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The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: From some other concerned Grinnell students

The leaders of the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC), using the name “Concerned Students of Grinnell,” requested “institutional change” in order to “deal effectively with the aftermath of hate crimes and to implement measures to help prevent these events from continually reoccurring.”

The “Concerned Students of Grinnell” are using the recent hate crime as a vehicle to rationalize their appeal for certain policies. Such a tactic feels largely exploitative—a ploy for sympathy that falls flat considering the disconnect between the personal nature of the incident and the “Concerned Students of Grinnell’s” political campaign waged in the aftermath.

The list of 18 policy changes existed in some form before the hate crime occurred. At no point before the most recent incident did the “Concerned Students of Grinnell” present the list to the administration. In fact, at no point after the most recent incident did the “Concerned Students of Grinnell” present the list to the administration. The administration learned of the list through various students who acquired it. There is nothing wrong with pointing out possible improvements. But according to our count, at least nine of the 18 proposals had already been implemented in some form.

One such proposal is to “Discuss community expectations and bias-motivated incidents policy during tutorial.” Student Government Association President Ben Offenberg ’11 and Acting Vice-President of Diversity and Achievement Kathleen Skerrett have been going to each tutorial to discuss exactly these issues. The “Concerned Students of Grinnell’s” refusal to recognize this fact undermines their credibility as a group that is capable of working towards the change they demand.

The repeated sexist, homophobic and racist attacks on members of the Grinnell community are unacceptable and hate crimes must be met with a zero-tolerance policy. The fact that this particular incident is the latest in a string of personal attacks against one student makes it particularly appalling as it undermines the sense of security and social justice that we value as a community. While the administration can and should provide support, we cannot hold them solely responsible when things within our student community go wrong.

In the immediate aftermath of a bias-motivated incident, the priority should be protecting the members of our community who are directly targeted. The newly revised Hate Crime/Bias-Motivated Incident Response Protocol focuses the community’s response on this point. The immediate response of the administration in this most recent incident effectively assisted the targeted student in accordance with the Protocol. However, by organizing a rally and other responses without consulting the staff member designated to communicate directly with the targeted individuals, the “Concerned Students of Grinnell” did violate the Protocol.

These “Concerned Students of Grinnell” are exploiting the emotional state of the campus and playing off of the broader student body’s vulnerability. By conflating their political agenda with the recent hate crime on campus, they are channeling the student body’s desire to support the targeted individual into supporting their cause. And by assigning themselves the name “Concerned Students of Grinnell,” they fail to acknowledge that any other group can be concerned without aligning with their political agenda.

At Grinnell, we are all concerned students.

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  • D

    David NathanDec 31, 2010 at 5:38 pm


    In both of your messages, you refer to yourself in your capacity as a co-chair of SPARC, the committee that funds the S&B, and make it clear in each that you disagree with the nature of a staff editorial. Dress this up any way you wish, but as an ex editor of the S&B and someone who is concerned with freedom of the press, your comments do read as an attempt to intimidate and silence a point of view with which your disagree. Your job isn’t protecting making sure police investigations are conducted properly. That’s the responsibility of the police department. Time to dial down the drama and victimhood.

    David Nathan ’01

  • K

    Katey GagerDec 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm


    You admit yourself you don’t know the whole story. I am not, by any means, trying to intimidate anyone especially concerning free speech. My argument of bad journalism was specifically concerning their lack of quotes or evidence concerning the administration’s position that they were never presented “the list”-If you are going to make a claim on someone else’s behalf you should back it up with evidence. Also, the editorial included information that interfered with a police investigation. I am of course a supporter of free speech, but unfortunately there are laws that limit our speech and press and regardless of my personal views concerning these laws, SPARC would not be doing it’s job if it didn’t follow them.

    I did not intend to mix my personal views with my position on SPARC-Michael made that connection. I signed my initial comment with several positions I hold on campus to show that concerned students exist everywhere, including those that have no connection to the SRC. I felt that I should further explain myself in response to Michael to clear up any confusion between my personal views and any positions I hold on campus but I obviously did not do a sufficient job of that. But in the future, maybe you should ask for the full background of the story before drawing conclusions and making accusations. If you would like any more information concerning this situation, please feel free to email me.

  • D

    David NathanDec 18, 2010 at 9:48 am


    What an approach- claiming an editorial you don’t agree with is “bad journalism” while at the same time waving around the fact that you are co-chair of the Student Publications and Radio Committee, the student group that gives student publications on campus their funding. I don’t know the full background of the story, and it could be there are aspects of the editorial that are not accurate, but this looks suspiciously like an attempt to intimidate the S&B out of free speech or covering an event differently than the way you would like it spun. Is the Grinnell College for FOX news?

    David Nathan ’01

  • K

    Katey GagerDec 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm


    I have to say, I was really taken aback by the personal nature of your comment. I won’t bother with a point by point response because it is clear many aspects of your comment are not related to this specific situation and must be coming from some other motivation. And, to be completely honest there are just too many things for me to correct.

    The reason I was so passionate in my response to the article is because it spread both false information and details that were not legally allowed to be released. There has still been no verification that the administration ever denied being contacted in regards to the items on “the list.” No quote in the editorial or article, and even in your comment you admit that you are just making an assumption. Excuse me if this is perceived as some overall bias against The S&B but that’s just poor journalism. And yes, maybe my position on SPARC makes me worry about things like the S&B’s interference with a police investigation a little more than the average student, but I consider that part of my job.

    In response to the accusation of my harassment of the administration, I can assure you that isn’t even close to the truth. The sit-and-chats we held outside of Nollen House were exactly what you called for in your advice to “take a deep breath and keep trying to get recognized.” On a personal note, I had dinner with President Kington at his house just a few hours after one of these meetings outside of Nollen House, not exactly characteristic of harrassment. During that week I had several friendly, constructive conversations with Dean Skerrett and we were able to start formal meetings focused on creating a Bias-Motivated Incident Response Team (something that addressed over half of the points on “the list”). Related changes to the protocol are already in draft form. I completely agree that institutional change doesn’t happen over night but I’d say this was a success.

    As you said, criticism is good and I am completely open to constructive dialogue. In the future, however, maybe you should rethink taking such a personal approach in providing criticism, it can make your arguments look defensive and petty.

    Katey Gager

  • M

    Michael SchoelzNov 14, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Firstly, I’m glad you (Katey Gager) are passionate about this issue. No doubts about who’s side you’re on. But in the tradition of Jon Stewart, although seriously less funny or attractive, I just want to say, please restore some sanity and remember that the staff of the S&B is an ally. I know from past experience that you have little respect for the S&B and that is partly the fault of the newspaper but it also has to do with your personal history with the paper as a member of SPARC. I’m sorry you didn’t like this opinion that raised an important point: what we need is a behavior change by students and frankly the administration has nothing to do with that. SO no need to get in a tizzy.

    1.) this is a legitimate complaint about the piece. It should have been stated: Leaders of the SRC and other students. They used a short cut to refer to a group of people, and it left some people out. I’m sure the staff is sincerely sorry.
    BUT, are y’all a codified group? Do you have a membership role? Do you take role calls at meetings? How often do you meet? Recognize that most groups at Grinnell, while they certainly have a core membership, are pretty flexible and if the S&B happens to make a mistake in regards to group membership, they’re not intending to spread misinformation, its just hard to keep track of every member of every group on campus, even the important ones and especially new ones. Plus from what I understand this was kinda spearheaded on Thorrison’s plan who happens to be one of the SRC leaders this year. Easy and forgivable mistake.

    2.) Also a legitimate complaint. But there are two sides to this coin. The Administration says that yall have never presented these talking points (I’m assuming). You say you have three times. Obviously there is something going on here that I just don’t have the background knowledge for, but really, the only thing you can do is take a deep breath and keep trying to get recognized. I know you got a lotta passion but when you start harassing the people that are also trying to help around you (the admin, the S&B) it makes it more difficult for constructive thins to get done.

    3.) Here’s where you begin to go off the mark: I don’t know what class taught you that institutional changes happen overnight, but whoever put that idea in your head should probably be fired from the faculty. You know as well as I do that things have to start somewhere and yeah, who knows if it will go on next year…I guess that depends on the people who are still here when you leave. Do you trust us? So in other words, Offenberg and Skerett are starting to change the institution, and its going to take more work to get it in place forever, but really, you’re going to complain about that one? You don’t think that’s a little hasty?

    4.) Two things on this one: One, you are capitalizing, quit pretending. Just because you’re also doing good things doesn’t mean you’re not guilty of some bad ones. If you weren’t then the whole 18 talking points would have never come up. It is yet another tragedy in a string that has resulted in students wanting an adequate administration response and you are using this one to further your ideas because you think they will work. I’m pretty sure that’s called capitalizing. Or you could say that yall are “re-invigorated” to describe what your group is trying to do. Same thing.

    And we also have some straight egoism on your part. “I haven’t talked to any S&B reporters or seen any of you at our meetings.” I don’t understand why when the S&B makes a mistake all they hear is “Well you didn’t talk to me.” Okay sorry, they didn’t talk to everyone. Sometimes that means they don’t get great quotes from the people they interview because frankly some people are not very eloquent and sometimes that means they don’t get all aspects of a story. Its the hazard of newspaper. Additionally, this is a small campus and people talk. They don’t have to talk to everyone to form an opinion. Admittedly the more people they talk to the better informed the opinion, but most of the time, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on without talking to the people that have a low opinion of the paper.

    Remember that criticism is good. It allows you to step back and evaluate both what you are doing right and wrong. Instead of attacking the source of the criticism, maybe you should listen to what they say, because more than likely, there is something that you can gain, especially if you trust grinnellians.

    Michael Schoelz

  • D

    David NathanNov 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm


    Some may disagree, but I think a person can use the language of hate speech and not be racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-Semitic/etc. Grinnell College is a high pressure place. High pressure systems need a way to vent or they explode. People are the same- they need an outlet when they are under pressure. Some people vent by doing things they know drive other people nuts. Such people may do something offensive because they know it’ll impact the emotions and life of others. Some people vent by having rallies and blame incidents that took place but are also rallying for the unstated reason because they are very destressed about other things going on besides the stated incident as well.

    While at Grinnell, my religious community was the victim of anti-Semitic graffiti written on the walls of a south campus hallway calling for the death, among other things, to Jews. Some people in the Jewish community on campus were very frightened, and I understand where they were coming from. I understand that it is upsetting, and makes people feel unsafe.

    I think some people are homophobic. I think some people are racist. But I reject the claim that the use of hateful language is sufficient for one to be identified as racist/sexist/homophobic/etc.

    I think labeling others this way and ignoring the other possible motives behind such an action is a symptom of intellectually laziness, an attempt to get the charge one feels by putting others down, an immature attempt to feel better after being victimized, or a combination of the three.

    David Nathan

  • C

    Caitlin CarmodyNov 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I think your perspective is very interesting. However, I disagree “that some members of the community who are not the least bit homophobic but just want to stir things up are taking advantage of this cycle.” Perhaps there are rabble-rousers who just like to get a rise out of people–but I think choosing homophobic messaging to do so can’t be “not homophobic.” I would say the same thing about the swastikas in a dorm hall a few years ago–maybe someone was drunk and thought it would be funny to get people riled up, but in their brain, that person still felt it was OK to do so based on hateful messaging aimed at racial and ethnic identity–which indicates to me that they have some shit to work with to truly be anti-racist. So, perhaps whoever wrote threatening letters to 34 Grinnell students in Spring 2008 did not actually think those students would burn in hell–but I would never call whoever wrote them “not the least bit homophobic.”

  • G

    Grinnell StudentNov 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Interesting idea with the Simpson’s lock. However, they do sound very expensive both to install and to maintain. As our spirited campus has shown in past few years, things are liable to break during certain nights.

    But more importantly, installing the locks will only ensure safety in everyone’s rooms and force hate crimes and BMIs to happen in public spaces. Perhaps they’ll happen less because of this, but overall I don’t see this is a solid solution to the problem at hand.

