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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Awe elected as SGA President

Photo+by+John+Brady
Photo by John Brady

After one round of voting, current VPSA Opeyemi Awe ’15 was elected SGA President for the 2014-2015 academic year, winning with 69.06 percent of the vote. Awe will orient her presidency on the course she set this year, with an emphasis on the decision to keep need-blind admissions, multiculturalism on campus and accessibility to student health resources.

After the election results were announced, Awe was overcome by a wave of simple relief and joy. Her campaign was rewarded by what she sees as an affirmation of the work she’s done this year.

“I was thrilled because this election was unique. If I was re-elected, that was a reflection on my work this year,” Awe said. “This was a vote of confidence. The people were like ‘yes, go forth.’ That said a lot about this year and their hopes for me in moving forward.”

Photo by John Brady
Photo by John Brady

Although Awe will have a full schedule on her plate, she won’t aspire to try to tackle everything at once, preferring to take care of business bite by bite.

“Maybe I won’t do five or six projects at once, I’ll do two or three,” Awe said. “However, I’ll do them really, really well. My scope is one year, so it doesn’t mean I can fix everything.”

As a conduit of change, Awe is looking forward to working with her new cabinet to achieve the goals she has in mind for next year.

“Being supported by an 11 to 12-person cabinet means we can get a lot done,” she said.

With that in mind, Awe will be focusing more within her work on the issues of legacy and connection to Grinnell, both historically and personally.

“I cannot stress enough just how wonderful it’s been to work with [Diversity and Outreach Coordinator] Clare Mao ’14 on the MLC reform project we took on,” Awe said. “I’m going to help the school move in the right direction, with regards to diversity or institutional diversity. I’m going to address how students connect to this institution, and to help students have fun.”

Awe intends to draw on inspiration from her fellow candidates from this election cycle as she seeks to make their ideas a reality.

“Students come to Grinnell with a range of mental health issues, and SGA will do whatever we can do to support students,” Awe said. “Hearing candidates and their friends reiterate the importance of a holistic support system for mental stress and mental disabilities drives me to tackle this issue head-on.”

With so much to do, Awe is more than ready to dive in.

“We’ve got work to do,” she said.

As president-elect, Awe will be working closely with current SGA President Thomas Neil ’14 in the process of transitioning the powers and responsibilities of the presidency. As a result of the recent SGA constitutional amendment, which moved executive elections earlier in the semester, Neil hopes that the transition will flow more smoothly than it has in previous years.

“The last cabinet wished that they had a better transition period from the year before,” Neil said. “It’s a nine-month term rather than a one-year term. Currently, you only have half a semester to really implement anything before it’s on to the next group.”

The previous transition period was created to eliminate a lame-duck period, but resulted in disjointed efforts between years. A review of SGA’s current procedures highlighted the inefficiencies behind this model, so Neil said he anticipates that the earlier executive election will make significant changes more viable in the long run.

“It doesn’t make sense for the long-term continuity of the body,” Neil said. “The Scarlet & Black hands-off in late April, and we’d like to emulate that model. It lets the new group get acclimated, and it’s going to be their show from then on.”

Both Neil and Awe listed the benefits of an earlier integration between the current Cabinet and the next, ranging from position shadowing to mixed cabinet meetings.

“This gives [the new Cabinet] a sense of how to implement what we’ve seen, such as making reasonable changes through Campus Council,” Neil explained. “Assembling people early is key, as you don’t get a do-over, since there’s not enough time.”

Through her tenure as VPSA, Awe said she feels ready to implement the transitional changes that Neil has advocated for.

“I’m really looking forward to having a cabinet in place before Spring Break,” Awe said. “A smoother transition will not only tie up loose ends, it will allow us to continue or abbreviate projects.”

Neil praised Awe on her extraordinary efforts this year, and he looks forward to seeing the results of her tenure.

“Ope’s done a damn good job,” Neil said.  “She has a lot to teach me. Maybe I have a little to teach her.”

Neil is not worried about passing on everything he learned this year to Awe, praising her ability to get things done without hesitation.

“Her accessibility and range is quite unbelievable,” Neil said. “We share info, we’ll communicate well and next year they’ll truly hit the ground running.”

The positions of VPAA and VPSA were decided by run-off elections from 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night to 11:59 p.m. Thursday night, as no candidate in either initial election secured at least 50 percent of the vote. The results of those elections will be announced on Saturday via P-Web.

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