At Fall Plenary, the Students’ Council Co-Presidents give a speech concerning the state of student life at the college. Below is a complete transcript of Lisette Pham ’23 and Rasaaq Shittu’s ’23 State of the Ford address.
Rasaaq: Hi everyone, my name is Rasaaq Shittu, I use he/him pronouns.
Lisette: and my name is Lisette Pham, I use she/her pronouns and we are your Students’ Council Co-Presidents.
Rasaaq: We are excited to have all of you here for Fall Plenary. Plenary represents an important aspect of the Haverford experience: student governance. Through this community gathering, we have the opportunity to shape aspects of student-life that wouldn’t be possible at other institutions. Through resolutions, students are empowered to combat challenges both small and large. By engaging in healthy debate and inquiry, we are able to collectively affect our campus for the better. We want to thank the resolution writers for taking the time and putting in the hard work of developing their proposals. In addition, we’d like to thank all students in attendance, both remote and in-person, for sacrificing your time for the sake of the community.
Lisette: As we’ve settled into our roles as Students’ Council Co-Presidents, we’ve faced a lot of challenges and opportunities to advocate for student concerns within relevant branches of admin and senior staff. In light of the importance of transparency in leadership, we’d like to share some of them with you. In addition to our regular meetings with Jodi and Schaf from Student Engagement, Wendy and Jesse, and Dean McKnight, we’ve worked with ResLife, Dining Services, CPGC, DEI, and Campus Safety.
With the increasing concern of student safety on the weekends at social events, we’ve been working with Campus Safety to address ways in which we can better foster a safe social scene, particularly focusing on the increasing number of off-campus visitors at parties. Within the first 4 weeks of the semester, there were 3 Swarthmore students escorted off campus via ambulance. More recently, we’ve received several reports of a group of ~20 Harcum College male students who come to parties on the weekends completely unassociated with anybody on campus and reportedly verbally and physically harass female students, getting into at least 2 known physical altercations. And what is especially alarming is that these Harcum students were reported to have a gun in their possession which was used as an active threat. Whether or not they actually had a gun or not, students feel unsafe on the weekends and this must be taken seriously. Additionally, not only do they come onto our campus and create an unsafe environment but some of them even take our Blue Bus back as there is no regulation anymore for getting on the Blue Bus. Students have sent me pictures and other forms of evidence that I’ve presented to Campus Safety, which led them to working with the Harcum College Safety Department for further investigation. In mentioning these issues, we can see that the common theme and bigger issue here is the need to better regulate off-campus visitors, especially given that Haverford campus is increasingly becoming a prominent party space among those within and outside of the TriCo. Pre-COVID, we had an official process for registering and verifying off-campus visitors through Quaker Bouncers. Now, we don’t. However, we are also aware that COVID has shifted the social scene in that outdoor parties are more common, making it difficult to come up with an efficient solution to regulating students coming in and out of parties. It’s important to note that Quaker Bouncers were actually present at these parties involving these incidents, however, the changing social scene has seemingly minimized their efforts in upholding their roles. We hope to work with Quaker Bouncers and the Dean’s office to ensure that they are empowered to the best of their ability.
Rasaaq: Another major challenge brought to us by students was the quality and transparency of Dining Services. A petition regarding a sudden change in the full meal plan, which reduced our meal swipes between the Coop and Library Cafe to only 50 a semester, received a great deal of student support. In addition, various other problems with Dining Services ranging from availability of gluten-free & vegan selections to culturally insensitive labeling of certain foods were brought to our attention. In response, we have collaborated with Dining Services to re-establish a student committee with 2 representatives from each class year. This committee will be tasked with tackling these aforementioned issues, as well as serving as an advocacy group for any student affairs related to Dining Services. We brought Dining Services administrators to a weekly council meeting, and pressed to understand their explanations for various disappointments to students, which can be found in the September 18th Students’ Council meeting minutes.
