Press "Enter" to skip to content

3/4/19 Customs Compensation Town Hall Minutes

7:07 PM – 8:15 PM

Stokes Auditorium

Minutes by Katie Leiferman and Mariana Ramirez*

Customs Town Hall Minutes

Table of Contents

  1. Moment of Silence
  2. Introductions
    1. Martha Denney
    2. Michael Martinez
    3. Michael Elias
    4. Nate Diehl
    5. Katrina Glanzer
    6. Michelle Leao
  3. SWOL Statement
  4. Question & Answer


  1. Moment of Silence
  2. Introductions
  3. SWOL Statement
    1. Eyasu: I want to address a few comments from the Student’s Council minutes from last night. I want to address Michelle Leao’s point about the Customs budget. SWOL is trying to reimagine the idea of student agency. We are looking for students to bring changes to the administrative level, which is part of the reason this town hall is happening in the first place. Mike Elias discussed operational cost, however, looking at the VCAM, his example, doing some basic financial evaluations, 10 million dollars invested would give the college $300,000 a year. This is just one example. We are talking about feasibility, it is an issue about priorities not feasibility. Another thing, there is an article on Forbes about the “arms race” the battle of universities to grab most students. This explains why we are the 10th most expensive school in the country but cannot even pay the people that run this school. Customs pay is about priorities, SWOL is determined to change these priorities. We have pushed the level of discourse about labor, student agency, and compensation. We want this conversations to extend past tonight. Low income and people of color are always pressured into fulfilling these positions. That is why we are here and we want this conversation to be about reconceptualizing our college’s priorities.
      1. Demands:
        1. Compensating On-Hall Customs members with a stipend of $9,428 a year (currently equivalent to one year of housing)
          1. On-Hall members are pivotal in shaping the Haverford community and should be paid appropriately for the work that they do.
          2. Since they do not get a choice for which housing situation they live in, they should be compensated according to the cost of Haverford housing.
          3. This payment should be in the form of a stipend so that students’ financial aid is not negatively affected by this payment.
        2. Compensating Off-Hall Customs members with a stipend of $3,930 a year (currently equivalent to one year of the highest partial meal plan)
          1. Off-Hall members are equally essential to the functioning of a Haverford community that aligns with the school’s values. While the housing for Off-Hall members is not determined by Customs, they are still expected to attend hall dinners.
          2. The number of Off-Hall members has already been cut drastically and any further constraints will severely harm the first-year experience. For roles such as PAF and AMA, students of color are disproportionately pressured into performing unpaid labour. Attempting to coalesce the roles of Off-Hall and On-Hall members is an erasure of weight that this racialized and often gendered role carries.
        3. Increasing wages for student workers on campus to $13.25 an hour.
          1. Starting wages for student workers on campus have not been raised in ten years.
          2. If starting wages rose at the same rate as tuition since 2008,  wages would be $13.80 an hour.
          3. This would include those on Customs Committee and other student body organizations. We envision this system of payment to be similar to how spec hosting co-ordinators are paid, with self-reported hours.
        4. An open and transparent budget that students can access with language that is clear and concise.
          1. Fundamental to many disagreements between the general Haverford student body and the administration is the lack of transparency surrounding the availability of funds.
          2. We intend for this to be a simple way for both students and administrators to be held more accountable for budget requests and student engagement.
  4. Question & Answer
    1. Maurice ‘19: Let’s start off with some questions. I can start. Something that we have talked about is the idea that no one is against paying Customs folks, it is more about what students want for the program. Can you all talk about pragmatically what that would look like within our operational budget, what do those models look like?
