Special Plenary Preview

By Andrew Eaddy, Olivia Legaspi, Leslie Luqueno, Claudia Nguyen, Simon Poser, and Ellen Schoder

In just a few days, the Honor Code may look a lot different, as the student body considers resolutions about the Academic and Social Honor Codes, as well as other issues on campus. Any potential changes will take place at Special Plenary, which is scheduled for April 8 at 5pm in the GIAC.

Of the resolutions, six were proposed by the Special Plenary Committee, a group of 10 students who have been charged with reaching out to students and writing resolutions based on the feedback they have received. The Committee’s resolutions address the Social Code, Academic Code, confrontation, Day of Community Reflection, raising quorum, and presidential powers.

Some students have also proposed their own resolutions, including one on all-gender bathrooms and another on plenary scheduling. Another resolution seeking to abolish the Students’ Council Co-Treasurer position was also proposed by students, but did not receive enough signatures from the student body to be discussed on Sunday. That resolution, proposed by a couple of members of Students’ Council, sought to dissolve the Students’ Council Co-Treasurer position and separate the Office of the Treasurer from Students’ Council.

Some of these proposed changes were made possible by guidelines that Honor Council created this semester. On March 25, students received an email saying that they could propose changes to both the Honor Code and the Students’ Constitution at Special Plenary. According to the guidelines:

“The Students’ Constitution reads ‘a Special Plenary will be scheduled to modify the Code in such a way as to enable a two-thirds majority to vote for ratification.’ Given the interconnected nature of the Honor Code and its applications as outlined in the Students’ Constitution, the student body will have the option to make amendments to any portion of the Students’ Constitution, not only the Honor Code, at a Special Plenary.  The idea being that students deserve any and all option to modify the Code in order to feel confident vesting power in it.”

As we get ready for Special Plenary, you can find out more about all of the proposed changes below:

Social Honor Code

The proposed resolution primarily seeks to amend the Social Code to be more inclusive of marginalized students, recognizing that the current version fails to do so and can often be used to protect harmful speech against these groups. The resolutions writers seek to restructure the Code such that it serves to protect “students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, low-income students, queer students, survivors of sexual assault, international students, and people from other marginalized backgrounds.” Some ways in which the language of the proposed Code does this is by acknowledging that discriminatory acts take many forms and that honest and open dialogue is not always possible. Consequently, it prioritizes the safety of students and “requires discussion that is active, inclusive, responsible, and safe for all students.”

Furthermore, the proposed changes to the Social Code seek to foster greater engagement in the community, extending the values of the Code to not only student peer interactions, but also to those with staff, faculty, and guests of the college. Additionally, the resolution writers chose to add a paragraph that calls upon the student body to maintain respect for shared spaces such as the Dining Center and Coop, as well as the staff and students that work in these spaces.

Academic Honor Code

The primary goal of this resolution is to amend the Academic Code to include aspects of the Social Code. In particular, the resolution writers recognize that power imbalances exist in the classroom setting, and seek to change the language of the Code to create guidelines for conduct to address these imbalances. It seeks to create guidelines for interaction and engagement between students and faculty, protect marginalized communities in the classroom setting, as well as call upon students to be active bystanders in cases of Academic Code violations.

A significant proposed change concerns breaches of respect and power imbalances, recognizing that “respect, in addition to honesty, is required for a successful academic experience.” The resolution specifically addresses breaches of respect in student-faculty interactions by acknowledging the power imbalance in this relationship, and providing an option for a third party (i.e. another faculty member, a Dean, or an Honor Council member) to assist in confrontation on behalf of the student. Additionally, in regards to peer interactions, it asks that “students from positions of power directly confront their peers as active bystanders should a social violation take place in the classroom.”

Another change is the addition of a section that recognizes students’ struggles to balance academics with the personal experiences (i.e. mental health concerns or family crises), and asks students to be in communication with their professors, and that in return the latter be open to this dialogue, in order to avoid breaches in the Academic Code.

Confrontation

The writers of this resolution observed the way confrontation operates currently, it is up to students of marginalized backgrounds to confront their oppressors. They also noted that the goal of confrontation as written is to satisfy healing and restoration of trust between the parties in question, and the way it works today does not actualize these ideas.

The resolution initially proposed to change the term “confrontation” in the Honor Code to “engagement,” but kept the term “confrontation” due to a poll posted on the new Haverford Academic Year 2017-2018 Facebook page. Additionally, the resolution suggests that active bystanders (individuals who the victim of a breach in the Honor Code feels comfortable confiding in) may confront on the victim’s behalf.

