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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Letter: Alumni thank [survivors] and call campus to action

To the Grinnell College Community:

As alumni, we have been encouraged by recent discussions of sexual assault and sexual violence culture at the college. For years, this topic has been shoved under the rug, dismissed as something that does not and would not happen at a place as accepting and liberal as Grinnell. But it does happen. And ignoring sexual violence and the culture that facilitates and then hides that sexual violence leads to enormous personal and community harm.

You can see the contours and costs of that harm in each of the wrenching stories published by [survivors] in the previous Scarlet & Black. You can also see it in the misinformation and insensitivity displayed in the online comments on this article and articles like it.

As a community –  current students and alumni, faculty and staff – we must deal with this failure to educate students about the meaning of consent and the prevalence of sexual assault within our small, close-knit community. We must learn to take Grinnell College’s culturally-embedded violence seriously.

With [survivors] leading and the undersigned alumni following, this is a call to action. We believe that the college should do more to educate students, faculty, and administration about sexual violence and rape culture. We must collectively work to prevent rape and sexual assaults.

While the avenues for filing and pursuing a claim of sexual assault seem fairly good in comparison with similar institutions, we believe that a thorough study of these policies and possible noncompliance with current Title IX standards is necessary.

Furthermore, we believe that Grinnell must do a much better job providing information on sexual assault and the meaning of consent during New Student Orientation and throughout the school year.

Last, the college must do a better job of advertising available resources for survivors. We must make support for survivors as easy to access as possible, as soon as possible.

In the following weeks, we plan to more fully analyze current policies and decide upon a good set of short and long-term policy recommendations. We welcome any and all input from current students, alumni and staff.

A key part of this process is understanding that survivor-blaming and survivor-shaming are not only counterproductive but harmful to the Grinnell community and enormously hurtful to the individuals brave enough to come forth and discuss their experiences with rape and assault. Thus, as well as a call to action, this letter is also – perhaps primarily – a huge thank you to those [survivors] who came forward to tell their stories. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for your courage. Thank you.


Parvoneh Shirgir ’09
Rachel Pierce ’06
Marissa Seko ’06
Laura Shannon ’07
Andrew Cole ’06
Marie Tan Kiak Li ’05
Alexi Brooks ’10
Adrienne Celt ’06
Kendall Hiedeman ’11
Jess Issacharoff ’09
Sarah Goff ’11
Kate Moening ’11
Evan Ferrier ‘08.5
Molly McArdle ’09
David DeGeest ’06
Eleanor Russell ’10
Alanna Nissen ’09
Joshua Tetenbaum ’10
Erin Higgins ’09
Tim Miller ’09
John Bell ’08
Kelly Marie Musselman ’11
Joanna DeMars ’10
Hannah Sagin ’11
Gabriel Tomasulo ’11
Sidonie Straughn-Morse ’08
Lindsey O’Brien ’06
Matthew Nielsen ’10
Harry Krejsa ’10
Freeda Brook ’07
Meredith Nechitilo ’09
Elizabeth Yang ’07
Tasha Popkin ’11
Joanna Winter ’03
Lindsey Taggart ’08
Lily Camp ’10
Alex Cohn ’11
Sara Woolery ’11
Amy Shebeck, ’03
Jaysen Wright ’09
Avram Lyon ’06
Kathleen Murphy-Geiss ’11
Molly Rideout ’10
Nate Kimball ’07
Jess Cheney ’09
James Anthofer ’11
Benjamin (Holcomb) Holquist ’04
Elizabeth Greenberg ’07
Stephanie Swenson ’11
Lawrence Sumulong ’10
Leigh Kunkel ’09
Amy Donahue ’05
Johnny Buse ’11
Andrea Albright ’09
Leah Romanelli ’06
Christian Caminiti ’11
Madison Van Oort ’08
Sarah Mirk ’08
Erin McBurney ’09
Alyssa Mezochow ’11
Em Lawler
Marian Spurgeon (spurgeo1)
Thomas Bateman ’10
Jenny Marion ’11
Caitlin Fuller ’11
Emily Kugisaki ’09
Nora Frazin ’10
Margie Scribner ’10
Esther Howe ’11
Allison Rosenthal ’09
Stephanie Cox ’09
Ryan Carlino ’10
Brock Webb ’09
Amanda Gotera ’09
Jenny Rosenbaum ’07
Alissa Fleck ’10
Camila Barrios Camacho ’12
Lindsay Dennis ’08
Sarah Black ’10
Katie Jares ’07
Jess Egyud ’09
Beth Miller ’10
Spencer Green ’08
Courtney Sheehan ’11
Anand Balasubrahmanyan ’08
Leann Wilson ’07
Aja Saunders ’10
Alex Littler ’10
Erin Daugherty ’09
Gretel Carlson ’10
Rachel Walberg ’09
Timothy J. Hederman ’10
Soleil Ho ’09
Christopher Farstad ’09
Asha Holsopple ’11
Andrea Rissing ’09
Katherine Barbadoro ’10
Virginia Andersen ‘09.5
Danica Radoshevich ’12
Asa Wilder ’10
Kat York ’09
Root (Adam) Barrett ’08
Mark Sullivan ’10
Patrick Waldo ’06
Katherine Jones ’10
Becca Bernstein ’10
Graciela Guzman ‘11.5
Cristina Bernardo ’10
Hannah Caster ’10
Sarah Aswell ’03
Camille Bonham ’10
Sarah Batterman ’06
Felicity Slater ’11
Eleanor Nelson’10
Ian Bishop ’10
Cari Stayer ’10
Alex Schechter ’10
Katherine Rochester ’06
Carly Jerome ’11
Grant Custer ’08
Kate Randall ’08
Nora Skelly ’08
Dayna Hamann ’09
Will Flagle ’09
Rex Unger ’09
Sunanda Vaidheesh ’12
Ethan Struby ’10
Amanda King ’07
Heather Dean ’12
Emily Hainze ’06
Betsy Lorton ’09
Carly Schuna ’06
Katherine Howard ’10
Melanie Echales ’12
Toby Cain ’12
Leah Krandel ’09
Anna Armstrong ’12
Allison Brinkhorst ’11
Janaki Sullivan ’07
Caitlin Deutsch ’12
Maia Pillot ’12
Elizabeth C. Lay ’06
Alisha Saville ’09
Kerry York ’10

