New Resolution Hopes to Make Plenary More Accessible and Inclusive

This coming Sunday Leah Budson ’19, Anna Saum ’18, Lillian Alonzo ’20 are presenting Collection: Day of Community Engagement Resolution at Plenary.

The resolution suggests changes to the pre-existing protocol for Plenary by making Plenary an all-day community event with workshops in the morning and plenary in the afternoon. One of the major changes is that Plenary would be moved to a weekday instead of being on a Sunday and classes would not be held on this day.  In addition, quorum will be raised to 75% of the student body for Spring Plenary.

Quorum refers to how many people need to be present for a decision to be made or a meeting to go forward in lots of contexts. If not enough people show up, quorum can’t be reached and plenary must be rescheduled.

Anna Saum asks that students not be alarmed by the raise to 75% for quorum.

“In my mind this is the least important part. From my perspective, Quorum shouldn’t have to exist at all. The real point of the resolution is about tying the Honor Code to our daily lives, which are sculpted by our varying identities. It’s a time for the community to reflect on how we deal with policies that disadvantage certain populations and advantage others. It’s about taking the space to acknowledge those systems of privilege and stand in that discomfort before gathering to change the way our school works.” Saum  said.

Lillian Alonzo ‘20 spoke to me about why she found this resolution important and why she was drawn to work on it.

“Leah and I had worked together previously when I assumed the role of multicultural liaison [for Honor Council]. She helped me grow as a mediator and figure out what this new position meant. When she brought up this resolution, she really wanted my opinion. I added some logistics to the resolution and how I thought it would go over. She thought it was good feedback and thought that I should join the team of students working on this resolution.” Alonzo said.

The proposal, which suggests calling this new event “Collection” gives an example of the schedule. The event would start the night before and have an open community discussion in the Quaker tradition. The next day, there would be two sessions in the morning. These sessions would be facilitated by faculty, staff, students, alums. Students would have registered for these sessions beforehand. The second morning session would include first year custom groups getting together. After lunch would be plenary, which would then wrap up by four at which point students could go to sports practice or reflect on the day. Finally, there would be a closing celebration with the community.

“We want people to know what the Honor Code means to them so they would be more invested.” Alonzo said.

In addition to all of that, a Collection Committee would be formed which would comprise of the students would organize collection day. The proposal that was included in the Plenary email sent out by the Student Council Co-Presidents on September 26th states that “These members are intended to represent a spectrum of voices present within the Haverford community and therefore should include a diversity of races, genders, class years, and other identity markers. This committee is responsible for organizing Collection activities and Plenary accommodations.”

“One way to frame the connection between the morning and the afternoon part is that at plenary, we discuss different policies that can affect the student body. I strongly believe that any discussion of policy (academic, social, or otherwise) needs to be informed by understanding of identity and how that affects our community,” said Budson. “Lots of portions of the Code and the Students’ Constitution (comprised of the Honor Code, the Alcohol Policy, and other student policies) contains policies rooted in cultural bias, etc. Our hope is that this day, and the discussions before plenary, can start to bring identity into the conversations at plenary, to move towards ensuring that resolutions consider all members of our community.”

Though Sophie McGlynn ‘18 is not presenting this resolution, she did have a hand in crafting it.

“One important thing of this is that we’re trying to make it an intentional event. So it’s not a day off when people think ‘oh, hey, I might show up to one of these things” If we’re going to do this then we need to as a community commit to this in a real way.” McGlynn said.

“The way I see this, the key element of the resolution is trading a day of class time for a day of community engagement across different topics, including discussion of identity and plenary. The raise in quorum is merely a consequence of this—If we’re going to ask professors and the administration to cancel class time, I feel that as a student body, we have a responsibility to attend Plenary at a higher rate.” said Budson.

Plenary will be held in the GIAC on Sunday, October 8 and goes from 2pm-5pm.

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