New Agenda Committee revives the proposal process with three votes in two Town Halls

Community approves no-lunch Fridays and public defender for Fairness cases, turns down change in election timing


Honor Fuchs

WINNER: New Agenda Chair Daniel Lorell defeated four candidates in last May's election, promising to turn the Just Community into an "Athenian democracy". His second Town Hall saw a vote to cancel Friday lunch and end early.

By Hannah Jannol, Editor-in-Chief

At the first two Town Halls of Daniel Lorell’s Agenda chairship, more proposals were brought to the community than in the previous two school years combined.

Daniel was elected May 5 and jumped in as soon as last year’s seniors left for Poland and Israel, just 5 days after ballot day. There were two Thursdays left of the school year.

Sticking to his campaign promise of making the Just Community “an Athenian democracy” where hypothetical moral dilemmas would be Town Hall topics only if there was no legislation to discuss, he led spirited discussions of three separate proposals.

Two of them passed. The first was then-junior Jordan Fields’ recommendation, drafted with the help of former Dean of Students Mr. Jason Feld, that a set “public defender” selected by the Fairness Committee help students bring teachers to Fairness. It passed 93-31.

The community also considered whether to cancel Friday lunch in favor of earlier dismissal, and whether to change the timing of class representative elections. The lunch proposal passed, and school officials said a trial run of that would start this fall.  

It was exactly what Daniel had promised when he ran for Agenda Chair.

“Town Hall is the perfect platform to build a living government, not one that exists on an as-needed basis,” Daniel had written in a Schoology post during campaign week. “A weekly meeting of ideas and proposals of action to our immediate lives is far more valuable than contemplating hypotheticals, and a far more fitting fixture of what we call our Just Community.”

Days later, he defeated four other candidates, Rami Gruman and Sam Hirschhorn, leaders of Model Congress and Mock Trial respectively, and Rosie Wolkind, 11th-grade Agenda representative, former Agenda secretary and another leader of Model Congress. (Two others had dropped out before election day.)

Jordan said he brought the Fairness proposal because it would make the process of initiating cases more “accessible,” and thus more common.

“The public defender would do whatever the person who is bringing the case wants,” Jordan said in an interview. “If the person wants the public defender to write the case, they can do that, or if they want the person to represent and make the case for them, he or she would also do that.”  

The new policy states that the Fairness Committee will choose the public defender at the beginning of each school year.  However, using the defender would be optional.  

The public defender is meant to be used by students taking teachers to Fairness.  If a student takes another student to Fairness, Jordan said he hoped the Fairness Committee would pick a second defender. But this was not mentioned in the proposal, which was drafted specifically for cases against teachers.

The public defender has not yet been chosen.

The second proposal was brought to Town Hall on May 12 by the Agenda Committee itself. It suggested that the election for grade-wide representatives be held in the spring, just a week after the election of the committee’s officers. In the past, they have been held the following fall, at the beginning of the school year the reps would serve in.

The new policy would have turned over all the positions in a two-week period in spring, instead of having new officers work with outgoing representatives who may not be on the committee the following year. But the proposal did not pass, with 57 votes against it and only 35 in favor.  

Daniel Lorell was disappointed that it failed, explaining that it meant only three people — himself, new vice chair Talia Gill and new secretary Tobey Lee — would plan the opening Town Halls of the year by themselves, without the help of grade-wide representatives. It is also inconvenient to introduce new reps to a committee of executives who have already bonded, he said.

“It’s more apparent to us now than ever that we’re going to have to plan every Town Hall with a committee with only executives” for the first few weeks of the school year, until new grade-level representatives are elected, Daniel said in an interview.

“I was honestly pretty dumbfounded it didn’t pass,” he added. “I think some of it was people who were planning to run [for a representative position] didn’t want to deal with it right, then but that’s not a huge amount of people. I don’t know, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

At the new Agenda Committee’s second Town Hall on May 19, most of the hour was spent discussing a successful proposal brought by then-junior Amin Lari to eliminate Friday lunch and end school a half-hour earlier, at 12:45 p.m. instead of 1:15.

Some speakers voiced concern that having three classes in a row without a break would be too much. But this seemed to be resolved after underclassmen said that under last year’s new schedule they had had three classes in a row multiple times a week already and were able to manage.

Amin’s proposal was approved 118 – 32. At the end of the Town Hall, Daniel announced the new Friday schedule would run for a trial period of “a few months” this fall. Daniel had spoken beforehand with Principal Dr. Noam Weissman and Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, who were both on board to test the new Friday schedule if the community wanted to try it.

The Town Hall, also the last one of the 2016-17 school year, ended with a rap battle featuring then-junior Rami Gruman, then-sophomore Sam Navon, then-freshman Leah Golfiz and many more. No one won; it was just a way to end the last Town Hall of the year, planned by the incoming Student Activities Committee co-chairs Ariel Cohen and Summer Gershon — also fulfilling campaign promises as soon as the seniors had left town.

Summer said Daniel Lorell had contacted the SAC leaders to collaborate for the last Town Hall.

“I thought it would be a great idea to allow the students who may or may not speak often at Town Hall to have a voice, and show everyone how talented they are,” said Summer.

“At that time of year, every time I would walk around at lunch I would hear people spitting out raps and everyone was very into it,” Summer said. “Ariel and I thought it would be a great first event to start off our term and I really think it ended up successful.”