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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Pragmatically addressing Bear security concerns

In my last column, I’ll admit I pointed out the problem that college tuition and expenditures are absurdly high without suggesting a way to a real solution. Dr. Raynard Kington might say that this is poor form, and I would agree. Here’s an idea.

Last semester, I saw an interesting chart in the New York Times of the federal government’s budget breakdown, It really helped to put the nation’s expenditures in perspective—each category of major expenses was represented as a rectangle within a larger overall rectangle. But it was much more than simply a quadrilateralized pie chart—it also broke down the expenditures within each category to a great degree of precision, and made note of whether each was growing or shrinking and by how much. Simply put, it was the coolest, most detailed and most informative pie chart I’d ever seen!

Grinnell ought to commission a similar chart for its own expenses so we can see more clearly what we are exactly paying for each year. It is well known that many colleges, including Grinnell, have historically increased their tuitions more so to be on par with their “peer institutions” rather than out of real necessity. Where are these extra increases going? New facilities? More financial aid? More administration? New facilities for more administration? My hopes are that a chart like this, provided that it has enough detail (much more than the currently publicly available budget breakdowns), will spark a productive discussion which will save us all some money.
Changing the subject completely, I have a second idea relating to a facility that we already have—the Athletics Center. Something that’s troubled me quite a bit about it is the discrimination between “athletes” and “non-athletes” and the barriers that are put up to enforce this distinction. As a cross country runner, I can bypass check-in and proceed to the team locker room which “non-athletes” physically cannot access (unless I do something deviant and tape up the door, or leave the handle locked down) because it will admit my P-card, but not theirs.

The idea of this is ostensibly to prevent theft, but is it that effective in doing so? Having people sign-in at the check in-desk might deter some non-Grinnell students/faculty/staff/families/club members from coming in, but it’s not at all a foolproof system, and given how empty the gym is sometimes, it shouldn’t be necessary. Instead of having a separate person maintaining the division between “athletes” and “non-athletes” outside, why not have a system in which there is only the one person inside the gym that will check out only towels/equipment? We ought to leave admission on the honor system as it was before. Were there really so many problems that necessitated this “solution”?

The situation with the team lockers is also silly. Currently, we have to flash our P-cards to get in, and come up with ways to keep the door open in case we forget. Again, the idea is to prevent theft, but of course, if someone from outside was bent on stealing the sweet sound systems we have in there, they’d find a way in and do it anyhow. Instead of locking the exterior door, let’s be a bit more realistic about security, and lock up our individual stuff if we’re concerned about it. Oh, yes— for some reason, the football team has lockers that cannot be locked. Whose idea was that?

But really, how were these policies designed? To me, they appear to be both poorly thought-out and imposed without much consideration of the concerns of the people who use the facilities the most, and pay a lot for that privilege—students (I’ve voiced my concerns about this before, and have been told to just “deal with it!”). Between issues with the fitness center and lockers, I’ve only spoken to a few people who believe the new policies are good. Most people feel inconvenienced, and some others are very bothered by them. For this amount of controversy, what is it worth? I think these questions should be opened up for discussion at some point, for a public forum of sorts. I think that putting the creativity and intelligence of more Grinnellians together, we ought to be able to address security concerns both in Athletics and elsewhere on campus in a better way.

Up next: It’s election season again! How can we make politics more productive?

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