South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

Student Federation sends letter to Gov. Noem

South Dakota Student Federation sent a letter to Gov. Noem regarding new university rules recommended to the Board of Regents in July to understand what her policy changes will look like on college campuses.  

The intent behind the letter was to open a line of communication between Student Federation and Noem’s office because the letter caught them off guard, according to Student Federation President Michael Garofalo.  

“That was the point of the letter was to respond and say you know we’re eager to reach out, but we would really like it if you could consider student voices more because you haven’t done that yet,” Garofalo said.  

Noem sent a letter in May with eight “challenges” to the Board of Regents of things she wanted to see changed in higher education. The letter included things like increasing graduation rates and cutting costs to make higher education more affordable, Garofalo said these are positive things he would like to see implemented, but some of the other challenges listed concerned Student Federation.  

“One of the things she listed in that letter is wanting to ban drag shows on college campuses and she also wanted to ban the use of preferred pronouns in the classroom,” Garofalo said.  

The challenges were for the BOR to decide if they want to act on them or not, so far, no actions have been taken against the ban on drag shows and preferred pronouns.  

“They actually haven’t taken action on any of it basically,” Trinity Peterson Students’ Association president said. “It’s basically just recommendations… there’s not really anything concrete we have seen come from it, it’s just a statement on [Noem’s] part of what she would like to see in the state.”  

Some of the “challenges” Noem listed in the letter had already been dealt with by BOR before the letter came out, including a new policy they implemented in May. The new minor policy for events was sparked because of the drag show controversy.   

The policy changed the rules for events like drag shows, requiring non-student minors visiting campus to be under the supervision of an adult, parent, or legal guardian. The policy also states that programs involving “specific sexual activities,” “obscene live conduct,” or “any material, performance, description, or representation in whatever form, meeting the definition of harmful to minors,” prohibits minors from attending.  

Garofalo said neither students, student governments, nor the student federation were consulted about this letter before it came out.  

“We all were kind of taken aback because we hadn’t known that any sort of directive from the governor’s office was going to come down on those issues,” Garofalo said. “It didn’t seem like there had been much active engagement with students before this letter came out.”  

Noem’s letter also had a challenge to “prohibit any policy or procedure that prohibits students from exercising their right to free speech.” Garofalo said this contradicts some of the other points she made in the letter. 

“It has been interpreted by courts across the country when we’re talking about drag shows on campuses or just on public property that drag shows are protected by the First Amendment,” Garofalo said. 

Peterson says SA is here to support students and student organizations.  

“We are here for the students,” Peterson said. “Free speech is definitely important to us. Obviously, you know every student organization has the right to host their events and speak their minds.”   

As of now, the letter has not had a big impact on SDSU or other schools in South Dakota, but Garofalo says he could see that changing; there will be discussion when legislative session starts, and they have plans for when that happens.  

“Whatever comes up, we are going to take a stance on it, we are going to go lobby,” he said.  

Garofalo said how the letter will affect communication between students and the governor’s office is up to Noem.  

“On this issue and far too many issues we haven’t been consulted by the governor’s office,” Garofalo said. “We would like to know more, we liked to learn more, we would like to have an open and honest conversation and work effectively for the people we represent across the whole state and all of our schools.” 

Student Federation has received no response from Noem or her office on this letter yet.  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Greta Goede, Editor-In-Chief

Comments (0)

All The Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *