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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Grinnell College community reacts to Raynard S. Kington

By Matthew Bachtell

With the announcement of the thirteenth college president fresh on most people’s minds, the reactions on the campus pertaining to President-elect Kington have ranged from elation to skepticism. The conversation topic is buzzing amongst not just the student body but within the faculty offices and staff rooms as well.

By and large, students have readily embraced President-elect Kington, citing confidence in his leadership experience.
“Some people joked, after his speech, that his honeymoon period is already over,” said Ben Offenberg ’11, SGA Vice President of Student Affairs. “There were jokes about that, but in reality I haven’t heard much other than praises and excitement that we’ve got someone of his caliber to come here.”

Students have read Kington’s online bios, and heard his speech in Herrick Chapel, but few have had any real contact with him. Many were impressed, not only by his resume, but also by his views on issues pertinent to the community, and his strong support for social justice.

“He said a lot of positive things in his speech, I think, a lot of salient issues like the campus climate report last semester.” Liting Cong ’11, said. “There isn’t enough of support for minority staff and faculty, and he said everyone’s contribution will be recognized,”

Offenberg relayed the same sentiments.

“He talked a little bit about social justice, and how this is a mission-based institution, which is why I feel like we could recommit ourselves to our mission and social justice in a lot of areas.” Offenberg said. “It seemed like in past years we’ve focused on some other things, which is fine, but I think it’s time that students want to focus back on our mission, and social justice, which is one of our core values,”

Reactions among the staff were similarly glowing, but more skeptical. Professor Wayne Moyer, Political Science, raised some very pertinent questions as the school awaits the arrival of Kington on the campus next August.

“He has an incredibly strong background. His appointment certainly sends a very good message in terms of diversity,” Moyer said. “[But] his background is primarily as a scientist. I know he will be conscious to the needs of the scientists. But will he be equally conscious to the social scientist and the humanities?”

According to Moyer, while his colleagues have been impressed and stamped their approval, Moyer senses a certain ambiguity about Kington’s plans for the College. “What is his academic vision for the college? We don’t know yet,” Moyer said. “What are his priorities? We don’t know that yet.”

Megan Goering ’08, former SGA President, leveled this challenge at Kington.

“For a long time, Grinnell has failed to capture the potential of its most powerful resources,—its people—by following its peers and minimizing liability,” Goering said in an email. “The next chapter in Grinnell’s history must involve active engagement, bold leadership and the kind of introspection that will challenge Grinnellians to globalize their goals, extending the reach of their knowledge and the impact of their work. If Dr. Kington can accept that challenge, Grinnell will most certainly rise to meet him.”

Her view is echoed within the student body.

“Students are willing to help him assimilate into the Grinnell environment, which is unique, in that respect, because he is putting a lot forward, I think we should respond with the same enthusiasm,” Cong said.
—Additional reporting by Jumi Bello ’13.

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