Letter: Response to “Policing Self-Gov”

To The Signatories of “Policing Self-Gov“:

We found your published April 27 response to our letter regarding police activity on campus to be a surprising dismissal of students’ concerns. Rather than taking the time to thoughtfully consider our ideas and requests regarding the need for greater transparency and communication, the SGA Cabinet (excepting the President and Concerts Chair) wrote a sanctimonious and condescending letter to the S&B that distorts the intention of our original letter and ignores the interests of the student body.

An important function of the SGA Cabinet is to act as an intermediary between the students and the administration. We feel the Cabinet has a duty to consider the very serious issues brought forth by students they represent.

Rather than addressing our requests for improving communication between students, the College, and the police department; clarifying the college’s policies; and protecting self-governance, the Cabinet chose to hone in on drug use on campus. The SGA Cabinet’s letter, rather smugly, informed us of the illegality of marijuana consumption and distribution, which is obvious. The point of our letter was not to defend drug use on campus. More disturbingly, the SGA failed to consider at all the many reasons, other than illicit drug use, that students are uncomfortable with the police presence on campus.

Grinnell prides itself on fostering a safe environment for everyone, including minorities, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups. For many of us, there is a lot of discomfort with the way power and privilege play into police interactions. It should not be difficult to understand that a heavy police presence on the campus makes many people uncomfortable. By addressing only one small element of the concerns stated in our letter, you distorted our position.

Lastly, the Cabinet misrepresents our “naïve understanding” of self-governance. The Cabinet seems to understand our position to be that self-governance means that we as students are above the law. However, we are fully aware that we are subject to the law. Our letter says the “police presence makes it impossible for students to engage in self-governance” because it inhibits students abilities to mediate problems within the Grinnell community and take care of each other. The SGA Cabinet response took this quote out of context. Our letter stated this in noting how the police presence drives illicit activities further underground, which is negative for both the police and the well being of the student body.

After seeing the Cabinet’s patronizing and inadequate reply to our letter, we urged them to reread our letter through a clear, unbiased lens, and consider thoughtfully our concerns. We also asked them to consider revising or retracting their April 27th statement and show themselves to be true representatives of the student body. Their failure to respond to us has prompted us to publish this letter publicly reiterating and clarifying our position in light of the Cabinet’s misrepresentation of it.

—Concerned Students for a Just Society
Hannah Margolies ’14 and Amelia Wallace ’14

Braden Brown
Lindsey Challis
Elliot Karl
Jessy Mcmillen
Logan Shearer
Thomas Neil