At 11:23 pm last night, organizers sent an email to the student body announcing that today would be the final day of the strike. The end of the strike comes two weeks after President Wendy Raymond’s widely-criticized email about the murder of Walter Wallace Jr. sparked a protest at Founders Hall and a student strike that began the following day, led by Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction, and other groups of students of color.
Over the past fourteen days, Haverford students, faculty, and administrators have reckoned with the racist legacy of Haverford College and the manner in which BIPOC community members continue to be marginalized on campus. The impacts of the strike have reached far beyond the strike’s original demands, as many academic departments restructure their curriculum to make it less inaccessible to BIPOC students.
The end of the strike comes only two days after negotiations deteriorated between organizers and the administration, leading many to wonder whether an agreement would be reached this week. However, mid-day on Tuesday, students received a message from organizers with a dramatically different tone than Sunday’s emails, announcing they would be meeting with President Raymond and her staff in hopes of ending the strike if the administration addressed their concerns. And unlike Sunday’s email where the organizers said that six of their demands were unmet, Tuesday’s email suggested only three demands remained unfulfilled and that “they could move on.”
So when last night’s email calling for the end of the strike arrived, it was greeted more with relief than surprise. However, the email—which touted the many successes of the strike, including a $75,000 budget for renovating the Black Cultural Center, prioritizing Indigenous students in admissions, and ensuring the Committee on Student Standing & Programs redesigned their academic warning system—ended on a note of warning:
“This is a reminder not just to Wendy, but every single so-called leader of this institution, that BIPOC students will always be ready to mobilize and fight for change when you fail us. Does a tsunami only have one wave?”
Ultimately, what happened between Sunday and Tuesday to change the organizers’ approach remains unknown. However, the strike’s momentum had slowed over the past two days, as many students and faculty members considered returning to class.
“If the strike wasn’t over by Wednesday, I was planning on returning to class. I was getting anxious about getting credit and, honestly, I really need and want to learn the material,” said one student, who asked to remain anonymous. Another senior expressed similar worries: “I literally cannot afford to take another semester of college.”
In the upcoming days, students will need to readjust back to the everyday grind of school life. This is particularly true in light of Provost Linda Strong-Leek’s email this morning, reiterating that professors who cancelled class over the past two weeks must find a way to make up class hours to meet accreditation requirements. As a result of the strike, Haverford has readopted the Pass/Fail model used in the spring for this semester, and the majority of professors pledged to not penalize students for participating in the strike, but there is no doubt that many students—particularly those in STEM—will feel pressure over the next few weeks to make up for missed content.
“I hope that teachers give students the time they need to reorient themselves after the strike because there will be a lot of work to make up with two weeks less time of the semester,” said Marisa LaBarca ’21.
Today appears to be a day of celebration. The organizers invited students to brave the drizzly weather and come to Founders Green at noon to celebrate the end of the strike and the progress made. Yet as the community knows, Haverford’s work to become an anti-racist institution is far from over.
Multi-wave tsunami threatened? Seek higher ground.
“If the strike wasn’t over by Wednesday, I was planning on returning to class. I was getting anxious about getting credit and, honestly, I really need and want to learn the material,” said one student, who asked to remain anonymous.
While student names can be kept anonymous, failing to disclose the race, gender, class, or sexual orientation of the speaker may allow readers to misconstrue and not put an appropriate weight of the speaker within the context of a colonial system like Haverford.
I understand and sympathize with this sentiment, but I worry that the hyper focus on these identities will eventually backfire, because even for well meaning folks, they come with their own stereotypes and generalizations (as hinted at by your statement). Not every cisgendered White male is the same, nor is every bisexual Black woman.
I also want these movements to be able to listen to other viewpoints without automatically assuming that they are acting in bad faith, and without using hyperbolic language.
I am sympathetic to many of the demands in this movement, and though it seems to have yielded results this time, I am worried about the longevity if some of these tactics continue.