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The Scarlet & Black

Committee drafts values

Last year, Student Government Association (SGA) cabinet passed a resolution that they would write a statement of the College community’s values. Though a committee met a few times in the spring semester, a formal statement was never created.

Cynthia Amezcua '14 discusses important campus equality issues with other students during Thursday night's Student Statement of Values group in the JRC - Ben Brewer

This year, however, SGA President Ben Offenberg ’11 and Dean of Students Travis Greene are pushing for the creation of the statement.

“We want to define what the students’ values really are,” Offenberg said.

Offenberg has established a committee, open to all students, to help identify and form the values students of the College feel are most important. It is crucial to Offenberg and Greene that the statement be written by students, for students. The committee has met once and has brainstormed ideas.

“When we put all our ideas on the board, we realized there were three overarching themes that fit in very well—community, communication and diversity slash respect,” Offenberg said.

At the next meeting, the committee will try to sum up their ideas in a few sentences, which will form the groundwork for the statement of values.

Offenberg hopes to have a complete draft of the statement by winter break. Then, students will be able to vote on whether to accept it as the official statement of values alongside Student Initiatives voting in the spring. He and Greene also plan to present the statement to Joint Board, the Student Advisers (SA) and the Multicultural Leadership Council, and other committees for their input and approval.

Another one of the projects that Greene is interested in is how to use the statement of values in the student handbook instead of the 16 criteria in the “Actions that Violate Our Self-Governing Community” section now. The hope is that students will be referred to the statement of values, which could act as a morality code when self-governance is an issue.

The next question that the committee will have to answer is that of what to do with the statement. The committee will decide whether to use it as a tool for teaching self-governance, or whether it will have an even more prominent role on campus. The students on the committee also want it to be a living document that can be reevaluated as needed—which Offenberg feels is a necessary component because the student population turns over every four years.

Greene has noticed the relative lack of objectives in the conduct of the Grinnell community.

“For a place like Grinnell, that holds self-governance as a hallmark to our community, we have a lot of rules and we don’t really talk about aspirations,” he said.

Greene hopes that the statement will allow for discussions about what the community would like to become.

“What we’re hoping is that it’ll … [define] what students strive to do and work on,” Offenberg said.

Both agree that the recent increase in bias-motivated incidents on campus has led them to renew their efforts to create the statement.

“They have definitely aided to the urgency for the statement,” Greene said.

The BMIs have also made some reevaluate the values of the community.

“The hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents … posed this question of, ‘Do students all have the same values? Do we subscribe these?’” Offenberg said. “The institution has its mission statement and core values, but how do these play out in students’ lives? They’re very broad and very abstract, but … the administration uses these all the time. Maybe the students should have something similar.”

There are also hopes that these values will aid in the communication between the students and the administration with an emphasis on mutual respect.

“I would like it to bring some cohesion to the campus,” said member of the committee Jerl Fields ’11.

Additionally, members believe that prospective students may be able to use the statement of values to aid in their final decision.

“Anytime a group or organization articulates their values, it helps people self-select in,” Greene said.

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