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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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A Winter Wonderland? SGA ushers in the holidays

By Andy Pavey

Under the direction of Treasurer Amanda Weber ’21, SGA plans to purchase and install about 2,400 feet of holiday lighting in key locations across campus this winter in an initiative dubbed the “Winter Wonderland Project.”

The plan, which comes with a $2,000 price tag, will include lighting and an as-yet-to-be-disclosed event, which Weber likened to a “christening.” That’s because the lighting SGA purchases will be used for years to come. The project has been in the works since late October.

Funding for the project stems from SGA rollover funds, which now sit at a total of $300,000. In the past, the fund, comprised of the budget surpluses of years past, has been the source of significant trepidation in SGA.

“We want to make sure we’re spending it on something that will last for a long time and will make good use of the money that has been pooled from every student on this campus,” Weber said. “That’s important to us because [once] the roll-over money is spent, it never comes back.”

Weber said she believes the Winter Wonderland Project is the perfect fit, and she has convened several different resources to get it done, including SGA officials, Facilities Management and the work of the Outdoor Lighting and Safety Committee.

To determine how much lighting she would purchase, Weber resorted to some unorthodox methods. “I should give some credit to my friend, Charun Upara [`21], who helped me calculate the distance of certain areas of campus on Google Maps,” she said.

“I gotta be honest: I don’t know how precise it is. It gave us a number that seemed right. I mean, it was in meters. It wasn’t really giving us decimals or anything. You take what you can get. I don’t think anyone wanted to be out there with a tape measure, measuring the path from Noyce to Burling,” she said.

Weber has also been working closely with Rick Whitney, assistant vice president for Facilities Management, to square away the locations of the lighting. “It is very, very kind for him to take time out of his schedule to help us,” she said. “Rick Whitney is my hero.”

To hone those locations further, Weber has been looking into a 2017 survey administered by Madison Wardlaw ’20, Zach Streckel ’18, Kara Nielsen ’17 and Carson Peters ’20 about areas of campus in need of increased lighting. The research was originally conducted as part of advocacy for safer streets in Grinnell.

Many details are still to be determined as the holiday season draws closer; there are lights to be purchased, locations to be finalized and volunteer decorators to be recruited. “We haven’t really gotten into the nitty-gritty yet,” Weber said.

However, she is confident that the holiday lights will be up and running before students depart campus for winter break. “Next week, I’ll have a map for Rick,” she said. “We’ll need another week to survey areas for power sources, but at the same time we could be purchasing the lights.”

Weber is also optimistic that students will help SGA string up holiday lights and prepare for the festivities when the time comes. “I think more student involvement is always good,” she said, citing the positive feedback she has received so far from friends and colleagues.

Students interviewed by The S&B were intrigued by the idea, but had some concerns about the pragmatic details of the initiative. “That sounds like some slight light pollution,” said Nora Paul ’22. “Also, electricity costs,” added Finn Dworkin ’22.

Maya Larson ’22 expressed optimism that outdoor lighting would be improved. “I know there are a lot of issues with lighting on campus at night, so this would help. I know there’s a committee working on it also, but it’s going slowly.”

Why bring holiday lights to campus in the first place? Weber said the idea struck her in the midst of dread for the upcoming winter. “We live in rural Iowa,” she said. “It gets dark, it gets cold.”

“I’m from the Twin Cities. I never really struggled with that in the Twin Cities. And that was a strange thing to me because when I am home winter is my favorite season, and when I’m here winter is my least favorite season. I was thinking about why that is the case.”

“And really what it came down to was lighting. The Twin Cities does a lot with lights—more than we could ever feasibly do,” she said.

Still, Weber isn’t one to shy away from big ideas.

Early plans made available to The S&B mentioned bringing an ice rink to campus for the holidays. When asked how likely this was, Weber simply laughed. “Probably pretty unlikely,” she said. “Amelia [Zoernig ’21, all campus events coordinator] and I are both obsessed with the idea of an ice rink. It’s something we’ve both been individually … talking about with our friends since, like, first year,” she said.

“Ironically, I cannot skate to save my life.”

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