Last Sunday, March 27, the student body gathered for the first in-person Spring Plenary since 2020. The student body spent over three and a half hours in the GIAC and on Zoom working through the long agenda, reviewing three resolutions. The length of the event surprised some students, as the event took over two hours longer than Plenary last semester.
Students’ milled in after the 2:00 PM start time, and quorum, the first barrier to a successful Plenary, was reached in just under half an hour. Although 850 students were allegedly in attendance, far fewer were in the Calvin Gooding Arena, with many students attending via Zoom from elsewhere on campus.
First on the docket was the State of the Ford speech from Amolina Bhat ’23 and Sam Aronson ’22. The pair stressed the importance of being involved with the community year-round. “There are many real ways to affect change at Haverford outside of Plenary,” said Bhat, highlighting hiring committees and student governance as major outlets through which students can have an impact.
After their speech, Bhat and Aronson introduced and passed the rules of order with ease. The rules of order were designed to curb the question and answer segment and pro-con debate over resolutions to expedite proceedings.
Resolution 1: Addition of Officer of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion to Students’ Council – Passed
The first resolution of the afternoon was put forward by Disability Advocacy for Students at Haverford (DASH) leadership. This resolution was designed to address what the resolution presenters described as “a shortage of communication between administration and disabled students and a lack of representation of disabled students in student government.” Maya Cohen-Shields ’24, one of the presenters, added: “Haverford is behind its peer institutions in terms of accessibility.”
This resolution would add a position to Students’ Council specifically designed to ensure that students in the disability community are well represented in campus decision-making and event planning. During Q&A, the presenters clarified a few points about the position: the representative will be paid like any other Students’ Council position and all students will have a say in electing this representative because “[all] students can become disabled at any time if they get a temporary disability or a diagnosis,” explained the representatives.
During pro-con debate, only one student spoke. Max Pabilonia ’22 shared their experience with disability at Haverford, saying that “this campus is the least accessible campus I have ever come across.” She elaborated that “nobody is paying attention to disabled students” and put the consequences of this plainly: “It felt like nobody cared or even realized I existed.”
With no additional speakers for or against this resolution and no friendly or unfriendly amendments, the resolution passed easily, clearing the ⅔ majority vote required to alter the student constitution.
Resolution #2: Abolition of Campus Safety – Failed
The next resolution was sponsored by Naren Roy ’23 and Luka Austin ’24. Its presenters explained that this resolution operated in an abolitionist framework but did not literally get rid of Campus Safety. The resolution had three sections, which Austin puts plainly: “the first is a value statement, the second is actionable steps, and the third ensures these are not separated.”
The first clause of the resolution declared student views “towards Campus Safety and all police structures to be an abolitionist one” and invited administrators to invest in alternatives to policing. The second listed three concrete ways for the administration to invest in these alternatives. The final clause dictates that the administration cannot accept the resolution with conditions.
The value statement drew most of the criticism through the event’s Q&A and pro-con debate portions. Although the resolution did not reduce funding to Campus Safety or reallocate funds already going to the department, students voiced countless concerns about reducing Campus Safety funding. Students rely on Campus Safety for transportation to the hospital, to avoid confronting their peers when drunk, and for support with facilities problems. Austin confirmed this to be the case; according to the weekly published Safety Briefs, 46% of what campus safety does responds to are facilities issues and health concerns.
Some students, specifically students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with mental illnesses, shared a very different perspective. As Jorge Paz Reyes ’24 put it, “some students live in a completely different reality with Campus Safety.” Students shared stories of being involuntarily taken to the psychiatric hospital, being ID’d while walking around campus to prove they were students, and having had their rooms involuntarily entered when a friend or dean asked for a wellness check.
Students passed two friendly amendments with ease, specifying that the college should not bring police to campus to supplement campus safety and naming more specifics around what should be funded in place of Campus Safety. An unfriendly amendment tried to remove language about abolition and Campus Safety entirely, in favor of just encouraging the school to increase funding to CAPS. Several speakers spoke out against this, saying it defeated the whole purpose of the resolution, and the unfriendly amendment failed.
After nearly 90 minutes of debate, the resolution went to a vote. The resolution did not receive the 50% vote it needed to pass and thus failed instead.
Resolution #3: Reimagined Alcohol Policy With JSAAPP Responsibilities (RAP-WJR) – Passed
The final resolution of the day was sponsored by the Joint Student-Administration Alcohol Policy Panel (JSAAPP) Co-Heads Lara Deuber ’23 and Augustus Helson ’23. The pair rose to the position amid the COVID-19 pandemic and found themselves the only acting panel members. In their opening remarks, Deuber and Helson explained that their resolution sought to codify the roles and membership of JSAAPP and remove unfulfilled promises from the alcohol policy.
During Deuber and Helson’s opening remarks, students had left the gym and Zoom call, and quorum was lost. Two minutes later, quorum was regained, and Q&A for the resolution began.
All questions were centered on one particularly important change to the document–removing two clauses concerning sexual misconduct and violence. Many students were concerned about removing these clauses due to the message that doing so sent to survivors of sexual violence in the community. Deuber explained that this decision was made for a similar reason that Honor Council doesn’t handle sexual assault–it falls beyond JSAAPP purview and cannot be handled by students. Helson explained further: “Tying [sexual assault] into the alcohol policy turns it into a party issue instead of a larger issue on campus.”
Students wrestled with whether the alcohol policy was a social code or an administrative one during pro-con debate. Carter Langham ’22, whose HCO added the clauses concerning sexual violence to the Alcohol Policy in 2017, said “a resolution at my first plenary was to add this language. The intention was not to put the responsibility of sexual assault into JSAAP’s hands, but for all to take responsibility.”
Ultimately, an unfriendly amendment was passed to reintroduce the omitted clause back into the Alcohol Policy. With this amendment added, the resolution moved to a vote. The resolution a ⅔ majority to pass, the vote went on for much longer than expected–although everyone in-person had voted, many students on Zoom were not actually watching Plenary proceedings or voting. Presumably, they were not watching and did not realize the vote had begun. Eventually, the required votes were submitted and the resolution passed.
After this, Plenary began to come to a close. Honor Council Co-heads Sophia Kaplan ’23 and Matt Dodds ’22 delivered the State of the Code speech, inviting students to reflect on the code in their day-to-day lives and highlighting some early impacts of last semester’s Social Code changes. After this, students voted to open the ratification process for the honor code, bringing the day’s lengthy agenda to a close.
“We’re really grateful to everyone who came out to discuss the Honor Code today,” said Kaplan. She adds, “it’s so important to engage in deep dialogue about what our values are and how we can make them a reality.”