Haverford Plenary Hardly “Hella Brief”

By Charlie Lynn, Staff Writer

On Sunday, September 25, the Haverford student gathered for fall plenary. The student body passed two proposed resolutions, the first which created the role of Community Outreach Multicultural Liaisons, and the second which created the role of Coordinator for Haverford Student Innovation Programs, in addition to ratifying the Alcohol Policy.

After a moment of silence, Students’ Council Co-Presidents Tristan Pepin ’18 and Ian Andolsek ’17 offered the rules for plenary and highlighted the agenda items.

The first resolution, presented by Maurice Rippel ’19 and Leah Budson ’19, created the role of Community Outreach Multicultural Liaisons (COM). The COM Liaisons would work with the Honor Council on issues related to identity. The Liaisons, who would be elected in pairs, would serve as liaisons between community members and the Honor Council. The Liaisons would not be full members of Honor Council but rather would serve as advisers and as resources for students uncomfortable with confrontation.

Prior to the beginning of Plenary, Rippel explained that, “power dynamics always exist in confrontation, whether between a Customs Person and a first-year, a black student and white student. People don’t always feel comfortable”.  

Rippel continued that he hoped the resolution would “help address issues of race in the code and start a conversation about how confrontation doesn’t work for everyone”. He stressed that these conversation were not always happening.

When the question-and-answer session began, few students had questions for the presenters. Toward the end of the ten minutes allotted for questions, some students asked how the Liaisons would be trained and whether the requirements for one member of the pair of Liaisons to be a person of color could be extended for other identity groups.

Budson and Rippel explained to the community that the liaisons would be trained, in conjunction with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, in mediation and diversity. Budson also offered that she hoped that the role would eventually be transformed into a committee which would better encompass a greater number of identities. No comments were made in favor or against the resolution during the pro-con debate.

Andolsek said he did not see the lack of pro-con debate comments on the resolution as being indicative of community-wide hesitation to talk about identity issues, a situation which Rippel had alluded to in an interview earlier.

He explained, “I am not sure this reflected a hesitation to talk about identity. This is [by agreeing to the resolution], in the eyes of the student body, something that the student body is consistently interested”. The resolution passed with no visible opposition.

The second resolution of the evening, presented by Andolsek, Pepin, Nathan Sokolic, ’19, Dorian Wirz ’17 and Yue Xiang ’17 created the position of Coordinator of Haverford Innovation Program to work with the college on issues relating to innovation initiatives on campus. Co-Presidents Andolsek and Pepin temporarily gave the responsibility of running Plenary to SC Co-Vice Presidents Julia Blake ’19 and Sergio Diaz ’17 to speak on behalf of their resolution.

The presenters highlighted the administration’s recent focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as the reason for the proposed creation of the appointed position to represent student interests in discussions. The speakers explained that the college was moving in the direction of adding more programs related to innovation and that it was the student body’s decision whether they would like a voice in these discussions.

Pepin and Andolesk - who as SC co-Presidents both have taken a direct interest in the issue - told students that they wanted to ensure that, if future presidents were not as interested in innovation initiatives, that student voices would still be heard.

During the question-and-answer session and pro-con debate, students questioned the necessity of the position.

Daniel Washburn ’17 said, “I don’t see a huge ground swelling of interest [in these programs]” He explained that he believed that the administrator was simply seeking legitimacy for a decision that had already been made. The resolution easily passed, however there were numerous votes in opposition to the resolution.

The debate to ratify the Alcohol Policy led to the most controversial and contentious portion of the evening. After a length of discussion with JSAAPP chairs Michael Bueno ’18 and Brandon Alleyne ’17, two groups of students proposed friendly amendments to the Alcohol Policy. One proposal led by Kevin Medansky ’19 sought to amend the Alcohol Policy to include JSAAPP’s Party Guidelines. A second group of students offered a proposal for JSAAPP to form a committee to conduct regular surveys on alcohol culture at Haverford.

Numerous objections were raised regarding the constitutionality of such a proposal as well as what the proposed survey would look like. After lengthy discussions among students, Andolsek and Pepin announced that they believed a vote on the proposals would not be allowed since making changes to the Alcohol Policy was not on the plenary agenda. They explained changes to the agenda had to have been made before discussing the first resolution.

Many students, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed frustration that the issue was not resolved as soon as the amendments were proposed.  

However, Andolsek was quick to push back on that assessment. He explained, “The way the constitution is written now, it’s not exactly a homogeneous document. If you read it line by line you can see that things don’t always add up. It was not until later when we realized the constitution leans more on the side of this is being something that we can’t do.”

Despite the unconstitutional debate regarding the changes to the Alcohol Policy, which extended the length of plenary, students generally agreed the evening was worthwhile. Elana Kates ’19 summed up her feelings on plenary saying that “the act is hard to sit through. However, even if I get bored, being involved is part of being of this community.”

From the print edition published on Oct. 5, 2016

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