    2. Martha Denny: I will talk more so about where we are right now. As Maurice said, there is no one up here opposed to idea of Customs folks being paid–absolutely not. However, we are in the middle of a college structure that has a college budget process that has started months ago, is not secret, is very transparent, it takes place on the student advisory committee which has some student representation. That being said, it is a very complex process. At the beginning of the academic year, all the departments are asked to present their budget requests, since the economic downturn since 2008 we have all been asked not to ask for increases. Customs comes through SLO and deans, so we wouldn’t ask for an increase (not being aware there was desire for an increase in the budget). That said, that is something that can happen if students wants a budget increase for a certain area that impacts them. At this point, the board of managers is ready to approve the new budget with the understanding that we have a 1 million dollar deficit. This means that for the next fiscal year, we are not in the position of asking for more money. Fulfilling SWOL’s demands means finding 1 million dollars. So, what we have to deal with now, for next year, is the current Custom’s budget. This largely consists of the food that is provided to Customs people and frosh during pre customs and customs. We can’t cut the frosh’s food, so the wiggle room we have is the money available for Customs folk who arrive prior to campus. It is a very slim budget, like most at Haverford. We have tried to come up with some scenarios but we understand there is a huge gap between what is being requested. We are open to conversation about how to redistribute what we have.
    3. Michael Martinez: Thee budget for customs annually has been 125k about 50k goes towards paying for meals. Another roughly 50k comes from paying the meals for 150 customs folk for 24 customs team. In terms of what is up for reconsideration in the immediate term would come from those 50k. How we manage that is up for consideration.
    4. Alicia Lopez ‘20: Why are we paying 50,000 to pay for first year meals and Customs team meals, is it not included in the meal plan?
    5. Michael Martinez: The meal plan starts on the dinner before the first day of class. All of those meals are considered early arrival meals so they have to come from a different budget. It comes to about $25 per person per day for meals. When you think about how you might reconfigure things, multiply 150 people x25 dollars a day over the course of pre-customs training period, plus the duration of the customs program, it is about 10 days, so that is where the $50,000 is spent right now. So if you reduced the number of meals (either because of changing the training or the length of Customs) if we did not have to cover those meals prior to Customs, it would give us more cushion. A more extreme idea would be to reduce customs folk.  Most institutions would never have a structure with that many upperclassman involved, the ratio is pretty big there so maybe there is some room for resizing that ratio to create space around that. Basically, what we have to work with is 50k.
    6. Lidia ‘21: I feel like most people in the room understand that changes cannot be made so immediate. What does Customs look like 3-4 years from now? What is the administration’s position in terms of housing on-hall members?
    7. Michael Martinez: Free housing is a very expensive proposition. If you were to offer free housing for 150 people, it is something like $8,000 per person. I think over the course of the next few years, it is very reasonable to think of a middle ground between a structure that is not as big as 150 and a structure that would be more right sized. What you are suggesting is that we return to the best practices model of RA’s and Residential directors instead of 5 or 6 students supporting a hall. This is a conversation we need to have because we might be arriving at the moment where we need to move towards that. There are plenty of people on campus that would be open to that. These are big decisions we need to make. There is no way the current model can support what other institutions currently have (students getting their housing paid).
    8. Martha Denney: To add on to that, free housing and free meals are actually not free to the institution because they are revenue that is being foregone. The budget is constructed of the revenue that you expect like tuition/room and board and then the expenses. So if the college forgave housing and/or meal plan for as many people as we involve in Customs, that is far and above what other institutions do for their one RA. We are willing to consider a variety of options — it is not at all off the table for us to reconsider our model. This just really hasn’t been on our radar, so if that’s a part of us not paying attention fair enough. This isn’t us deciding we are willfully not going to pay Customs. If we can find an affordable system for the institution we are on board, it just can’t happen overnight.
    9. Eyasu Shumie ‘21: Dean martinez, you gave us language suggesting that “we should be having these conversations”, so why not have them now? We have the momentum and student interest. We should move towards actionable change as opposed to value statements?
