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Students’ Council Minutes 3/21/21

Absent: Kim, Vic, Rasaaq, Lisette, JLo

Evan: General updates? One thing was from Rasaaq and Lisette was that they’re still working on the Amazon buying policy, and they say they’re writing instructions and if anyone else wants to help to let them know. 

Luka: It occurred to me that we could make a long term investment with some portion of the surplus–what if we made an investment for some ethical thing and the dividends could be put in a fund for student activism. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how do we institutionalize radical change.

Dex: Let’s push this down to the surplus discussion, it’s something I’ve been thinking about too and it came up in some responses to the survey.

Dex: Moving to our next agenda item, I had a conversation with an anonymous student, who wants their portion of the student activities fund refunded, proportional to what we spent during the strike; because they say that the use of that money was unconstitutional. So I went to the constitution, and read a lot, and the constitution is terrible and outdated. Many things just make no sense and probably haven’t for the past decade. This request is being made in a time when it could have been made any time before, and that’s because of anti-Black sentiment. There’s a way that the constitution could be read as we did break the rules, by paying for food to individuals. But this is not really any different to how funds have been allocated for a while now, since before I was on council. A total of $1300 dollars was spent. Every year everyone contributes 498 dollars to make a roughly $650,000 fund. So this person essentially wants one dollar back. We can make the claim that the constitution doesn’t have any strict rules around what an organization is and how they’re supposed to be funded. We might have broken some rules, but I also don’t think we’ve broken rules enough to warrant refunds, because the constitution has been inconsistently applied. So I would like to put this at ease, and potentially take them up on one suggestion they had; that if the admin won’t refund them, StuCo will refund them personally. It’s a dollar, so I’m willing to do it, just send a venmo and explain why I think it’s pretty racist of them to complain now and not any other time. I was thinking about doing this so that we can move on. I wanted to ask you before I did it though. We really need to update the constitution.

Fiona: What would this person do if we don’t refund them?

Dex: Supposedly take it up with the administration, but I doubt they would get very far, because for the administration that money is part of the tuition rather than related to the constitution.

Isabel: Did you tell them it was a dollar?

Dex: Not precisely. When we originally spoke I told them it would be “cents on the dollar” and they were still interested in pursuing this. I don’t think I’m jumping to think its about the principle, not the money.

Noorie: Can we make the point that the whole point of the strike was to disrupt the order, so I don’t think constitutionality is a premise that should even be engaged with. Obviously the whole argument is silly. 

Erin: This is stupid. They don’t deserve a dollar for racism. They paid the student’s activity fee and the student’s activity was a strike. They don’t deserve the dollar.

Luka: I agree because it sets a precedent and seems like we’re admitting we did something wrong.

Dex: I want to make it clear to this person and the rest of the campus that the constitution is fundamentally purposeless in this regard [outlining Students’ Council’s various specific roles]. Because of that, it’s now being leveraged.

Ella: I think with people like this, you just let them dig their own graves. Let them go complain to the administration, then they’ll be the kid that threw a racist temper tantrum over a dollar forever.

Sam: Dex, can you interpret the constitution as we were allowed to use SC money?

Dex: You can basically interpret the constitution any way you want. They don’t define terms. Much of our business as usual defied the constitution. There’s technically supposed to be a budget committee! So in that case everything SC has done for years was misappropriating funds. So the documentation just needs to be changed.

Sam: So in that case if there’s a reasonable reading, I think we shouldn’t give them the dollar.

Fiona: I don’t think this person should get anything, but couldn’t we say the strike was a group because people signed the strike demands.

Isabel: Everything was unprecedented during the strike, the admin also did things that never happened before. You could nitpick anything.

Luka: And what we did was the correct decision, it was right and good. We should stand by this decision. 

Erin: The real thing is that the constitution needs revising, the dollar isn’t important.

Dex: Does anyone want to do a taskforce on revising the constitution?

Evan: Ok spring pause–The provost says she sent a reminder to professors reminding them to go easy, but it seems like professors are still assigning a lot of work over the pause. Do you have any thoughts about demands we could make about this non-compliance.

Noorie: I think we can demand that deadlines need to be moved away from the day after the pause (no deadlines on Wednesday at least).

Margaret: What some of my professors are doing is cancelling one class, and I’d like to push for that, but Noorie I agree we should push for no deadlines Wednesday and Thursday.

Sam: One of my profs was straight-up unaware of the pause, so telling the provost to remind professors that the pause is even a thing.

Evan: Another thing is people (younger students, FG/LI, or International Students) who don’t feel comfortable emailing profs about this, so if it doesn’t work out with the provost, I thought we could tell students that they can reach out to us and we’ll reach out to their professors for them.

