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The Scarlet & Black

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Lana Katai elected SGA president


On Feb. 8, the Student Government Association (SGA) announced that the student body decisively elected Lana Katai ’21 to be president of the student government for the 2020-2021 academic year. Fernando Rodriguez ’22 and Amelia Zoernig ’21 won vice president of academic affairs and vice president of student affairs, respectively.

Katai intends to focus her presidency around active representation for students surrounding three values: accessibility, transparency and diversity and inclusion.

“One of the really big [goals] I have is to start involving more student leaders in conversations that happen in more closed spaces,” said Katai.

Katai plans to reinstitute reoccurring town halls throughout the semester to increase said transparency and allow students to demonstrate their investment in the College’s policy decisions and practices.

“Sometimes when administration sees how their decisions impact people in a visceral way, they’re more inclined to act, communicate and work with students,” added Katai.

Katai is a student-athlete on the Pioneer swim and dive team, a member of Concerned Black Students and a longtime SGA appointee, having served as senator, Student Senate president and All Campus Events chair. Due to her wide array of experience interacting with various student groups and administrators, she feels able to speak for and articulate the interests of a diverse student body.

“I’m really excited to continue working with people I have and haven’t worked with. … I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing this so I can give back to the community that has given me so much in my three years here,” said Katai.

Zoernig also shared the sentiment of giving back to the Grinnell College community and improving transparency. As VPSA, her main goals are to create a strong relationship between the new Grinnell College President and the student body at large, improving engagement with and the transparency of SGA.

Zoernig outlined her other goals for her term: to overhaul digital infrastructure, improve community relations and create new community attachments for students.

“[I want to emphasize] ownership of Grinnell as a place that we don’t just go to school, but we live in. And I think that’s a big conversation, but our attachment to Grinnell has been framed as a very academic one,” she said.

Zoernig plans to address how the College institutionally frames this relationship by building stronger relationships between the town and the College. As an example, she proposed reestablishing a formal relationship between the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce and SGA, and creating more collaborative programming between the community and College.

“Grinnell fails its social justice mission by not making [the relationship between the town and College] a priority. And I think it fails its students in the sense that we don’t feel at home in the community we live in,” added Zoernig.

Zoernig is studying abroad in Ecuador this semester, which made campaigning for the votes of majority on-campus voters a challenge. Tess Kerkhoff ’21 volunteered to help run Zoernig’s campaign on campus. In addition to postering and social media work, Kerkhoff helped set up the candidate panel for Zoernig to Skype into and attended election board meetings in Zoernig’s place.

“I’m so grateful for [Tess], because running from abroad definitely looked like an insurmountable challenge. … I had great friends that showed up and helped me in the physical space of Grinnell,” said Zoernig.

Rodriguez sticks out from the other candidates, as he will be serving in an executive capacity during his third year at Grinnell and lacks the SGA experience of the other executives-elect. However, Rodriguez was not worried about any challenges or difficulties associated with running as an underclassman or with a lack of experience.

“I didn’t really encounter a lot of doubt in that respect [of running as a second-year], simply because I knew the goals that I wanted to accomplish. I figured that as long as I did the job well, I had nothing to worry about,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s goals are focused around pre-professional programming. His plans include creating an online, centralized forum for job and internship opportunities, increasing the number of classes for professional career goals and revisiting Mentored Advanced Project pay. He also plans to continue current VPAA Gracee Wallach’s work to decolonize Grinnell’s curriculum.

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