For clarity, an active bystander does not need to be present at the time that an offense takes place. Furthermore, they can request that someone report themselves to Honor Council as if they were the aggrieved party. The active bystander does not take the place of the victim, however.

The issue of power dynamics has often been raised when discussing the notion of confrontation and the Social Code. This resolution aims to mitigate the effects of these dynamics on aggrieved parties by providing alternative ways to go about trying to achieve justice.

Day of Community Reflection

This resolution proposes that Haverford institute a Day of Community Reflection tasked with allowing members of the Haverford community to reflect on the Honor Code and the greater community.

The resolution, intended to begin in the 2018-2019 academic year, is meant to take place on Martin Luther King Day, and is meant to incorporate some of the service aspects traditionally associated with the holiday, in addition to the programming on reflection set out in the proposal.

The resolution includes a breakdown of the day in the following years, and proposes that “though for logistical reasons DCR cannot be made mandatory in its first year, we recommend that future generations of Haverford students consider opening conversation with the faculty about making at least two of a student’s four DCRs a graduation requirement.”

Every two years, the day will assessed for efficacy and will be updated according to shifts in campus needs. The day hopes to be a fluid yet integral part of the Haverford ethos.

Raising Quorum

The Special Plenary committee has proposed a resolution that calls for “quorum [to] be permanently raised to 66% of the Students’ Association,” an increase from the 50% currently required to reach quorum.

It also adds measures to make plenary more accessible, suggesting a livestream, “smaller overflow room,” and “digital question-and-answer systems” as potential alternatives to having the Gooding Arena in the GIAC as the sole location for the event, which some students said can be triggering due to large crowds and noise.

Accessibility has also been a priority in the planning of Special Plenary. During Special Plenary, students will be able to watch a livestream from the multipurpose room in the GIAC or from a remote livestream. In both cases, those students will count towards quorum and be able to vote on the proposed resolutions.

Presidential Powers

Another resolution expands the options the President of the College has when considering resolutions passed by students at plenary. In addition to the “accept” or “reject” options which the President currently has, this resolution suggests a third option.

The resolution adds to the Students’ Constitution:

“In cases where a resolution explicitly impacts faculty and staff the President will have the following options: (a) accept completely; (b) accept, with a stipulation for changes; and (c) reject altogether. The President will also be asked to articulate more fully the reasons for their decision. In case (b), the resolution proposers have the ability to either make the changes proposed by the President or they can choose not to make the changes. If the proposers do make a change, the resolution will go back to the community during the next Plenary. Assuming the Students’ Association re-approves the amendment, it will once more turn to the President for feedback. If the proposers choose not to make the changes requested, however, the President will only have the option to accept or reject the resolution as proposed.”

Plenary Scheduling

This resolution recognizes that, “although the Student’s Constitution states that Plenary should not be held on a religious holiday,” it doesn’t acknowledge cultural holidays in the same way.  The writers of the resolution call attention to the importance of Plenary as a space for students to make their voices heard, and they acknowledge that holding Plenary on religious and cultural holidays forces some students to “choose between their identity and Plenary.”

In the past, Plenary has occurred on both religious and cultural holidays: most recently, Spring 2018 Plenary was held the weekend following Lunar New Year, a major holiday for many Asian and Asian-American students.  This resolution asks Students’ Council to be “proactive in ensuring that Plenary does not fall on a religious or cultural holiday” by consulting with religious, cultural, and affinity groups.

All Gender Bathrooms

This resolution affirms student body support for the President’s Office ongoing initiative to increase the accessibility of all-gender restrooms on campus.  The goal of this initiative is “to provide all community members and visitors convenient access to all-gender bathrooms in our academic and administrative buildings, while being mindful of the privacy and comfort of all community members, cost, and the constraints of our built environment.”

The resolution argues that an accessible environment for all students is in accordance with Haverford’s values, and that the current state of bathrooms on campus is isolating and harmful to students who do not identify as male or female.  While there are all-gender restrooms in some buildings on campus, they are not all conveniently available. Additionally, some buildings — such as the GIAC, where all students are required to spend time because of Plenary and the PE requirement — do not have any all-gender restrooms at all.  The resolution asks that Students’ Council funds this initiative until there are convenient all-gender bathrooms around campus.

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