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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
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Michael Lozada
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Grinnell College launches fundraiser for the College amid movement for Black lives

This flyer was sent out asking for donations for the College. Photo by Zoe Fruchter.

In a month defined by a global movement against systemic racism and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin, Grinnell College’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) initiated a fundraising drive to raise money for the College.

When Amal Dadi ’17 opened her email in early June, she thought the College was addressing the protests.

“The subject headline was something really vague like, ‘Together we’re stronger,’ so at first I thought it was going to be about the protests,” said the recent alum. “Then I saw what it was actually about.”

Dadi said that Grinnell’s drive was obviously planned before the protests began, but that the timing of the release felt “very inappropriate” given the national movement occurring. In response to video of Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of Floyd, a Minneapolis rapper and father of one, and following the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop and Tony McDade, organizers across the world have led thousands of protests in support of Black lives and pushing for institutional anti-racist change.

“This is the kind of moment which is defining for the values of individuals and institutions,” she said. “Grinnell has been a school that prides itself on having such a long and storied history of social justice and activism and it just felt like, ‘This is what you’re focusing on right now?’”

According to an email sent out to alumni from the DAR Director of Annual Giving Mae Parker on June 1, the fundraiser is to support “students on their journey to become socially responsible leaders and proud members of the Grinnell College Alumni Community.” Each donation to the College would be matched by alumni up to a total of $372,000. The DAR targeted alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff to make a gift to Grinnell College before June 30 through emails and postcards.

DAR conceptualized the campaign after they cancelled “Scarlet and Give Back Day,” a fundraising event held in April which has raised millions of dollars for the College through student, parent and alumni donations over its five-year tenure.

“The plan was to launch the June Match on June 1st, and the postcards we mailed prior to June 1st so alumni, parents and friends would have the information. The purpose of the match is to inspire alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students to support Grinnell College philanthropically,” wrote Parker in an email to The S&B.

Dadi, along with many other recent alums, contacted the DAR via email to express her disappointment and anger at the timing of the fundraising drive, given that it was the first outreach she had received from Grinnell since the protests began.

Dadi received a phone call from DAR director of major gifts Jill Petsel, who contacted her to apologize for the timing of the email, which Petsel called “tone deaf” and “inexcusable.” Parker worked with members of the Development and Alumni Relations team to coordinate calling all alumni who expressed concerns with the timing of the Office’s messages.

Petsel said that the phone calls she had with those alumni to apologize for the insensitive donation push and to discuss the College’s place in the current moment were some of the most meaningful phone calls she has made in a long time. She said that she takes pride in her job because Grinnellians care so deeply about social justice. Petsel pointed to the fact that Rebecca Lucero, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner who is currently leading an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, is a 2003 Grinnell graduate.

“The world needs more Grinnellians and more people like Rebecca to lead the way. That’s why I’m here,” she said.

Dadi said that she was grateful for the outreach effort from the DAR but remained upset at the administration’s prolonged silence on the movement for Black lives. When she received the email, the College had not yet released their Racial Justice and Donations plan, which they emailed out to students on June 10.

Parker confirmed that the fundraising is ongoing and will continue until June 30.

This article has been editing to correct a misspelling of Commissioner Lucero’s name.

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