Eight days after the student strike began, bringing the campus to a virtual standstill, Haverford stands at a crossroads. In the wake of President Raymond’s much-anticipated response on Monday evening to the strike organizers’ demands, the organizers doubled down, demanding timelines and budget plans for the college’s promised actions. In a statement released to the community through the Haverford College Strike’s new official website, organizers called the response “disappointing, incomplete, and rife with the politician-like rhetoric of ‘advisory groups, committees, and task forces’ which is indicative of the very Haverfordian, bureaucratic attempt to placate our anger and the overall movement.”
And a tense meeting on November 4 between faculty members and the college administration showcased deep divides over support for the strike and the college’s efforts to find a resolution, according to materials reviewed by The Clerk. Provost Linda Strong-Leek declined to rule out the possibility that if the strike drags on and professors continue to cancel classes and coursework, they could face discipline for breaching their contract by failing to provide an education for students. Some professors expressed that they felt trapped by pressure from students and faculty members to cancel classes. Yet others defended the strike as an important tactic for addressing racism on campus, urging their peers to listen and reflect instead of focusing on whether or not to cancel class.
Another risk is that if professors continue to cancel classes it could affect Haverford’s re-accreditation process, which is currently underway. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires around 42 hours of instructional time per semester, and two weeks of missed class time during an already shortened semester could jeopardize that. However, it’s not clear whether this poses an immediate threat to Haverford’s accreditation, which is required for students to receive federal student aid and maintain educational visas. Further, the risk may be limited to professors’ ability to cancel classes—not Haverford students’ decision to participate in the strike. In short, The Clerk is unable to conclusively say whether or not this rumor is true; President Raymond will hopefully clarify this over the next few days.
Many meeting attendees expressed a sense that a lack of trust was hampering efforts to reach a resolution. One speaker endorsed the organizers’ call for clear budgets and timelines from the administration, arguing that it would represent a gesture of good faith. Another added that while they believed the college was making progress towards the goals highlighted by the strike, that progress often remains invisible to students because the vast network of committees charged with carrying it out do a poor job of opening up their work for public scrutiny.
Indeed, President Raymond’s response alluded to a multitude of task forces and advisory groups. In response to Demand I—which asked for President Raymond to step down as Chief Diversity Officer—she proposed the creation of an advisory group in December to help determine what that role will look like in the future. And in response to Demand III and Demand XI—calling for academic leniency for BIPOC students and more support for BIPOC queer and trans students, respectively—President Raymond alluded to the creation of the Task Force on Rention and Persistence. The Task Force, originally convened after the 2018–19 Clearness Committee found deep disparities in life at the college for marginalized students, is undertaking a study of student experiences to identify “ways Haverford can better support thriving.”
However, at other times, President Raymond did present more concrete plans. These included providing funding for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students to access off-campus therapeutic practices, hiring a more diverse CAPS staff, and plugging a tip line for reporting issues surrounding surveillance or policing of BIPOC on campus. President Raymond also noted that the college does not have a relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department, nor is it directly invested in prison companies—though through its holding of an international equity index fund, the endowment has a 0.001% exposure to internationally-based prison companies.
The organizers—and much of the Haverford community—were not satisfied with these concessions. In fact, efforts surrounding the strike have only intensified in the recent days. The organizers’ new website (linked above) includes an extensive list of frequently asked questions, a guide for discussing the strike with parents, and a timeline of previous efforts from students to bring awareness to the institution’s marginalization of the BIPOC community—ranging from the 1972 boycott by the Black Students League to the open letter by Black Students Refusing Further Inaction published this summer.
And starting tomorrow, groups of faculty, students, and staff will be participating in teach-ins about topics such as “Identifying and Refusing Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture in Academia,” and “Planning for Abolition at Haverford with a STEM Lens,” and “Navigating Institutional Structures to Enact Change.”
What happens next is unclear. During the faculty meeting, President Raymond and Provost Strong-Leek revealed that they felt negotiation with strike organizers had reached an impasse. While a meeting between senior staff and the organizers is scheduled to take place today via Zoom, a meeting agenda has not been made public, as the organizers had requested. Details are still scarce on whether the meeting will be released to the community.
Later tonight, there will be another sit-in at 9 pm in front of Founders, which will hopefully provide the opportunity for more clarification on strike’s and Haverford’s path forward.