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3/24/19 Students’ Council Meeting Minutes

Each week, Students’ Council releases meeting minutes to the Haverford community. The ideas represented in these minutes do not necessarily reflect verified facts, nor do they necessarily capture all of any speaker’s intended point. The original document released by Students’ Council can be found here.

Sunday 24 March 2019

5:15 PM – 6:45 PM

Minutes by Katie Leiferman and Mariana Ramirez*

Meeting Minutes

Table of Contents

  1. Attendance
  2. Officer Updates
  3. Customs Updates
  4. Presidential Updates


  1. Attendance
    1. Council Members
      1. Co-Presidents: Andrew Eaddy & Maurice Rippel
      2. Co-Vice Presidents: Sydney Churchill & Shayan Hashemi
      3. Co-Treasurers: Alejandro Wences & Danny Mayo
      4. Co-Secretaries: Katie Leiferman & Mariana Ramirez
      5. Officer of Multiculturalism: Jhoneidy Javier
      6. Officer of Academics: Ethan Lyne
      7. Officer of Arts: Rachel Kline
      8. Officer of Athletics: Claire Cai
      9. Officer of Campus Life: Tina Le
      10. Representative of International Students: Jason Ngo
      11. First Year Rep: Jacob Gaba
      12. Sophomore Rep: Devi Namboodiri
      13. Junior Rep: Katie Guild
      14. Senior Rep: Julia Blake
    2. Absent: Marked with Red
    3. Late: Marked with Orange
    4. Guests: Mike Elias and Michelle Leao
  2. Officer Updates
    1. Andrew: Let’s get started with officer updates, this will be a short meeting today.
    2. Claire: On Tuesday, SAAC met and there we had Walter Sullivan and the Friends in Residence. They came to hear about student athlete experiences at Haverford. On Wednesday, I met with Wendy and we talked about the Clearness Committee survey.
    3. Julia: Three or four weeks ago, me, Franklyn and a sophomore named Brian met to discuss staff appreciation. We wanted to make a sustainable and effective program to inform students how to help staff always. Brian and i got a staff list and we are going to separate the list into different categories to learn how to improve relationships. We want to make this project more sustainable and have it go beyond gifting something for one day. Other students are also interested in joining this initiative.
    4. Jason: I am trying to establish a new committee for international students.
    5. Katie: We met with the Clerk and they are now publishing the minutes so students can access the minutes there as well. Also, now that we made the Ford Form no longer anonymous, no one is using it.
    6. Sydney: No appointments this week, but next week we will have two appointments for: SLAC and James House. This past week, we had a meeting with the task force for student employment. We are trying to develop focus group questions.
    7. Ethan: Few things. I’ve mentioned working on a survey for seniors about their academic experience to gauge their satisfaction with major, etc. I met with Mike to ensure that there wasn’t already something like this going on. I also want to use qualtrics. I’m hoping to get this in the works, but it is difficult because seniors are busy working with thesis. I’ve also been working on a project with Katie G. to bring student-led initiative to address mental health. Kelly Wilcox is doing amazing work, but there isn’t anything led by students. We’ve reached out to clubs on campus to see what they are working on and if they have any ideas. We want to collaborate with them moving forward. We want to do something similar to thrive called “Penn Faces,” a project that penn has done to document people’s struggles with mental health and ways of coping with that in college. We are hoping to start something similar on campus, but this is just one idea. Finally, I’m not sure how much we are moving forward with reforming plenary, but we need to meet still.
    8. Julia: Weren’t the exit interviews more comprehensive before for seniors?
    9. Ethan: Yes, that’s why I met with Mike– I was wondering if some of these questions have already been covered. If the questions are being asked, is that data being spread across campus to relevant organizations? It seems like those pathways are not being developed.
    10. Julia: I would like to collaborate with you on the survey, so please reach out to me.
    11. Jacob: I am working on wrapping up the first year blog with Katrina right now. I am also working with her on the FYDC’s library project.
      1. *Maurice & Jhoneidy arrive
    12. Rachel: One of the two things I wanted to do this year was increase awareness on dialogues on art, which has gotten bumped–they took my advice to advertise it more and was posted all over social media without me knowing about it, so that was exciting. Exciting news is they have gotten double the amount of projects proposed this year–not sure if it is from our awareness campaign, but it is exciting.
    13. Jhoneidy: I’ve been working on the task force on classroom climate. We are starting our focus group meetings. The first one was today to assess culture within the classroom. It was enlightening, but also sad. To sum it up, I was talking to sophomores and first-years and they are going through the same thing that I went through as an underclass. I want to highlight that this is a repeated pattern. What way can the institution actually make an intervention?
  3. Customs  Updates:
    1. Maurice: You all saw Martha’s email about convening the task force to discuss Customs payment. What was everyone’s thoughts on the Town Hall?
    2. Ethan: I was disappointed that it addressed little of what people had questions on. I think it perpetuated divisions and distrust on campus.
