The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Ed: Improving student government

Last semester SGA was an organization adrift, without direction or organization. It had trouble accomplishing even its more pedestrian responsibilities, to say nothing of leading in innovative new projects. At the end of last semester and the start of this one SGA has shown improvement.

At the close of last semester, the campus was awash in anxiety over the future of Self-Governance and student life at Grinnell College. This came on top of unprecedented levels of alcohol-related hospitalizations and under the specter of impending budget cuts. Students were anxious and energized, but had not put a voice to that energy. As the campus’s de facto student leaders and the official intermediary between students and the administration, it is up to SGA to take the lead addressing student concerns. For too long, it has not.

SGA showed difficulty accomplishing its more mundane tasks as well. We’ve seen Cabinet bungle election results while Joint Board meetings seemed—at least compared to last year’s level of activity—too passive. There were no meet-and-greets with SGA members and minutes have not been posted on the SGA website since last year.

Communication with the student body was cursory at best, as exemplified by SGA President Neo Morake’s ’09 State of the College address. Morake’s speech was less than ten minutes, after which there were zero questions or answers. In the lead up, there were no posters advertising the event, despite Cabinet paying a student solely to poster the campus.

Even those substantive successes SGA has enjoyed have not been well publicized. Did anyone know that students might soon serve on the Committee for Academic Standing, for instance? Unsurprisingly, the answer, for most, is no.

Despite early struggles, SGA has recently shown greater promise and direction. Last semester’s second crop of initiatives avoided serious problems, while last semester’s open forum was a welcome opportunity for students and administrators to hash out their differences. And there have been some prominent incidents of successful student advocacy with regards to the School of the Americas trip, the College’s pet policy, and student transportation policy.

Last week’s S&B article revealed an organization that had resolved its communication difficulties and problems with institutional memory. In addition, 29 students ran in this week’s Joint Board elections which, with the exception of a minor technical glitch related to Smounker voting, passed without incident. Cabinet hosted a forum dedicated to student initiatives Wednesday of this week. We applaud these successes.

While SGA has not yet emerged as a pinnacle of student organization and activity, there has been a noticeable improvement and it should continue on this trajectory. We look forward to a more innovative and guiding Cabinet and an animated and engaged Joint Board.

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