The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: In Self-Gov We Trust

What happened to our trust in Self-Gov? It seems that almost every time that something new is added to campus for general student use, we begin the countdown until someone breaks it or steals it. The defeatist, pessimistic view of our fellow students does not encourage Self-Gov.

We cannot keep relying on Self-Gov if we do not trust it to work. We cannot argue for the freedom to regulate ourselves if the results of that freedom are the destruction of property, theft, sexual misconduct and other negative behaviors. Self-Gov is a privilege and the reason many of us chose Grinnell over our peer institutions. We all believed in a community of students that could live like adults, which did not need arbitrary rules and hefty fines to act civilly.

For many of us, especially as we have seen so many failures of Self-Gov, that belief in our community has faded. One needs to look no farther than Campus Bikes to see why. Campus Bikes once worked quite well. Now, we believe that all bikes will be destroyed by students, or tossed in trees or stolen. We lost trust in Self-Gov regulating the use of Campus Bikes, and now all we have are broken bikes and pessimism about any other attempts at community-owned objects. I’ve seen this as I’ve worked on many projects to establish free community resources, from Campus Scooters to the Dining Committee. It seems we no longer trust our community to not steal or vandalize community property.

This is not to say that Self-Gov is dead, but rather to point out that it can be better than its current state. There are many amazing examples of students acting in Self-Gov and making a huge difference. There is an increased awareness of the issues our community faces, including sexual misconduct and bias-motivated hate and students are leading the discussions. This is Self-Gov in action, but we can do even more. We can turn discussions into action and have a community that lives up to the beliefs we brought with us about Self-Gov. We can trust in Self-Gov and have so many more opportunities for amazing and free community resources.

Here’s a three-part solution to strengthen Self-Gov. First, we must actually use Self-Gov in our own actions; second, we must call out those who are acting destructive or against the tenets of Self-Gov; finally, we must trust Self-Gov. Though these steps may sound simplistic, we cannot live in a Self-Gov community if we do not follow them.

Self-Gov is a double-edged sword. We must embrace the responsibilities that come with Self-Gov as much as we embrace its freedoms. Sometimes those responsibilities involve making difficult decisions for the greater good of the community. By taking responsibility for our actions, we show everyone what Self-Gov can do. We do not need more rules or more administration; we can govern ourselves. We can reasonably use and protect our community’s resources. Let’s prove it to each other.

For Self-Gov to work, we must believe it will work. We must believe in our fellow students and in ourselves to make rational, mature decisions. We must trust one another as much as we trust ourselves. I believe in Self-Gov, and I believe in you, Grinnell.

—Eric Mistry ’14,

Eric Mistry is Business Manager for the Scarlet & Black.

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