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The Scarlet & Black

Alumni Letter: New Policies Will Aid Health

Ella Williams ’19 has begun the new Off-Campus Safety Coalition. Photo by Jeff Li.

Dear President Kington and Associate Vice President Conner,

I write as an alumnus and proud Grinnellian to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to you for taking action to curb and control alcohol use at Grinnell.  It is testament to the College’s renewed interest in the health and well-being of the students in its care, and I applaud your efforts.

I suspect that you might encounter some resistance from the student body to the new policies (if The S&B is reporting accurately on the matter).  You might even receive feedback from young alumni about discontinuing certain “traditions.”  So, as an alum myself, let me state unequivocally that I have many fond memories of my time in the prairies of Iowa, and none of them are from alcohol-related events at the College.

Instead, I remember stimulating seminar discussions, hours spent in research on the fourth floor of Burling, proofreading my papers while sitting at the Forum, working on theatrical productions in Bucksbaum, watching sunsets in a cornfield west of town, eating downtown at Pagliai’s, long drives in the rolling hills and so much more.

Full disclosure: as a non-drinker (then and now), I chose not to attend events at Grinnell that included alcohol.  In fact, I almost never attended social events, given the long hours I studied and worked, but I also intentionally avoided these events as I became aware that certain “traditions” (10/10, Block Party, etc.) focused so heavily on alcohol consumption.  Now, do I feel that my college “experience” was somehow lessened or incomplete because I did not drink — or attend alcohol-focused events?  Not at all!  Quite to the contrary I loved my time there so much that I stayed to work for the College for a year after my graduation.  Grinnell is near and dear to my heart.

During my time as a student (2001-2005) and as an employee (2005-2006), I was aware of significant alcohol use on campus and in off-campus student residences that was inconsistent with good sense, College policy, and state law.  I was disappointed that some of my peers, many of whom were brilliant in class discussions and projects, made such poor decisions after hours.  I remember the year I spent as a Student Advisor, during which I had to deal with vomit in the hallway bathrooms in the middle of the night more than once.

I am writing to you today because I believe I was part of a “silent minority,” or at least an often-overlooked group, of non-drinkers on the Grinnell campus each year.  While I never (knowingly) met another non-drinker, I am convinced that a tangible percentage of students to this day elect not to drink.  To this end, I am delighted to learn that you will guarantee substance-free housing to any student requesting it. 

I believe that you as administrators have an obligation to look out for the best interests of all students.  Grinnellians are intelligent, talented, and accomplished from the moment they first arrive on campus.  However, at the age of 18, and even by 21, they are not capable of making the best decisions —  research into the frontal lobe of the brain is quite clear in this regard.  I am acutely aware of it as I prepare to begin my eighth year of full-time teaching.  I have encountered young people of all ages, from undergraduates down to adolescents, who make bad choices and often suffer unfortunate consequences.

I hope that the current generation of Grinnell students on campus will recognize that you are taking these steps not only because of liability and other legal concerns, but also, and more importantly, to protect the health of the students and to promote better decisionmaking, thereby supporting the College’s broader mission of guiding, advising, and preparing young people for success.

Thank you very much for your time.  I wish all of us a smooth start to the academic year.

Kind regards,

Anonymous Alum,

Class of 2005

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