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The Scarlet & Black

Participation falls short for fall 2014 Student Initiatives

Despite a flurry of campus-wide emails encouraging students to vote, when the voting period for student initiatives ended at midnight on Wednesday, Sept. 10, overall participation had not reached the threshold required to pass any of the initiatives proposed this semester.

In order for a student initiative to pass, 50 percent of the student body is required to vote, and two-thirds of those votes must be affirmative. Eliana Schechter ’17, chair of the Student Initiative Fund Committee, explained that changes to the voting process were made before this semester’s vote was held.

Schechter said the lack of student participation this fall compromised the ability of SGA to approve initiatives.

“The situation this semester with student initiatives is that while usually each semester 20 or 30 initiatives are submitted, this semester only nine initiatives were submitted, and … only about 25 percent of the campus voted on them,” Schechter said.

In order to improve student participation in the future, Schechter is considering increasing the amount of postering in the future and further explaining the proposed student initiatives in campus-wide emails.

Additionally, this semester marked the first time that student initiatives were not presented with the names of the sponsors. Schechter explained that the change is intended to limit personal bias for voters

“It might be better for students just to see what the actual initiative is and not necessarily vote on it based on who submitted it,” Schechter said. “I don’t think in the end it really makes a difference who actually submitted the initiative.”

Election Board Chair Armando Perez ’17 elaborated on one of the initiatives that failed to pass, despite attracting favorable votes from the portion of the student body that voted. 

“One of the initiatives for this year was to create more minors and concentrations at Grinnell and we got about 30 percent of the total student body to vote, so even though an overwhelming majority of the students did vote in favor of the initiative, we did not reach the 50 percent mandate for us to actually count the initiatives as valid,” Perez said.

Voter Sandy Barnard ’17 said that she felt disappointed and frustrated with the results of this voting cycle.

“I feel like there is so little participation these days that the elections in general, both for senators and student initiatives, have become almost pointless,” Barnard said. “They’re such great ideas in theory. Last year we had initiatives that passed, especially reforming our student health care to include more like trans-friendly stuff. It was great.”

Barnard expressed a desire to see an increase in student participation. She emphasized the value of the system to make changes Grinnellians have at their disposal.

“I feel like it’s part of self-gov,” Barnard said. “We have this democratic system, let’s use it.”

Schechter shared a similar statement about the need to encourage student engagement.

“It’s really important for Grinnellians to submit initiatives and also to make sure they vote on them and encourage their friends to vote,” she said.

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