The presiding officer’s heavy wooden gavel comes smashing down on the table as the opening theme to Lady Gaga’s new single blares from my computer speakers. My friend and I flinch, sigh, and exit the YouTube window, shaking our heads at yet another failed attempt to spice up the beginning of the Joint Board meeting between the Student Government Association cabinet and senators. We’ve got three new resolutions on the table and four budgets to approve, so we know it will be a long Wednesday night. With hours of debate ahead of us, why not start off with a catchy song?
This is my way of thinking, but perhaps that’s why I was selected as the All-Campus Events (ACE) coordinator. When people want a quick answer for what I do, I just tell them it’s “all the fun stuff.” Although I had never been on student government before applying for the job last spring, it seemed like the right position for me. With a budget of around $25,000 per semester and a funloving committee, I work to allocate this massive amount of money — more than I could ever imagine having in my own bank account! — to the students who come to me with ideas for events.
While I am primarily responsible for making sure all of Grinnell’s beloved traditional theme parties get organized, I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with a few new themes as well. This fall, I organized a pig roast-luau called “Noynk” in honor of Robert Noyce ’49, one of Grinnell’s most esteemed alumni. He planned a similar party during his time at Grinnell. Noyce risked expulsion by stealing a pig from a nearby farmer when he hosted the party in the 1940s. I chose instead to order my pig from a pig farm — less rebellious, I admit, but altogether safer. The event was a community building success, and after sending invitations to all Grinnell’s faculty, staff, and students, it was wonderful to see so many different members of the College community bring their families to campus for an afternoon of conversation, games, and way too much food.
Now that we’re halfway through the year, I’m feeling settled into my position as ACE coordinator, though I’m still adjusting to that gavel and the strict rules of parliamentary procedure. My high school student government certainly didn’t take things so seriously! But my high school student government wasn’t taken so seriously, either. The 10 members of cabinet meet with the College’s administrators weekly, alternating between the Office of the President and the Office of Student Affairs. Our organization as a whole has a budget of about $350,000 per year. Besides the All-Campus Events committee, there is also the Student Programming Committee, which distributes money to student groups; the Service Committee, which provides funding for community service groups; and the Concerts and Films Committees, which work to bring performing groups and movies to campus.
With such a wide purview, perhaps it’s no wonder we don’t have time to watch a music video at the beginning of our weekly Joint Board meeting. But as we’re heading down to the campus pub for trivia night after all the important decisions have been debated, re-debated, and finally concluded, I hear someone whistling the Lady Gaga song behind me. Out of curiosity, I turn around, and the presiding officer winks at me as he walks by.
Mairead O'Grady '10 is a Music and French major from Milton, Massachusetts.