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  • D

    David JohnsonAug 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    @Rachel- Obviously some kind of education about sexual assault is necessary, but I’m inclined to believe that Grinnell might handle it in a really ham-fisted manner like Hamilton did by bringing in some professional college speaker who off-the-top accuses men of having “pro-rape attitudes” and beats them over the head with ideology. I could totally see Grinnell doing that. I mostly supplied the link to the Hamilton’s student’s article to show how Hamilton’s attempt at educating people about sexual assault backfired tremendously, leading to a lot of bad press and defensive dudes. I think, however, that he does make one good point in the article- Should men automatically be thrown out of a college when “cases…disintegrate into a quibble over explicit consent without corroborating evidence”? With a lowered “more-likely-than-not” standard and a general desire to keep the peace on a self-admittedly far-left campus, I bet that a lot of men have been summarily tossed out with no real proof beyond conflicting statements from the two parties involved. That seems a little ridiculous. I also bet (More like know, wink wink) that Grinnell has serious conflicts of interest when it comes to what cases of sexual assault and harassment they bring to the police or take other kinds of action against (Thus making that information public.) Grinnell’s financial and public relations interests often trump the ideals of equitable punishment when it comes to cases of sexual assault or harassment that might make the college look bad or in cases that could lead to lawsuits. Sexual assault on campus is a very serious problem, but if you want to tackle it in a serious manner then you’d need to replace A LOT of people in the Administrative wing of Grinnell who put business and PR interests first when it comes to which cases they bring to the cops and which cases they sweep under the rug. Penn State is an especially heinous case of such administrative duplicity, but stuff like what happened at Penn State happens all the time at colleges and universities all across America (Usually on a smaller scale, admittedly,) including Grinnell. So if you want to take sexual assault on campus seriously, you’ll have to reverse the tides of a nationwide trend of administrative duplicity, conspiracy and PR-driven inequitable treatment. Good luck with that one!

  • R

    rachelAug 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Additionally, I read the op-ed by the Hamilton student, and there are a wide variety of logical and factual errors in his piece. Indeed, Jeremy seems to be primarily concerned with bolstering the misperception that many rape accusations are unsubstantiated and thus baseless, while moving towards a broader anti-abortion argument (if one could call it that) based on the secondary status of “men’s rights” with regards to pregnancy. I could spend a lot of time debunking all of these claims – apparently, differences in the legislation of rape on US campuses, in the US generally, and in Britain are insubstantial enough to be lightly brushed aside, and on and on – but I suspect that you have already made up your mind about the usefulness of anti-sexual assault programming for the student body. Given the quality of your other links, I suspect that nothing I say will resonant with you. I vehemently disagree with you. This programming is essential. Grinnell must provide its students with information and resources. Otherwise, sexual assault will remain an unreported but destructive part of campus culture.

  • R

    rachelAug 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

    David, what makes you think that these programs should or would only apply to or be mandatory for men? Women should also learn what sexual assault is. Grinnellians must understand that sexual assault is an embedded part and byproduct of our general culture. Women also rape. Gay and lesbian rape occurs. Sexual harassment and assault is a general problem, and all students should be required to attend educational programming devoted to informing them about the contours of sexual assault – what it is, what to do as a bystander, what the college reporting procedures are, what services are available if you are assaulted, what rights and services you have if you are accused of sexual assault. These kind of educational services are a responsibility of the college, under Title IX. Providing information is good for everyone. Attaining and then maintaining a healthy and safe space for students requires that ALL STUDENTS – regardless of sex, gender, sexual identification, etc. – participate in these kinds of prevention-oriented programs.

  • D

    David JohnsonJun 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    “Furthermore, we believe that Grinnell must do a much better job providing information on sexual assault and the meaning of consent during New Student Orientation and throughout the school year.”
    Yeah, like maybe during NSO week you could have some kind of mandatory assembly where freshman males are taught to examine all of the engrained pro-rape attitudes that they’ve from living in a “rape culture”? You know, Hamilton College tried something like that, and the freshman men took it REALLY seriously and they were in no way offended by being told by a stranger that they have “pro-rape attitudes.” Also, it led to a ton of great press for Hamilton! If you don’t believe me, just check some of it out: