Diversity Alliance pushes for Honor Council voting rights, diversity measures

Honor Council member Jahmiel Jackson ’20 offers his signature at the induction assembly, September 2019 – Communications

The Diversity Alliance opened the new school year presenting ten demands regarding the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Notably, the alliance advocated that the Diversity Liaisons to the Honor Council, two elected Diversity Alliance members who sit in on all DEI cases that appear before the council, should have full privileges in hearings. In the past, they have not been granted voting rights when deciding Honor Council decisions. The Diversity Alliance believes the liaison deserves voting right in DEI-related cases for a number of reasons, each of which may have valid counter-arguments that the Honor Council has been considering.

     The most important factor of the debate, the Diversity Alliance suggests, are the few students of color on the Honor Council.

     “The underrepresentation of students of various backgrounds on the council itself presents an issue that the DA [Diversity Alliance] has been putting forward into the limelight for some time now,” Sixth Form Diversity Alliance Vice-Chair Kethan Srinivasan said. “Our student body is a diverse body of people, beliefs, and spirit, and the council should [be] representative of that. However, the council members we vote for tend to not always reflect that.”

     Fifth Form Diversity Alliance Co-Chair Quinn Luong said, “Ever since the Honor Council was created, marginalized groups were not represented and that’s still evident today. Giving voting rights to the Diversity Liaison is simply asking for equitable jurisdiction power within a system that racially discriminates [against] them.”

     This argument raises perhaps the central question to this debate: “Is the Honor Council in fact a representative body?” While the Honor Council has declined to directly answer inquiries from The Index, consensus is unclear. It could be said that the Honor Council is not representative of the student body but rather was elected to represent the character of the school, therefore eliminating the idea that it must be representative of a given constituency.

Diversity Alliance Instagram Thread Workshop, October 2, 2020 – Luke Parsells ’22

     The second point of contention surrounding the situation is the legality of granting voting rights to an outside party. For one, granting rights as strong as these could be problematic as the Diversity Liaison is not an elected member of either organization, but rather an appointed representative. 

     The Diversity Alliance disagrees. “We shouldn’t even question if giving equitable voting jurisdiction to the Diversity Liaison is unrealistic—it is the bare minimum. We need to do so much more than this,” Luong said.

     A third component of the debate circulating among both groups is the possibility of promoting more diverse candidates in the coming elections. While the Diversity Alliance is willing to work with the Honor Council for campaigning in the future as a long-term solution, they believe the pressing matter requires short-term solutions now.

    Luong said, “For so long, marginalized groups have been rejected from positions of power when they are just as qualified to serve.”

     Regarding long-term solutions, together with the implementation of the Diversity Liaison as a voting member, the Diversity Alliance hopes to see a “zero-tolerance policy” enacted by the Honor Council. This policy would likely come in the form of an addendum to the Honor Code explicitly stating that any type of discriminatory behavior is not and will not be tolerated by the school and its community.

     Srinivasan explained that ideally, this policy would aid in “imbuing those principles into the hearing proceedings and into the Honor Code.”

“The Haverford Honor Council recognizes that the issues of hatred, lack of inclusion, and systematic racism have been causing pain in our own community.

Honor Council statement

     Discussion remains tense as the Diversity Alliance is unwavering in its stance while the Honor Council looks to proceed in a way that is both fair and in line with precedent, yet also considerate of the underrepresentation the Diversity Alliance has raised. 

     On October 2, the Honor Council released to The Index the following statement: “The Haverford Honor Council recognizes that the issues of hatred, lack of inclusion, and systematic racism have been causing pain in our own community. We want you to know that we hear you, and stand with you. We hear the demands of the Diversity Alliance; in that respect, we are excited to work with the Diversity Alliance to help change, all while representing the study body and upholding the integrity of the Honor Code and process.  We know these are complex issues and want to give each point the attention it deserves.  In the coming weeks, we plan on meeting with the Diversity Alliance in-person to move the dialogue forward.  The Honor Council members, Mr. Hart, and Mr. Sataloff are open to conversation with any members of the community who want their voices heard. Stay strong, Haverford.”

     Both groups plan to begin joint meetings in the coming weeks in order to better understand each other and to more efficiently arrive at a solution.

     The Diversity Alliance statement on the matter reads, “We are willing to work in tandem with the Honor Council to promote a more diverse Council.”

Author: Agustin Aliaga '21

Editor-in-Chief Agustin Aliaga has written for The Index since 2018. He previously served as Managing Editor and the paper’s first Academics Editor.