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SGA considers new conduct and academic requirements for senators, executive members

By Lily Bohlke

During the last campus council session of fall 2017, senators voted to change the Student Government Association (SGA) by-laws to require SGA staff to be in “good conduct standing.” The first campus council of this semester will discuss adding the by-law to the constitution, as well as potentially require SGA staff to be in good academic standing, according to SGA President Summer White ’18.

Actions that would put a student on conduct probation, or in bad conduct standing, include arson, burglary, drugs, harassment, harm to others, retaliation, vandalism, threats of violence and weapons, according to White. Conduct warnings, on the other hand, would not put a student in bad standing. Reasons for conduct warnings include alcohol agreement violations, community disruption from pets, violating quiet hours, computer usage policy, copyright infringement, fire safety, lit candles, guest policy and improper bike storage.

To be in good academic standing, a student must be making “normal scholarly progress toward the degree” and have “no academic sanctions more severe than probation,” according to the Grinnell College website.

“The first piece, the good academic standing, is designed to serve as a safeguard for the students in SGA. Sometimes people are such great leaders and they’re so dedicated to serving the student body, but at their own detriment. And so, because this is a learning institution and the primary mission of college is to be a student and to graduate, it only makes sense that people who are in positions of leadership would have good academic standing. That’s the primary reason we’re here. In student leader, student comes first and foremost,” White said.

At last semester’s campus council session, White introduced both the academic and conduct components of the proposed change. However, after much discussion, senators and cabinet members decided to only pass the conduct piece. While many people in the room agreed with the proposed academic standing eligibility change, others felt that it would take away students’ agency, according to a video recording of the session on the SGA’s website.

“To me, [about] the academic standing piece, the most useful or the biggest reason I would want that is so that people who have committed academic dishonesty wouldn’t be on SGA because I don’t think that’s in line with our values,” said Regina Logan ’20, one of last semester’s East Campus senators. “But that to me wasn’t worth budging on when you consider the rest of the academic standing stuff, which I think disproportionally will affect people that had worse high school backgrounds, lower income, people of color. And those are things that we could have fleshed out and considered.”

Once campus council attendees decided to amend the change to just include the conduct piece, discussion continued.

“For the conduct piece, it’s sort of the other way around. Rather than focusing on just protecting the students in SGA, it’s aimed to protect the whole student body. For instance, this would ensure that someone isn’t in student government who has been found responsible of sexual misconduct. If they were in that situation, that’s not creating a safe environment that is welcoming, open and representative of student ideas,” White said.

The good conduct standing eligibility requirement was ultimately approved at the last session, after a lengthy discussion about what exactly good conduct standing means.

“I understand the goal that we are all trying to achieve. We need better wording about it. … It’s the fact we’re not being careful about our language that really concerns [and] frustrates me,” Logan said. “I think it’ll come to the re-wording of it, so that’s why I think that spending a lot of time on the values part of a policy is very important, you know, we jumped so quickly to a solution. … It’s the fact that we all have our own opinions of good conduct and we all have our own understanding of it, because it’s not really written down anywhere, so we need to all be speaking the same language.”

The conversation about incorporating both good academic standing and good conduct standing requirements for SGA staff will continue once senators are elected and campus council resumes.

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