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The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Admin. created hostile environment for survivors

Dear President,

I am writing to you to request that you resign as president of Grinnell College. If The Huffington Post’s description of how sexual assault victims are treated at Grinnell is accurate—and at no point has Grinnell claimed it is not—Grinnell under your watch has failed miserably at protecting vulnerable students.

It would also seem that Grinnell administrators under your tenure have deliberately tried to prevent sexual assault survivors from speaking out about their experiences with the administration. This stance was demonstrated by an incident described by The Huffington Post in which the head of student media fired a GUM editor, seemingly at the administration’s behest, after the magazine ran an op-ed by a survivor. The administration’s hostility toward sexual assault survivors was also apparent in the email you circulated to alumni before the Huffington Post article was published, in which you minimized victims’ concerns and touted Grinnell’s decision to request a review by the Department of Education as an unprecedented act of responsibility, when a number of Grinnell students had already requested the Department of Education investigate Grinnell for failing to handle their cases properly. This sleight of hand indicates to me that you do not intend to deal with survivors’ concerns forthrightly.

I am further deeply disturbed by descriptions not included in the article but shared with the Grinnell Plans community of your personal treatment of sexual assault survivors, namely that you told a survivor you don’t want to hear her voice and that you were ashamed a student like her would graduate from Grinnell. While this may not meet the legal definition of retaliation for reporting, I find it horrifying that Grinnell College’s top official would verbally intimidate and insult survivors for having the courage to stand up for themselves.

All of the above demonstrates that you are not willing or able to steer Grinnell toward a more responsible handling of sexual assault cases. Meaningful sexual assault prevention and response is not merely a matter of policy, but also one of culture. You have proven to be hostile toward sexual assault survivors, and thus cannot serve as a role model for the Grinnell community, faculty, staff and students alike, in dealing with this problem. Therefore, for the safety of all Grinnell students, and for the sake of building an institution that alumni can be proud of, it is imperative that you step down.


Cid Standifer ’07

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    Bob SGAgetApr 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I am so grateful to alums like Cid Standifer who are willing and able to stand up for student survivors who have been bullied, silenced, or retraumatized by their own college administration.