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SGA Pres. Delivers State of the College Address

SGA President Opeyemi Awe ’15 delivers the first State of the College Address to a crowded audience in JRC 101. Photo by Chris Lee

On Sunday, Sept. 7, SGA President Opeyemi Awe ’15 gave the first State of the College address of the 2014-2015 school year. Her speech emphasized the importance of self-governance, an active student body and SGA’s role within the latter for a successful year.

Awe began by emphasizing the importance of maintaining a space in which students feel comfortable raising concerns, critiques and questions, or to simply becoming more informed. She then introduced the 2014 SGA cabinet and their respective roles in serving students.

“We are here to engage directly with you, in order to elicit feedback about our goals and rules, and to ensure that we are accountable to you all in pursuing those issues that directly impact your experience at Grinnell,” Awe said.

SGA President Opeyemi Awe ’15 delivers the first State of the College Address to a crowded audience in  JRC 101. Photo by Chris Lee
SGA President Opeyemi Awe ’15 delivers the first State of the College Address to a crowded audience in JRC 101.
Photo by Chris Lee

In addition to the logistics of these challenges, one of Awe’s main goals was to re-address the topic of “engaged self-governance.”

“The easiest way to think about this is that our desire for 2014 to 2015 is to balance the rights and responsibilities of self-governance,” Awe said. “I know from much of my time at Grinnell that there was no official definition for self-governance … It’s an idea that means different things to different people.”

Awe discussed the varying interpretations and understandings of self-governance, which she said could mean more room for students to make it what they wish.

“We have a responsibility to decide what kind of community we want and that we are ultimately responsible for making sure each one of our actions aligns with and upholds these community values,” she stressed.

Awe presented the results of SGA’s spending, proudly announcing that SGA underspent by 45,000 dollars last year. Awe encouraged students to take advantage of this surplus.

The State of the College address ran for approximately an hour, with Awe stopping every so often to open the floor for questions to an energetic crowd. After a few rounds of inquiries, Awe closed the event and the students began to talk amongst themselves.

Jackie Mukinisha ’16 was one of the attendees, and she approved of the way Awe addressed the concerns of a diverse group of students.

“I feel like she did a great job of listening to what they were asking and responding to that,” Mukinisha said, referring to the crowd of students. “She did a great job answering whatever she was asked.”

Additionally, Mukinisha said that the style of the open forum was suitable given the nature of the event.

“There’s not going to be one method that works for everybody, so I feel this is one method that is working, and I think it’s good for those who show up,” Mukinisha said. “For people who actually come to these events, I feel like it’s a great space, because somebody says something, and you’re like ‘Oh my god, yeah! I didn’t really know how to phrase that.’”

Afterwards, Awe reflected on the overall outcome of the address.

“Knowing Grinnell, I wasn’t at all disappointed. I was glad that people showed up,” Awe said. “I think it was a healthy turnout for a Sunday evening, but I think in many ways it was similarly-minded, already-engaged students who attended.”

However, Awe wants to engage all students, especially those who are somewhat indifferent or ambivalent about SGA activities, and hopes to draw in more students for the next address.

“I don’t know if there’s necessarily anything to change because these events are done keeping in mind our limitations. I think things we could have done on our part is greater advertising of it, starting to advertize sooner,” she said. “While I don’t think we did a poor job at all, it’s the first week … lots of things are going on.”

Awe said that she hopes to encourage more students to attend this semester’s second State of the College address, where she and her cabinet will discuss with students the effect SGA has had on issues pertinent to the student body. The date for a second State of the College address will be announced later in the year.

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