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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

SGA calls for gender-neutral mission statement

In their final act of the semester, Joint Board hopes to make Grinnell a more accepting institution by encouraging change at the most basic level: by updating the College’s mission statement to be gender-neutral.

On May 12, Joint Board passed a resolution proposed by Administrative Coordinator Ethan Struby ’10 calling for the College’s mission statement to use gender-neutral language instead of diction that enforces the gender binary. The specific phrasing that SGA called to change involved the words “men and women” in the context, “The College pursues that mission by educating young men and women in the liberal arts through free inquiry and the open exchange of ideas” and “The College aims to graduate women and men who can think clearly,” according to the Joint Board agenda for May 5.

“I noticed the mission statement reads ‘men’ and ‘women,’ and that bothered me a little bit. I’m comfortable identifying as a male, but I know a lot of people at this College, some of my friends, don’t like using either of those categories,” Struby said. “It seems like that should be reflected in the mission statement, particularly since the mission statement talks about diversity.”

According to Struby, the prerogative of changing the mission statement can come from the president’s office. Due to President Russell K. Osgood’s forthcoming departure in July, the push for a change in the mission statement would likely come from incoming President Raynard Kington.

Regardless of his power, Osgood supported the general idea of the resolution and saw it as feasible.

“The current mission statement is in part drawn from the precise language of the original charter of the College,” Osgood said, referring to the over 150-year-old statement that brought the then Iowa College to life. “I think the gender terms on it are not exactly as they were in the original language, and so I think that is something that could be changed.”

Osgood added that changing the mission statement is no simple task. When the mission statement was updated in 2002, a faculty committee drafted the document, which was then approved by faculty and the Board of Trustees.

Furthermore, Osgood said there are certain phrases, viewed by the Trustees as “magic,” that the Trustees would never change. These phrases do not include gendered language.

“‘Students … who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.’ That’s magic—that will not be changed,” Osgood said, reading the mission statement. “But you’ll notice it’s not the gender language.”

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