    10. Mike Elias: This came up last night, we had the town hall for a reason. I think a lot of times we have tried to par this program dawn of the years, one because of applications, two because of accountability perspective it is very difficult. We are trying to work with two co-heads who communicate to 150 student leaders who then work with 365 frosh. To speak for myself, I am very happy to have this conversation right now. I also think it needs to get kicked back to the students to debate what these models look like. On the task force for work and service, we are trying to figure out where the service is where the labor is where the voluntourism is on campus. I think the ideal outcome of this is tangible steps forward so it isn’t just a one off town hall. We don’t disagree that students shouldn’t be paid, it’s just a matter of how.
    11. Michael Martinez: We might have a little bit of wiggle room since students are currently still in the interview step and we haven’t spent the budget money yet. We need more time to get the structural change that students are looking for. It is going to take a progression towards a particular solution. I think so much about what you are doing is that you are beginning an important conversation that will take a couple of cycles to work its way through. In the immediate term, we can decide what we want to do within this structure and then build upon that in years ahead. I know it seems like a longer term thing, but to make structural change in a year or two is a remarkable accomplishment especially in the context of higher ed where change comes slowly. Please continue to be honest and energetic with us with your ideas and solutions. I think we are also open and willing to push forward. It will take a little time. That is the reality we are all operating in. I think we can make some progress next year, and more beyond that bit it will not be immediate.
    12. Mike Elias: Also in response to that, there is a component of if the positions are paid, when students become employed by the college it will change the dynamics of what the relationship with first years will look like. We need to determine if that is something you’ll actually want.
    13. Simon Balkunis ‘19: My question is have you heard from alumni with the board of managers in relation to paying customs? I have heard things are negative, and I am wondering if this will get in the way?
    14. Martha Denney: I don’t think this has risen to the board of managers level yet–the next meeting isn’t until April. Alumni seem surprised because for them, it is a thing that you just did for the next generation. However, the alumni were at haverford under a different context than the haverford we have today. How this will impact their donations (which is how we survive) we do not know yet.
    15. Mercedes Davis ‘20: I am interested in the idea of where the line is between volunteer work and labor, for those in Customs there has been no support from administration in times of crisis. So, even if there is no plan for compensation can there be a plan for support for Customs members? For example, if you are up until 3am with a frosh, that is going to affect you life and your classes. It isn’t that we don’t want to do this job, it’s more so what it becomes.
    16. Michelle Leao: I think when we are talking about support, I am not sure what is hear before I started. But since I got here, we have put in place GA check-ins with all the frosh. I saw the notes from most of those check-ins and overall, students on Customs teams people were saying there were no issues. They were the first level of support. This last year’s’ team was told that anyone with issues should come to me, my door has been open, I have been free. That is the support structure that we have put in place. There are teams who have used it beautifully. I cannot read your mind, so I can’t anticipate a problem that is happening on your halls if it is not brought to our attention.
    17. Katrina Glanzer: I would also acknowledge there are moments that even with support, it is hard to sit in a space with a difficult situation and to share that space as your home. I would also add that any first year issue and UCAs can come directly to me and I am always to facilitate. There is a really important question, though, and that is the question of what are the expectations of these roles. Where are these expectations coming from? For example, we have admin expectations, but it also seems that there is also a set of cultural expectations and I would describe those as “being present 24/7”. We have a culture where it is not clear where the edges of that are, and where team members do not feel supported when they need to decide to take time for themselves and not be available in such a capacious manner. This is my perspective talking with frosh and team members. As far as what you expect from one another, that is both a student wide conversation and then a conversation that we need to have together in terms of deciding how to train for those expectations and how the roles should be paid.
    18. Michelle Lin ‘20: I was wondering if admin have considered a model for Customs for next year. I also heard that Customs co-heads are getting paid and I just want to know where the money is coming from.
    19. Mike Elias: The Co-heads being paid was decided two years ago. The summer interns who worked with housing were given some flexibility to hire some Customs folks in during July. Among our own departmental operational budget, we have some means to provide financial support to the Co-Heads. That was a student engagement decision. We made it work with what we have left, but we think it is very reasonable since they are working quite a lot over the summer and they are also responsible for organizing/mobilizing 150 customs leaders and then move 365 students across campus for a week.