    3. Maurice: What questions did you feel were not addressed?
    4. Ethan: I thought the real effects of a payment model on the community was never addressed. It is not well known amongst students how paying students would change certain things.
    5. Devi: I have heard people being dissatisfied with the administration’s response to the proposed ideas. There was frustration with the budget’s timeline.
    6. Katie: I was frustrated with how the process at the student only portion went. I am wondering if our job as students’ council should be as unbiased mediators, or to further our own agenda? What do folks think?
    7. Jhoneidy: I am with you there. I do think our role is a mediator between SC and the student body. I think because I’m a senior, I’m moving more towards whatever students want. At this point, i am leaving so this is y’alls community. If students want to get paid, okay let’s make it happen. It’s just been wild that people really expected a small school to provide $9k.
    8. Katie: My questions is: had we gone into the Town Hall with an united front in the form of our own stance, would even that be appropriate? Or should we be mediators there simply to listen?
    9. Maurice: You don’t let misinformation that is out there just stay there
    10. Katie: This is not an attack, I understood that you were trying to spread correct information, but it was also perceived by some as you pursuing your own agenda. So I think it is important we decide what our role is, is our role to provide information, to say nothing, to correct people, to come with a stance as a council?
    11. Ethan: I also think that people think we are siding with administration. I think that’s where I fall into the structure. Administration didn’t make their stance clear.
    12. Maurice: What I got from the Town Hall is that we want it [Customs] this way without negotiation necessarily or we don’t want it at all. The information the administration presents us we [Customs boycott leadership] don’t take at face-value and I don’t know how to address that. In terms of mediation, your job is to address misinformation and then go back to the problem going forward. One way that discussion could have gone is the following: continuing to spread misinformation. My problem is that change doesn’t happen on this campus that way. My experience has always been that we and the rest of the student body is together and the administration is there to listen. Your job as a mediator is to get everyone thinking practically. We could have had a session where we all vented, but what would that have done? We could have had a session where we just let misinformation stay out there. But how would that change our Customs program? Our job of mediator is clarify questions and concerns, and get people to think about the tangible next and the long term next? Frankly, if people feel like the administration is lyingto us and we are aligned with administration, there is nothing we can do from a Students’ Council perspective.
    13. Sydney: I think the distrust of Administration is fair because we don’t have access to a lot of the information that administrators have access to in terms of the budget and how it is allocated. I definitely don’t understand that process. All of these variables in terms of how money is acquired and distributed. I see part of our role as Student’s Council to be somewhat questioning of admin and probing for information–I think that there are fair concerns about that. I think there is grounds for distrust. I think part of our job is to advocate for that
    14. Jhoneidy: I think that if this distrust is real, why don’t some students engage with us or admin to get rid of that distrust. Like when we started the protest a few years ago, I had a meeting with Jess Lord as a sophomore. I asked him to come to a large school-wide meeting to discuss how financial aid is allocated and decided. I was just asking, going back to maurice’s point, if the wall between students and admin keeps going up, that is not going to get us anywhere. We need the same facts and the same puzzle pieces and I don’t think we are there right now. If there is still some performative aspect going on, where do you go with that?
    15. Julia: I think the distrust comes from a distrust of authority and administration in general. Why do Haverford students think the administration does not have the students’ best interest? Maurice and Andrew now know, when you meet with these administrators every week, you see how much administrators are working in best interest of students and wanting to improve a situation. The difference is admin has to work more logistically and practically, whereas students go ideologically based on how “I feel.” The practicality takes a long time so I get it. Maybe that speed or lack of speed is why students continue to not think that admin doesn’t have our best interest, because we are used to things happening automatically. We should ask ourselves continuously if hte admin has our best interest?
