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Resolution passed in support of NOLA Posse



Mira Braneck, Staff Writer

This past week, SGA passed a resolution resisting the College’s recent announcement that no students from New Orleans Posse will be admitted next year. The resolution demands that the College admit 10 of the 19 Posse scholars who were originally told they had a one-in-two chance of acceptance to the college. Grinnell Student Power Network (GSPN) also put out a petition, which got over 400 signatures, demanding the same thing.

President Kington called for a meeting with NOLA Posse Scholars on Tuesday, March 1, in which he said he did not support the petition.

“At the end, we asked if he agreed with and supported our petition … and his answer was no,” said NOLA Posse Scholar Tyrea’l Samuel ’19. “We actually knew we were going to get a no, but we were optimistic enough to still ask the question.”

“He just said that he can’t put his hand into admissions,” said Bailey Bagneris ’19, another NOLA Posse Scholar. According to Bagneris and Samuel, an admission representative was not present at the meeting.

“I don’t make individual admission decisions,” Kington affirmed.

Kington will be meeting with Deborah Bial, the founder of the national Posse Foundation, on March 8 in New York. At the meeting, he will be discussing the relationship between the College and the foundation.

“Whether we continue Posse or not, what matters more is what happens to the other 1,600 [students], what we as an institution do for the 1,600 to make sure that every single student that shows up here is given the best possible chance of having this remarkable educational experience,” Kington said.

Much of the conversation surrounding the suspension of NOLA Posse has been clouded in legal confidential obligations.

“We’ve agreed that we’re going to have private conversations between the foundation and the College about the issues,” Kington said. “Some of the issues involve confidential information that we will never be able to be public about.”

Kington could not disclose any issues that exist between the organization and the College.

“Part of it was a fundamental disagreement over a number of issues where the Posse [Foundation] was going on one track, we thought they were going on another track,” he

said. “I would argue, and I think the people who are informed of the facts would agree … it wasn’t just Grinnell being evil. And what’s more, all the people who have heard all the facts have agreed that we did the right thing.”

Kington raised concerns that spending time discussing the future of Posse at Grinnell detracts from other campus needs.

“What I sort of find frustrating is that no one is asking the bigger question … No one, not a single student has said, ‘So what are we thinking about in terms of the big picture … so that all our students can have success?’” Kingston said. “In the light of our broad mission … in our obligation to every single student, what do we do there and how does Posse fit into that broader mission? That’s the right question.”

Students in GSPN, including Sean Haggerty ’19, feel that the suspension of Posse means Grinnell is not living up to the standards determined in the mission.

“I just think [the suspension of NOLA Posse] speaks to a difference between Grinnell’s espoused ideology and the way Grinnell conducts itself on an everyday level or an actual level,” Haggerty said. “A lot of student leaders of color come from Posse. To me, it’s unacceptable to say Grinnell is doing a good enough job on its own bringing domestic students of color. I just think that’s not true. …  In my opinion, no other program offers what Posse offers to this school. … I think Grinnell is not really living up to its values.”

Samuel and Brianisha Frith ’19, who is also a NOLA Posse scholar, wrote the petition with DC Posse Scholar Selah Mystic ’19 and Haggerty. The petition, written entirely by GSPN members, got 427 signatures.

The resolution, passed during a special session of Campus Council on Friday, Feb. 26, was written by Reform Committee Chair Emmet Sandberg ’18. It calls for the admission of the 10 students and for the College to “clarify the timeline, process and rationale” behind the decision without violating any standing legal confidentiality agreements between the foundation and the College.

“Basically what we’re saying is that because we have no information on the matter that would suggest the College was justified and fully in the right in this,” Sandberg said. “We’re asking the students be admitted because they haven’t been transparent [and] because we have no real idea of why they did it. It seemed like a decision that … negatively affects diversity on campus.”

Campus Council met in an open, special session regarding the resolution. While the meeting was initially supposed to be a closed session, Diversity and Outreach Coordinator, Anita Dewitt ’17, pushed for an open session. Had the meeting been a closed session, only members of Campus Council and individuals on the agenda would have been able to be present.

There were several attempts to go into closed session and vote by anonymous ballot at the beginning of the session before the actual vote occurred. There was contentious debate amongst the Council and the senator who initially suggested voting by an anonymous secret ballot left the meeting after backlash.

“There was a lot of tension in the room,” Haggerty said. “There was criticism saying that it wasn’t a safe space for certain people in the room.”

Ultimately, voting went into closed session, and occurred by roll call. There were 13 votes for the resolution, zero against and four abstaining.

One of the abstentions was the Cabinet’s vote. If there is no consensus amongst Cabinet members, the vote automatically goes to an abstention. According to Mischa Rindishbacher ’16, SGA’s Administrative Coordinator, some executives were not in support of the resolution.

“Given that I am the figurehead of SGA, I support all the members of SGA and anything that is passed through SGA,” said SGA President Dan Davis ’16. “So my personal beliefs take a side page to what is best for the student body given that they are telling me what they want. So, given that the resolution was passed saying that we support Posse scholars, we support the Posse foundation. We want to see ten students brought into this campus out of the 19 finalists of the Posse scholarship process. … I will be supporting that full-heartedly. That is what was passed, that is what I as SGA President move forward saying.”

No member of the executive board was present at the special session of campus council. Davis and Vice President of Academic Affairs Emma Lange ’16 were at a meeting with the Board of Trustees. There is not currently a Vice President of Student Affairs, though had there been, Davis said that person would not have been able to be present either.

Davis called their absence from the meeting a “scheduling mishap.”

“We told the person scheduling it that we would not be [able to be] in attendance, and through some overlooking of that fact it was scheduled for 4 p.m.” During this time, Davis was presenting at the Board of Trustees meeting. “It was a very unfortunate mishap, and it was something that I was not happy about,” they said.

“We realized that many students thought we were not in attendance because we were trying to pull a fast one or something,” Davis said. “I can guarantee everyone that that is not the case.”

Rindisbacher described the atmosphere of the meeting as “heated.”

“Ultimately, I think we were intimidated and somewhat coerced into voting by [GSPN],” he said. “My biggest issues and concerns were with the process.”

More people came to the meeting than any other Campus Council Rindisbacher has seen during his time at Grinnell.

“Resolutions, although they do take a stance—they aren’t guarantees for anything to come out,” Davis said. “I can’t guarantee this, nor can I make the college or the Posse foundation act against a legal contract.”

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