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BREAKING: The Clerk’s Guide to Today’s Clearness Committee Report Release

By Ari Kim, David King, and Alison Rosenman

This morning, the 2018-2019 Clearness Committee released its report on student life. The report, delayed by the 2018 Special Plenary, contains a thorough analysis of responses to a huge survey that was issued via email to all students in January of 2019. Overall, 940 students— about 70% of the student body at the time—responded to the survey.  While The Clerk has not independently verified the Committee’s data and findings, we offer these synopses of the nine aspects of student life that constitute the main focus of the nearly 70-page document:

1. Student Life 

The section covering student life saw some encouraging results as well as some concerning ones.  An overview of the results states that “students seem to have fulfilling social lives.” Overshadowing this positive data, however, is a more foreboding insight: when broken down along demographic lines, students’ social lives tend to be separated geographically by race. More specifically, white students tend to party in the apartments more than people of other racial backgrounds do.  By contrast, Lunt Basement hosts more students from marginalized backgrounds. The trend in party space utilization demographics was substantial enough to merit the attention of the Committee and raised questions such as “are Haverford’s parties racially divided?”

The sub-section devoted to partying shows that most students (70%) party once a week or less. Specific demographics reveal several interesting data points.  First, white students and varsity athletes both tend to party more than non-white students and non-varsity athletes. The divide between athletes and non-athletes was particularly apparent in this section of the report.  Second, the presence of alcohol is considered by only 16% of the student body as necessary for “having fun.” Given some of the recent worries from the student body regarding hospitalizations, this is an encouraging statistic. One of the more interesting statistics is that student life and engagement is also divided along the lines of academic disciplines, with humanities students attending more arts events than students from other disciplines.  

The Committee notes that it did not in any way measure or attempt to survey issues of rape culture, even as it relates to party culture.  The report states that they wished to leave the exploration of this issue to the Title IX office. However, given the relevance and critical nature of sexual assault on campus, the lack of exploration by the Committee is concerning.

2. Athletics

The athletics portion of the report consists mainly of selected student responses to the question, “what does the phrase ‘athlete/non-athlete divide’ mean to you?” as well as a section of suggestions the Committee proposed to help address the disparity in responses to that question.  This makes the ‘athletics’ section distinct from other sections insofar as the Committee dedicated most of the space to responses, rather than data analysis.  

The preliminary data shows that athletes do, in fact, spend a lot of time practicing and playing their sport, especially in season. 50% of athletes said that in-season they spend between 16-21 hours a week on their sport, a substantial commitment. When out of season, 45% of athletes spend between 9 and 15 hours a week.  In terms of support from the community, the most staggering statistic is that while almost ¾ of the student body reported having one or more friends who are varsity athletes, only 19% of the student body “sometimes” or “frequently” attends varsity athletic events.  

The responsive section to the question “what does the phrase ‘athlete/non-athlete divide’ mean to you?” carries an extremely diverse set of opinions that elude summary. We suggest that all students interested in this question read the entirety of that section for themselves.  The most we can productively say here is that students are a long way away from consensus on the issue, and more campus discussion of the issue is needed.  

Given the diverse and surprising responses included in the report, the Committee recommends that the community create a narrative archive of experiences from both sides, such that both athletes and non-athletes might come to a better mutual understanding.  In essence, the Committee here suggests that the community come together and listen to each other with honesty and integrity, such that we might become better for it.  

3. Politics

Unsurprisingly, the politics section of the report reveals that Haverford is generally left-leaning. However, a sizable portion of the student body identifies closer to the center of the political spectrum, and a considerable number of students consider themselves conservative. 

