The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Physical safety should be a universal right

Dear Editor,

There are obviously a lot of complicated issues wrapped up in the conversation about hate crimes on Grinnell’s campus. We feel that the most pressing one is often the most overlooked—the lack of all-around safety for all Grinnell students. This concern does not stem from divisive campus politics, but it is an issue that goes unmentioned in campus discussions surrounding the hate crimes. The fact is that the dorms should be a safe-haven for students, not a place of intimidation and fear. The campus dorms are first and foremost the homes of the students who reside there. Therefore, they should feel safe where they live. This recent hate crime is not the catalyst of this culture of fear, but rather has exacerbated the anxieties of students on campus, queers and nonqueers alike. When students are scared to walk across campus without an escort, or feel the need to lock their doors, it’s equivalent to requiring an escort to walk across your front yard. In some ways, this experience is even more threatening—Grinnell College is a small community, and being afraid of the people you see in Chemistry, in the Dining Hall and the Grill everyday is an incredibly isolating experience for students regardless of their sexual or gender identity.

Often when a desire for greater safety on campus is vocalized, there is an automatic fear that manifestations of this desire could infringe upon self-governance. This reaction, while stemming from a commendable passion for the tenet of self-governance, misrepresents both the idea of safety and self-governance. Making Grinnell a safer place does not have to involve security cameras and security guards. Greater safety on campus is not mutually exclusive with the responsibility of self-governance. If students require more security guards on campus in order to feel safe, we as a community (including both students and the institution) have already failed at our duty of self-governance.

Some students who disagree with the “queer agenda” have been concerned that they do not have a place to dialogue about their beliefs. The purpose of the recent action is not to exclude those individuals form the community but to include them in the search for a safer Grinnell. For us, safer Grinnell is not only a place safer for LGBTQIA students, but safer for every student, regardless of individual identity or opinion. We would also like to address the difference between safety and comfort, something extremely important in understanding the issues regarding the response to the recent hate crime. There is a difference between feeling uncomfortable and being unsafe. In one instance, one fears that one’s opinion or feelings will be dismissed, disparaged or maligned by the group they are working with. In the other, one fears physical harm. There has been significant conflation of these two feelings in the last few weeks, and it is important to recognize that while achieving comfort and safety for everyone is an essential goal, safety is our greatest, most urgent objective.

In regards to discussion of safe space, we’re trying to make Grinnell a safe space for everyone, not just a select few. Every individual adds to the creation of a truly “safe space.” The change we want the campus to have needs to come with a change within our own hearts. We must unlearn our own intolerance and foster dialogue about the issues we are intolerant of. The overwhelming objective of this movement is increased safety for all students: this is a call for institutional change, not a call solely for administration change.

We should feel safe in our own homes. For seven months out of the year students have to consider this campus our home, and it is everyone in the community’s job to make sure that home is safe. Grinnell should feel like a home for us all.


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