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Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Changes announced to conduct standing policy for student leaders

Changes announced to conduct standing policy for student leaders
SGA positions are among those affected by the new policies regarding student leadership and conduct standing. Photo by Mahira Faran

Over the summer, the Office of the Dean of Students of Grinnell College instituted a new policy regarding eligibility for student leadership positions. The Campus Life Policies web page states, “Student employees who serve in positions of leadership or in a safety-related role on campus must be in good conduct and academic standing (i.e. not on Conduct Probation) to be eligible for those positions.” 

According to the statement from the Dean of Students on the same page, the rationale behind the policy is  “to maintain congruence between the values of the position and the behavior of the employees” and “to ensure all students feel comfortable utilizing safety-related student employees in times of need.” The S&B reached out to the Dean’s Office for further comment but received no response.

The good conduct standing rule had been applicable to select positions on campus for some time but has since been applied to all student leadership positions, and the expansion has inspired campus controversy and concerns among students.

The subject is particularly contentious given that a similar policy limited to the Student Government Association was proposed last year.

According to SGA President-Elect Myles Becker ’19, the discussion began last fall between the 2017-18 SGA cabinet and the Dean’s Office.

“Because of the events of fall semester last year, it didn’t make its way to Campus Council until the end of the semester,” Becker said. “And then there was some confusion over the wording and the vagueness of it, and I think in the end I think Campus Council wound up … agreeing to the terms that were brought to them … but I think there was a lot of confusion over even what they passed then.”

When the policy was brought back in the spring, it was unanimously voted down by student senators and therefore dismissed.

“From there, there was no discussion over the summer until we were told it was an update to the student handbook,” Becker said.

Now, students are bringing concerns to the current SGA cabinet and, according to Becker and Vice President-Elect of Student Affairs Khadijah Toumbou ’19, the cabinet has every intention of supporting students’ opinions.

The members of the cabinet recently met with Sarah Moschenross, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, and Ben Newhouse, Dean of Students, to discuss the policy.

“I think that one of our next steps is going to be talking to administration and seeing how we can kind of reexamine the policies and the wording of the policies,” Toumbou said.

That said, Becker believes that there is some potential benefit to the policy, for both the College and the students.

“I think that Title IX violators in powerful positions of campus is not something that students want, and I think that’s reasonable, but I think there are some concerns about the holistic approach of student conduct. Concerns have been expressed to us about that, and so that’s something we want to carry forward,” Becker said.

One of the concerns of which Becker makes note is the fear that some of the things that could qualify a student for a conduct violation might disproportionately impact and disadvantage minorities on campus.

“I don’t think we want to implement another barrier to applying or reaching for student leadership positions for underrepresented communities. We want to make it as accessible as possible,” Toumbou said.

Controversy has also risen from the way that the policy groups together multiple types of offenses that may seem to some students as being of vastly different magnitudes.

“It’s a difficult issue, because… there’s a broad range of what is considered a conduct policy violation, and so I think that students tend to value different violations differently in terms of severity,” Becker said. “But then the issue for the institution is that they can’t differentiate between the two because they’re both legal issues and they can’t allow one but not the other… So I think that trying to find a way such that students are happy with it while the law is also being followed is kind of one of the intricacies of this process, and that’s something we’re looking into.”

According to Toumbou, the administration also made the argument that the rule was useful and necessary to implement because fellow institutions have similar policies, begging the question, “Why don’t we have the same?”

“My response to that is, ‘Because we are Grinnell.’ We are different,” Toumbou said.

Though they recognize the argument made by the administration and plan on moving forward with the intention to reach a compromise that will benefit both the college and the students, the cabinet stands in support of the student body, and want students to be aware of that.

“I think it’s important for the student body to know that we are in support with them … and we want them to know that we are willing to work with students who have issues, ideas, anything — come to us because we want to work with you guys,” Toumbou said.

“We want to represent the students’ voices because we are the student representatives, and it’s important to know that we’re here for them and we’re going to try our best,” Toumbou said.

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