The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Kington mandates substance free college trips

The administration enacted an interim policy that stipulates all college-funded trips are subject to the same rules and that all participants must be substance-free for the entirety of these trips, for the first time including those funded only through SGA.

Ever since last year, the administration had been in talks about formulating a uniform alcohol policy that can be applied to all college-funded trips. Recently, these talks gained new momentum when ReNew declined funding from the CRSSJ that required all of its participants, including those who are 21 and over, to be substance-free and instead sought funding from SGA.

According to President Raynard Kington, several issues prompted the administration to formulate a new policy regarding alcohol on college-funded trips. The most prominent ones are liability concerns, the lack of a uniform travel policy and a desire for students to portray a certain image of the College while off-campus.

“There are multiple parts of this. We looked at all of this, the issues about representing the College, of consistency, we’ve discussed with our attorneys the reality that there are legal liability issues whenever we support an activity for students, off-campus in particular,” said Kington. “We want to do everything we can to minimize risk of harm to the students first, and second, of liability to the college.”

Gabe Schecter ’12, President of the SGA, feels that this new policy is an infringement on students’ right to self-governance and that it demonstrates a lack of trust in the student body.

“The state law is not lax, it’s very real, it’s more real when you’re outside the campus. … To think that students act unaware of such consequences off-campus is untrue,” Schecher said. “If we’re going to preach self-governance and inter-floor relationships, why wouldn’t we let self-governance apply within the groups on these trips?”

Madeline Eiler ’12, a ReNew leader, shares Schecter’s concerns and is worried about the implication of these new policies on the group dynamic of future ReNew trips.

“It’s not just about kids wanting to drink, it’s more about the agency,” Eiler said. “I think this will change the way ReNew works; it puts the leaders in an awkward position because if participants decide to go against the waiver and drink, it risks our status as a student group and makes the leaders have to be more like chaperones, rather than equals.”

Kington asserts that liberty is not the only aspect of self-governance that needs to be considered.

“There are two parts of self-gov: one is inward looking about how we make decisions; the other is outward looking about how do we, as a community, interact with the world out there. It’s about asking what image we want to put forth of ourselves,” he said. “Sometimes you might do something that might constrain you but you might do it because of your devotion to an institution and that’s the part that you don’t hear much and that’s something we need to change.”

President Kington also raised concerns over the heated arguments put forth by the student groups that have been affected by this change in policy.

“The issue is really about the small percentage of student who are above age. The rest of them shouldn’t be drinking anyway. It worries me that [drinking]’s considered an integral part of what’s supposed to be service. I don’t see how being able to drink alcohol legally ties into the sense of why people would want to do it.”

Schecter, however, does not see any reason for the College to go above and beyond state law and maintains that the performance of participants on these trips has not been hampered by the fact that they thus far had the agency to drink.

“I had posed a question to Deanna [Shorb] about whether or not the service work during ReNew had decreased over the last years, and the answer to that was ‘no’, that the quality of work is still the same,” he said. “I think it’s quite overreaching for the college to be worried about being associated with students who are responsibly and legally having a fine social time at a bar.”

While administrators recognized that students had been conducting themselves responsibly so far, they felt that it was fair that all students, as representatives of the college, be subject to the same set of rules while on college-funded trips.

“[We’d been applying] different standards to different groups. There’s already a [sub-free] policy both on AltBreak and on all [varsity] athletic events. … If athletes have to be sub-free, it was a question of fairness as well,” said Kington. “The reason that they are sub-free is that we want to put the best face of the college forward. We do have a standard that allows a great deal of discretion on campus, but that’s the key: on campus. There’s a difference between behavior in your home and behavior when you’re a guest outside.”

As Kington said, the formulation of this policy is about two competing values of the College.  He emphasized the importance of “Valuing the support for and the belief in our students to make good judgment calls against a policy that’s about making sure that we go above and beyond the law to project an image about how deeply we believe in this institution.”

For now, a clear decision has been made and this policy is not open for debate.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (2)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Stephanie SmithOct 8, 2011 at 10:30 am

    My favorite thing about this decision is that it’s not enforceable, especially in completely student-run trips. I dislike the way President Kington paints this as an issue of self-governance. It was, before he came to this decision, but now it’s clearly not. At least not officially. Liberty may not be the only part of self-gov, but it IS integral, and once you officially take it away, self-gov ceases to be self-gov (where’s the self- bit? You’re trying to gov me.)

    I understand the issues with legal liability, but he wants us to portray a certain IMAGE? What image? Grinnell is not sub-free and 21-year-olds are legally allowed to drink. As far as I know, drinking on trips hasn’t been a problem in the past. People will continue drinking, but now they have to be more discreet about it, which could be both beneficial (I bet people will be less likely to get really drunk) and irritating for leaders. What role do trip leaders take in this, especially student leaders? What if they catch someone drinking? I agree with Madeline’s concerns. I think this goes too far and I hope that President Kington doesn’t continue to insert his own negative opinions about alcohol in policies to come.

  • B

    Brien MartinOct 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    As someone who works in higher education, I can understand the student angst over the policy change. As the parent of a first-year, I can understand how living under self-governance carries with it enough personal responsibility to “do the right thing” gives students a feeling that they can handle whatever happens, responsibly.

    But I fear that the students are missing part of the “problem” that President Kington is addressing with his policy change. And that is the legal liability that accrues to Grinnell College whenever the College funds and sponsors off-campus trips, be they for study abroad, community and social service, or recreation.

    Students who may truly “drink responsibly” can make mistakes while drinking, and that’s where the College’s funding and sponsorship overlap with the society within which Grinnellians are traveling while off-campus. The parent of a child injured by an inebriated Grinnellian while out on the town during a College-sponsored trip does not care about self-governance. They do not care about the rights of the student. They only care about justice and what will be done to make them whole again.

    President Kington is correct when he says that there is a difference between what the College allows on-campus, and what society allows off-campus. Self-gov may be love, but only between Grinnellians, and only while on campus.

    Students who wish to be socially aware and socially responsible should see this policy as being *very* socially aware and socially responsible as President Kington is looking out for others, not just his own constituency.