ACE chair resignation leaves questions about future of campus events

Molly Wilcoxson, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Natalia Ramirez Jimenez `24.5 resigned from her position as the Student Government Association’s (SGA) All-Campus Events (ACE) chair, citing concerns with the handling of on-campus student activities. Previously, the ACE chair had complete control of planning on-campus student events, which were funded through the student activity fee — however, Ramirez felt that control was shifting to a balance between the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) and the Weekend coordinators.

In previous academic years, all student-led events were solely handled by SGA, without the direct involvement of DSA. In spring 2022, SGA and DSA were planning to create a programming board to centralize and streamline the process of planning on-campus student events.

“It’s been an evolution,” said Sarah Moschenross, vice president of student affairs. “We’ve been talking about this for years.”

While the exact details of the programming board have not been confirmed yet, members would include SGA, DSA and Weekend. DSA would act as an intermediary for all of the parties represented on the board to ensure equal representation of the student body, according to Loyal Terry `23, SGA president, and Maure Smith-Benanti, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of inclusive initiatives.

I realized that my position had become obsolete in programming.

— Natalia Ramirez `24.5

Weekend, a student-led organization, was created in spring 2022 as a substance-free alternative to Harris events. Weekend events are funded partly by DSA and partly by the student activity fee. In the absences of Harris events during the fall 2022 semester, Weekend continued to hold events for students on-campus.

According to Terry, Smith-Benanti and Moschenross, with the introduction of the programming board, students would still have control of planning on-campus events.

“The programming board will not get rid of Relays or Tithead. We are currently working on planning Harris events,” said Terry.

When Ramirez assumed the position of ACE chair at the beginning of fall 2022, she received no training or guidance from DSA regarding how to plan or book events. Smith-Benanti had just taken over the position as SGA supervisor. Furthermore, in the fall of 2022, SGA began the process of rewriting their constitution, which has not been completed. Due to these complications, SGA is still unable to hire a senate, which in previous years had more involvement in student planning.

Throughout the fall 2022 semester, Ramirez repeatedly attempted to book Harris events, but faced obstacles from administration. Oftentimes, she would attempt to book a Harris event, to then be informed by DSA that the date was unavailable or already booked. Terry said that several Harris events were canceled due to instability within the Grinnell community, such as the death of a student and on-campus harassment of students of color.

Moving into spring 2023, SGA and DSA began to discuss more seriously the creation of a programming board. The motivation to plan for the programming board came from concerns from both Terry and DSA about SGA holding too much power over on-campus student events. Terry cited the controversy surrounding Jungle Harris, an event approved by the 2020 ACE chair, whose theme was changed after students raised concerns about harmful racial implications, and the influence of certain student organizations within SGA as examples of SGA mishandling their power in the past.

Ramirez said that prior to winter break, Smith-Benanti referenced future changes to programming, but Ramirez was not aware that following the establishment of a programming board, her job responsibilities as ACE chair would no longer include planning student events. When returning to her position at the beginning of spring 2023, DSA informed her that if a programming board were to be created, her responsibility as ACE chair would instead cover only security measures.

Following this conversation with DSA, Ramirez resigned from her position as ACE chair, feeling that she could no longer carry out her duty to represent the Grinnell student body.

“I realized that my position had become obsolete in programming,” said Ramirez.

On Feb. 4, Ramirez sent out an email to over 400 Grinnell students, providing her perspective of the programming board as well as a timeline of the events that led to her resignation. In this email, as well as in her interview with the S&B, Ramirez made it clear that she had no intention to directly attack any members of SGA or DSA.

Being able to have Harrises and Gardners on campus is genuinely a harm reduction method.

— Zoe Gonzalez '23

On Feb. 8, eleven students sent out an email to the student body expressing their frustration surrounding the planning of on-campus events, and referenced a potential loss of institutional memory.

Zoe Gonzalez `23, former SGA outreach coordinator who also signed the email, expressed concerns that the introduction of a programming board would incentivize students to hold more events off campus, which may be less safe.

“Being able to have Harrises and Gardeners on campus is genuinely a harm reduction method,” said Gonzalez.

Previously, Gonzalez, a 2023 class ambassador, attempted to book a Harris, but was told the date was already occupied. Gonzalez said, “It felt like a power grab from administration.”

Future negotiations surrounding the programming board have yet to be addressed by DSA.

“I think the responsibilities [of the programming board] are yet to be determined,” said Moschenross. “The goal is really that we put the choices in students’s hands and secure the funding for students to bring to campus the entertainment that students want to see.”

Smith-Benanti said, “We’ve been trying really hard to think about diverse interests, diverse ways of engaging and making sure that a range of programming is available.”

Terry said that SGA is open to communication and feedback from the student body. “We want to find people who want to be involved in the process … we are trying to do our best [to address criticisms]. But we are a small team,” said Terry.

The S&B reached out to two Weekend student coordinators with requests to interview, but was redirected to Moschenross. The S&B also contacted two other members of the SGA cabinet, but received no response.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to accurately reflect Zoe Gonzalez’s former position in SGA. The S&B regrets this error. Updated March 17, 2023, 1:17 p.m.