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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Students protest Title IX legislation, question removal of display

Grinnell College students hold signs and candles in support of survivors at last Thursday’s vigil. Paul Chan.

Last Thursday, Nov. 7, Dissenting Voices (DV) held a vigil in support of campus survivors of sexual assault. The visual display that the organization coordinated for the event was removed under contested circumstances, which led to a week of back-and-forth between administrators and the organizers of the event. 

DV organizer Evan Feldberg-Bannatyne ’20 described the event as initially successful. “Instead of it just being a normal vigil — which was responding to a call of action by a bunch of national organizations — we … upped the ante and decided to make it a kind of mock-memorial to the federal government’s support of our Title IX rights and a critique of the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education rescinding the Obama-era guidelines in Dear Colleague letters. … It turned out very beautifully.”

The demonstration, which also served as the group’s first general meeting of the semester, follows a wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations against prominent entertainers, politicians and news personalities. 

Members of the organization lit candles, hung banners and placed a wreath on the brick Grinnell College sign on the corner of 6th Ave. and Park St. The resulting display framed the sign and remained overnight, but was removed sometime after 7 a.m. the following morning. 

“At 7 a.m., I went over to look at it, and it looked really good,” Feldberg-Bannatyne said. “The wind didn’t tear it all down or anything, so that was nice. It was quite a surprise to come out of class and find that it was gone … everything was gone. Everything was taken away.” 

Because the group had cleared the display with Facilities Management (FM) in anticipation of the event, DV leadership contacted FM to inquire about the removal of the display. 

“Later that day I got another call from FM, … and he told me that they were called by Campus Safety because someone from Nollen House had called them to get [the display] out of there,” Feldberg-Bannatyne said.

After reaching out to Campus Safety, The S&B was also re-directed to Nollen House. The ensuing conversations between DV, Campus Safety and the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Andrea Conner left all parties split over the question of how, exactly, the display had come to be removed.

“I truly believe there is a simple answer here but I’m not done figuring it out,” wrote Conner in an email to The S&B on Wednesday.

Next, Director of Campus Safety James Shropshire, using Campus Safety phone logs, investigated and reconstructed the events that occurred surrounding the removal of the display. His account, which he sent in an email to The S&B, opens with a description of the circumstances in which Shropshire was first apprised of the DV demonstration. 

“I received a call from my staff at 9:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9 informing me that there were some signs and candles placed upon and near the Grinnell College sign located at 6th and Park St.  Andrea Conner and I discussed the signs and elected to allow them to remain in place despite the appearance that these items were left behind from an event that had concluded, as well as a violation of campus posting policy. … At 8:21 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, Andrea Conner and I discussed the removal of the signs,” Shropshire wrote.

Dissenting Voices, however, took the position that the display had not included posters, and as such, did not violate the campus policy indicating that organizations must write their name on posters displayed around campus.

The email also reports the decision by administrators to allow DV to reinstate the posters, an offer which DV declined.

“We collectively determined that we would like to offer Dissenting Voices this opportunity to place the signs in this location again. It was communicated to me that Dissenting Voices elected to not take advantage of this proffered accommodation,” Shropshire wrote. 

The report, however, ultimately shifted its focus from the impetus of the situation to its handling. “I am concerned and disappointed about any confusion that my staff might have caused you regarding the removal of these signs,” Shropshire concluded.

Grinnell College students hold signs and candles in support of survivors at last Thursday’s vigil. Paul Chan.
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