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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

SGA scrambles to fill second cabinet vacancy this semester

President-Elect Regina Logan ’20 vacated her cabinet role as Diversity and Outreach Coordinator for the remainder of the spring semester while Syamala Gumidyala ’21 was confirmed to replace her. Contributed photo of Logan. Gumidyala photo by Liz Paik. 

Over the past month, two Student Government Association cabinet positions have become vacant, resulting in the need for immediate confirmation of new students to the positions weeks before the end of spring semester.

On March 6, the SGA sent out an all-campus email seeking applicants for the DOC position. SGA President-Elect Regina Logan ’20 officially left the position on Tuesday, March 4, at 11:59 p.m. In an email exchange with the S&B, Logan wrote, “conflict within Cabinet that made it difficult for me to both balance my academics, mental health, and also do the job to the fullest capacity” as the reason for her choice to resign.

Then, on April 2, SGA sent out a second all-campus email with the application for All Campus Events Chair (ACE Chair) after Selah Mystic vacated the position on March 30 at 7:00 p.m. Mystic did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to the SGA Constitution, any vacated cabinet position must be filled within a week of when it first becomes vacant. Once a position becomes vacant, a request for applicants is sent out and interested students can apply. Applicants are then interviewed by the current SGA Executives and vetted and confirmed by the Student Senate.

Logan, when asked about whether she sees the intra-Cabinet conflict that motivated her to step down to be something that might continue next year, said, “My priority is to remain focused on students. I think these are really high-stress jobs, jobs that demand a lot of you, and so one of the ways that I want to make sure that we stay focused on what we were appointed and elected to do is to be very clear about whose job it is to do what, so that people don’t feel like they have to be running the entire SGA. I think that if we can better delegate between ourselves, that might lower tensions and lower frustrations.”

Prior to this year, the ACE Chair position was held by two students instead of one. This year, students began to express concerns regarding the unusually small number of school-sponsored Harris and Gardner parties, as well as a lack of communication and transparency from the Chair when organizations were attempting to schedule events.

In late February, Amari Brooks ’20 created and distributed an online petition to have Mystic removed from office. SGA Executives were unable to comment on whether the petition was related to Mystic’s decision to step down.

Explaining why she created the petition, Brooks said, “It wasn’t the first time that we’d had scheduling issues with the ACE Chair, and I know other people who had expressed concerns and frustrations with me.” Brooks is the president of Concerned Black Students (CBS), and cited one example of the issue: the cancellation of the annual CBS Showcase, which she attributes partially to disorganization on the part of the ACE Chair resulting in CBS “not having the space booked and not having equipment” two days prior to the event’s intended date.

Brooks said that she sent a list of concerns to the SGA regarding Mystic’s performance as ACE Chair submitted by students via the petition. Then, CBS received an email from Mystic with the subject line “Meeting to Discuss CBS Standing.” In the email, Mystic wrote, “Prior to the petition this student group presented to the student body to have me removed, the Treasurers and I had decided to have the last and final talk (there have been 2 prior) about CBS’ standing…This meeting will reiterate the same message of the last time but will be more final in the sense that we will reserve the right to begin to deny you all’s budgets if the behavior continues.” Regarding the email, Brooks said, “I thought [that] was out of line because it wasn’t a CBS petition, it was my petition – even though the frustrations came from my work with CBS, I didn’t talk to my cabinet about having that petition done, and we didn’t do it as a group.”

CBS received another email, from SGA Assistant Treasurer Amanda Weber ’21. Weber wrote that only the SGA Treasurers have the power to approve or deny student budgets, and that the email from the ACE Chair had not been sent on her behalf. She wrote, “While it is true that we are instituting new guidelines for financial records and budget submission, I want to make it clear that only the treasurers will have the ability to make decisions about student organization funding based on these policies moving forward, that these rules will be applied on a case-by-case basis, and that they will not be applied retroactively. … I apologize for any undue alarm that was caused by the email you received, which I would like to reiterate was not sent on [the SGA Treasurers’] behalf”.

The SGA Senate confirmed Syamala Gumidyala ’21 in the week of March 11 as DOC for the remainder of this academic year. Gumidyala served on the Diversity and Outreach committee previously to being elected DOC for the remainder of the year and has been confirmed as DOC for the spring semester of the 2019-2020 academic year. As of today, the student who will be taking over the position of ACE Chair has not been confirmed or announced.

One of the challenges that occurs when a position changes hands midyear is the lack of a training period. Usually, cabinet members are appointed before spring break and train in the role alongside the current officeholders, but Gumidyala’s special appointment has required her to step immediately into the full responsibility of the office without a training period. According to Gumidyala, “It’s definitely nervewracking — I know that not only is [DOC] a very important position, but also a very public position.”

The lateness of the position turnover also caused some changes in the way that candidates were interviewed and vetted. Loosehead Senator Declan Jones ’21 explained, “This application was specifically tailored to the unusual circumstances surrounding the DOC, that they would come in this late in the game, and there were questions to address how to navigate those challenges on the application.”

Gumidyala, who has wanted to be in the DOC position since her first year at Grinnell, said, “My main focus right now is on continuing the projects that Regina was working on, like the SGA feedback survey that is going to go out after spring break, and we’re also holding some focus groups to get feedback from people on how they feel about how SGA is doing.” Gumidyala will also continue the work on outreach for Student Health and Counseling Services she was doing in her position as a senator before her appointment to DOC.

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