    16. Maurice: An interesting comment that I heard was this idea that administration wants customs to stay the way it is. Jess Lords’ job is to sell the school and spin it in a way that gets people coming. So if customs is paid the story is Customs is paid because of students’ agency. Admin wants whatever we want. To the questions you posited, do we need an understanding of budgets of institutions to understand what we can accomplish? Something I saw on Twitter–one was a student asking for the budget and a breakdown of the budget. A friend of mine sent them the link. The student responded that it was inaccessible. The things they were asking about were things you can ask to an Econ major, Econ professor, etc. You can also come to SC meetings. There was misinformation, so much so, that I didn’t know where to start. For example, donor funded programs–half the programs they listed were not donor funded. My question is where does misinformation come from? Some of that intersects with Julia’s question of how can we understand that admin has our back? More so than any other institution, the job of admin is to mediate and facilitate student projects that we want but may not always understand how. I feel like this is a failure to understand that things take time–change is not immediate and that is okay. Different things can be done differently. If our goal is to be paid, we could have left that meeting paid. It didn’t feel like people wanted to compromise and as someone who is mediating, I don’t know what to do. My biggest frustration is why people don’t ask questions more.
    17. Sydney: I think it is interesting that there wasn’t some sort of intermediate reach because I thought one of SWOL’s things was to ask the most possible, and then be able to negotiate because their statement of demands said they asked for the most possible money in an effort to be able to negotiate down. So, I’m wondering why more of a decision wasn’t reached.
    18. Jacob: They didn’t do their homework. To come to the table and ask for this amount to negotiate down, presupposes that there is a pool of money to work from and presumes that the admin has this money to use which doesn’t exist it has to come from somewhere else. The whole thing is fundamentally flawed because they didn’t do their research. I have an idea on how we can actually do this. This is something that can only happen long term. People should know what an endowment is, if they are coming to the negotiating table. If you are going with a stance, you should know what an endowment is and how it works. It is publicly available information you can find online. We have 5 million, of course you could pay Customs people. We are losing money from the endowment each year you can find this online. 5% goes to financial aid. If you want to take money out of endowment, you are taking it out financial aid which seems counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish. My point is these things are all available online which isn’t happening because the leaders of the discussion aren’t doing their research. Mike and Michelle came in the night before the Town Hall and told us Customs is a line item operational cost which means we can only get money out of the operational budget not endowment. The student leaders asking for this should know these things. To be honest, if people want to come to the table and make an act out of it as they did, then nothing is going to happen. I want change to happen, and admin is ready to work with us to make that happen, but if people come to the table from the outset and say they don’t believe admin than nothing is going to happen. I have my own idea about how we can fund Customs. We can call up a donor and asked for 5 million dollars for an endowed Customs program. Take that money out in forms of housing subsidies or for work study for example. I said that idea at the Town Hall discussion but it went right over people’s heads because they don’t want to think about the facts. I have talked with a lot of people about this recently and most of them don’t think Customs people should be paid in the first place, but if people on this campus want to pay Customs teams than let’s have a real conversation on the side of facts, not fiction. But we need to start from a place where we are talking about, is this something people really want? There were a lot of people on that Town Hall that we don’t know what their opinions are. In the post Town Hall discussion, there were a lot of people presumably for something but I don’t think they even know what that something is. That was not enough people to hold an entire first year class hostage of a functioning Customs program. In my eyes, we need to take a step further back and decide: is this labor or service. Once we have that discussion we can decide the rest. That gives people some time to decide if these financial models work and research. A lot of frosh are interested in this. The whole thing is going to implode and nothing is going to happen because people aren’t listening.
    19. Devi: I also agree that right now, a lot of the solutions are thinking about an immediate kind of solution. I also think that when even considering customs in the past, i want to see if there was a trend to see if this is something that has been wanted in the past. I have learned from other people that Customs is a lot, but I also now that other customs folks are not as invested. That is something we need to consider, because for a lot of people Customs
    20. Ethan: I want to talk about the approach to how we deal with the problem. I think that telling people you need to look into things more is not a productive way to approach things. I spoke to Econ professor and even they weren’t sure how this works and they have a  lot of experience in academia. This approach is not helpful to creating a positive conversation. That is not a productive way of leading this forward and that needs to be stopped here
    21. Mariana: I think that rhetoric is not productive, and regardless of how the conversation fleshed out and your critique of students’ actions, there is still something to be celebrated–we shit on students for being apathetic but this is proof students really do care about what is happening on this campus. So many students cared and were moved to have these conversations. Maybe we didn’t come to a solution, but we started that conversation and I do have faith that it is going to continue moving forward.