Erin: We can write our own little draft that everyone can send to professors.

Noorie: Putting a note on the consensus saying it’s spring pause, here’s what that means, include a template there.

Evan: That’s a good idea, we can start a doc for that tonight. Another thing in terms of programming, there’s a lot of stuff happening over the pause. Is there anything you guys would like to see in terms of programming? Or if anyone knows of stuff to advertise?

Dex: I’m going to link a spreadsheet with the responses to the surplus survey. We got 13 responses. I’m going to go through some main themes. We don’t oversee varsity sports at all, they’re separate from us, so that’s off the table. Some comments about getting jerseys and equipment…we do that already. We don’t let people keep the equipment, it has to stay with the team. As for trainers in the GIAC, my understanding is that you can’t get trainers because of covid, not because of lack of trainers. But those reading the minutes can correct me if I am wrong and we can rethink. Thinking about dorms, this isn’t usually student activity related, same goes for laundry… so dorm anything is not stuff we usually do, although yes, the bathrooms could use renovations. Another comment was saving the money, we could, but it doesn’t make sense because it won’t roll forward into the budget but will still just be surplus. Some ideas I didn’t have logistical commentary on were the food pantry, multicultural center, black box theater, SAGA lounge, dc basement. The apartment path seems to be in need of tender love and care, and that’s an accessibility problem, so we can reach out to facilities. And then someone put a really thoughtful entry in about financial aid, saying we should put a fund. They talked about various aspects of Haverford’s financial aid that seem messed up. I’ll have it put in the minutes and sent to admissions, because I am not sure how we can address this problem. Thinking about your idea Luka, I don’t think the money is enough that our fund would be that impactful as an endowed scholarship. There’s a lot to consider in terms of investment. So one idea would be to do a scholarship donation. That would be a one time thing that would be powerful and impactful. But I think a fund wouldn’t be super impactful. And then someone had a comment about putting money into superficial spaces rather than students. I think that’s not a dichotomy, investing in spaces goes to the well-being of students, particularly those that have been historically marginalized and don’t have spaces that reflect their needs.

Luka: I had a convo about this with Rasaaq, and his opinion was that would not be something managed by SC, but by a group outside SC with both students and other people who have experience managing this type of thing. The idea would be it would invested in something that would pay dividends that could be collected on a regular basis, and those dividends would go into a discretionary fund. 

Dex: I’m just not sure we are qualified to be investing this much money and we would need to be constantly watching it, so I worry about just putting money somewhere and not analyzing their investments. I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of high yield dividends in ethical things.

Luka: My thought was that it could be invested in a climate related thing–it wouldn’t need to be high-yield.

Dex: I just don’t think it’s feasible because it will always need to be managed. But let’s not throw the idea out, but thinking about how we can invest in the community

Noorie: The CPGC recently lost a lot of its funding, they’re going to have to lay people off and cut programming, so that would be a way to directly invest in the community. And that also affects partner organizations in Philly. Because their funding has been cut, they can only partner with 3 rather than 6 organizations. 

Dex: I think we should talk about the CPGC, for those of us who applied, we have to be careful about conflicts of interest. But does everyone like supporting the CPGC in some way? That’s something we can do quickly. So we should talk to them about their immediate needs.

Evan: Quickly about plenary, we have to pick a date. We were thinking last week of April-ish. We checked with admin, weren’t able to tell if there were any conflicts so let us know if anyone knows of any. And then resolution ideas, we should start thinking about reforms we might want to bring.

[Survey response regarding financial aid]: 

“Right now the Financial Aid office has an extremely inequitable policy when it comes to third party (outside) scholarships. Students not on Financial Aid can get as big of a discount on their tuition bill as they please by earning and applying outside scholarships to college costs without limit. Students on Financial Aid, however, are forced to have any/all merit scholarships voided (through a reduction of their Haverford Grant) beyond a small amount. Why are we crippling students on Financial Aid by not allowing them to fully pursue third party merit scholarships? Shouldn’t students on Financial Aid be given all the support and backing possible by the college when they are trying to improve their financial circumstances? This is inequitable and outrageous given that students not on Financial Aid are supported by the college in seeking to further their own financial situations through outside scholarships (even though they don’t need it as much as the students on Financial Aid who are having it taken away). This issue is very personal to me since I am on Financial Aid yet Haverford has taken away $15k in scholarship funds from me that they would have honored if I was rich and didn’t need Financial Aid. Rather than using your hundreds of thousands of Student Council funds on cosmetic changes to campus buildings, you should set up an endowed fund that would enable the Financial Aid office to change their policy on third party (outside) scholarships in order to create a more just and equitable Haverford”

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