Lisette: Along the lines of ongoing student concerns, we’ve also worked with ResLife to address the need for better infrastructure in regards to student housing. At the beginning of the year, we received several complaints about the lack of AC in the A suites in the North Dorms and how students feel that it is unfair that they are paying the same amount of tuition as people who do have the luxury of AC. After mentioning this to Wendy, she responded by saying that the current infrastructure of those buildings were not built to handle the amount of electrical output that universal AC requires, however, they plan to resolve this over Winter Break with the intention to implement those units with AC by next year.
Another dorm building that urgently requires attention is Gummere, the largest first year housing complex on campus. We had been made aware that there was a Gum petition that was circulating among first-years after the first floor halls experienced flooding. The petition notes the unsanitary bathrooms, constant flooding, and AC malfunctions experienced by those living in Gum and demand a higher standard of living comparable to the North Dorms and Tritton. As stated in the petition, the deteriorating infrastructure on campus is appalling. We are aware of this and we are in direct conversation with administration about reimagining space.
The last thing we’d like to bring up regarding ResLife is issues with RSL pay. Current RSLs reached out to us with complaints that they were not being paid as promised. As part of their pay, RSLs were told that they would be paid by stipend and receive $250 in dining dollars. They were not. We brought this up to Wendy and Scott W and were told that they did not receive the dining dollars because they were legally advised not to as it would not be feasible with the way that financial aid was set up.
Rasaaq: On the topic of the importance of maintaining our existing properties, we have turned our attention to the condition of James House. Over the past few years, the space has been deteriorating physically as a result of administrative neglect and abuse from ignorant students. The potential loss of the James House means more than the loss of a space – it has ramifications tied to the core of the social scene at Haverford. James House has hosted several art-related community events and served as an alternate party space for those who do not feel as comfortable in athlete-dominated spaces. The building has various problems with its structural integrity, and we hope to make use of the Facilities Fund, which totals at $35,000, to aid in its repair. In addition, projects and plans are in the works to use and permanently allocate a portion of this yearly fund to focus on accessibility improvements on campus. These efforts are led by our Officer of Access and Disability, Maya Cohen-Shields. We welcome student input into trying to make best use of this fund in order to improve our existing infrastructure, and reimagine Haverford as an accessible campus for all people.
An area of importance to us is how Haverford engages with issues regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally and externally. On the latter, we received a concerning email from Chief Daniel Strongwalker Thomas of the Turtle Clan of the Delaware Nation Lenni Lenape, a federally recognized American Indian Nation. He expressed deep opposition to Haverford’s long-standing relationship with non-federally recognized Lenni-Lenape tribes and 501(c)’s, as well as various misuses of language in Haveford’s public display of right relations. We coordinated with a wide host of administrators (CPGC, President’s Office, DEI Office) and students (COMLs) to gain a clearer picture of how Chief Thomas’s concerns place Haverford in an inappropriate position of legitimizing one indigenous group over another. Moving forward, we hope that Haverford’s communications regarding its steps towards right relations are put in context and clear to the community. Looking inwards, we hope to be of great support to the newly formed Affinity Coalition Group, organized by students such as Alexandra Stevens and María Reyes Pacheco. Our Officer of Multiculturalism, Yuriko Zhang, has been attending meetings in multiple capacities, and we are currently working with Student Engagement to make sure that affinity groups are able to acquire culturally important foods for events, something that currently poses a challenge.
Lisette: As you have just heard, we’ve had and continue to have quite a lot of tasks on our plate. However, we have more than welcomed the challenge. Some of these tasks, such as working on administrative support for club sports or addressing student parking issues, were not mentioned for the sake of time. We are committed to addressing your concerns, as well as acting as your advocates in front of what may seem to be an opaque, and at times oppositional administration. Our primary goal going into our roles was to act as an empowered voice of the student body, particularly those whose concerns are often disregarded due to being marginalized and underrepresented. We encourage students to reach out to us and all council members with your ideas, visions, and hopes, with the aim of trying to turn them into reality. Thank you.