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The Scarlet & Black

The College vows to not penalize applicants with a history of protesting

This past Monday, Grinnell College released a statement stating that applicants’ participation in protests would not impact decisions in the admissions office. Part of the statement read, “We would never penalize a prospective student for peaceful public protest. Indeed, we reward students in the application process who have used their voices to address important social problems.”

Although students on campus and alumni from the class of 1968 petitioned the Grinnell College to release a statement of this nature, Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission, said that the release was not in direct response to these calls to action, and that he wrote the draft on Friday, Feb. 23. Rather, Bagnoli tried to use this statement to directly address the concerns that applicants and parents across the country may have about how their engagement in peaceful protests could affect the chances of their admission to Grinnell College.

While the release of this statement was not in direct response to actions from students and alumni, Bagnoli still stressed his support for Grinnell College community members that were concerned and active about this issue.

“I think we were reassured by the interest and concern that everyone in our community [expressed]. I was glad that our concern about this for prospective students was shared by our student community, by our alumni. I think it would be fair to say we were in this together. We were all interested in communicating this message to prospective students,” he said.

Many other institutions, including Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have released such statements following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, FL. Unlike the statement by Grinnell College, however, theirs specifically reference peaceful protests in response to gun violence.

According to Bagnoli, the word choice was meant to be more general and all-encompassing of involvement in all types of peaceful protests.

“Because conditions can vary dramatically from event to event, I wanted to make it clear that on the face of it, simply deciding to protest in defense of or as an objection to a particular social issue would not, in and of itself, dissuade us from offering someone admission,” Bagnoli said.

By this logic, he concluded that the statement would be more representative of the College’s values if it did not directly mention one type of protest but was broad enough to speak to a range of issues.

“I didn’t want to make it about one particular issue, because there are so many worthy causes to defend,” Bagnoli said. “It was a concern for those who were not necessarily asking, but who were wondering. Even though the number of people inquiring about it was relatively small, we were concerned about those who might have questions and not ask.”

Bagnoli argues that a value of Grinnell College is social engagement and activism, and this is something that Bagnoli felt was important to make explicitly clear to prospective students.

“We felt it was important to clarify our position on this. Our first reaction might have been, ‘of course we aren’t going to penalize you on this, this is who we are as an institution,’ but we can’t presume that everyone would understand what our position would be, so we felt it was important to make it more explicit,” Bagnoli reiterated.

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