The Clerk was founded on a simple promise: “to create a community forum for all stakeholders to discuss issues that affect us.” From that promise came the value of transparency, to which The Clerk has dedicated much of its substantive work for a long time. The very word, “transparent,” is inscribed in our values statement. It is a word that we hold dear, and it is a word to which we have often resorted in pursuing the advancement of Haverford’s student body. To The Clerk and its Editorial Board, transparency is more than just a noun. It is a primary motivator of what we do.
As a newspaper, we act as something of a watchdog, doing our very best to provide a voice to the marginalized, or at least provide a medium for the voices of affected students to be heard. Transparency is an institutional issue that affects us all, and for this reason, we, the Editorial Board, have an obligation to step in. It is in our very code to promote transparency on campus, no matter the entity with which we are dealing.
This past month, we witnessed a rare event when a group of Haverford students decided to stage a protest to disrupt Plenary. While the protest itself may well be a solitary event, it is a manifestation of the multifaceted frustration surrounding the decisions student representatives and the administration make. The student body at large is often completely unaware of who is supposed to advocate for their interests, and it begs the question of how effective the people who occupy those positions can be. Additionally, the onus is placed largely on students to find information about the activities of student government and the administration. The budgeting process of this past semester put a spotlight on this issue. There is a profound disconnect between the desires of the student body and the decision-making process in which the students’ representatives and the administration engage.
Perhaps most incongruous about the protest is that the resolutions proposed at Plenary seemed to directly align with what participants in #AllStrugglesOneCode advocated for, with both resolutions on the floor articulating a desire for greater support for students from lower-income and other marginalized backgrounds. If Plenary is the ultimate form of student self-governance, were students protesting the very avenue for change? Or perhaps their protest highlights a larger issue of students not always knowing how to enact change within the system they are a part of? Like any bureaucratic system, the governing bodies on Haverford’s campus are dense, intense, and difficult to navigate. Certain procedures are shrouded in secrecy, due to the codified language of “confidentiality.” With a Students’ Constitution over 22,000 words in length, is there any wonder that students may not know how or why certain decisions are made on campus? And are students not justified in feeling a certain animosity towards those decision making bodies who have made decisions seemingly without consultation of those affected?
For this series, members of The Clerk will be exploring the role of specific decision-making bodies on campus. Articles in this series will range from commentary pieces about transparency and confidentiality, to feature profiles of members of Students’ and Honor Council. Other articles will explore budgeting within student groups and fallout from Plenary, such as the athlete/non athlete divide on campus. It is the hope that these articles will be informative in terms of providing direct information about who to contact within these organizations. However, The Clerk also seeks to start long-lasting dialogue about the necessity of transparency between students and the administration.
Finally, we hope to create more conversation about issues of transparency and how we as students are being represented within this Institution through our student governance. Haverford highlights student agency as one of the most appealing factors the College has to offer. But to who has this agency been given? Who has access to it? Evidently, it is not everyone. Perhaps our diagnosis is not transparency, but too much agency. With the questions we have raised, with these issues of transparency being brought to light, is student agency at Haverford all it’s told to be?