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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff ed: Grinnell College might need an ombudsperson

In recent weeks, Grinnell College has released three very different reports with surprisingly, and disconcertingly, similar results. The Wellness Survey indicated that students at Grinnell College are over-worked, over-stressed and more depressed than students at peer institutions. They feel isolated by their surroundings, and oftentimes do not know how to cope with their stress levels in a healthy way. The Campus Climate Survey denoted that students and faculty members feel discriminated against based on race, class, gender, etc. The recently released External Review revealed that members of faculty and staff feel they don’t have job security and fear arbitrary action by their supervisors.

What these three reports indicate is that the Grinnell Community, be it students, faculty, or staff exist in a culture of distrust wrought with miscommunication. By these surveys, it has become apparent that not only do members of our community feel that the current systems are failing, but also restricted in starting change.

From the student perspective, we have begun to see gradual improvements. Even before the Campus Climate Survey, AJust Grinnell has held countless workshops this semester with regards to overcoming prejudices and stereotypes assigned to gender, race and class. Next semester, AJust will be working with Grinnell Active Minds to run a workshop on ableism, and will begin Brown Bag Lunch, an effort to foster safe environments and dialog in classroom settings.

In terms of the Wellness Survey, SGA is working with administrators in response to this problem, one that SGA attributes to the pace of life at Grinnell. By beginning a discussion to analyze the effects of the academic calendar on student life, and by perhaps revising the calendar to incorporate more evenly spaced breaks, SGA aims to alleviate some of the stress that Grinnell students feel.

For faculty and staff, however, the problem is much more deeply rooted. The current and past problems highlighted by the External Review have certainly already created enough tension amongst college employees, and drama throughout the entire campus, much of which is outside the student realm. Many of the specific recommendations offered by the reviewers, including the reworking of supervisor feedback and the revising of the employee handbook, are worthwhile and should be seen to completion.

However, hiring an ombudsperson was the most intriguing and potentially helpful recommendation in the review. Initially proposed by faculty members last year, an ombudsperson would not necessarily heal preexisting schisms, but they could help ensure, with an overseeing eye, that situations do not devolve into what they have. They would be a safety belt for interactions between employees, ensuring that the damage from any mishaps, if not prevented, could be mitigated and dealt with professionally.

Though the results of these surveys may be disheartening in that our campus is in dire need of repair, as students are making efforts to change and improve campus, we hope that the addition of an ombudsperson to the College will put faculty and staff on the path towards change as well.

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