OPINION: In Defense of Resolution #5

Editor’s Note: This is a response to Bill Ristow’s opinion piece about a resolution passed at Spring Plenary 2015, published on February 19th.

Recently, Haverford student Bill Ristow wrote an article in response to Resolution 5. I am a member of TIDE and was a co-presenter of the resolution during plenary. What I am about to say is not a reflection of TIDE’s opinion and what it stands for, I am speaking for myself and voicing my own opinion only.

Firstly, I can see where Ristow comes from. The intentional ambiguity of the social code was to permit discourse of all kinds of dialogue without limiting the guidelines by which this dialogue should occur. Based on what he said, the new one-sentence revision to the code specifies these guidelines, thereby compromising the tone of ambiguity that shapes the Honor Code.

That being said, I vehemently disagree with Ristow’s conclusion. He said in the comments that he “thought about his privilege” while writing this, and that he almost didn’t publish his piece because he “didn’t want to silence minorities”, and he is entitled to his own opinion, but to an extent, his opinion invalidated the grievances and experiences of minorities that made the development of Resolution 5 necessary, and speaking to Ristow and to the general public, you can say the intention isn’t there but that doesn’t mean its negative impact will not occur, or even that forgiveness for its impact is ensured.

I understand the importance of ambiguity in the code, but such ambiguity does not and should not be applied to various aspects of human identity, especially if one’s identity consists of one or more marginalized identities. It is easy to want ambiguity in this respect when you’re not reminded of who you are every day in your environment and how that predetermines how people see you and interact with you. And when a harsh reminder of one’s identity occurs, how do they know they can go to Honor Council when the Social Honor Code does not explicitly state that they can handle their case?

This resolution is only a stepping stone towards ensuring that Honor Council will improve adequacy in handling cases of harassment and discrimination regarding all the isms. This isn’t going to resolve every flaw of the Honor Code and the problem of lack of confrontations instantly, but I really hope that it is at least a step towards having students know that if a situation arises where they feel invalidated or marginalized because of who they are, what they believe, and how they express their identity, then they would understand that such acts are against the Honor Code and can be dealt with by Honor Council. This resolution validates their problems and concerns and encourages confrontations while also emphasizing that such issues of harassment and discrimination violate the Honor Code, because incidents in these contexts do violate the mutual trust, concern and respect that is the very core of the Honor Code.

If you don’t think that this is the right way to go about it, that we should have discussions about it instead–that has happened all last semester and a little bit of last spring semester. It has happened mostly in the context of race because of the influx of people of racial minority groups in expressing discontent regarding their Haverford experience, and because of the ongoing anti-police brutality movements, and I sincerely hope that future conversations regarding the negative experiences of other groups will be had. But regarding the discussions last semester, odds are, those that disagree with this resolution and favor forums were probably either abroad last semester, had prior commitments that conflicted with the timing of these discussions, or they just didn’t try to attend these discussions. Discussions have been ongoing and ever-constant on campus, but action is rarely taken beyond discussions; not never, but rarely. This resolution is the next step, a product of past discussions while encouraging future discussions regarding all marginalized identities and their intersections, and other modes of action are being planned to be taken towards confronting these issues on campus. Thankfully, there is a majority in favor of it, and even Dan Weiss has expressed approval for the resolution, which I am grateful for. But given the recent comments regarding the ratification of the Code, Resolution 5 is a popular complaint among those comments as well. And I understand why some of you are weary about this resolution, but its benefits outweigh its risks, so would it be more harmful to give it a chance before it is put in practice or to shut it down before it is able to be put into practice?

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2 Responses

  1. Shewit Zerai says:

    Ugh, go Angelique, killing the game per usual.

  2. Conor Brennan-Burke says:

    Completely agree with everything Angelique said, although I was abroad and unable to take part in the discussions last fall. Resolution #5 is a great step in the right direction.

    I also wanted to add a short note to support one of Angelique’s points, based on my personal views regarding the Social Honor Code and Resolution #5. I understand what Bill is saying, that the Social Code should be ambiguous, and students should have the right to decide for themselves what a violation looks like and how to confront it.

    The problem with this viewpoint, though, is that it assumes a relatively equal playing field, where the concerns of both parties will receive the same weight.

    I personally feel, however, that despite our best efforts as Haverford students, there is still not always equal weight given for both individuals in every situation. A person with a minority identity (in any way) may have less social capital (or privilege, to use a loaded term) in a confrontation than someone in the majority, because of that identity and the unconscious biases associated with it.

    Leaving things ambiguous tips the scales in favor of the majority, and their greater social capital. Adding language supporting minority identities in the Social Honor Code itself (via resolution #5) doesn’t favor one group over another, it helps to correct the imbalance that exists when everything is left ambiguous.

    Just another idea to add to what Angelique is saying.

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