  • S

    Simpson StudentNov 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Perhaps Grinnell ought to invest in locks for dorm rooms like Simpson’s locks. They automatically lock, but have keypads where the resident punches in a series of numbers to enter his/her room. Residents do not have to worry about keys/p-cards to get into their rooms.

    Also, Simpson has not had any incidents with hate crimes since at least 2007, which seems to justify David Nathan’s comment regarding the purpose of the homophobic incidents. However, I don’t think Simpson has as many people who are out, which could also affect the number of incidents.

    The government keeps track of all crime on college campuses, and you can use this tool to examine how Grinnell is similar to or different from comparably-sized campuses.

  • D

    David NathanNov 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I think it is tragic and criminal that a student’s personal dorm room, not to mention Grinnell property, was vandalized with homophobic slurs. To act this way at Grinnell or anywhere, is unacceptable and must be confronted and condemned by the administration of the school.

    At the same time, as an alumnus of Grinnell College, I have seen, and later, read about, homophobic incidents taking place at Grinnell College for years. Usually these incidents take place in the form of graffiti and often the perpetrator is not caught. I think part of the reason these actions happen is because someone or a group of someones over the years have recognized they can get a gigantic response from part of the campus community. The response comes in part from the victim/victims of the action and others who are afraid for their safety, but also from a group of people who use the incident as an opportunity to self righteously claim victim hood and make a sanctimonious spectacle of themselves. It is possible that there are a few members of the campus community who are homophobic and would engage in such behavior, and it is also possible that someone or someones have come to campus to engage in this behavior, but the sheer amount of these events taking place makes me think that at least some of them are done by members of the campus community, and I think it is also likely that many of these acts are done by people who just want to get a rise out of others.

    Anonymous hateful messages to anyone, anywhere is intolerable, and especially so at a college like Grinnel that prides itself on tolerance and safety. I hope the party behind this incident is found and punished to the full extent of Grinnell College Policy and the law. But I also think that incidents like this and the inevitable backlash has become a self reinforcing cycle on campus, and that some members of the community who who are not the least bit homophobic but just want to stir things up are taking advantage of this cycle. Acknowledging this is part of the process to decrease and hopefully eliminate such horrible events in the future.

    David Nathan, ’01

  • K

    Katey GagerNov 5, 2010 at 11:36 am

    A few things.

    1. “Concerned Students of Grinnell” is not all SRC leaders. I am a “Concerned Student of Grinnell,” helped organize the rally yesterday, and danced my ass off for six hours straight… I have never been to an SRC meeting.

    2. The list of talking points has been presented to the administration, including the president, at least three times. If the administration told you otherwise, you should have double-checked with students and gotten your facts straight. Spreading false information like that, especially during this time, makes it extremely difficult to get everyone on a unified front.

    3. Yes, Ben Offenberg and Dean Skerrett go and talk to students during tutorial about community expectations and bias-motivated incident protocol, but this is not an institutionalized program. Ben and Dean Skerrett do this on their own time, of their own will, and there is nothing that says it will continue next year or the years after. That is why we need institutional change.

    4. We are not capitalizing on a hate crime. The fact that you would even accuse other students of that without coming and talking to us (I haven’t talked to any S&B editors all week or seen any of you at our meetings) is ridiculous. We are all rallying in support of the victim of this hate crime, and have received positive responses from that victim. As someone who has seen the bias-motivated incident protocol in several versions and helped with some of the changes, these rallies are not a violation of the protocol. While the protocol outlines what an “official all-campus response” would be, that doesn’t mean students have to submit to the schedules and plans of the administration. Obviously the protocol is a working document, and this is an area of it that will have to be readdressed, but nowhere in the document does it prohibit other forms of response.

    All in all, I am extremely disappointed with this editorial. If you are going to weigh in on a situation as the college’s newspaper you should get your facts straight before publishing an opinion.

    Katey Gager
    Concerned Student of Grinnell
    SPARC Co-Chair
    SGA Senator