Approximately 79% of students identified as liberal to some degree, 8% specified that they are neutral,  another 8% self-identified as conservative to some extent, and 6% indicated “Other.” Of those who identified as liberal to some degree, 17% marked that they are very liberal, 44% identified as liberal, and 18% indicated that they are somewhat liberal. The breakdown of students who self-identify as conservative to some extent shows that 0.5% indicated that they are very conservative, 3% identified as conservative, and 4% specified that they are somewhat conservative. About 39% of students identified closer to the center of the political spectrum, marking themselves as somewhat liberal/conservative, neutral, or with the “Other” option. According to demographic data, men and varsity athletes on average were significantly more conservative in their political identification than non-male identifying students and non-varsity athletes.

While nearly 54% of students believe their political views reflect those of their peers, 13% feel that their views are more liberal, and 25% think that their political beliefs are more conservative. This suggests that students hear more from their peers who identify as “more liberal” than those who identify as “more conservative,” leading students to believe that the campus leans further left than it actually does. About 18%  of students agree or strongly agree that if they share their political beliefs, they may face negative social consequences. Students who affiliate closer to the right of the political spectrum are more likely to believe that expressing their political views will lead to negative social consequences. 59% of students indicated that politics is a source of stress for them. Non-varsity athletes, non-male identifying students, and straight students reported politics as a stressor at a higher rate than varsity athletes, male-identifying students, and queer students.

The only demographic marker that showed no significant variances in their responses was race, though the report mentions that Asian students identified as conservative to some degree more than any other racial group. However, it should be noted that a large percentage of Asian students at Haverford are international students, and that the questions in the politics section pertain closely to American domestic politics.

4. Faculty and Administration

This section aimed to get to the specifics of a generally expressed tension and antagonism between students and the administration.  The good news of the survey is that the “majority of respondents said that the deans, professors, and President Benston all cared about them and supported the student body.”  However, as with every section of the report, the devil is in the details.  

Regarding faculty, over half of the student body has witnessed insensitivity from faculty on issues of trauma and identity.  The most worrying determination was that transgender students were much more likely to witness insensitivity than cis-gender students.  Further, athletes were less likely to witness insensitivity when compared with non-athletes. In a more positive light, 91% of students reported that they had at least once felt support from faculty members regarding issues of identity and trauma.  The only significant difference was between white students, who were more likely to feel supported by faculty, and black and first-generation students, who were slightly less likely to feel supported in these contexts.  

The data on the deans was unsurprising, with many students feeling like their deans generally care about them, but only half of students actually actively meeting with their deans.  Further, the longer students stayed at Haverford, the less-likely they were to find the deans a helpful and relevant resource. Also, many students found institutional support offices like the OAR very helpful, while some offices, such as the OMA and the Hurford Center, did not receive such ringing endorsements.

5. Academics

The academics portion of the report highlighted some ambiguities about academic life at Haverford. Some good news: 95% of survey respondents selected “interests and passions as a reason for choosing their major(s)”. But later in the section, the Committee also finds that “students who self-identify as marginalized are more likely to consider the demographic composition of a department” when choosing their major.

Also in this section, the Clearness Committee notes that most students, “regardless of identity markers,” find it sometimes or often difficult to balance academics with employment and other activities. The Committee states that these findings are “promising as they do not indicate unhealthy levels of studying or undue struggles with balancing various aspects of” student life. In other words, the Committee found that marginalized students are no more or less likely to study any more or less than non-marginalized students. However, the Committee also notes that Black students, female students, non-varsity athletes, international students, students who self-identified as marginalized, first-generation students, and asexual students were more likely to report that they felt unprepared for Haverford than students of other identities. 

6. Diversity

The Diversity section of the Clearness Committee Report is by far the longest and most complex. The Clearness Committee sought to explore how students’ various identities, both privileged and marginalized, affect their lived experiences at Haverford. This part of the survey also included questions about what support is needed for marginalized groups on campus, as well as students’ responsibilities to different groups. The Clerk’s Editorial Board strongly urges students and other readers to read the entirety of the diversity section, as marginalization on campus is a crucial issue that merits serious and careful attention.