    20. Martha Denney: I also want to add something about forms of payment. There is a sense that compensation is different, btu they actually are not. Everything will be subject to taxes and all is income from the college–it is all a method of getting money to you. The idea of a free room is not actually free– getting room and board covered is taxable income. It all means that you are employees of the college and we have had conversations about what that means. We are not opposed to that idea, but you might be. This means you have a supervisor, restrictions, etc. Any compensation you get is going to be considered income to you, and we don’t want you to have apprehensions about that.
    21. Maurice Rippel: We are not going to get through every question but Ethan and I will take them and pass them to admin.
    22. Michelle Leao: In terms of models this year, we have a couple models for paid and unpaid structures. If we are talking about not paid and are low on numbers, we could look at merging all of the off- the hall positions into a more broad scope paired position. For paid models based on the money we have available–no pre customs, no off the hall, to get the most amount of money per person 24 positions at under 1500 per year. As it goes up, the meals increase, the amount of pay goes down if we move to models with 2 or 3 people. All of this includes cutting off the off the hall positions.
    23. Alyssa ‘22: You basically just answered my question except that, if you were to pay the on the hall positions even the small amount you have, would the off the hall positions be able to volunteer feasible?
    24. Michelle Leao: That is the conversation the community has to have if half the group is paid and half isn’t, we are open to having people continue in volunteer roles. It is up to the community. It would still mean they are not coming back for Customs (the volunteer off the hall).
    25. Martha Denney: Any job on campus is potentially a work-study job, there is no specific jobs labeled work study. If you have a work study obligation, you can use the income from that job to pay your work study obligation. There is a model by which student leaders, if they are on financial aid (these are plenary resolutions) they are able to have their work study obligation waved by virtue of paying in HC or SC Co-Chairs etc. If we use this model for Customs, in terms of financial aid, it would be about a third of the Customs folks–that would be in the nature of about 2500 per student. If you do the math, that is a fairly expensive proposition but it is not out of the question. It is consistent with the model we have used for other leadership positions. The idea is we don’t want people to have to worry about working in terms of finances, but if we extend that to Customs the financial footprint is a lot larger than what we are thinking about next year, but i think it is worth discussing. It is inevitable that this would affect the number of positions.
    26. Michael Martinez: Let me just add that it has been interesting, when i got ot haverford there were about 180 positions and since then, this has shrinked. Nonetheless, it makes it really difficult to create a robust support and training system that actually means something. We are a small-scale operation and we don’t usually have a scale problem but historically Customs has been the largest program. I think that if we really want to prioritize support and accessibility, we need to resize it to make these connections meaningful. This is all a new conversation since when i got here, Customs was strictly student-run. I think things have changed not just at Haverford but also in the discourse of higher education. Maybe now is the time to have these conversation.
    27. Daniel Feshbach ‘20: I was a CP last year, I was reading the SC minutes from the other day, and I saw a fair amount of discussion about a disconnect in what the expectations for Customs roles are for off the hall members. The way I read it, I saw concerns about the immensity of the burden of on-the-hall roles being dismissed as students choosing to do things beyond the job description. I guess my question is what job description? There is one sentence on the Customs website for each position. That sentence did say 24/7 when I applied for CPs. Frosh are expecting us to be psychiatrist and paramedics.
    28. Maurice Rippel: Really quickly I will add, is how those responsibilities would change if Customs would be paid?
    29. Mike Elias: You’re right. I think this is a challenge between what students want. Michelle is looking to provide more guidance in terms of descriptions. With signing up for something (whether it is volunteered based or not) there is a level of accountability.
    30. Michael Martinez: Part of the nature of those jobs has been informed by the student leadership around those positions. To be frank, I think it clearly has changed over the course of my six years, but when I first got here there was a real push back to any administrative influence over the nature of those roles. If we move toward a more employment based structure, it would become a more fleshed out job description–a clear rubric of performance. For a long time, I felt that I haven’t had as much influence as I would want over the structure and if we move towards an employment model, that would have to change.
