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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Opinion: Casualties of Grinnell’s Decorative Allyship

When the first travel ban was instituted, President Kington sent an email to the entire campus and a second email to the impacted students. In addition, countless faculty and staff members reached out and, of course, there was that incredibly touching video that reminded international students that they are welcome here. I was moved and humbled by the support we’ve received. It was a reminder that with all its flaws, the College is still a welcoming environment.

So, you can imagine my shock when an S&B reporter approached me just a few weeks later asking me how I felt about the move of the CRSSJ and the fact that the new building wouldn’t have a Muslim prayer room. The CRSSJ is going to move to make room for the construction of a new admissions building. It will move to the blue ranch house on 8th Ave, which as it stands now, would not have a space for a Muslim prayer room. And for a while there were talks about renovating a bathroom for Lord Ganesha.

Most of our Hindu and Muslim students are international students who already feel targeted in this current hostile political climate. And it is deeply ironic that a new admissions building is being built to make prospective students feel welcome when they visit, but to build it they are getting rid of a space that makes many current students feel welcome.

We have been trying to meet with the administration to voice our concerns. A week ago, a student government cabinet member who met with Vice President for Finance and Treasurer of the College Kate Walker reached out and assured us that the administration in no way intended to make Muslim and Hindu students feel unwelcome. Although we appreciate the message, the fact that they did not consider the lack of adequate space for Muslim and Hindu students in the first place is not reassuring. On the contrary, it highlights that providing a prayer space for Muslim students wasn’t a priority for them. As for good intentions, well, that matters little.

In addition, the SGA member mentioned that the blue house is a temporary house for CRSSJ, but if they invest resources in it, it would become a long-term home for the CRSSJ. This means that Muslim students are indirectly forced to choose between having a prayer room now and potentially jeopardize the possibility of the CRSSJ moving into Mears Cottage in the future, or giving up their prayer space now for the hope that they would move to a better house in few years. It is an implicit threat and a position which they shouldn’t be forced into.

It is disappointing that we are still fighting for religious recognition on this campus. It is disappointing to explain to administrators why considering to house a God in an old bathroom, even if renovated, is offensive. It is disappointing that international students gain recognition on this campus only when discussing percentages, displaying flags or consuming our food and culture as entertainment. It is disappointing that we must cite incidents of hate crimes and Islamophobia to legitimize our right to a prayer space.

The College needs to decide: is it going to be intentional about its support for international and students of color, or is it going to continue with the current decorative  allyship? I am tired of administration that cries with me when Muslims are banned, but takes away our prayer space. In our meeting with the President tomorrow, I hope he offers us more than just a sympathetic ear; we need concrete action.

-Farah Omer ’19

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    Student AthleteApr 6, 2017 at 1:59 am

    Grinnell College athletics is entering a new phase that may ultimately destroy the department. As a three year student athlete at GC, I still remember when the coach asked, on my HS recruiting visit, whether GC was my top choice and if that meant I would apply Early Decision. I did, and it was a good choice, though it meant my parents could no longer shop around for the best financial package for me at a liberal arts college. We made it work, and I entered GC with a great incoming class who now, three years later, form a solid group of friends and true student athletes.

    The threat to the department is that coaches at GC are starting down the path of recruiting transfers, junior college, and community college athletes. Once that starts, that means that the coach is valuing short term athletic performance over four year student athletes. None of those transfers applied to GC as Early Decision applicants. None of those transfers singled out GC as their top priority, or sacrificed other college options to be a four year student athlete at GC. Instead, they enrolled elsewhere and it did not work out, or they are shopping teams. When a GC coach brings those transfers in, they disrupt the team chemistry and remove the value placed on four year student athletes that always were committed to GC from day one.

    This trend is nothing new to college athletics. Coaches that take themselves seriously always want to stockpile talent. But this trend is new to GC, where most all rosters have generally featured athletes that began, and will end, their athletic career at GC. Once the athletic department begins the process of increasingly shopping for transfers to fill out rosters, then the college administration and admissions should require those coaches to warn HS seniors NOT to apply ED, and NOT to make GC a priority in their application process since the coach is not making any reciprocal commitment whatsoever to the athlete. The coach should say, “Go ahead and apply to GC, but you may be removed or replaced from your incoming class at anytime once I can find a JC or college transfer I like better.”

    The trend away from four year athletes at GC should be understood as a sign of desperation, a trend towards the win at any cost approach that has turned D-I athletics into a revolving door joke. Other Division III schools have already made this transition, but GC has bucked the trend, maintaining strong value on four year GC students. If the trend gains traction, teams will lack cohesiveness over time, and players will lose trust in coaches that keep shuffling the roster deck. At some point, the GC administration will ask itself whether its commitment to developing Pioneer student athletes is legitimate at all if the athletic rosters increasingly are made up of athletes who, when they left high school, had no interest in GC at all and only became interested when a coach begged them to come take roster spots from four year athletes. Next year, my class wraps up its four years at GC, and we will leave as we came in–a close-knit group that has grown and come together. If that experience becomes a thing of the past for other athletes, Grinnell College will be poorer for it and what sets GC apart from other D III colleges will cease to exist.