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Spring 2020 Pre-Plenary Rundown

This Sunday, February 16, Haverford will host its annual Spring Plenary starting at 2:00 pm. There will be five resolutions presented at Plenary, four of which have an environmental theme. Due to the failure to make quorum at Fall Plenary, the Alcohol Policy, along with the Honor Code, will also be up for ratification. Notably, this is the second plenary with proposed resolutions since Special Plenary in spring 2018, where quorum was raised from 50% to 66%.

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The Committee for Environment Responsibility (CER) will present two resolutions at Plenary. The first, titled “Respect Living Spaces,” concerns students’ rooms over the summer. 

“For our resolution about Respecting Living Spaces, we wanted to emphasize how the procedures of move out are often disrespected since many students would leave items in their rooms or in the halls for housekeeping staff to clean up,” wrote Margaret Chen ’21, a member of CER, over email. “In this resolution, we hope to add to the language of move out procedures in the Honor Code so that these procedures are more enforced, housekeeping staff don’t have to spend unnecessary time cleaning spaces, and items can be properly disposed or reused.”

The second resolution CER will present is titled “Capital with a Purpose.” This resolution asks the Investment Committee, which manages the college’s endowment, to consider both the environmental and social impacts of their investments. To achieve this goal, it requests that the Investment Committee draw on various “Environmental, Social, and Governance” (ESG) frameworks to help evaluate their investments going forward.

“The intention behind the Capital with a Purpose value statement was to signify student support behind moving our endowment towards a contemporary understanding of how institution’s endowment influences the environment,” explained Owen Deitcher ’20.Utilizing the framework of ESG that considers environmental, social, and corporate structures, the intention is to not limit but guide the holistic process of selecting funds that align with the mission of the College and the values we hold around sustainability. This value statement enables further action to take place with administrators by galvanizing student support to leverage tangible action items.”

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The third resolution, “Statement of Commitment to Decreasing Light Pollution on Campus,” is presented by Sadie Kenyon-Dean ’20. The resolution asks Haverford to declare “its commitment to becoming a dark-sky friendly location via the criteria set forth by the International Dark-Sky Association,” and lists a variety of measures—including installing lower temperature light bulbs and renovating existing outdoor lamps—in order to move towards this goal.

“Anybody at Haverford who has heard birds singing in the middle of the night has experienced one of the many negative effects of light pollution firsthand. Light pollution and resulting sky glow affect all levels of the ecosystem and prevent the success of ground-based astronomy,” Kenyon-Dean wrote in an  email. “Further, blue light from LED bulbs suppresses melatonin output and is linked to sleep disorders, depression, and cancer.”

Kenyon-Dean contends that these actions will help make Haverford a more environmentally friendly place. Furthermore, these measures will improve the Strawbridge Observatory’s capacity to see astronomical objects. While Kenyon-Dean acknowledges that students may have safety concerns regarding her proposal, she suggests that updating Haverford’s lighting fixtures will ultimately make Haverford a safer campus, arguing that the current fixtures can be disorienting to cars and pedestrians.

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Continuing with the environmental theme is the resolution “Put Climate Justice at the Center of Strategic Planning,” proposed by Sunrise Haverford. The resolution asks the college to “publicly and fully acknowledge its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2035.”

Although the college has previously set 2035 as its target date for carbon neutrality, this goal is not widely known by students. Furthermore, the resolution asks Haverford to prioritize climate justice in the strategic planning process going forward.

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The final resolution—and the only one not focused on the environment—pertains to the Clearness Committee Process. The committee, which is assembled every four years, embarks on a year-long process to poll and study the student body before releasing a comprehensive report with suggestions for the community. The most recent report came out in 2019; the Clerk’s coverage of the committee’s findings can be found here

However, last year’s Clearness Committee discovered some flaws in the process: the timeline of two semesters felt too short, and the committee struggled to incorporate institutional memory. 

In describing the proposed changes, Riley Wheaton ’20 wrote over email, “Previous committees have often failed because they ran out of time, so this resolution extends the timeline from two semesters to three (fall, spring, and the following fall). With the creation of the new Students’ Council Librarian position, we figured it made sense to add them as their Honor Council counterpart [that] always serves on the committee. Lastly, our resolution bakes into the process that each committee will leave some questions for the next one to ask, so future committees can track change over time.”

All five resolutions will be discussed on Sunday in front of the student body. The Clerk will be regularly updating its social media to provide quorum and Plenary updates. On behalf of the editorial board, we look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

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