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Ally Edwards '22 (left) and Caroline Gihlstorf '23 (right)

A Conversation with the New Honor Council Co-Chairs

Ally Edwards ’22 and Caroline Gihlstorf ’23 were elected in August as Honor Council co-chairs. Their term is poised to be an unusual one, marked by virtual learning, unprecedented restrictions on student behavior, and continuing strife over the role of the Honor Code at Haverford. The Clerk spoke with the incoming co-chairs over Zoom to get a sense of how they plan to adapt. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Edelman ’22: The big question that I want to pose first is, things are going to be really different at Haverford in the fall. So what are Honor Council’s plans for the upcoming semester?

Ally Edwards ’22: Like how there is a Ford Form for Students’ Council, we want to have an anonymous Google form for questions or concerns about Council things. Previously you just had to email Council, but sometimes it’s a little extra work to put an email, and then it also reveals who you are. Something else that we want to do is reviews and feedback forms for people on Exec Board from Council—and even maybe from the general public too—of how we can engage with Council more and how we can better suit the community in our roles.

I think our big [goal] overall is we want to get a lot more feedback from the community, but also people who are on trials and from Honor Council, of how we’re doing and what the community best needs.

Caroline Gihlstorf ’23: We also want to carry this into all aspects of Council. That means during trials, having a way available for people to anonymously submit feedback on how our new trial format is going—in the context of us being virtual in the fall. Just as trials go in general, we want to be able to give students the opportunity to give us feedback at any point for anything.

Ally and I also talked about potentially having what we would call office hours, once a week for maybe about an hour, so that any student who wants to get in contact with us or ask us a question can do that.

David: Would the feedback on trials while they’re in session be from parties to the trial, or from other council members and community members?

Caroline: We’re still planning out all of the fine details, but we’re thinking that we want to give anyone the ability. Any of the confronted or confronting parties, jury members, or council members could give feedback, ranging from how they feel at the trial is going to if they feel like there’s something not right from any perspective.

Ally: In trial, usually speaking is the main way of communicating—saying what you think. But we noticed that not everyone feels comfortable speaking, even though it is a smaller group, and that other people had better ways to communicate what they feel. I definitely know that I sometimes can feel better writing things.

David: The assumption is that Plenary is going to be virtual—certainly in the fall, maybe in the spring. Do you have an idea yet of what that’s going to look like?

Ally: We had an email exchange with Evan [Moon ’21] and Dex [Coen Gilbert ’21], the interim Students’ Council presidents. We definitely will collaborate with them on Plenary, but it is going to be virtual from my understanding.

David: Is Honor Council going to play a part in enforcing COVID restrictions on campus, or is that going to be just under the Dean’s Office?

Caroline: I think if we have the opportunity to give students a voice in faculty decisions and take part in decisions and discussions that pertain to the safety of everyone, both faculty and students, we would want to help with that as much as we can.

Ally: I don’t want to speak for Evan and Dex, but I think COVID policies can definitely be brought under the Social Code where there’s the trust, concern, and respect for others. Especially if we’re speaking on behalf of students—and I’m sure every student really wants to be safe—I can see Honor Council playing a role. It’s not something we’ve discussed yet, and I think we’ll discuss it with Dean Bylander [Interim Dean of the College], but we both have an interest for sure.

Edwards and Gihlstorf later provided an update via email on the situation as of September 13: “After talking with Dean Bylander, we now know that Honor Council will have little to no involvement in violations of COVID-19 protocols. Transgressions of the COVID-19 safety guidelines will be overseen by a Dean’s Panel. We will be proactive in encouraging students to strictly adhere to the safety guidelines and will be in communication with the faculty and deans about the state of campus life.”

David: Last year, Honor Council faced issues filling positions and having a ton of work pile up, especially with all of the disruptions from COVID. Is that still a problem going into the fall?

Caroline: A lot of the issues that happened at the beginning of spring semester had to do with running elections on time and getting statements out there. That was an ordeal in and of itself. As of now, where cases stand, we’re definitely going to have to put in some work to make up for the abstracts we need to release.

So far—fingers crossed—things have gone more or less smoothly, or at least better than at the beginning of spring semester, in terms of elections and getting everything together. We’re hoping that once we have all the people constituting Honor Council for the fall, we’re going to get right on it with training and meeting and addressing those [items].

David: In your candidates’ statement, you talked about how you wanted to address anti-blackness at Haverford’s institutions, including Honor Council. That’s been something people have recently been discussing with the abstract re-release [of Charlie, Sabrina, Kelly and Jill from spring 1994]. What’s your vision for this in the upcoming year?

Ally: This is something Caroline and I have talked a lot about and is probably our main priority. I think the first thing [of] how we want to address it is in training. We watch a TED talk on intersectionality every year at training, and we definitely plan to continue doing that. This time, we also want to talk about discussing specific trials scenarios, and maybe even role-playing trials where implicit bias from teachers or juries could occur.

We know that international students are being disproportionately reported to Honor Council cases. In the beginning of every semester, Honor Council co-presidents are supposed to speak at the meeting with all faculty members. When we do that this fall—I’m sure virtually—we definitely will present the trial trends and voice the main concern of racism involved in Honor Council, especially academic trials.

Caroline: Something we’ve also talked about is the mindset with which we’re going into proposing these actions: recognizing what we bring to the table and what we don’t, in terms of privilege. I think what’s really important along those lines is staying very, very aware during meetings, during trials of who’s speaking, who has power. We don’t want to fall into the false sense of being comfortable and thinking that everything is perfect around us, when in fact it isn’t.

Ally: Especially as we both identify as two white cis women, I think it’s really important that we acknowledge that, which is a big part [of] why we want so much constructive criticism from the community, from trial members, from Honor Council members, because we were aware of our privileges. We want to make sure that we’re constantly getting evaluated on how we’re doing for everyone.

David: It sounds like this ties back into one of the priorities you mentioned early in the interview, of having that connection with the community, and transparency, and all these opportunities for feedback.

Caroline: Yeah, for sure. I think another thing that’s really important for us is having a relationship with the faculty, so that we can provide student perspectives and work with not only our fellow members of Council, but also with the faculty to address the larger systemic issues that affect both Haverford and beyond.

Ally: As much as we want a lot of constructive feedback, we also don’t want to put all the agency on others to improve us. That’s why, when we’re combating systemic racism, especially anti-blackness, we’re addressing it in training and also really plan on speaking to the faculty about the trial trends and how concerned we are about them.

David: Last fall, the abstract for Kardashians was released, and it stirred lots of discussion, especially because the Honor Council verdict ended up being overturned by the Dean of the College. And then this year, we saw two candidates who ran for Honor Council co-heads on a platform that was hinting at dissatisfaction with the way that Kardashians was run and the outcome of that case. In the wake of all that, what do you see as your path forward for your relationship with the student-athlete community and with the college administration?

Caroline: I think what’s really important going forward—and I’m glad you brought this up—is especially addressing the student-athlete community and recognizing the student-athlete, non-student-athlete divide at Haverford. It’s important to continue to have discussions about this and continue to be open to those discussions.

Ally: We have a really unique opportunity here with a new dean coming in. As much as [Dean Bylander] has been prepped by President Raymond and others in senior administration, she’s still pretty new to Honor Council. And she’s our point person for Honor Council, who oversees all the resolutions made. I think it’ll be a unique place for Caroline and I to let her know how for the student body, the agency that the school has given us is very important to us. So when resolutions are reversed, it definitely can feel confusing in terms of what the student body wants.

In terms of student-athletes, they are just as much as part of our community as anyone else, and they’re a large part of our community. I know you hinted at the two people who ran for Honor Council, but I don’t think grouping all student-athletes in the same sense [is accurate]. Hopefully they feel comfortable coming to us—I’m really open to conversations.

David: If I recall correctly, there were a lot of discussions in the wake of Kardashians hosted by Honor Council. I think that that was helpful in getting a handle on the case, but I’m not so sure that it led to positive change, in terms of a collective agreement on how we would handle these things going forward.

Ally: I guess in the context of Kardashians, how can we—instead of just discussing—bring about positive change? You know, people say being self-aware is always the first step in discussing it, but then the hardest step is actually bringing that change. Caroline and I, along with our new co-secs and with João [Pedro Carvalho ’22] the librarian, we’ll be really interested in coming up with ideas for that.

Caroline: Kardashians brought up a very important part of campus culture that exists: this divide, if you will, between student-athletes and non-student-athletes. Something that’s so ingrained in our culture is something we want to explore more and discuss and implement—especially in training council members, for example, how to go in with the mindset of recognizing this—how to be aware of this when you’re dealing with cases that pertain to this. I think we want to explore that more going forward.

In a September 13 follow-up email, Edwards and Gihlstorf added: “Regarding the student-athlete relationship with Honor Council, we have become aware of a task force that was created last year to address the student-athlete/non-athlete divide on campus. This task force was supposed to begin its work last spring (spring 2020), but due to COVID-19, was unable to proceed with its goals. We are hoping this semester the task force will start its work and that a few Honor Council members will join, so that there is an Honor Council perspective on conversations regarding the student-athlete/non-athlete divide on campus and how it manifests itself.”

One Comment

  1. John Williams September 16, 2020

    I like the word “trials.” Does the Honor Council observe the rights of due process that flow from the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution? How can one of these “trials” be observed by someone outside of the College? As I read the Clerk to learn more about Haverford College, I find the culture of your institution to be quite interesting. Please feel to email me a pdf copy of the rules that are applicable to these “trials.” Thanks.

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