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The Scarlet & Black

The Ultimate Referendum: SGA split positions face their first test this semester

Tucker+Haddock+handed+over+the+DOC+reins+to+Syamala+Gumidyala+this+semester.
Tucker Haddock handed over the DOC reins to Syamala Gumidyala this semester.

By Audrey Boyle
boyleaud@grinnell.edu

The beginning of every semester brings a flurry of changes, but not all are so loaded as this year’s SGA split-position transitions. After last year’s much-debated decision to appoint six third-year students for split terms across the cabinet positions of Diversity and Outreach Coordinator (DOC), All-Campus Events (ACE) Chair and Concerts Chair, the pressure was on for each student to adjust to their new role. Of course, as is common in politics and in college, not everything has gone exactly according to plan.

In November, Victoria Park ’21, who was slated to take over from Phinn Lloyd ’21 as Concerts Chair, elected not to return to Grinnell, instead opting to play bass for Grinnell alumnus Ella Williams ’19, who performs under the name Squirrel Flower, on her national tour this spring. The vacancy was filled shortly thereafter by Lukas Mendel ’21.

Mendel’s appointment was relatively smooth. Park communicated to Lloyd and the Concerts Committee that she was considering going on tour in October before officially making the decision, allowing the committee to come up with a back-up plan in advance. Mendel was expected to assume the position after early talks with the concerts committee and was the only candidate.

“A lot of people were kind of hesitant to take over the role,” said Mendel. “I wanted to take over the role, I was excited to do it. I’m still very excited.”

Due to the nature of Concerts Committee, all of the headliners for spring semester had been booked by Park throughout the fall semester; coming into the position, Mendel’s role was to book opening acts and finalize contracts with artists’ talent agents. Going forward, Mendel will work on coordinating the concerts themselves as shows begin taking place on campus. They acknowledged the unexpected transition was “stressful,” but remain positive about the rest of the semester.

The DOC transition has also taken an unexpected turn, but one that enables greater ease of transition. The fall semester appointee, Tucker Haddock ’21, ultimately chose not to study off-campus in the spring as they had expected. The spring semester appointee, Syamala Gumidyala ’21, relieved Haddock of the position as planned.

Of this unexpected change, Gumidyala said in an email to The S&B that she “feel[s] lucky that Tucker is able to be on campus to answer any questions [she] may have about continuing projects and turnover within admin.” Haddock also said they had written up “somewhere between seven and 10 pages of notes for her so she can keep track of everything.” Gumidyala also assumed the DOC role last year after Regina Logan ’20 resigned, so she is already well-versed in the daily responsibilities of the job.

Despite some unforeseen circumstances, it seems that SGA cabinet members have now transitioned comfortably into their jobs. Nonetheless, the wave of unexpected changes may raise some pertinent questions about the application of last year’s amendments to the SGA Constitution. As there is no precedent for three split positions in SGA, the transition from fall to spring semester was the first opportunity to see the practical application of the new constitutional amendments. The amendment states that “Students who will be off campus for a semester of their term must apply jointly with applicants who can fill in for the remainder of that term.”

However, with Haddock being on campus for a semester of their term and Park not filling in for the remainder of Lloyd’s term, two out of the three split positions ultimately did not technically follow the amendment.

There are often unexpected changes in SGA positions, regardless of whether positions are split or not. 

Last spring, SGA made two mid-semester appointments, both replacing students who had initially intended to remain for the full year: Gumidyala’s filling of Logan’s position and Erica Satchell ’21’s replacement of Selah Mystic ’19 as ACE Chair. 

Both Haddock and Lana Katai ’21, the spring semester ACE Chair, said that it is not uncommon for SGA officers serving a full year to experience burnout during the spring semester. 

Katai said she was “more concerned about the same people being on cabinet for more than two years … people should seek out other leadership opportunities, because things get really stagnant that way.”

While this year’s cabinet managed their tricky transitions with relatively minimal strife, Katai said that “there could have been a bunch of problems, but there weren’t, because we [Katai and Amelia Zoernig ’21, fall semester ACE Chair] make a really good team.” 

Mendel described it as “a very chaotic transition because … a lot of it really is just on-the-job training.” 

Haddock also noted that their and Gumidyala’s extensive experience working with the College administration meant they both needed less on-the-job training, which they took into consideration when applying for the position together.

Ultimately, the spring semester cabinet is optimistic that the rest of the semester will go smoothly. It remains to be seen if these unexpected challenges will affect the Senate’s future decisions on whether or not to appoint students in split positions.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the spring concerts lineup was booked by both Lloyd and Park. The article has since been updated to reflect that Park was solely responsibly for arranging the spring lineup. The S&B regrets this error.

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