Lone resolution ratified at Haverford’s Spring Plenary
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Matt Sharp

Haverford’s 2000 Spring Plenary ran smoothly and, for the most part, uninterrupted. Students passed both of the items on the agenda, one resolution and the Honor Code.

The Code was ratified by a close margin, passed by a mere five votes more than required. It needed 312 votes to carry the necessary two-thirds of those present, and passed with 317 in favor, 118 against, and 34 abstentions.

Plenary opened with the customary moment of silence. Five minutes were then allocated to allow attendees to read the agenda and rules of order. A brief questionand answer period concerning the agenda and rules passing one resolution and the Honor Code, after which a few specifics of the agenda were amended.

The first item to be considered was a resolution entitled “Executive Council Elections.” It was presented by Scott Bureau ’02, Eleanor Brown ’00, Jesse Ehrenfeld ’00, Maura Purcell ’00 and Judson Redmond ’01. Its purpose was to alter the election cycle for the Executive Council of Student Council.

The resolution stipulated that Executive Council officer - the Student Council President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, and the Honor Council Chair would be elected in April and would take office at the beginning of the academic year. This would replace the current practice of holding elections in February and having the elected students hold office through the calendar year.

The presenters’ rationale was threefold. Their first point was that a newly elected Executive Council “has just a matter of days in which to plan spring plenary.” Second, they said that juniors who study abroad second semester currently cannot run for office for their senior year, because they are not present for the first half of the term. Third, the resolution said that the elections are often not completed until the third week of the second semester, thereby “preventing the full council’s ability to convene until the fourth week.”

Brown acknowledged a few disadvantages inherent in the change. “Seniors will potentially be voting for officers who will never serve them,” and freshmen would not be able to run for second-semester offices, she told a reporter.

A few issues were discussed in the question and answer session. Brian Adams ’01 was concerned that the change would interfere with the Council’s interaction with the Customs program and proceedings at the beginning of the year. Redmond explained that, since the Council would be elected at the end of the previous academic year, the Council would have the summer to organize.

Mary Kay Bartek ’02 asked how students who were abroad during the second semester would be able to run for office for the next year. Redmond answered that thus could be made possible through email and Web communication.

A few speakers offered pro/con debate on the resolution. Ari Worthman ’02 believed that the resolution was “further limiting the applicant pool” because juniors who were abroad would have trouble running for office. He also noted that seniors would not want to serve on the Council during the second semester because of the demands of writing theses and carrying out a job search. He was also concerned that freshmen would not be able to serve on a council until

their sophomore year.

Scott Goldstein ’01 supported the resolution because he felt having SC treasurers in office for an entire academic year would aid the continuity of the budgeting process. Recently elected SC Vice President Travis Combs supported having officers take office in the fall, because it would make for an easier transition into the office. “When you take office in February,” he said, “things get dumped on you like a pile of bricks in a burlap sack.”

Redmond and Ehrenfeld later explained that they felt it was a better idea not to have second-semester freshmen on the Council. Redmond felt that there are “too many issues that are part of the first year of college” and that “freshmen shouldn’t be burdened with the extreme responsibilities of an Executive Council position.” However, they both agreed that they had “a lot of confidence in Shane and Joe,” referring to newly elected SC Co-Treasurers Shane Danaher and Joe Vazquez, both freshmen.

Ehrenfeld explained that in previous years there has been a regulation against having freshmen serve on the SC Budgeting Committee because they were less likely to be familiar with what all the campus organizations did.

The resolution needed 327 votes to pass. It passed with 356 in favor, 98 against, and 25 abstentions.

The second major item on the agenda was the ratification of the Honor Code, which occurs annually at Spring Plenary. Honor Council Co-Chairs Jenn Louie ’02 and Lucy Lyon ’01 began the discussion by reading excerpts from the Code and presenting a series of questions for consideration.

“Do you have strong ideals of honor, integrity, and dignity?” asked Louie and Lyon. “Do you have ownership of the Code?” “Are there parts which are inherently wrong?” “Do we deserve the Code? Does it deserve us?”

Diverse points of view were expressed in the pro/con debate over whether or not to ratify the Code. Anna Krieger ’02 called on people to be sure that they had fully read and understand the Code before voting to ratify it.

Polarized debate followed, jumping between those who wanted to pass the Code, and those who believed the Code was flawed and should not be approved at Plenary. Entirely abolishing the Code was not the intention for many of these latter students. Rather, they thought that Plenary should see it voted down in order to allow for reconsidering and reorganizing at the Special Plenary that would follow a rejection of the Code.

In such a situation, the student body would vote on the modifications.

In general, pro speakers felt that the community would be missing something without the Honor Code. Freshman Morissa Falk said it “is an ideal for all of us, and if we abolish it, Haverford just is not going to be what it is.”

Sophomore Chris Blount agreed, saying that “if it was doing had things to us, then obviously we would have a problem and we would vote it down, but it does improve the quality of our lives and does make Haverford a better place.”

Those who spoke in favor of ratifying the Code, including Falk and Micah Drayton ’01, also called for those opposed to it to make changes rather than simply vote it down. Jeremy Pober ’03 said that “talking about our objections to the Code is one of the greatest things we can do,” but “turning it down is going to ameliorate nothing.”

Arguments against the passage of the Code were equally abundant and vehement. Rich Biddulph ’01 expressed discontent with Haverford’s status quo. When asked for further comment, he said he felt the Code represents values inherent in the fact that it was written 102 years ago, when

the College was uniformly white, male, and upperclass. He said the Code as it is written cannot adequately serve the College’s changing demographics.

Similarly, junior Andy Ray said that the Code “lies incapacitated and helpless in a proverbial Haverford archive, and its protective glass casing gathers dust with each coming year, and all we’re doing when we vote for this thing is … contributing another layer of dust.”

Former Honor Council Chair Maura Purcell ’00 voiced several objections to the current Code, and advocated voting it down so that it could be redesigned. One item that should change, she felt, is the provision that professors can refuse to follow resolutions decided by Honor Council trials because they “think that [the] resolutions are not punitive enough, even though a punitive resolution is not something the Honor Code and Honor Council condone.”

Furthermore, Purcell said she was not content with the current status of confrontation. “I think confrontation should occur every day,” she said, and added that a confrontation according to the Code is “not about having a fight, [sic] it’s about starting a dialogue.”

Students rejected a motion to double the length of the 13-minute pro/con debate, 207-240-8, before narrowly voting in favor of the Honor Code.

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