This past Sunday, the Haverford student body flocked to the athletic center to participate in Plenary. Plenary, held once in the fall and once in the spring, is a school-wide meeting for the entire student body to get together and vote on resolutions related to life here at Haverford. In the past, these have included additions to our Student Constitution or Honor Code, student support for administrative decisions, and changes the student body would like to see on campus.
Yet walking into Plenary in our basketball arena, the crowd is unrecognizable from what one might expect walking into a basketball game. Not only are the bleachers filled, but students have camped out on the floor with homework, snacks, and friends. Clubs have set up tables in the back on the gym, selling t-shirts and baked goods to raise money and keep their peers fed throughout this meeting. Our sound crew plays music while students chat and filter into the gym- each student being counted as the meeting cannot begin until at least 50% of the student body arrives. Student Council representatives run around the gym setting up chairs and tables while those presenting resolutions prepare their arguments for their proposals. As one of the co-secretaries of Honor Council, I have the pleasure of sitting at the front of the gym watching this entire scene unfold while frantically setting everything up in time for Plenary to begin.
Just before 7:00pm, over 50% of the student body has gathered in the gym and the meeting can begin. Our Student Council co-presidents introduce themselves, the vice-presidents and secretaries as well as the Honor Council co-chairs and secretaries. They review the agenda and the procedure for the meeting. Then, with a moment of silence followed by shouts of excitement, Plenary begins.
The first resolution this fall was a proposal to reduce the amount of paper towels used in our dorms. The presenters addressed the environmental impact of paper towel consumption as well as the cost of supplying paper towels. By reducing the amount of paper towels used in the dorms, we could lower our carbon footprint and save money, they argued. Following the proposal, the pro and con debate begun, drawing students to the microphones to argue for or against this idea. Some students questioned the practicality of this motion while others argued that becoming more environmentally conscious is a necessary step we as Haverford students must take. The debate continued past the allotted time and the students voted to extend the debate another fifteen minutes. Finally, when rounds of students had spoken at the microphones, it came time for a vote. Asking students to raise their blue Plenary packets (containing all of the resolutions in print) in favor of the resolution, the Student Council presidents surveyed the room and announced that the majority had voted in support of paper towel reduction.
From Plenary, this resolution will go to the administration and facilities, which will work to enact this resolution on behalf of the students. From the idea of a few students to a school wide initiative, this proposal will now become a part of Haverford’s day-to-day functioning as paper towel use is reduced along with our environmental waste. With the excitement around Plenary, friends all arriving together to buy cupcakes and get a spot on the floor, I loved watched each student’s role in this meeting whether it was my friend presenting, a freshmen hall all sitting together discussing the proposals, or a student running up to the microphone to add one last thought to the pro and con debate. By coming together as a community, even camped out on the basketball court floor, Plenary is our opportunity to take these ideas and run with them, gain student support, and turn them into reality.