By Joe Wlos
The Student Government Association (SGA) is considering donating a large amount of money left over from previous semesters to the College’s endowment, SGA President Colleen Osborne ’13 said Thursday.
As of Thursday night, the cabinet had not decided how much money might be donated, but the sum would be drawn from SGA’s fund of money rolled-over from previous semesters.
Osborne explained that President Raynard Kington has been asking for more support and “speaking of a structural imbalance in our giving and donation system at Grinnell.”
“As student government, we would like to invest in future students, by possibly donating quite a big chunk of money into the endowment so that future students will be able to take advantage of that, by possibly having more financial aid and or using it for student activities,” Osborne said.
SGA is funded by the Student Activities Fee, which is paid separately from students’ tuition. From the activities fee, SGA distributes money for student activities, groups and events.
SGA discussed other plans for the year at a retreat in Okoboji, Iowa before classes began.
One issue they focused on was helping students affected by recent hate crimes, such as the appearance of swastikas on campus last semester.
“VPSA Sivan [Philo ’13] is working on a more long-term response policy goal towards hate crimes,” Osborne said. “At Grinnell, we don’t really have a protocol outline in policy of what to do when there is a hate crime or bias-motivated incident.”
The College has a four page “Hate Crimes and Bias Motivated Incidents Protocol” posted on its website, with a section titled “Longer Range Response.” However, Osborne hopes that SGA can help make improvements to public opinion of the administrative response to bias-motivated incidences and hate crimes.
At the retreat, the new cabinet decided to discuss the ways that it could be more transparent and open to Grinnellians.
“We kind of highlighted three issues that we want to focus on this year,” Osborne said. “One is inclusion, meaning all aspects, but specifically diversity and athletics. Two is accessibility between students and SGA and administrators.”
Administrative Coordinator Ron Chiu ’13 reminded Osborne of the third goal: resources.
“I think of [our goals] as having two main visible arms as we go through the semester,” Chiu continued.
Those two arms—the recently created position of Outreach Director and a website redesign—are essentially one single effort to communicate more with Grinnell’s students, especially the “casual observers,” who are not always engaged in student government.
Last semester, Joint Board voted to create the position of Outreach Director. Although Osborne and her cabinet expressed some opposition to the idea, they say they are now enthusiastic and look forward to announcing this year’s Outreach Director on Sunday.
“We had a good pool [of applications],” Osborne said. “We interviewed about half of the applicants. I was happy with the response from that.”
Chiu said that the Outreach Director would assist in the redesign of the current SGA website, which he described as “difficult to navigate.”
“The plan is to integrate this with social media,” Chiu said.
“We want to start a public Twitter feed in Joint Board,” Osborne said. “The outreach director will probably do this or whoever. I would love to do this. It would be so funny.”
For now, though, the cabinet has been connecting with Grinnellians in more traditional ways.
“We had a record number of cabinet members going to different talks during NSO,” Osborne said. “The ice cream social—all of the cabinet members were there. The first years came up to me and told me personally how happy they were that they had already met all of the cabinet members. After I gave my welcome speech to the first years, at least thirty of them have come up to me on different occasions to thank me for that.”
Osborne also said that she has received emails from athletes and administrators, thanking her for speaking at various events and making the cabinet more visible.
“I just really want people to know that SGA is here for them, and that is understood, but I don’t think that people actually believe it,” Osborne said. “I would like that to change.”