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Members of the 2023-24 Students' Council at the Emergency Plenary opening town hall. Photo courtesy of Emma Almo '25.

Spirited Discussion at Emergency Plenary Closing Town Hall Despite Low Turnout

Note: All student participants in the Q&A and pro/con debate portion of the Opening Town Hall are identified only by their class years in order to maintain anonymity. 

Yesterday afternoon in Stokes Auditorium, Students’ Council hosted the second and final town hall of Emergency Plenary, where they presented the ceasefire resolution once more. This iteration mirrored the first installment in structure almost entirely, similarly emphasizing the importance of establishing a safe, open space in order to foster honest dialogue and discussion between differing viewpoints.

In addition to the standard explanation of town hall guidelines, Students’ Council Co-Presidents Jorge Paz Reyes ’24 and Maria Reyes Pacheco ’24 provided a brief recap of the first town hall. Discussing the apathy some students display as a result of the limited impact the war in Gaza has on their lives, the Co-Presidents reminded those in attendance that many students feel a significant personal impact from the violence. “For some people, this issue is affecting them a lot, and they can’t just simply ignore it,” explained Paz Reyes, citing as one example Kinnan Abdalhamid, the Palestinian Haverford junior who was shot over Thanksgiving break.

While this town hall had even lower attendance than Thursday’s, those present showed a much greater willingness to participate in the Q&A and pro/con debate.

The first question, posed by a junior, asked what would happen should the resolution fail to receive the required votes to pass. The Co-Presidents responded that while Students’ Council would not be the ones to do it, the resolution could be reintroduced at regular plenary next month—an option they hope to avoid due to the heightened pressure that the high in-person attendance of standard plenary puts on students who speak against resolutions. Another question from a senior inquired what would occur if the resolution passed by a mere simple majority (in other words, if it is not representative of a large percentage of students), to which Reyes Pacheco explained that Students’ Council was committed to transparency and would release voting statistics regardless of the outcome. The final question came from a sophomore who asked what would actually occur if the resolution passed; Reyes Pacheco outlined the many avenues that would open up with the passing of the resolution, such as a response from President Raymond and the bolstering effect on student advocacy groups through a significant display of student support for their cause.

Co-Vice President Grant DeVries ’26 then closed the Q&A section and opened the pro/con debate. The first pro came from a Jewish sophomore who emphasized the concept of tikkun olam (Hebrew for ‘repairing the world’) and the sacrality of all life in their religion, referring to the amount of Israeli and Palestinian deaths as “devastating,” citing as an example a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who they had learned was shot and killed in Ramallah mere minutes before giving their statement. They argued Haverford College must stand by its anti-militaristic values, and applauded the resolution for calling on it to do just that.

Next, DeVries read out a con from another Jewish student who said that they chose to share their opinion  anonymously through the town hall’s Zoom chat out of fear of backlash. This student outlined the crimes committed by Hamas on October 7th and argued that although Israel is imperfect, Hamas is worse. They claimed that a ceasefire would be ineffective in stopping Hamas’s violence, asking the audience “As you demand a ceasefire from Israel, what are your demands from Hamas?” To close out their comment, they called on the audience to distinguish between politics and people, and affirmed their support for unity and humanity. In response, a senior speaking in favor of the resolution said that while they appreciate the anonymous student’s participation in dialogue, there is a certain danger to focusing on personal stories, as that would only lead to an endless back-and-forth. They praised the language of the resolution, explaining that “if we are for the end of violence, signing this resolution is integral to pushing this forward.”

The final con came from a sophomore who expressed dissatisfaction with the resolution’s characterization of Quaker values as anti-militaristic, arguing that was only one of many interpretations. After a wait of a few minutes, a sophomore closed out the segment with a pro, praising the resolution for inspiring dialogue and for sending a strong message to administration about the student body’s stance on the issue.

Closing out the pro/con debate, Paz Reyes stressed the importance of participating in dialogue: “Whether you agree or disagree, we want you to engage.” The town hall concluded with an update on the progress towards quorum and a final plea to participate in the voting process. Reflecting on how the town hall played out, Paz Reyes expressed disappointment with the low turnout but “really appreciated that there was more engagement in the pro and con debate” than the first town hall.

Reyes Pacheco mentioned her appreciation for how people seemed to be more comfortable engaging through Q&A and the pro/con debate, mentioning that the Co-Presidents have been trying to get students to “lean into what it looks like to have respectful dialogue … into something that may feel uncomfortable,” while still knowing that students see their peers “with care and compassion.”

Following the event, the Co-Presidents clarified through an email to the student body that voting closes on Monday at 9:00 p.m., not Sunday night (as had been mistakenly stated in previous communications). At the time of publication, the resolution requires only 67 more votes to reach quorum in the 10.5 hours remaining.

Additional reporting by Paeton Smith-Hiebert

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