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Students’ Council Hosts Town Hall Ahead of Plenary

By Alison Rosenman and George Doehne

On Feb. 4, Students’ Council (SC) hosted a town hall event to create a space for community discussion and to address student concerns in preparation for this semester’s Plenary. The event began with a brief moment of silence, followed by short introductions from SC members participating as panelists, a five-minute question-and-answer period, ten minutes for audience discussion without direct SC response, and a concluding open dialogue between the panelists and the audience.

The evening’s discussion was largely dominated by concerns of a perceived lack of student engagement with SC and Plenary. Among the specific issues brought up was a potential ban on laptop use in the GIAC during Plenary, with the hope of encouraging students to participate and listen instead of using the time to complete homework assignments. SC also brought up general concerns about repeated failures to meet quorum in student elections. The council expanded on ideas for increasing student interest and participation in elections, which included potentially creating a campaigning period for future election candidates as well as switching from Qualtrics to Campus Labs, a voting alternative that SC is considering adopting with help from Michael Elias, Dean of Student Engagement and Leadership Initiatives.

The audience of over 40 students brought up topics ranging from feeling uncomfortable working out in the GIAC gym space to individual desires for more outdoor study spaces. Students also voiced concerns about plans from SC for a pub in the Whitehead Campus Center, future plans for restructuring SC, and making Plenary an accessible event. The SC panelists took care to responded to each of these concerns with updates about related projects already in the works.

To conclude the event, most of the participating SC panelists took time to summarize the specific projects they’ll be associated with this semester. Among those who shared are Co-Vice-President Sydney Churchill ‘20, who spoke about the task force on student labor in light of growing concerns for Haverford’s student wage and work environment, sophomore Representative Devi Namboodiri ‘21, who thanked the audience for their participation and emphasized her desire to make students feel more safe and supported on campus, and Co-Secretary Mariana Ramirez‘20, who took her conclusion to recognize that while Haverford is committed to admitting minority students, it fails to adequately support them once they get here. Both Co-Presidents Andrew Eaddy ‘19 and Maurice Rippel ‘19 used their time to highlight the importance of discussion on campus and to note the tension they feel between SC reaching out to students versus students feeling comfortable reaching out to SC themselves.

SC Officer of Athletics Claire Cai ‘21, who took minutes for the panel at the event, was overall satisfied with the event. “We were actually expecting a lower turnout than what we had, so it felt really great to see everyone there. We also ran past the scheduled end time, which was kind of exciting because that means there was a real and constant dialogue.” wrote Cai via email. “Of course, there could always be more people at these Town Halls. We’re a school of roughly 1200 students, and roughly 800 students are needed at Plenary to reach quorum, but there were only about 50 of us there at the Town Hall. That’s only about 5% of the student body in attendance. I’m sure the topics we discussed at the Town Hall, such as accessibility, particularly to the GIAC, and student apathy, will be discussed again at Plenary. Thus, I feel that the Town Hall does set us up for Plenary, but because not that many students attended the Town Hall, I think its effect may not be as influential as what it could have been.”

For minutes from this event and other SC meetings as they become available, visit the Clerk’s new tab for publishing SC communications.