Haverford’s Spring 2015 Plenary was an unusually busy one, passing eight resolutions in three hours after reaching quorum within 30 minutes.
Of the nine resolutions up for consideration, only the eighth, “Eliminating Gender Categorization in Freshman Housing,” failed to pass after students mentioned the difficulty of implementing the resolution during the pro-con debate.
#1 Honor Council Facilitated Confrontation, #2 Honor Council Transparency and Interpretation, and #3 Honor Council Procedural Modifications
The first three resolutions were all passed within 30 minutes of reaching quorum. The high turnover was due in part to a temporary Agenda amendment that passed shortly after quorum was reached and shortened each resolution’s Q&A, pro/con debate, and friendly/unfriendly amendment time periods to two-thirds its original length.
The first resolution proposed for Honor Council members to act as facilitators for confrontations between Haverford community members. Should a student, faculty, or staff member feel that an issue cannot be resolved through a one-on-one discussion, they may request an Honor Council member with “in depth meditation and diversity training” to assist that discussion.
The second resolution added a subsection labeled “Transparency of Honor Council” to Article VI of the Students’ Constitution. The subsection requires that the Honor Council send minutes of all its public meetings in a weekly campus-wide email. The minutes will not include “explicitly confidential” information such as student names, but will relay information about the Honor Council’s goals, operations and current trends.
“We recognize that Honor Council has not always been transparent,” said Honor Council Co-Chair Michelle Parris ’16. “So we want to require the council inform the community about our goals and progress and keep the website up to date.”
The third resolution provides that Haverford students in violation of another school’s honor code will be adjudicated at that school. It also requires that individual statements be written by the confronted and confronting parties for Honor Council trials. Finally, it moved the appointment date for new Librarians of the Honor Council to December rather than January, so that their one-year term would begin at the start of the next semester.
No Q&A, pro/con debate, or amendments proposed by students ensured a swift passing for all three of these resolutions.
#4 30-Day Reimbursement Deadline
The reign of rapid-fire resolutions ended with this proposal by Students’ Council co-Treasurers Jason Hirsch ’16 and Misael Cespedes ’16.
“We get people coming to us in December with checks from September saying ‘We need money,’” said Hirsch.
The resolution gives Club leaders a maximum of thirty days to claim reimbursements from Students’ Council for club-related purchases. This will prevent what the Treasurers called “reimbursement procrastination” on the part of club leaders and ensure that Treasurers are not swamped with hundreds of checks to write during finals week. A series of arguments during the pro/con debate and a failed amendment to increase the deadline to 50 days made this resolution take about fifteen minutes to pass.
Plenary was briefly disrupted when a swarm of students descended locust-like from the bleachers and rushed towards the gymnasium entrance at the Co-Presidents’ announcement that Insomnia Cookies had finally arrived.
#5-6 Amendment to the Social Honor Code, Alcohol Policy Changes
Half a dozen members of Haverford’s Transformative Inclusive Diversity Engagement (TIDE) group proposed the fifth resolution to add specificity to the Social Honor Code’s section on discrimination and harassment; “…acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, able-ism, and discrimination against religious and political minorities are devoid of respect and…violate this Code.” The wording sparked a prolonged pro/con debate.
One student argued in favor of the new language, saying that it “made explicit what is already implicit in the code.” However, another argued that the Honor Code “would never be able to cover all the issues in the world,” and that having to make such language explicit would defeat the purpose of the code. It too was passed, along with Resolution #6, which updated the wording of the Alcohol Policy so that students will hold themselves to higher standards of safe, respectful behavior while inebriated. The resolution also appointed a Women’s Center representative to serve on JSAAP, since so many sexual assault cases on campus are alcohol-related.
#7 Gender Neutral Language in the Students’ Constitution
One of the night’s most eagerly awaited events, this resolution eliminated male/female pronouns such as ‘his, her, he, she, him,’ to make the Constitution more inclusive towards students who do not use those pronouns. For example, “his or her own work,” was changed to “each student’s own work,” and occasionally “he or she” was replaced with “they.”
“It would suck if someone did not feel there was a place for them on this campus because of the language of the constitution,” said Plenary Chair and Student Council Co-President Claire Dinh ’16, one of the resolution’s authors.
By passing this resolution, Haverford has joined the ranks of such institutions as the University of Michigan, Pomona College, the states of Florida, Illinois and Washington, and many other colleges and states which have adopted gender-neutral language in their constitutions.
#8 Eliminating Gender Categorization in Freshman Housing
As one of the authors, Matija Lagator ’17 described, the penultimate resolution was intended to “give the option for freshmen to live with a roommate or suitemate of a different gender, and have a better match with other students.”
The resolution would have included for incoming freshmen to state in the freshmen housing survey a chance to state if they would feel comfortable with having a roommate or suitemate of the same or different gender. The resolution would also allow for a whole floor of gender-neutral freshmen.
But a prolonged pro/con debate over the resolutions’ implementation issues, and the question posed by one student; “wouldn’t someone feel uncomfortable to be put in the same room with someone of a different gender?” in part blocked this resolution from passing.
#9 Amendments to Students’ Council Responsibilities
The last resolution of a remarkably productive Plenary changed much of the wording on the Constitution to all for greater collaboration between the Officer of Multiculturalism and the International Student Services Office, transfer responsibility for the Facilities Fund to the Officer of the Arts and the Officer of Campus Life, require Students’ Council Co-Presidents release a monthly report to the student body, and other measures to ensure Students’ Council are well-represented and not-overworked.
Correction 2/16 11:00 A.M. An earlier version of the article stated incorrectly that the Student Council Co-Secretaries announced the arrival of Insomnia Cookies, and that Resolution #9 would “provide greater funding for the Officer of the Arts.” However, it was the Co-Presidents who made the announcement, and Resolution #9 transferred the responsibility of the Facilities Fund from the Co-Presidents to the Officer of the Arts and Officer of Campus Life.