First-Years React to Plenary

4 plenary F17 silber

Members of the Financial Aid Resolution, featuring Chris Pence ’18 (foreground). Photo courtesy of Kate Silber ’20.

On October 8, Fall Plenary took place. During it, two resolutions were presented, debated, and ultimately passed. However, this plenary had many unique aspects to it and perhaps most noteworthy were the difficulty of reaching and maintaining quorum and the #AllStrugglesOneCode protest. The students exclusively interviewed in this article are first-years with a bevy of mixed opinions on the their first plenary.

Joe Dizenhuz felt that there were some frustrating elements of Fall Plenary. He commented on Students’ Council’s orchestration of plenary. He particularly took issue with the Student Council’s handling of the protest by requesting that the protesters join the quorum count by entering the gymnasium.

Dizenhuz said, “From what I heard, [Students’ Council] came out and were like, ‘this is great, but you need to go inside,’ … and it felt very patronizing. It felt that they were like, ‘alright, time to be adults now.’ No, this is legitimate and it’s very legitimate to protest.” He also did not appreciate the “carrot-dangling … of ‘if you don’t show up, the Alcohol Policy will change drastically,’ because it won’t be ratified.” Dizenhuz elaborated: “I thought that was very unrealistic; obviously, the Administration is very fine with the Alcohol Policy as it is, and I don’t think they would go through the effort to seriously rewrite it [because] in the spring or the fall of next year really the exact same alcohol policy would pass.”

Jesse Friedson thought that the protest was for a worthy cause but could have been more effective in communicating its goals. Friedson stated, “The protest was really well-intentioned; it was organized by a whole bunch of people, including some of my friends, so I definitely know where they were coming from and I was able to talk to some people about their perspectives. But, I thought that they could have been better organized and more clearly communicated to people, and I understand that some people think that it was better to not have a central mission but it was sort of confusing and frustrating as someone who wasn’t a part of it to try and figure out what was going on.”

Gabe Pascal participated in the protest. He thought the protest was essential, explaining, “It is important to show that people of color and people of other marginalized communities actually matter on this campus, and from what I’ve heard from a lot of upperclassmen the Plenary system doesn’t seem to be terribly efficient in getting our needs met.” Pascal added, “I personally don’t think [the protest] was a success just because the idea of it was to stop quorum from happening for like an hour and then go inside, and that goal was not met. Then, once we went back in and quorum still wasn’t met, kind of the whole purpose of it fell through, and it was like a lot of people were rather frustrated and ended up not engaging with the issue anyway.”

Tanisha Bansal was initially gung-ho about Plenary, but she became disgruntled by her peers’ attitudes towards Plenary and the difficulty of reaching quorum. Bansal commented, “When I applied to Haverford, the plenary was something that really attracted me to this college, because I felt like it really gives importance to what the students think. What I expected the plenary to be was a place where I could make a difference.” Bansal described what she saw happening at this plenary in practice: “There were people who were actually trying to get people involved and then there were like people who didn’t care, and I didn’t expect that to happen.” She then added, “I went there to get a feel of it and I wanted to be there to say whether I agree or don’t agree with what’s happening, but it took so long to reach quorum that I felt like I was wasting my time at some point and that homework was more important in that moment.”

Lexie Iglesia told her plenary experience to The Clerk. Iglesia had a friend visiting her the weekend of plenary and had planned to take her friend with her to it. Iglesia said, “We roll in there and there were so many people there, and my computer’s dying and I searched for an outlet for 15 minutes, I finally get to sit down, and the Wifi sucked. And they said that we could do our homework there, and I just left because I needed Wifi; I had so much homework.” The reason Iglesia prioritized homework over plenary was because “I needed to get sleep; it was better for my well-being — I’m more worried about grades than the community, which is not that great but that’s where I’m at right now.”

The next plenary will be in the spring of 2018 in the GIAC.

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