Students were asked which groups they believe are marginalized on campus, and they selected, in order:

  1. Socioeconomic class: 69.3%
  2. Race/ethnicity: 67.39%
  3. Political belief: 49.88%
  4. Ability: 48.56%
  5. Sexuality: 44%
  6. Gender: 41.97%
  7. Nationality: 36.09%
  8. Religion 28.54%

While it is rather astounding that students consider political belief more of a marginalized identity than ability, sexuality, gender, nationality, and religion, the Clearness Committee deliberately chose not to specify the demographic makeup of those who believe political belief is a marginalized identity, as they cannot determine how students came to decide that identity marker faces marginalization.

Approximately 42.7% of the student body self-identify as marginalized. However, it is important to acknowledge the intersectionality and complexity of identities and marginalization. Some students felt that while they hold a marginalized identity, they also carry privileged identities that override the disadvantages of their marginalized identity, especially in how they are perceived and treated on campus.

Figure from page 33 of the 2018-2019 Report of the Clearness Committee

Again, diversity and marginalization are critical issues on campus that deserve care and reflection. The Clerk’s Editorial Board strongly recommends that readers review the whole section.

7. Student Health

To make its recommendations on student health, the Clearness Committee evaluated  student sleep habits, substance abuse, perceptions of mental health, and exercise habits. The Committee highlights these facts in the introduction to this section:

  • Seniors get more sleep than other class years
  • Students tend to drink less alcohol if they are working through mental health issues or personal challenges, but they also tend to smoke more marijuana in these circumstances
  • 40% of respondents say they struggle with mental health
  • Most students exercise regularly, though about a quarter of respondents are not comfortable in Haverford’s gym when varsity athletes are using it.

Though these listed facts constitute the “significant findings to note” regarding student health in the eyes of the Clearness Committee,  The Clerk would also like to highlight that the details of each sub-category within the student health section also portray significant disparaties between the health of white and non-white students. Some examples: the study finds that 61% of White students sleep seven or more hours per night while the majority of Latinx, Black, Asian, and multiracial students sleep  less, as well as that “White students exercise significantly more than Hispanic/Latinx students, Black students, or Asian students,” that “domestic students exercise more than international students”, and that “cisgender students exercise more than transgender students.” The Committee does not address these disparities specifically in the section’s proposed steps forward. 

8. Honor Code

In order to evaluate the Haverford community’s lived experiences of the Honor Code, the Clearness Committee asked students about their expectations of the Honor Code, the Honor Code in practice, the amendment process, and the 2018 Code Crisis. Additionally, this section of the survey invited students to give open responses about the Honor Code. 80% of students answered that the Honor Code greatly influenced their decision to attend Haverford. However, more first generation college students indicated that the Honor Code did not play a significant role more than other demographic groups. Nearly 67% of students expressed that the Honor Code has lived up to their expectations to some degree. Despite this, non-varsity athletes and students who identified as marginalized, including students of color, queer students, and non-cisgender students, were less likely to agree that the Honor Code has lived up to their expectations. 

A staggering 91% of students believe in varying degrees that the Honor Code makes Haverford a better place. Though students of color, first generation college students, queer students, and non-cisgender students were less likely to agree, there are no significant differences, and a majority of the students identifying with these groups agree to an extent. While an overall 72% of students believe that the Honor Code reflects the values of the student body as a whole to a degree, 44% of students indicated that they somewhat agree. 

Nearly 56% of students think about the Honor Code in their daily interactions to some extent, and there were no significant variances in demographic groups’ responses. A whopping 90% of the student body believe to some extent that they think about the Honor Code while doing academic work. It should be noted that the Social Code was not explicitly mentioned as distinct from the Academic Code in the survey.

Historically and procedurally, only students write the Honor Code. However, in the midst of the 2018 Code Crisis, members of the faculty and the Special Plenary Committee edited the Academic Code together to obtain the President’s approval. About 64% of the student body agree to an extent that solely students write the Honor Code, which draws concern to the fact that over a third of students do not believe that only students write the Honor Code. Queer and non-cisgender students are more likely to disagree that the Honor Code is written solely by students.

