The College adopts invasive policy concerning SGA spending

President Raynard Kington adopted a policy this week that all College-funded trips must be substance-free. According to Kington, this new interim policy is due to three reasons: our previous policy was a legal liability, a uniform travel policy for all groups does not exist, and it reflects poorly on the college. Kington said that since a small portion of the college population is above age, he doesn’t understand why this policy is controversial. He believes that athletic clubs like Water Polo and Ultimate should follow the same rules as the athletic teams, which are sub-free. The same goes for ReNew and its unique status within the Alt-Break trips.

“It worries me that [drinking]’s considered an integral part of what’s supposed to be service,” Kington said.

Perhaps most importantly, Kington conceives this policy as an important expression of self-governance. In addition to looking at how we make decisions in order to respect and work with each other within our community, he thinks that we must use self-governance to restrict ourselves in order to conform to the ‘real world.’

The S&B disagrees with how the College adopted this interim policy. It was applied retroactively, unilaterally and unnecessarily. ReNew, Water Polo and Ultimate had already received their funding without restrictions and in the case of Water Polo, SGA President Gabe Schecter had to call them while they were on a trip to inform them of the policy changes. The administration consulted Schecter about the changes, but ignored all of his objections. They didn’t open a conversation with the broader student body. Furthermore, there was no need for so sudden a change in policy. The incident that apparently instigated the policy occurred earlier this year when ReNew declined funds from the College (instead seeking them from SGA) so that they would have the option of drinking on their trip. The College, acting seemingly out of spite, declared the policy changes in one afternoon, with no campus-wide conversation.

On one level, this issue is about our right to our own money. SGA funding comes out of the student activity fee. We, the students, pay this fee and we elect our Student Government to decide how that money is spent. It is fundamentally not for President Kington to decide any of the restrictions regarding these funds. This marks the first time President Kington mandated a policy for SGA.

On another level, this issue is about personal responsibility and a community of trust. Undoubtedly, this policy raises some red flags in that regard. President Kington’s view is well reasoned and understandable, but it demonstrates a lack of understanding of Grinnell College student life. How does the College plan on implementing this policy? It seems that either the College will make us sign a toothless waiver, or they will attempt to have students self-report, both of which may force even innocent students who observe misbehavior to choose between lying to the administration and effectively shutting down their own student group. The law is that people over 21 get to choose whether they would like to drink or not; why should the College restrict that?

A Kington mandate of student behavior is governance. Only a student mandate is self-governance.