good choices. They thought Swarthmore, being so small, would be an easy place to adjust to on the East Coast, but this wall and the extremism would not be comfortable for her. But thank you, and I am sure there will be others who will fit in there.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Sounds like the family found a good reason to keep daughter closer to home. Nothing wrong with that.

    I will say that Swarthmore is absolutely the wrong college for anyone who believes that the college administrators should tell students what and what not to do, especially in areas of free speech.

    I did have to laugh at Rebecca Chopp being described as an "inexperienced administratrator".

    Dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University (4 years)
    Provost and Executive VP of Emory University (3 Years)
    Dean of Yale Divinity School (1 year)
    President of Colgate University (7 years)


    Experienced college administrators know that shutting down student protests always makes things worse. I think it actually speaks very well of Swarthmore that the students felt comfortable going to the administration and accepting some guidance in terms of making sure that the protest wasn't forced on anyone.

    I have no idea where you got the notion that the school built the checkpoint.

    As student issue protests go, I thought this one was pretty thought-provoking. I'm guessing that it stimulated a lot of discussion on campus
  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - Posts: 4,610 Senior Member
    further proof that seventeen is the new seven.
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