During the 2018 Code Crisis, 10 students were appointed to a committee tasked with investigating why the Honor Code failed ratification at Plenary and creating substantial edits and amendments to pass a new Honor Code at Special Plenary. 80% of students agree to an extent that the members of the Special Plenary Committee represented the student body as a whole. No demographic groups’ answers varied significantly. However, responses were incredibly mixed in regards to how President Benston led the community during the Code Crisis. Only 58% of students agree to some extent that President Benston led the community well, with a third of students responding that they only somewhat agree. Queer students and non-cisgender students were less likely to agree. 60% of the student body indicated that they understood what was happening during the Code Crisis to some degree. Students of color, queer students, non-cisgender students, and first generation college students saw more confusion than their peers during the Code Crisis. In the open response section of the survey, students were generally happy with the Academic Honor Code, but many students who self-identified as marginalized were unhappy with the Social Honor Code.

9. Student Governance

Only 18% of respondents said that they could ever see themselves running for a position on Students’ Council or Honor Council. The Committee notes that “no group, marginalized or [not], is significantly more or less likely” to see themselves running for a position on either of these councils. However, enthusiasm for running for these positions decreased by class year, with first-years the most likely to run and seniors the least likely to. 

While 75% of respondents think that Students’ Council “is responsive to the needs and wants of the student body,” seniors and students who self-identified as marginalized, who wrote “other” for their sexuality, and who are gender non-binary or transgender were less-likely to agree with this statement. 33% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that they’d reach out to Students’ Council with a question, concern, or project idea. 70% of respondents thought Students’ Council was good at running Plenary. The Committee notes: “For anyone reflecting about why Plenary is such a complicated and only partially successful space, it might be helpful to think about why different people of different identities attend Plenary and what could be driving these differences.” The Committee also reports differences between white and non-white students in terms of why students choose to attend Plenary. 

At the end of the report, the Committee includes a section entitled “Important Notes” in which members of the Committee acknowledge some shortcomings of their findings. These include a failure to thoroughly survey the student body about disability and challenges the Committee faced with providing the most inclusive language possible in demographic sections. Additionally, the Committee notes its hesitation with allowing students to self-identify their socioeconomic status, as distinctions between lower, middle, and upper class are rather subjective. 

The Committee also discusses the unconstitutionality of the delay of its work. Noting that Special Plenary was a  huge setback for forming the Committee, the report reads: “We had two weeks of class left, and the Code Crisis was still in full swing. We had a full semester of work to do which included writing and distributing a survey, ostensibly all in two weeks while the campus tried to cool off from the Code Crisis. We decided to adjust our timeline. This was in violation of the text of the constitution, but we felt it was not in line with the spirit of the constitution to try and do a semester’s worth of work poorly and in two weeks.” 

This year’s Clearness Committee operated with a much larger focus than committees in years past. Mandated to form every four years, Clearness Committees often focus on one small issue of student life in great detail rather than the nine broad topics presented in this year’s report. 

“We want to acknowledge that this iteration of the committee did not choose to pursue a problem as narrow as accessibility of Tri-Co transport or the composition of Students’ Council as committees in years past,” write Clearness Committee members Riley Wheaton ‘20 and Elena Marcovici ‘21 in an email to The Clerk.  “We chose not to do that because we wanted to try and tackle the larger problems facing Haverford today. This community faces deep divides in the ways we experience campus, the ways we view one another, and the ways we view ourselves. Our work sought to engage with that problem by asking what marginalization looks like at Haverford, and while we certainly did not solve everything, we suggested some small steps that could be taken, such as collecting narratives around athlete/non-athlete experiences, and we now charge the community with continuing our work using the data we collected.”

Care to share your thoughts on the Report of the 2018-2019 Clearness Committee? Post your comments below or email to submit a response. 

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