Bryn Mawr Plenary is a call to civic action
By biconews On 21 Mar, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

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An out-of-town sports competition. The rather grand and somewhat intemperate fete of Pallas the night before. The alleged student apathy.

Last year Mawrters suggested these as justifications for dismal student involvement in Bryn Mawr’s annual Plenary. At that Plenary, it took more than two hours before quorum, the attendance of one-third of the student body, was reached, only to have it disintegrate soon afterward. It was retained long enough to ratify only the resolution for reaffirmation of self-government. Just one other resolution, which concerned a non-constitutional issue and thus bypassed the quorum requirement, met with successful ratification. The rest of the resolutions fell victim to the annual college dance the previous night and students’ dismissal of Plenary as someone else’s responsibility. This year, however, few such excuses are applicable or acceptable, least of all the common cry of student disengagement.

Committing to divestment from companies which do business in Burma, to the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to the increased student representation on the Board of Trustees headline this year’s Plenary resolutions. Two other resolutions request that Bryn Mawr update the constitutional job descriptions of the Activities Heads, thus ensuring that the constitution reflects the real role of Bryn Mawr’s election officials. The last resolution certainly is not the

least important: it asserts that Bryn Mawr needs to join the Worker Rights Consortium, the anti-sweat shop league to which Haverford signed its name in December.

In short, there is no room for us to take the apathetic approach. There is too much of significance to be debated and decided. To affirm student devotion to social activism and proactive self government expressed in the resolutions, students must approve them, and to approve them, they must attend Plenary in large and dedicated numbers.

The so-called “magic number” for Plenary 2000 is 394, equalling quorum. This is the bare minimum needed to affirm the most basic Plenary resolution: the reaffirmation of “our

commitment to Self-Government, the Constitution, and the Honor Board.”

Despite the logistical challenge of assembling almost 400 students in one place at a single time, this is not the greatest challenge that Plenary poses. Neither is the need to gather enough Mawrters to affirm the resolution on self-government. Rather, the real test for Bryn Mawr is

how much attention it decides to give to the other six resolutions.

Bryn Mawr must measure itself not by whether it meets the minimum of getting 394 students to remain in Thomas Great Hall long enough to ratify the government resolution, but by whether it cares enough to have one-third or more of the student body discuss measures that touch students and staff members at Bryn Mawr, as well as people in other parts of the world.

We must equate a successful Plenary with sustaining quorum and discussing each of the resolutions. It is senseless to support self-government in ratifying one resolution and then

undermine it by neglecting to debate, rebut, question and otherwise engage the others.

On March 26 each Mawrter must consider herself to be a “needed” student and a necessary vote and voice at Plenary. In the meantime she also has an obligation to practice the civic responsibility that a turnout of 394 or more students would demonstrate. Reading and contributing to the Plenary comment boards posted in the Campus Center is one way of doing this. Learning about the issues to be presented - for instance, about the Worker Rights Consortium as compared with its rival organization, the Fair Labor Association - is another way. Considering what self-government means, and what it means to have greater representation on the Board of Trustees and to maintain an accurate and precise Constitution, is still another.

In the end, though, there is one question whose answer best captures your commitment to Plenary, to government and to Bryn Mawr: did you go? The question of the moment, though, is, why do you need to be one of the students assembled in Thomas this upcoming Sunday? The answer is simple: you are one of the women at Bryn Mawr, a college that touts its devotion to an Honor Code and to student self-government. Let’s demonstrate that that is no empty boast.

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