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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Campus Climate assesment brings to light the concerns of marginalized groups

This past Monday night, over 100 members of the student body, faculty and the staff gathered at the open forum to discuss the climate of the campus as assessed by Rankin and Associates.
Dr. Sue Rankin, who led the assessment team, explained her findings on how comfortable and accepted Grinnell students, faculty and staff feel in the campus environment. Her data confirmed the worry that various biases are prevalent in the Grinnell community.
According to the report, racism, sexism, heterosexism, institutional classism and ableism reportedly all have a significant impact on people’s daily lives. Only about 63 percent of those who responded to the survey identified as “comfortable” or “very comfortable” on campus, notably lower than many similar institutions in the country. Roughly 30 percent of respondents reported having been harassed in some way due to prejudice and approximately 60 percent of students reported witnessing some form of harassment. Constituencies in the administration, the student body and the faculty all hope to use these data as a basis for reducing the effect of these prejudices.
“You’ve got data you can [refer to],” said Vice President of Diversity and Achievement Elena Bernal. “You don’t have to rely on your own experience.”
Bernal hopes that with this information available, members of the Grinnell community will no longer depend on anecdotes—potentially private ones—to form their views. She claims that holding conversations about biases based on an official study will eliminate the potential disconnect between different perceptions of life at Grinnell.
“Now we [have] a chance to sit on the same side of the table as Grinnellians, and look at this information and decide ‘Is this what we think our community could be, would be, should be?’” Bernal said.
John Burrows ’10, an intern at the Office of Diversity and Achievement who helped organize the Campus Climate Assessment and determine how it was presented to the campus, echoed this sentiment.
“These are the things we are talking about, things that have existed for years and years, but we didn’t have the data to back it up,” Burrows said.
Burrows believes that the community should observe how the faculty and student body could make Grinnell a safer place where all community members are valued—feel that way.
Rankin suggested that one important step forward is for members of the community to invest themselves in reducing bias within their already established social circles. Rankin believes that Grinnellians should “create change in [their own] sphere of influence.”
Camila Barrios-Camacho ’12 facilitated one of the small group discussions that concluded the presentation of data at the forum. She observed the desire to create change on a personal level, as Rankin had suggested.
“All of the students in my group … felt like it was their personal role and responsibility to make the campus better,” Barrios-Camacho said.
Professor Justin Thomas, Theater, has already begun to realize this process. He led a discussion of the campus climate assessment in his tutorial class, clarifying some of the data released and encouraging discussion.
Thomas mentioned in particular the number of unreported cases of sexual assault—of those who responded to the survey, nearly 30 percent of those who responded said they had been sexually assaulted—and the general discomfort expressed by many staff members about how they were treated due to their place in the Grinnell hierarchy.
“The reality is this is our community,” Thomas said. “We live here, we eat here, many of us—the students—sleep here, we work here and we need to intentionally create the kind of community that we want to have.”
However, not everyone on campus is so proactive about making Grinnell a more accepting place. Despite the optimism and commitment Barrios-Camacho observed in her group’s discussion, she acknowledged that those attending the forum may not have been representative of the campus as a whole.
“How can you actually reach out to the students that weren’t there?” said Barrios-Camacho.
To deal with this challenge, Bernal intends to send out campus-wide emails and post information on the Grinnell website regarding suggestions made in response to the results of the assessment.
“If there are groups that have started to gather…[and produce] new ways to think about this, we want to share that with the entire community,” Bernal said.
Many people feel that the ability to deal with issues such as these is a part of how Grinnell defines itself.
For Burrows, this process, is “honoring the commitment we made to ourselves and sticking to our core values and social justice,” he said

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