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Students talk bias-motived incident in all campus forum

On Thursday, May 13, students, faculty and staff gathered in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center 101 for an all campus forum to discuss their thoughts on the recent bias-motivated incident (see S&B 5/7).

President Russell K. Osgood began discussion by emphasizing the importance of hearing what others had to say.

“I welcome this opportunity to listen and hear what you are saying, I will say, I’ve been listening for while and really enjoying what I’m hearing. I don’t enjoy having to be here because of the incident that led to this,” Osgood said. “But, I have enjoyed listening to varied comments, very thoughtful comments for the week.”

With that, a safe space was established and women who felt comfortable enough to identify themselves as having their names written on a bowl at the party stood up. Three of these women read personal statements.

“I’m goofy, ridiculous and thoughtful, however the other night none of that mattered,” said Emma Peterson ’10, who was targeted in the incident. “One of the hardest parts of this whole ordeal for me has been a loss of trust and sense of safety in the community. Not a loss of safety in a physical sense, but in that I chose to come to Grinnell so I could be myself and not worry about how people would judge me.”

After the women’s statements, there were “fishbowl dialogues” where a group of individuals sat in circle of chairs and discussed how their lives at Grinnell changed since learning about the proceedings of the “Cunnilingus” party. The first group was made up of student athletes who identify as any gender. They expressed feelings ranging from betrayed to hopeful for change in the future.

“Before this happened, I thought I could think of all athletes as friends,” said one student.

Also part of the athletes’ discussion were members who attended the party, who talked about feeling guilty and how this event has changed their understanding of how their actions can be perceived by others.

The next assemblage of speakers was all individuals who identified as women. They commented on confusion and the effects of the incident on their daily lives for the past week and half.

Following the women was an assortment of men, some of whom apologized for their inaction during the event. One professor remarketed that the difference between this and other sexually themed parties was that the participation in all the other parties was voluntary in contrast to Cunnilingus, which created an involuntary symbolic presence of many members of the campus community.

Interim Head Football and Women’s Track Coach Jeff Pedersen ’02 spoke during this grouping. He promised moving forward from this event by way of new programming for student athletes during the fall.

Professor Samuel Rebelsky, computer science, who spoke at the forum, believes Pedersen is committed to these changes.

“I think Jeff Pedersen is very serious,” Rebelsky said. “He is going to change what is happening when students come to campus.”

After the forum, AJust member Robin Wetherill ’12 reflected on the proceedings.

“It was gratifying to hear … the male athletes actually express remorse and ownership of their actions because I feel like I’ve heard less of that,” Wetherill said.

Wetherill was also incredibly proud of victims who spoke out.

“I was pretty inspired by the courage of people who were directly targeted to speak about their experiences,” Wehterill said. “In a forum like that, somebody hands you a microphone, and they give you the power to speak in way that isn’t always easy in everyday life, especially if what you’re speaking about is that emotionally difficult for you to deal with just on its own.”

One of the targeted women who spoke echoed this call for change, but added a condition.

“Everybody just needs to accept the fact that the objective behind [Cunnilingus] is bad,” she said. “If everybody can accept that fact, then we can move forward and make a positive change in our community and we can move forward and make a very very positive change in our society and world at large.”

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