By Michael Novinson
The multicultural jurors working group will present some concrete ideas for discussion at Wednesday’s student forum. The meeting will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Gest 101.
The working group plans to put forward a single proposal with different components, Co-Chair Sam Rabinowitz ’09 said. The group has considered several ideas, and expects to determine during a Tuesday working group meeting which options they will present at the student forum.
The working group generated the following ideas during two meetings of approximately 1.5 hours:
The first tentative idea would be to reinstitute reserving three spots on every jury for students of color. However, the mechanisms of this requirement would be different than before.
Honor Council would randomly select the entire jury first and then ensure that the minimum amount of students of color were present instead of pre-selecting students of color from a list, said Working Group Member and Honor Council Representative Joe Anderson ’09. He considers this a subtle yet important difference.
During the Spring 2008 semester, Honor Council Co-Chair Sarina Schwartz ‘11 said that every randomly selected jury ended up having at least three jurors of color.
The working group also hopes to make juries organically more diverse by adjusting jury composition from the present system of five Honor Council members and five community members to six Council members and four community members. Honor Council is usually less racially diverse than the rest of the community, so selecting an additional community member will increase the likelihood of more racially diverse juries.
“Moving from five to four council members wouldn’t substantially change the Honor Council dynamic, but could open the room up for more diverse juries,” Anderson said. He explained that Honor Council members on juries are intended to provide continuity due to their previous trial experience.
The final idea currently being considered is a wildcard diversity position intended to provide diversity in ways other than race and gender. Community members would self-identify as being able to provide diversity in one of several areas, such as socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, or religion. Working Group Member Nalynn Park ’09 said Honor Council could compile the list by handing out a survey during non-academic registration.
“We wouldn’t be putting people into a specific category,” Anderson said. He expects this system would largely alleviate privacy concerns.
At least one member of every jury would be required to appear on this wildcard list, Park said.
Rabinowitz wants these components to be universally applied and not based on the identity of the confronting or confronted party.
Anderson said the working group will use the forum to see what students think.
“We want something that’s wholly going to reflect the desires of the students,” he said.
Students who wished to join the working group could sign-up during the public portion of the October 6 Honor Council meeting or by e-mailing Rabinowitz. All told, about 25 people expressed interest in joining the group.
Rabinowitz didn’t think that a large working group would work effectively, and Honor Council agreed. Therefore, Rabinowitz and Sarah Derbew ’09 — who Rabinowitz selected to Co-Chair the working group with him — decided to narrow the group to less than 10 members.
In selecting the working group, Rabinowitz and Derbew wished to achieve diversity in both race and gender, and wanted members to have had a variety of experiences at Haverford. People who made comments during meetings or forums that Rabinowitz or Derbew found interesting were also given preference.
In addition, Rabinowitz wanted to balance how many members had served on Honor Council. The following working group members have Honor Council experience: Rabinowitz, Anderson, Schwartz Co-Chair Anastasia Nikolis ’11, and former Co-Chair Andrew Lanham ’10. Park, Derbew, Students’ Council Officer of Multiculturalism Raven Harris ’10, and Samee Sulaiman ’10 have never served on Honor Council.
None of the following types of diversity were explicitly considered in choosing working group members: socioeconomic diversity, diverse sexual orientation, diverse religious experience, or diverse geographic background. Rabinowitz said applicants were never asked whether they voted for or against the plenary resolution, how comfortable they felt with using randomly selected juries, or how strongly they supported engineering juries to ensure diversity.
“The whole thing was a little ad hoc,” Rabinowitz said. “Any committee is somewhat arbitrary.”
Some community members believe that the working group is not ideologically representative of the community as a whole.
“Based on the forum last Monday, it seems like they [the working group] didn’t pick anyone who was in support of what Dave passed,” said SC Co-President Will Harrison ’10.
Park thinks that every member of the working group wants to see juries engineered to ensure some form of diversity.
Nikolis doesn’t believe the working group should be considered as either a group seeking to represent the wishes of the student body or as a group of concerned students advocating for engineering juries.
“I don’t think you can really divide it [the working group] into two categories,” she said. “It’s a complicated issue.”
Rabinowitz hopes the working group represents a comprehensive set of views within its membership. However, Anderson said the working group doesn’t intend to be the official voice on multicultural jurors or perfectly represent the student body.
“If people ultimately disagree with us, that will come up at plenary,” he said. “We do have something we want to achieve.”
Rabinowitz and Anderson both encouraged students outside the working group to bring their own proposals on the subject to plenary.
Schwartz and Nikolis confirmed that the Honor Council sponsors the working group, although the group operates independently of Council.
“I’ve wanted to make sure that Honor Council was supporting effort about the multicultural jurors resolution,” Schwartz said. “It seemed appropriate to have Honor Council involved with that.”
Nikolis said that Council wishes to be affiliated since the group is addressing issues related to Council. Schwartz is unsure if Honor Council would sponsor any additional working groups on the subject.
Following Wednesday’s forum, the working group will incorporate feedback and formulate a more comprehensive proposal, Schwartz said. The working group hopes to finalize their proposal before winter break and draft a written document for community distribution in the first week back after break.
At that point, Rabinowitz said there will be additional forums open to the entire community, including faculty and administration.
“This forum will certainly not be the only one we have,” he said.