Swarthmore College — a fancypants, politically-correct hothouse bursting at the seams with wealthy white kids — has announced that it may punish five students for their role in a four-hour takeover of an administrative office last month.
The students facing the prospect of punishment for breaking school rules have reacted with disappointment and confusion.
The demonstrating students are part of Swarthmore’s Mountain Justice group, a campus organization which is perpetually demanding that Swarthmore’s trustees sell all the fossil-fuel stocks in the school’s luxurious $1.9 billion endowment portfolio.
The latest divestment protest occurred on Swarthmore’s campus on Feb. 24, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
About 80 students joined the four-hour sit-in at the office of Mark C. Amstutz, the chief investment officer at the Quaker-founded liberal arts bastion in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
A hardcore group of about two dozen students later held a “die-in” outside another academic building where Swarthmore’s trustees were meeting.
The protesting students then resumed their normal lives — consuming gobs of electricity, going places in automobiles, that kind of thing.
Then, on March 17, Swarthmore’s administration sent disciplinary citations to five of the students. The quintet of protesters now faces punishments ranging from a mere warning to possible probation.
In a statement, Swarthmore president Valerie Smith observed that the college has a long tradition of student protest, but noted that the protesters “crowded into” Amstutz’s office and prevented him “from completing all but the most menial of tasks and restricting his movements and rights.”
The students “were warned multiple times that they were in violation of the student conduct policy and were given the chance to move to the hallway to continue their protest,” Smith said.
Turns out, keeping administrators from doing their jobs is a violation of Swarthmore’s student conduct policies.
The students who received citations swear they broke no rules when they protested near — and allegedly actually inside — the chief investment officer’s office.
Will Marchese, one of the Swarthmore students who received a citation, told the Inquirer that some of the protesters helped Amstutz with the critical investing task of running documents through a paper shredder.
“There were a lot of people in that office, not just the five,” Marchese also told the newspaper.
“Even just a warning goes against college values,” the 18-year-old student added.
A second student who received a citation, Stephen O’Hanlon, said he shouldn’t get in any trouble since he tried to “mediate” when campus cops showed up to Amstutz’s office.
“I was really disappointed and confused,” O’Hanlon, a senior majoring in political science and sociology, told the Inquirer.
“The president of the United States has partnered with an industry that threatens our future and we are continuing to invest in that industry,” O’Hanlon also said.
“You can feel a deep frustration with the administration on this.”
Notably, Swarthmore Mountain Justice was protesting about fossil fuels long before Donald Trump was elected president. In 2016, the group demanded that three supposedly pro-oil trustees on the school’s board “recuse themselves from all future votes on divestment.”
In the wake of the Swarthmore administration’s decision to cite five students for breaking school rules, over 200 Swarthmore alumni published a letter in The Daily Gazette, the campus newspaper.
The letter pleads with school officials to let the protesters slide.
“Swarthmore has a rich tradition of student activism, from anti-war sit-ins in the President’s office during the 1960s to divestment protests during the era of South African apartheid to actions supporting a living wage for staff members during the early 2000s,” the letter reads.
“At a time when both the President of the United States and the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency have denied that human activity causes climate change, it is more important than ever that private institutions act on behalf of the environment.”
“As supporters of both environmental justice and student activism, we encourage you to reconsider your threatened actions against these undergraduates and instead to join them in requesting that the Board of Managers divest.”
Signatories of the letter include Rebecca Howes-Mischel, Naomi Zikmund-Fisher, Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar, Carol Church Holm-Hansen, Summer Miller-Walfish and Andrew Gilchrist-Scott.
Swarthmore costs $63,550 for a single year of tuition, fees and room and board.
By way of comparison, Swarthmore’s $1.9 billion endowment is worth more than the entire annual gross-domestic product of Belize.
Just over 1,500 students are enrolled at Swarthmore.
In 2014, a then-sophomore at Swarthmore, Erin Ching criticized her school for allowing Christian conservative thinker Robert George to speak on campus. “What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching whined — apparently without irony.