Between the start of the semester and Fall Plenary, four members of Haverford’s Students’ Council resigned from their positions. Officer of the Arts Olivia Legaspi ‘19, Class of 2019 Representative Sydney Dorman ‘19, and both of the Council’s Co-Secretaries, Addison Conn ‘20 and Rudy Hernandez ‘20, stepped down. Along with the previously elected Officer of Athletics, who transferred out of Haverford over the summer (per Blake ’19), five out of Students’ Council’s 18 members had to be replaced after they were originally elected, compared to last year, when only two members of the council resigned during their term. While those who resigned each stated their own individual reasons for leaving the Council, they also shared some concerns about Students’ Council’s structure and operations that may indicate why this year has seen an increase in the number of members leaving their seats.
“It was a lot more time consuming than last year,” said Dorman, “and it’s a struggle to find any free time, let alone the time that Student’s Council was taking out of my schedule. I felt that this year there were a lot of initiatives being discussed… restructuring and reorganizing things that have been constant on campus for many years.”
Students’ Council initiatives this year include bringing groups that rarely interact into more contact with each other, and increasing cooperation between the student body and the administration. Along with these initiatives for the semester, the Council is currently working to improve the budgeting and appointments process. These alterations are meant to streamline procedures, but also to increase strictness about member attendance and proper documentation.
“Saumya [Varma ‘18] and I want Students’ Council to be as effective and efficient as possible, and we do expect a lot from our members,” said junior and Student’s Council Co-President Julia Blake ‘19. “People may not realize the commitment, but as long as they’re honest with themselves and with us about not being able to do that commitment, it’s okay and we understand.”
However, as these improvements are still being developed and put into place, those members who resigned felt that the process has been inordinately time-consuming. It was also difficult for members who had not already gained experience serving on the council to arrive during this period of fluctuation, with established structures being changed and new ones not yet fully implemented.
“There were all these things I had no experience with, and there was no formal process for teaching new members any of these things,” said junior and former Officer of the Arts Legaspi, “I’d be in these budgeting meetings, totally confused, I didn’t feel like I was able to be helpful but I still had to be there for hours and hours of these meetings… Same thing with appointments, we had to appoint students to all these really important positions on campus and I didn’t feel like I was qualified to be helping to make these decisions, because I came in with no training or information whatsoever. The co-presidents said they were going to meet with me to tell me the basics, but that didn’t happen.”
Some members also chalk up Students’ Council’s high demands on the time of its members to a lack of institutional memory and adequate record-keeping between years.
“I have a lot of things I’m very interested in and that already have their structures in place, so I just got frustrated,” said Conn. “I felt like… I should be able to go into the position and do a job, why do I have to build a foundation that’s already been built many times?”
Students’ Council also intends to address this lack of continuity during this academic year, by replacing the Council’s website and by rewriting the Students’ Constitution to be more specific about the responsibilities and resources of each elected position.
“A lot of our previous members graduate, so it’s hard to maintain connections between the positions,” Blake said, “We want to improve those systems so there’s fluidity and continuity between years, so their projects and initiatives can continue.”
Some former members, like Conn, viewed this structural reorganization and rewriting of the constitution as beneficial, and agreed that this considerable investment of time and effort was necessary.
“I think some of [those] structural changes need to happen for Students’ Council to be a more cohesive unit,” Conn said. “I feel like you have to be really dedicated and willing to put in the groundwork despite not getting recognition for that, essentially. I had other stuff going on, I couldn’t dedicate extra time to that.”
However, Dorman believes that these modifications come at the expense of other valuable projects, and does not agree that the time and effort expended on them is currently outweighed by the benefits they might provide.
“I think [these changes] are very valuable, I just think we were a little too concerned with them at the start of the semester, and it’s extremely time consuming, to be the first group on Students’ Council to actually put into place these structures,” Dorman said. “They’ll provide very useful things in days to come, but at the beginning they take away from other things that we could be doing.”
Regardless of whether they’re worth it, these constitutional revisions and shifts in procedure appear to be the shared cause behind this year’s unexpectedly high number of resignations. Whether these changes will continue to increase the workload of Student’s Council members in the future, or whether they will be continued at all, remains to be seen. In the meantime, Blake emphasizes that these resignations haven’t led to any problems for the Council, and far from having any ill will toward those who left, she hopes to continue collaborating with them on the initiatives they planned before they left.
“Resignations aren’t impeachments, they aren’t necessarily negative things, they happen and we really appreciate the honesty of our previous council members,” Blake said. “They’re resigning because they want council to be a great thing and want us to be aware that they maybe don’t have the time to do the best job they can.”