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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Q&A with Patricia Finkelman ’80, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Last week, Feb. 8-10, the Trustees held their second semester meeting and discussed what they believed were the appropriate courses of action on issues pertinent to the College community. The S&B was not granted access to the General Meeting, where a broad overview of plans is given, but Patricia Finkelman 80, current chair of the Board of Trustees, agreed to answer questions regarding financial aid, the Posse program and other topics in an email interview with The S&Bs Carter Howe 20 afterwards.

The S&B:  Since the administration decided not to continue its partnership with the Posse Foundation, many students feel that it has provided little clarity on what steps it is taking to ensure that students from historically underrepresented backgrounds have both the opportunity to attend Grinnell and the necessary support once they get here. Does the administration have a plan in place to provide a substitute for the Posse program or a program that accomplishes similar goals? What does this plan entail, and how far along in the implementation process is the administration?

Patricia Finkelman: The Council on Diversity and Inclusion provided the board with an update about the Grinnell College diversity plan being developed, and an overview of major diversity initiatives, during the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 1-3. The Council plans to roll out the diversity plan to the campus community for feedback before the final plan is presented to the board at its April meeting.

While not intended to be an exhaustive list of initiatives, I can provide two examples of the ways in which the College continues to develop programs to support students from historically underrepresented populations.

To ensure equal opportunity to attend Grinnell and receive support once they get here, the Office of Admission has developed a number of strategies to identify, recruit and enroll underrepresented student populations. For example, the College has partnered with the QuestBridge Program to bring some of the nation’s brightest students of color from low-income backgrounds into Grinnell’s student body. 

The Peer Connections Pre-Orientation Program (PCPOP) has expanded into a yearlong program for first year students from historically marginalized identities and backgrounds, including but not limited to students of color, first-generation students, students with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ students. PCPOP provides opportunities for emerging student leaders to develop their leadership skills. Also, PCPOP encourages students to build relationships with other students, faculty and staff, thereby enhancing the students’ academic, social and cultural experiences. 

How will the recently passed tax law affect financial aid at Grinnell? Will it limit the ability of the College to offer financial aid to accepted students and incoming first-years? Generally, how does the tax plan affect Grinnell’s endowment?

While the impact of the tax law is not yet certain, it will not change the College’s commitment to making a Grinnell education affordable by providing entering and current domestic students with financial assistance that meets their full demonstrated need. 

At this time, we believe the endowment will be subject to a 1.4 percent excise tax calculated on net investment income. The rules determining the calculation are still being defined, so the Investment Office is gauging the potential cost based on current information.

Concerning the controversy surrounding the College’s gift acceptance policy, did the Advancement Committee vote to present the proposed changes to the policy to the Board of Trustees? If so, how did the board vote? How does the board feel about the gift acceptance policy and the controversial donations from National Rifle Association President Pete Brownell and his wife to the College?

Board members endorsed a revised Gift Acceptance Policy as recommended by the ad hoc Advancement Committee. This policy was developed to outline the procedures for assessing and accepting gifts to Grinnell College for the College’s benefit.

The Redmond/Brownell gift was not on the board’s agenda.

Grinnell is known for its history of self-governance among students. Recently, the student body voted in favor of an initiative to grant a student position on the Board of Trustees. Does the board support this position? Why?

The initiative to add a student as a voting member of the board was not on the board’s agenda. However, SGA leadership shared the initiative with board leadership and we referred the matter to the Governance Committee which will review the issue and make a recommendation to the full board. 

Within the established higher education framework of shared governance where trustees, administration and faculty hold defined roles, I believe we all value and respect our students’ voice in the dialogue about matters of importance at the College.

—Editor’s Note: This article is a shortened version of the email correspondence between The S&B and board chair Patricia Finkelman. 

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