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Grinnell takes hiatus in relationship with NOLA Posse


Lily Bohlke, Staff Writer

President Raynard Kington announced that Grinnell will not accept Posse Scholars from New Orleans in Fall 2016, due to “administrative issues between the College and the Posse Foundation,” in a December campus memo to students, faculty, staff and alumni. 

The Posse Foundation selects public school high school students with academic and leadership potential and awards them full tuition scholarships to colleges across the United States. In the last several years, Grinnell has accepted Posse Scholars from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and, more recently, New Orleans.

According to Dean Mike Latham, this decision was made to facilitate discussion between the College and the Posse Foundation about whether the relationship is mutually beneficial. 

“Any long-standing partnership like ours periodically needs to be reviewed, especially when the two organizations involved are dynamic and continually evolving,” Latham wrote in an email to The S&B. 

Current Posse Scholars worry about the implications of a decision like this, both for the students in New Orleans who were hoping to be selected to receive a full tuition scholarship and for the College’s commitment to diversity. 

The Posse selection process includes three rounds. Since the College announced this decision during the selection process, 19 New Orleans Posse Scholars who had committed to Grinnell had already withdrawn any early action or early decision applications to other universities. 

“That makes a huge difference for students, particularly ones of disadvantaged backgrounds, so this was a big blow to their chances of going to other

schools,” said Bailey Bagneris ’19, a New Orleans Posse Scholar.   

Grinnell’s withdrawal of support for New Orleans Posse also raises questions about the College’s commitment to diversity.

“Diversity has been increasing recently but I just feel like taking away Posse is taking a step back from what you could potentially be getting,” said New Orleans Posse Scholar Hassan Thompson ’19. “I feel like what they call diversity is more international diversity rather than domestic kids of color.”

Bagneris agreed, adding that not only do Posse students bring diversity, but also the Posse Foundation’s emphasis on

leadership and achievement allows Posse students to have a large presence on campus. 

“There’s an assumption that if you’re meeting a student of color on campus they’re either Posse, QuestBridge or from Chicago,” Bagneris said. 

Additionally, Posse scholars like Bagneris and Thompson feel at fault for the College’s decision to sever ties with Posse New Orleans.

“Our Posse was sitting in a room with all the other Posses when we were told,” Thompson said. “Everyone was looking at us like, ‘What did they do?’ and we were feeling that way—we were feeling like it was our fault.”

Latham confirmed, however, that this decision was made independently of the performance of current Posse students. 

“We are proud that [Posse Scholars] chose to come to Grinnell, and right now they need and deserve our support,” Latham wrote. 

In order to have productive and respectful conversations about their respective goals, both Grinnell and Posse have agreed to disclose limited information, according to Latham. 

However, according to New Orleans Posse mentor and Professor Mark Levandoski, Chemistry, Posse Scholars are chosen partially for their desire to be involved in important conversations, so the private nature of the decision may explain some student dissatisfaction. 

“Students will respect the decision more if they have more information,” Levandoski said. 

New Orleans Posse Scholars reinforced this claim by organizing a meeting with the College administration to address their concerns, according to Latham. 

“Such discussions help us learn what the specific challenges are for certain students, so that we can be responsive and make the changes that will make Grinnell a better place for everyone,” Latham wrote. 

Although the Campus memo states the College’s goals are to support current Posse Scholars, Bagneris said that the best way to help current students would be to keep up the relationship with the New Orleans Posse Foundation. 

“It’s kind of a paradox to say, ‘Worry about the scholars on campus,’ when it’s the scholars coming to campus who provide a sense of motivation,” Bagneris said. “I can’t stress enough what kind of opportunity [Posse] is for people in New Orleans.” 

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