    22. Maurice: Part of this is going back to asking the right question–are the solutions aligned with the problem you are trying to solve? It sounds like on one level yes, we are talking about emotional labor, and yet, our solution for emotional labor goes back to compensation in the form of payment. I think there were other people in the conversation that kept talking about “I don’t know what to do when my frosh makes me unsafe.” If the root of the problem is compensation, then I don’t think we are having the right conversation. If these are the underlying issues leading to a Town Hall, it feels amiss to do those things. Some of it goes back to what are we here trying to do and resolve. You have to go into a conversation with goodwill and knowing what you want/why. I think that sort of all felt disjointed throughout the whole Town Hall process.There are underlying issues that people are not thinking are the issues. In some ways, it does require tkaing some steps back. We jumped immediately to money will solve all our problems.
    23. Devi:I agree with what Ethan and Mariana were saying, if we had a workshop to explain the basics of budgeting.
    24. Maurice: we had a conversation about plenary about how does plenary work. How many people showed up for that conversation? One person. A lot of the feedback we had gotten before plenary was how does plenary work? I’m not saying we shouldn’t go with this idea, but I think once again, maybe the problem isn’t how Plenary works. We aren’t fully sure of what the problem is. Returning to some of the work that Katie and Mariana have done, having the data. When we were working with international students earlier last year on creating the international student space, it was important to have the data to express the needI think having data is extremely helpful–to see these are the issues. This can help us label the problems and help us move toward the solution
    25. Katie:  Clearness Committee may have some of the solutions in terms of data.  I think to speak to what Maurice said, I agree that aside from compensation, there is a deeper problem that paying will not fix. There is a problem at the root about why certain groups of students are disproportionately pressured to sign  up for committees, clubs, organizations to make sure this campus is a safe, accessible space. Students aren’t choosing to overwork themselves, students are forced to show up to make sure their own safety and wellbeing, and that of their friends, is being protected in these conversations/decisions across campus. I think that is the deeper problem. I think compensation is a band-aid approach in that it can help but will not fix the deeper rooted issues on this campus.
    26. Ethan: One thing that i have been thinking about : if some of these demands that students are making–if they are more than just wants. For example, gender neutral bathrooms. Finding a full-time director of the Women’s’ Center. While somethings like customs can feel like wants, there are some serious needs on this campus. There are people who are very frustrated by this administration because they have dragged their feet on thee issues for so long. We need to remember this.
    27. Katie: Can someone explain the Ombudsman’s new position?
    28. Maurice: Rather than going to HR, it is to have a resource person to go to with a question or concern that you have. Going back to the question of not knowing where to go–that is what that resource person is for. You can go to them. They can be a sounding board, they can also point you in the necessary direction like an HR thing, or it can be a source of memory in case another similar issues comes up. From my understanding, they can then go talk to the president and say we had X many people come and talk about this to let the institution know what are the issues. This gives us a strong sense of how often this occurs.
    29. Andrew: I think it is also open to all people on campus, not just students.
    30. Maurice: How are people feeling?
    31. Jason: I don’t know how to solve this Customs problem. I think as a Council we should have a good way to go about it. I think we should represent the needs of the student, and some people feel like we are siding with the other side.
    32. Maurice: Claire?
    33. Claire: I’m thinking about the idea of boundaries. For example, people have mentioned emotional labor and then at the Town Hall meeting it was stated by one of the administrators that cutoms people are not responsible for more than is listed. While that is theoretically true, that is not always the case. You always end up taking on more than you signed up for. For example, if there is first year that comes up to you at 2 am when you are writing the paper. I think we need to address boundaries and what that looks like as a community.
    34. Maurice: Danny?
    35. Danny: I agree with Claire about personal boundaries. In terms of compensation, I think people are unrealistic with the terms of compensation and don’t understand the legal implications. People need to understand both sides.
    36. Claire: I also think that we as a community have not yet decided if Customs is service or labor and if those are independent or dependent of each other. I was talking to Wendy Smith, and she said being a Customs person was a honor at her time here as a way to give back to the community. At what point, did the sentiments around being a customs person change
