By Stephen Gruber-Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org
The student initiatives passed last week ranged from an affirmative sexual consent policy to a resolution to improve cell phone reception on campus.
Perhaps just as important was the number of students voting. The 60 percent turnout was significantly higher than last spring when voting barely reached 50 percent, the minimum number of votes needed to pass any initiatives.
Sam Offenberg ’14, Chair of the Stifund Committee, said he is happy with the voter turnout but realizes that many students do not bother voting for initiatives because they feel like they will not be implemented.
“This semester I’m really confident that we’re going to be a lot more visible in our implementation of initiatives,” Offenberg said. He believes that once people see the initiatives being put into action, they will realize how they benefit the College.
In order to pass, individual resolutions need two thirds of the vote.
“I’m pretty pumped about the cell phone initiative,” Offenberg said, citing its practicality. He was also excited that the prison program will be getting extra support.
The Stifund committee is responsible for implementing the newly passed initiatives and, as always, some are more feasible than others.
“The most difficult is going to be the sexual consent policy,” Offenberg said. He noted that the administration has already hired consultants to begin working on the policy, so inserting a student plan in the middle of that is probably not going to work.
An initiative to increase parking spaces for students was another that Offenberg said would be difficult because Stifund would have to go through the city in order to make Park Street available again.
Initiatives are also often stalled by financial difficulties. High-cost initiatives have frequently been pushed aside in the past. However, Offenberg found an SGA Joint Board resolution that sets aside $20,000 for Stifund every year. This money comes from the SGA rollover fund.
In the past, the Stifund committee has spent far less than this amount each year.
“We’re only going to use the money if we need it,” Offenberg said. However, he also noted that he does expect to use the full amount, whether on initiatives passed this semester or last.
Offenberg is also working to change the approval process for initiatives to give the Stifund committee more authority. Instead of going to the treasurer to ask permission to pass initiatives that the committee has already voted on, he is hoping that in the future they will be able to simply come to the treasurer and declare which initiatives have passed.
In a unique circumstance this year, one initiative that obtained the required amount of signatures was not put on the ballot.
The initiative, proposed by Noah Most ’13, required SGA President Colleen Osborne ’13 to serve alcohol to students outside the JRC at the end of the year then throw any surplus SGA money off the roof and have students fight for it.
“It was clearly a joke,” said Offenberg. “It violates school policy. It violates state and federal law, none of which I am willing to break.”
Most did not come to the initiatives forum to introduce his proposal to the school, so Offenberg assumed it was a joke.
It came down to a decision of self-gov, said Offenberg. “I think it’s important that we don’t send that kind of message to the administration,” he said, noting that the last two years have had far more instances of alcohol-related hospitalizations than in the past.
Offenberg is aware of the consequences of this decision. “The precedent that it sets can be a slippery slope,” he said. But he believes that this initiative is a unique circumstance. He stressed that he is committed to transparency and that he is open to having a special election if there is enough student interest.
Most found the rejection of his initiative “surprising and disappointing” but refused to comment further.
More than anything, though, Offenberg said he is committed to using Stifund to make the Grinnell experience better. He urged students to email [stifund] with any questions or suggestions.