    31. Mike Elias: I do think that there is often times when expectations are unclear, moving towards employment process would add clarity. So, if the expectation is students are back for training, we would expect you to be there that day. It provides a stronger accountability mechanism on both sides.
    32. Ben Hughes: Hi everyone. One of the underlying experiences that I keep hearing talk about is the idea of being the person that is there to help. What is it that i am supposed to do at the moment when I cannot help you in a situation. What would that require of me? What if i don’t have that in the moment? What role does logistic play in that? A smaller program allows us to do is have more clear conversations; this would enable us to help in case of crisis. The folks you are looking at right now is all we have to work with. As you can see, there is a huge disparity in terms of how many of you there are and how many of us there are. Should we be smaller, it would grant us the opportunity to provide better training. Having a smaller program that is articulated around more concrete job descriptions allows us to have a better mechanism in place. The thing that you all end up doing is NOT your job–you do not have to address that situation on your own.
    33. Maurice Rippel: We are going to take one more question, the DC basement will be open for more discussion time until 9:30.
    34. Polina ‘21: I am a CP this year, my question is coming back to budgeting, how much did it cost you to invite the guest speaker? I know that Customs Co came with you with a proposal to pay them, is it feasible to pay those who train us instead of a random visitor?
    35. Ben Hughes: I really appreciate that, but that is part of this process here. We have to have the ability to experiment with different ways of trying to prepare you all on how to inherit these roles. The cyclical aspect is you all coming in overworked and underpaid, and the people you trained are receiving training based on being overworked and underpaid. That is the implicit part of the culture of Customs. People doing the training are the ones with the same experiences trying to compensate in the next group with experiences they are having. What does it look like to have different models for that? If we only rely on the experiences of people doing it right now, then we end up in a cycle of only doing what we have done before.
    36. Michael Martinez: I think that the contract for Duke was about $4,000. If you divide that up among Customs Co (about 20 people), what would that look like?…They got paid?… It would come up to around $200. Duke, the fellow that we did have, was meaningful to me. There were 12 of us in that training and it exemplifies the challenge of trying to create meaningful training for 150 people. How do we create meaningful experiences to prepare customs folk with a very limited budget for doing so? If it is not quite clear, I am supportive of the idea of making Customs smaller. Whatever sort of direction we move toward, I think it will be smaller scale, a richer preparation of training and richer support structure, and ultimately that will make for a better experience for everybody.
    37. Martha Denney: As a stimulus for further thought, we have talked a lot about the short term and encouraged to think about the long term, a couple of things about fundraising 101: donors who give to capital projects are not persuadable to give money to give money to something like endowing the Customs program, the money is not easily transferable from one to another. The fundraising here is a real challenge because we have a much smaller alumni base and Quakers don’t make a lot of money. This is the reality of private education. A very large portion of what we are able to do is from the generosity of donors who have very specific ideas about what they want to give money to (usually buildings and financial aid). What you propose will cost a million a year, to get that out of the current budget is hard to understand how we would– there is no extra money floating around. If you ask a donor, a donor could say sure, I’ll give you a million for a year, but then what do you do the next year? You have to have a program you can rely on aka someone to endow the Customs program. The program would have to run from the interest that runs from that capital that is invested. If you do the math, you can see how much money a million dollar yearly program would cost. Even if we phase it down to 200,000 a year, that is an enormous donor commitment. We don’t want to confuse the prior donor commitments as something persuadable to be something new. In terms of thinking towards the future, we have to be really realistic about what we can expect and engage the entire campus. We don’t have it here, we have no more to say in terms of the budget than any other division. This would have to be a really concerted, long term effort that maybe those of you who are here will not see the results of. But, if you think it is worth it, ask the institution how to approach this in a long term institutionally.
    38. Maurice: Some members of StuCo will be in the DC basement–if any of y’all are interested in furthering the conversation amongst us.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.