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Controversial Athletic Amendment Narrowly Defeated At Plenary

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(From left to right): Anna Saum ’18, Lillian Alonzo ’20, and Leah Budson ’19 presenting their resolution at Plenary. Photo courtesy of Kate Silber ’20. 

At Fall Plenary, the resolution calling for a day of Collection passed after much debate. While many had concerns about quorum, campus jobs, and rescheduling labs, the biggest point of contention was the time the day ended. The resolution stipulated that Collection would end at four, ensuring that athletic practices could occur.

“It is basically considering sport practices more important than classes which is a really problematic, to say the least, value judgement for an academic institution to be making,” said Daniel Feshbach ‘20 computer science major. In response, Feshbach decided to draft an unfriendly amendment to the resolution which stated that athletic practices would be cancelled alongside classes. To Feshbach’s dismay, the amendment failed to ratify by only a few votes. “I think it says something really troubling about our community that we are saying that we are giving up a day of classes but are hesitant to give up athletic practices,” Feshbach said.

It isn’t only Feshbach who thinks this. “It just made sense because if academic classes are cancelled why should athletic practices take precedence over that and why should we bend over for athletics?” said Hannah Yeakey ‘21 a member of the Women’s’ Cross Country team. Yeakey voted in favor of the athletic amendment.

Anna Saum ‘18, one of the writers of the Collection resolution, revealed that the writers of the amendment originally wished for athletics to be cancelled as well. “But when we started talking to people—mostly people like the provost and Wendy Smith, who is the head of athletics—they basically told us that it was impossible to cancel athletics,” Saum said. Furthermore, when Saum and the rest of the resolution writers starting soliciting feedback, they learned that many student athletes were reluctant to give up practice for the day. “We really didn’t want to create a resolution that was doomed to fail [at] plenary,” Saum explained. “Furthermore, we felt that the absence of athletic activities during the day is not central to the purpose of the resolution. In considering different schedules for the day, we felt that it was not necessary for the day to continue past 4 p.m. We considered that many students—not just athletes—might appreciate a chance to resume their normal activities in between the end of Plenary and the closing celebration.,” Saum stated.

Wendy Smith tells a slightly different story than Saum. “She came and said this is the way they are planning the day, planning on having it end at four o’clock so that students could do whatever they wanted. So it seemed like the schedule was already pre-done and we just talked a little about the difference between when in the year it might be,” Smith explained. Smith was shocked that the athletic amendment was even raised. “ I would assume that every activity would be cancelled similar to a snow day,” Smith stated.

Listening to Smith and Saum, perhaps this controversy came down to poor communication. After all, many student-athletes voted against the resolution believing that practices must occur. “I voted against the athletic amendment mostly for logistic issues. Athletics is not more important than anything else but athletics is more difficult to cancel logistically with games and certain sports need to practice everyday,” Hannah Doll  ‘21 also on the Women’s cross country team. Speaking on behalf of the Student Athlete Advisory Board, Russell Nicholson ‘18 said “We feel like we were blindsided by some of the things that were said at plenary and I know it is the athletic department’s stance that the things that were said about communication were not true.” Nicholson wishes that the writers of the resolution had reached out to the Student Athlete Advisory Board. “We would have really liked to have a voice because we are the perfect kind of committee to be talking about this because we are a group of students, a group of coaches, and select members of the athlete administration.”

Either way, much of this discussion is now futile as Kim Benston has denied the resolution—partially on the grounds on this debate. In his recent email to the Haverford student body, the President wrote, “My acceptance of the resolution, as passed, would logically amount to affirming that athletics take priority over academics at Haverford. I’m not suggesting that I could have embraced the cancellation of classes if the unfriendly amendment had passed; rather, I’m noting that the failure of the unfriendly amendment highlights the proposal’s inadvertent casualness toward classes, by contrast with its fidelity to an extracurricular pursuit.”

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