As many students enjoyed their Presidents’ Day Weekend, East and Southeast Asians across the world, including many members of the school community, celebrated Lunar New Year on Friday, February 12, 2021. Some may have noticed the graphic on the screens around school or saw the Instagram post from the Haverford School’s account on February 11; these actions resulted from a student petition for the school to recognize the holiday.
The demands from the petitioning group included recognition of the holiday and a school-wide day off. Sixth Former Matthew Wang first came up with the idea to appeal to the school a few weeks ago and was encouraged by the school’s increase in diversity and inclusion.
“I knew the Diversity Alliance was doing a lot of stuff, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to pivot off what they were doing,” Wang said. “I thought it would be really cool if we could get Lunar New Year recognized.”
Helping him craft the petition was Sixth Form Diversity Alliance Leader Ryan Ngo. Working together, they reached out to several groups and other Asian-American members of the Haverford community.
“It was kind of a petition put together by organizations,” Ngo said. “We had the Pan Asian Alliance on this, the Diversity Alliance Leadership Team on this, and a couple representatives from each Form like [Fourth Former] Matthew Kang and Matthew Wang and a couple other guys.”
A prominent student supporting the petition was Student Body President Cyril Leahy, who thought both Wang’s efforts and the overall purpose of the petition was great.
“Any idea that’s positive and that can bring something to the school in any way is something that can uplift our community,” Leahy said. “I saw [Wang and Ngo] doing [the petition], and I thought it was good to have something a little bit different.”
The process to make and present the petition to Upper School Head Mr. Mark Fifer was relatively easy, according to Wang and Ngo. After completing the draft and sending it to Mr. Fifer, they scheduled a meeting regarding the next steps to implement both the short-term demands such as the Instagram post and future changes.
“Our main goal this year, because we already have Lunar New Year off, was to get that recognition,” Ngo said. “Long term, [administrators] are going to have more discussion with junior leaders about how they’re going to incorporate it into the calendar and whether they think it’s effective to actually sanction a day off for the school.”
“It would be neat if we had a week or so that we could talk about Asian culture leading up to the Lunar New Year.”Matthew Wang ’21
Wang has other ideas to further recognize Lunar New Year and support its celebration in the community.
“I think it would be neat if we had a week or so that we could talk about Asian culture leading up to the Lunar New Year,” Wang said. “I talked with Mr. Fifer, and probably next year there will be a speaker, and we can set that up with a Reflection.”
The work put into the petition has done much to recognize students who celebrate the holiday and has urged the school to make a more proactive effort to include those of all backgrounds.
“It was well-written and compelling,” Leahy said. “It felt good that students were doing something to recognize [Asians].”
The outlook on completely fulfilling each demand in the petition may be uncertain, but for now, those who celebrated enjoyed the holiday.
“For me, having the day off is nice,” Wang said. “It’s a full-day celebration where you cook with your family, and it’s great to bond with them.”