DCHS grad reflects on her role in campus controversy

Thursday, May 9, 2019
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Shelby Dolch graduated from DCHS in 2017. She now attends Swarthmore College.

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Swarthmore College has made national headlines recently as a result of an uproar over a fraternity scandal.

A young Glendivian has found herself in the middle of a national campus controversy.

Shelby Dolch grew up in Glendive and now attends college at Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, and always seemed to have a knack for advocacy and activism.

“When I was in high school, I tried to do a lot of activism around suicide and mental health,” Dolch said. “I was always appalled by how little the high school and middle schools had on suicide awareness, seeing as Montana has the highest rate in the country.”

Since then, Dolch has taken her activism streak and molded it into studying conflict in a double major of Peace and Conflict Studies and Black Studies. Dolch has been an active participant in protests surrounding the recent Swarthmore Phi Psi Fraternity.

For a quick recap, student journalists at two publications on campus published leaked fraternity documents that have been described as meeting minutes. The documents in question are dated from 2012 and 2013, and include homophobic, racist and sexist language, as well as descriptions of criminal acts such as statutory rape, date rape and assault.

The release of the documents sparked outrage across the small liberal arts college and gained national news attention last week.

“The minutes had sexist, racist language, (and) photos of women without consent in them,” Dolch said. “One of the bedrooms in Phi Psi is referred to as a rape attic (in the documents).”

Last year, Dolch was sexually assaulted by a student from a neighboring college. Dolch didn’t press charges against her attacker, but went through her college’s channels instead. According to Dolch, Swarthmore failed to address her assault properly.

“The school did mishandle my case,” Dolch said. “Multiple deans knew of what happened to me. I told them directly and they did not report it to Title IX. That was also a violation of Title IX policy. I also had incidents happen with counseling services where they victim blamed me and shamed me for what happened.”

As for not pressing charges against her attacker, Dolch said she didn’t report out of fear of retaliation.

After her negative experience with the administration, Dolch joined the group Organizing for Survivors, which looks to advocate for sexual assault victims. The group lead a nine day “sit in” style protest at the office of thendean of students Liz Braun. Students occupied Braun’s office to protest what they claimed was mishandling of sexual assault cases until Braun resigned from her position.

This year the fallout on the frats on campus has come swiftly. Current members of the Phi Psi fraternity quickly dissolved their brotherhood after the leaks were released, not wanting to be associated with the documents. It should be noted that the recent fraternity members were in high school or middle school during the creation of the damning items.

Although all on campus fraternities have disbanded, for Dolch and her fellow O4S members, there’s more work to be done.

“We demand the college to terminate the fraternities leases and reallocate to marginalized students,” Dolch said. “To queer students on campus, indigenous students, black students, really any group that has been marginalized by this university.”

To achieve this goal, Dolch and other activists have occupied the frat, as well has displaying banners with some of the more offensive quotes from the documents plastered across. The next step was to occupy the president’s office last Thursday in a manner similar to last year’s sit in.

According to Dolch, this last sit in didn’t go as well.

“We tried to initiate a sit in at the president’s office on Thursday. When that happened administrators closed the door and locked them,” Dolch said.

The administration also apparently locked off bathrooms near the office and blocked doors to prevent other protestors from getting in or bringing food to the other occupiers. Dolch and other students claimed that the university mistreated the protestors by preventing them from getting food and using bathrooms, while the president of the college said that students were free to leave.

Over all, the debate is far from over, and Dolch seems willing to keep fighting.

“I would like to believe that we will be successful,” Dolch said. “It’s clear we are on the right side of history. These two houses with each of them having one bedroom, so much harm has been caused there. We’re seeing it all over the country. This isn’t a ridiculous request. We’re requesting something that’s for the safety of all students.”

Reach Jon Decker at news@rangerreview.com .