After a turbulent student election season, Dex Coen Gilbert ’21 and Evan Moon ’21 were finally elected Students’ Council Co-Presidents on October 4. However, Coen Gilbert’s and Moon’s role had started long beforehand. Last spring—the typical season for Students’ Council elections—Haverford failed to reach quorum to elect student representatives. In response, Coen Gilbert and Moon were appointed as Interim Students’ Council Presidents for the summer months.
Over the summer, Coen Gilbert and Moon met twice a week with the Campus Life Operations Committee (CLOC), the group that helped decide what Haverford would look like this semester, to provide crucial student input. Coen Gilbert was also a member of the Academic Community Group, a group of deans and faculty who worked on planning academics for the year.
“We would tell them how we thought students would react and what students were concerned with primarily,” said Moon. In order to take the student body’s pulse, Moon and Coen Gilbert reached out to different campus groups, asked their friends, kept an eye on social media, and even read the sentiments expressed in opinion pieces published by The Clerk.
When asked for specifics about what they advocated for, Moon and Coen Gilbert pointed to a variety of examples. In the Academic Community Group, when an idea to completely cancel shopping week was floated, Coen Gilbert took a strong stance against it. And in the case of the controversial “tip line,” they both backed it.
“The creation of an anonymous form, I don’t know if that was our idea. I don’t think it was, but we certainly talked about it and said that we thought it was a good idea and pushed for it,” said Coen Gilbert.
Not all of Moon and Coen Gilbert’s suggestions were adopted. For instance, Moon and Coen Gilbert wanted students, alongside deans, on the disciplinary panels for students accused of breaking the COVID-19 community agreement. However, the college determined that the panels would not include students.
“The follow-through on things is something that’s kind of out of our hands,” said Coen Gilbert. “Tons of times people take what we say and they use that, but every once in a while they don’t, and then it’s sad,” said Coen Gilbert.
As the semester started, Coen Gilbert’s and Moon’s roles shifted into something “similar but different.” They continue to meet regularly with President Wendy Raymond, Provost Linda Strong-Leek, Vice President Jesse Lytle, and various other administrators. But unlike the summer, the meetings are now much smaller and less singularly focused on COVID-19. Last week, for example, Moon met with Provost Strong-Leek and Interim Dean of the College Joyce Bylander about new policies for reporting professors for classroom dynamics, while Coen Gilbert met with President Raymond about the search for a permanent Dean of the College.
Alongside COVID-19 policy, the two worked with President Wendy Raymond on further anti-racist work at the college, which they deemed their biggest priority. In light of the demands of Black Students Refusing Further Inaction (BSFRI), Coen Gilbert and Moon have attempted to keep the Haverford administration—particularly President Raymond—accountable in progressing anti-racist policies at the college.
“Continuing to advocate for the open letter is something that Evan and I had to bring up in almost every meeting with President Raymond every week,” said Coen Gilbert. “It’s just like, how are we doing on this? How are those demands being met? And she voluntarily fills us in almost every time. It’s almost a routine at this point.”
Alongside their own conversations with administration, Coen Gilbert and Moon hope to amplify the voices of marginalized students, particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), through the committee selection process. At Haverford, students can be nominated to a plethora of powerful committees across campus that determine things like educational policy, college environmental action, and budgeting.
“We initially thought, ‘Oh, like, what if we just try to appoint as many marginalized, BIPOC, or affinity group people to those committees?’ which is obviously what we will try to do, but it’s also something that we can’t guarantee,” said Moon. “And it also kind of clashes with the idea of, ‘Sure we can have them serve on these committees, but that’s also not compensated and it’s a lot of weekly work.’”
Reflecting on the dangers of tokenization or overburdening individuals, Coen Gilbert and Moon came to a different solution: invite affinity groups into the appointment caucuses that choose which students get to serve on the committees.
However, without a proper nomination, Coen Gilbert and Moon were hesitant to plan their next steps. Thus, when they finally became officially elected—running on the platform of shedding the “privileged neutrality” of Students’ Council—there was perhaps a collective sigh of relief. Over the next year, Coen Gilbert and Moon will take a critical eye to the budgeting process for student organizations (an issue particularly important to Coen Gilbert, a former Students’ Council Co-Treasurer) and Plenary in hopes of making Haverford an anti-racist place.
“I think previous Students’ Councils tended to be, ‘Oh, we’re here to represent all students. You know, we are, we want to listen from both sides.’ But I think throughout the summer and throughout the year, it’s been pretty clear that that is not how things work, that it’s not how it should be,” said Moon, emphasizing the importance of keeping lines of communication with affinity groups, the OMA, and other groups on campus dedicated to anti-racist work.
Ultimately, however, the Co-Presidents see their primary role as listening to the rest of Students’ Council. Both Coen Gilbert and Moon stressed throughout the interview that without getting to know the rest of the Students’ Council, our conversation would be incomplete.
In the meantime, the Co-Presidents urge the community to contact them with their ideas—about what Plenary should look like and otherwise. In fact, a student recently reached out to them about putting “These Come from Trees” stickers on Haverford’s paper towel dispensers. The two spoke with President Wendy Raymond about it, who agreed that it would be a good idea and decided to make it happen.