The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

A Letter from the President: The Beginning of a Conversation

By the time this letter to the editor is published, you will probably have read many think-pieces about a Trump presidency, about Republican control of the legislative and judicial branch, and what that means for the next four years and beyond. There is no doubt that it is a tumultuous time, but Grinnell has rallied as a community, provided spaces for discussion and is ultimately poised to move forward.

There are a seemingly infinite number of issues that can and should be discussed, but we want to focus on the local level, and what we can do today and tomorrow at Grinnell. First, we feel that resolutions for student safety must be adopted immediately. The financial and administrative resources are there, and Grinnell students must hold the administration accountable for the power that they have to help students in a time that is fearful and anxiety-ridden for many.

For some of our student body, it can feel like the first time that we were worried as a community about the safety of our students, and of the safety of these underrepresented identities in particular. But it is vital to remember that this harassment didn’t start today. People have been dealing with these realities every single day of their lives.

Small steps forward can be taken immediately. We hope that Grinnell students will take a chance to learn about the Hate Crimes and Bias-Motivated Incidents Policy, and then report and document bias-motivated incidents. If you have seen a truck waving a Confederate flag around campus, for example, there are options available for targeted individuals and groups to report these incidents, so Grinnell can build a case against the perpetrators.

Secondly, the men on the presidential-elect ticket have insulted and attacked a huge number of identities that we hold dear. We hope that faculty and administration members will accommodate and assist students worried about their status on our campus, at home and in any space they are part of. The College must commit (through the Office of International Students) to helping undocumented students, educating international students about the citations they can receive for protesting and other factors of their status in the US that may soon change drastically.

We must also hold our College administration accountable for reflecting on national issues. Minimum wage, Title IX policy and birth control are all pressing subjects that affect students on a daily basis, and averting our attention is irresponsible and dangerous. As fourth-years, we have seen numerous iterations of student groups dedicated to fighting these battles. These efforts must never cease.

In terms of immediate support, we encourage anyone who wishes to talk about these issues to reach out to Rabbi Rob, Deanna Shorb, and other members of Grinnell’s “Care Team”. Reassuringly, steps are already being taken to improve community involvement. A mandatory orientation is in discussion by the Residential Learning Task Force, which will cover sexual assault, diversity and wellness. By changing and adapting institutionalized structures, Grinnell students can help insure that the community and College are more accepting and inclusive. Along the same lines, we encourage students to critique implicit bias trainings for faculty and staff, so that their identities are better understood and appreciated.

On a different note, voices are often left out at Grinnell when these opinions may not fit snugly into the “mainstream” Grinnell values. For example, after a previous Town Hall about “unpopular identities,” we are still struggling to understand why can’t we talk about unpopular identities at Grinnell. Why, for example, did a pro-life student group only come into the SGA offices after Trump won?  It is important to start locally: both SGA and The Scarlet and Black have a responsibility to serve as campus voices, and to foster education and conversations around Grinnell. In this vein, there are fellow students on campus who care about something different, and have different priorities that influence their vote. We want to ensure that their voices will also be heard, that these ideologies are not left out of the perceived homogeneity at Grinnell, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of other students.

It is unhealthy for students to harbor paranoias about the beliefs of people around them, and we want to do what we can to make open discussion more possible in the coming days. As we continue to move forward, the amount of healing and mobilization that we have seen has been incredibly inspiring, and it should be channeled into something very real. We want to advocate that this energy does not only go into getting votes for the party, or candidate, in which you believe, but in also talking to the “silent group” of people. They probably dedicated a lot of thought to their vote. Although we often take pride in calling others out for their attacks on our identities, we must also listen as students. It needs to be a conversation.

Anita DeWitt ’17 and Steve Yang ’17

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