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Conflicting Visions of the Strike’s End as Negotiations Deteriorate

By Chace Pulley ’21 and Maxwell Mondress ’23

As the strike nears the two-week mark, the prospects of a resolution are looking more tenuous than ever. Last night, in a series of increasingly combative emails, organizers, faculty, and administrators found themselves espousing dramatically different perspectives on what needs to be done to end the strike.

The dissolution of negotiations occurred late afternoon on Sunday. At 4:14 pm, the organizers sent an email to the student body detailing their reaction to the anti-racism commitments the administration had released on Friday. They declared that the college’s commitments had only sufficiently met three of their fourteen demands. An additional three demands were fulfilled “with qualifications,” while the remaining eight demands were deemed to not have been met. The Clerk encourages readers to browse the full scope of the organizers’ response for themselves.

Yet even before the organizers’ response to the college’s commitments—which was sent one hour and fourteen minutes after the administration’s stated deadline of 3:00 pm—the negotiation process had already begun to unravel. At 3:39 pm, President Raymond had sent the organizers a disapproving email. 

“Your decision not to provide a response on this timeline unfortunately means that we will need to move ahead with our plans this evening absent the benefit of your input, or absent a fulsome consideration of your input, unless we are able to communicate directly in the immediate future,” wrote President Raymond.

After the organizers’ response, there was radio silence from the administration for the majority of the night—although inboxes were far from empty. At 9:00 pm, students received one of the strangest emails in recent campus history: a forwarded message from Prashant Kumar, a Visiting Professor of History, beginning with the words “Dear Haverford kids, lmaoooooooo gottem, take 2.”

In his lengthy, rambling message, first sent to a thread of history professors, then all faculty and staff, before being forwarded to all students, Professor Kumar offered a novel perspective in support of the strikers. He argued that Haverford is founded on “white savior moral capitalism”, making it inherently inaccessible to non-white students, and called the college a “well funded version of 19th century missionary schools in India and Africa” for “Black America.”

The college community finally received President Raymond’s response to the organizers’ enumeration of met and unmet demands at 11:22 pm on Sunday—one hour and twenty-two minutes after the 10:00 pm deadline she had set for her cumulative response on Friday. Many students were disappointed with President Raymond’s response: she did not address the organizers’ assessment that the college had failed to fulfill their demands. Instead, suggesting that the college could continue its anti-racism work after the end of the strike, she urged students and faculty to return to the classroom on Monday.

“We need to join together and engage, beginning tomorrow, with the action steps detailed in the spreadsheet response, and with the continuation of classes and delivery of the Fall semester’s curriculum,” she wrote. Administrators have previously warned that professors could face discipline if they continue to cancel class.

At 1:41 am, the organizers fired back in another email to all students. In no uncertain terms, they challenged President Raymond’s intentions and integrity in the negotiation process. Based on the revision history of the Anti-Racism Commitments spreadsheet, they claimed that no edits had been made for hours prior to Raymond’s final response. To organizers, this represented a breach of trust, and they suggested that President Raymond had intentionally delayed her message to the community in order to limit the reach of their response.

With no significant changes made to the administration’s plan since the open meeting several days prior, organizers deemed the existing commitments wildly unsatisfactory. Perhaps recognizing the growing fatigue among students and faculty over the continuation of the strike, the organizers also tried to reiterate the importance of ongoing collective action.

“BIPOC students at Haverford have been fighting for generations for IDENTICAL DEMANDS,” read the email. Organizers advised students who want the strike to end to “channel that energy towards renewing your calls on faculty, administrators, and the board of managers especially to meet the goals laid out in the demands.”

The email contained similar appeals to faculty to resist pressure from administrators and continue to cancel class in solidarity with strikers. Statements released by the biology and anthropology departments were cited as model responses to the strike—two departments that have dramatically reshaped their curriculum for the rest of the semester.

Over the past twenty-four hours, it has become abundantly clear that organizers, faculty, and administrators are not on the same page. Organizers informed the administration that they expected a thorough response to their updated demands by 3:00 pm the next day, but as of Monday evening, there has yet to be a reply. It remains to be seen whether a formal agreement to end the strike will be forthcoming, or whether the administration is banking on community support slowly dwindling.

Update: at 9:50 pm on Monday evening, President Raymond sent an email to the community, listing some of the actions that the college has taken in response to the strike and announcing three town halls on anti-racism work that will take place later this week, open to students, faculty, and staff.

President Raymond’s email did not specifically address the eight demands that the organizers argue have not yet been fulfilled, nor did she discuss the possibility of a definitive end to the strike itself.

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