    37. Maurice: I think the 90s and early 2000s. I think the Haverford Wendy Smith was at was very different than after affirmative action policy which evolved in the 90s, just as the recession [in ‘08] was another shift, which is really based in who comprises the student body and the rising cost of the education and how it impacts elite small liberal arts colleges that have to compete with Williams, Amherst, etc. More specifically, how do you go about it? I think it also boils down to that people are on board that this is work, people just haven’t decided if they are on board to give up how Customs is at it stands (such as the size, alcohol fairy, familial feel) to become a compensated program. I don’t think we know if we want that yet. If I had to summarize where admin is, I think they are onboard and recognize Customs as a form of work which should be compensated. Another issue, we have sophomores on the hall trying to take care of frosh. That is a lot to put on people in a very different way than someone older with more perspective. There is a reason why RAs are someone who are usually a senior or grad students at other schools. Customs as is  worked for us at a time, but because of the changing demographics, it might not be the model that works best. As you said Katie, you highlighted it perfectly, the needs of students has changed so much and the model doesn’t make sense for today’s students. Ideas move faster than institutions do. Ethan, you raised a good point about immediate needs and going back to the challenge of a small liberal arts campus, Theresa Tensuan is one of the most incredible people on this campus but she is also the most overworked. We are competing with Williams and Amherst who can pay all these specialists and have many folks doing similar work to Theresa. Haverford just doesn’t have as much money because we only graduate 300 students a year, not many of who go into big money making fields, and not all of whom have the ability to give back to the institution financially because of a variety of factors relating to their background. The way it all works, it all factors into what we can do as an institution. There are lots of things that are not tangibly able to address the now.
    38. Maurice: To the original question, as where do we see our role–mediation? Listening? Advocating a stance? In terms of Customs and more broadly? I think it is ongoing. I think it changes based on the issue. Each situation will call for something different and that is up to a council and a Co-President pair etc. Alejandro posed an interesting question in Havermemes, which only got two responses. “Who do we see as the vehicles for change on campus..
    39. Alejandro “Is it groups like Students’ Council who work with admin, or on the ground groups like SWOL, BSL, who are comprised of student members?”
    40. Mariana: Something I thought was interesting was how you put Students’ Council with the institution as opposed to student-led movements. Can you talk more about that?
    41. Alejandro: I just based that on some frosh’s remarks who see SC as an arm of the administration. Whether that is true or not, it is an issue because it is how we are perceived.
    42. Maurice: Did anyone go to SWOL’s Tuesday meeting?
    43. Ethan: From what I remember, they are taking a step back and looking at what their mission is and what their goals are for this campus and relooking at their whole platform. They want to let Customs issues settle for a little bit and reconnect with their initial aims.
    44. Maurice: Any other thoughts from those who went? Affinity groups, have people been going lately? What have those conversations been like?
    45. Maurice: Well, you have your homework then. Campus labs, we started a discussion a few weeks ago, did anyone go to the online webinar? Does anyone have any thoughts or feelings about it?
    46. Ethan: if we are spending $4,000 on this, I can foresee the accumulated costs being an issue for students. For 5 years, that’s $20,000.
    47. Maurice: Should we fund it?
      1. *Unanimously yes
  4. Presidential Updates
    1. Maurice: We have taken over Staff Appreciation Day. We want to aim for a Thursday before haverfest. Something small like food trucks, etc. We will be in conversation with the staff committee. Finally, your successors! Nominations go out tonight for Students’ Council positions. If you’re thinking about running again, reach out to us. To the campus writ large, reach out to Maurice and Andrew ( if you are thinking of running! I think you guys are asking the right questions and bringing up the right concerns. I think that it can be frustrating when you are in a position as a representative to hold all of these things together, it is not easy. I think it is hard to create solutions from nuanced issues–it may not be the all encompassing thing that solves it all. I encourage us to think about process as we go forward in this Customs conversation and in the future. Think about the journey and the process, leaning into that rather than just the solutions. I think our minds–we are quick to jump to the first thing as the right thing but I find, it leads us to missing some creative solutions. I don’t know what Haverford looks like in terms of all these unresolved issues, but I think there is a beauty to it really in the discussions that we are having in coming together.
    2. Devi: I was wondering if there were any updates regarding Drinker House.
    3. Maurice: Andrew and Jacob are on the Task Force Committee for Drinker.  

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