The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: No Love for Self-Gov

Empties pile up at Quarter Beer Night at Lyle’s Pub. Photograph taken by Avery Rowlison.

As reported by The S&B last week, President Raynard Kington and his administration are overhauling one of the biggest campus traditions of the year, 10/10, over concerns that the night is responsible for an increase in alcohol abuse, vandalism and sexual misconduct. As of now, the holiday will be replaced by activities not focused on alcohol, which the administration expects will placate the student body.

For years 10/10 was a drinking holiday, but one that claimed to have the overarching, ostensibly positive goal of campus bonding. The night was a time when students would step out of their comfort zones and talk to everyone around them, whether they lived on North, South, East or off-campus, whether they were first or fourth year, philosophy or biology major.

Admittedly, even with its best intentions, the tradition was a booze-soaked affair. This led to a host of issues, not the least of which was the exclusion of Grinnell students who didn’t participate in the drinking aspect of the event. The College may indeed have needed to change 10/10 in order to curtail some of the day’s negative side effects, but the best way to address this is with the input of the full campus community. The administration never consulted the student body about these changes and even SGA was relatively powerless in the process. It’s not the fact that these changes are taking place, but rather the way they are taking place that is concerning to all of us at The S&B and should also be of concern to every Grinnellian.

The restructuring of 10/10 is just the latest move in a longstanding drive towards neutralizing self-gov. Earlier this summer, Kington sent out an email that outlined other changes to the College’s alcohol policies, which included restrictions on alcohol in dorm lounges and the commencement of walk-throughs. In his email Kington said that Grinnell was “behind the norms” in our alcohol policies, and that he needed to enact these changes quickly in order to ensure the health of the community. Although it is clear that the campus is dealing with a score of issues connected to binge-drinking, we at The S&B believe that many of these issues have deeper roots and should be addressed through increased access to mental health treatment. Perhaps if the student body had input in the decision-making process, there would have been less of a focus on punitive measures and a more balanced approach to solving these issues would have emerged.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the email, however, was how Kington addressed the matter of self-gov. Insisting that self-gov is not dead, he proposed a series of town halls and focus groups to “redefine” what self-gov means. In another interview with The S&B, Vice President of Student Affairs Andrea Conner says that the administration has “tried year after year to correct what the college believes is a misperception of self-gov, which is ‘I will govern myself and the college will not intervene.'” Both of these statements are emblematic of the narrative the administration has painted of the student body: that we use the concept of “self-gov” as a way to justify selfish misconduct. But is that really how Grinnellians view self-gov? Kington talks about how responsibility to the community should be the core component to self-gov, and he is absolutely right. Yet, this responsibility flows naturally from the privilege Grinnellians have, supposedly, in governing ourselves. Self-gov is about caring for our campus community, it is about respect and it supports right conduct. But, in addition, self-gov is the simple concept that we Grinnellians have a voice in the formation of the rules, traditions and values that guide our college and influence our daily lives.

In “redefining” self-gov, the administration risks stripping the concept of its real power and reducing it to a meaningless phrase that looks good on a college brochure. Then, like many other schools, they can cancel a campus event, make sweeping policy changes with little input from the student body and need not feel the slightest twinge of hypocrisy. But if they choose to highlight the concept on our website, discuss it in recruitment literature and proudly proclaim at admissions events that the principle of self-gov sets Grinnell apart from its peer institutions, perhaps they should start listening again.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *