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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Nathan Hoffman
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Change is coming to student groups


Spearheaded by services coordinator Eric Kasprzyk ’20, SGA is considering reforms to the student organization system that aim to better categorize student groups, institutionalize existing norms, combat liability and render student groups accessible to all.

According to Kasprzyk, “nothing is set in stone except the need for change.”

The most significant alteration is a new framework that would categorize groups into two discrete categories: Student Organizations and Student Clubs.

According to the draft proposal, “Student Organizations are envisioned as sustainable and structured student groups whose existence would enable continued contributions to the Grinnell community,” while Student Clubs would “replicate the existing semi-informal arrangement which most student groups on campus adopt.”

Student Organizations would enjoy access to more resources—including SGA funding greater than $150 per semester, an official “” email address and the ability to have an advisor—but they would also have more responsibilities. Student Clubs would no longer enjoy these privileges but would be a place for Grinnell’s more informal groups.

All groups, however, will need to adhere to many more proposed changes instituted as part of the reforms. That means a new system for management of student groups to replace what is in place now.

The current system, Kasprzyk says, is not much of a system at all: “Presently, we do not have a process. I tell everybody that I am the process—I’m given total control as to whether I approve or deny an application for a group.”

He wants to weaken the unilateral power of his own position by introducing clear procedures for student organizations to follow. “It’s really important that we nail down these guidelines. … Otherwise it becomes a free-for-all. It means that policies change from Services Coordinator to Services Coordinator. It also means that there are no expectations from SGA … or expectations for the groups themselves.”

This ambiguity, according to Kasprzyk, has led to problems with student organization governance in the past. “Fundamentally, this sort of free-for-all means there’s no transparency available to anybody. Within the groups themselves … no one knows how [leaders] are selected. I’ve certainly been personally burned as well in situations where leadership is handed off among friends. That shouldn’t be the case, because these groups exist for the entire community.”

The draft proposal mandates that every student organization must have a codified process for selecting leadership, and further, it requires that every student organization have a written constitution.

“If there’s a leadership dispute, or if there’s a dispute among groups, there is no constitutional document … which would allow those members to resolve the conflict among themselves. … [SGA] really [has] no power to deal with anything either, because we also don’t know what the rules are—because there are no rules.” Kasprzyk believes these new requirements will help create a more democratic system of self-governance. “Fundamentally, what these reforms do is give everyone a framework, so that self-gov can actually work. It’s the only way that everybody knows what the rules are,” he said.

In addition, student clubs will no longer be able to have the words “Grinnell” or “Grinnell College” in their names. “This is something that came up now in particular because a lot of student groups popped up supporting particular candidates [in the 2020 election],” Kasprzyk said. “The College is actually a bit behind the curve on this. It doesn’t have a policy, so it’s just asking for everything to go wrong if there was a group named, for example, ‘Grinnell College for Joe Biden.’ … That’s part of the guideline: saying that groups are not going to be able to use [the College’s] name just because we don’t want it to seem as if the College is endorsing any particular thing.”

Another area Kasprzyk aims to address is the role and prevalence of student group advisors. Currently, there are little to no rules that determine the role of advisors. He described the system as underdeveloped and simplistic. “Groups can just type in [to an online form] saying, ‘We have this advisor.’” Otherwise, he said, there is little follow-up from the Division of Student Affairs or from SGA.

Under the proposed policies, Student Organization advisors will be subject to greater scrutiny by the Division of Student Affairs and SGA staff, and will be required to attend trainings and meetings regarding their commitment to student groups. “There are actually a lot of different components … that apply to staff members or faculty members being involved with students in extracurricular [settings],” Kasprzyk said.

He attributes these changes to a need for better compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act, as well as a general desire to better support advisors. He hopes “they’re more fully aware of the risks, as well as the reporting requirements that they have as faculty and staff on campus. Because that doesn’t end when they leave the classroom.”

Another proposed requirement for student group approval is that they adhere to “College and federally-mandated anti-discrimination policies. Some groups are closed to students of certain identities,” Kasprzyk said. He understands that this change will cause concern for some groups on campus, but given that this reform is driven by a need to comply with federal law, his hands are mostly tied. “That’s really all that can be said there. There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “It’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

However, Kasprzyk affirmed that he is “not in the business of trying to force groups to change the way they’re presently operating, so long as it is clear and transparent.” He doesn’t anticipate it being a problem on Grinnell’s campus, but will work with concerned groups to ensure “their membership is really comprised of the people that they want it to be [comprised of].”

The proposed policy changes were announced on Tuesday, but a series of public discussion sessions will be held in the coming days to allow students to voice their concerns and opinions about the reforms. The first will be held on Nov. 1 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the second will be held on Nov. 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Both sessions will be held in JRC 101.

Kasprzyk invites all interested members of the student body to join the conversation and help shape the reforms. “The purpose is to start a conversation on the direction of reforms and ensure everyone’s voice is heard,” he wrote.

“There is just no process [currently]. And that’s what it boils down to. … I just want to make sure that everybody knows what game they’re playing, and what the rules are. Simple as that.”

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