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New Group Discusses Grinnell Identity

On Sunday, Feb. 12, the athlete-based Pioneer Diversity Counsel hosted an open discussion about campus unity in JRC 101.

“The goal of the organization is to challenge issues on campus such as diversity, not only by the color of the skin, but also by social class,” said Ki Harris ’14, president of the Pioneer Diversity Counsel. “We are trying to integrate the voice of the athletes into the rest of the campus. We want to have conversations with people we do not know, interact with them, and find out what is going on campus.”

Opeyemi (Ope) Awe ’15, one of the organizers of this event, expressed her hope for the near future.

“Over the next four years, I want to remake what school spirit means here at Grinnell in a variety of ways, both athletically and academically,” Awe said. She views Grinnell College as lacking team spirit and unity.

“Imagine your friends are going to big state schools or Ivy schools. They are always talking about the great things that their schools are doing, like ‘my team won this’ or ‘my professor did this amazing research’. And all these things are going on here at Grinnell, probably more so than most other institutions, but we never talk about it.” Ope said, “I’ve been working with Ki [Harris], Jordan [Young], the RLCs, and people in SGA to try to see what campus unity means here and if what we are doing is feasible. Also, what we hear from this conversation is will be part of our efforts in formulating the plan (of enhancing campus unity).”

A few seniors spoke out about their experience and views on the issue of campus unity.

“A lot of people recognize divides between several groups, primarily concerning where you live on campus. There is also a seeming divide between athletes and non-athletes,” said Matt Rosenbaum ’12. “However, I do not think it is necessarily the worst thing because people are friends with people who have similar characteristics, similar affinities, and who enjoy certain activities. But I also think it is important to mention campus unity: we all love Grinnell; we all came here for a certain reason. That is what I attribute to GC pride; we all chose to come to this small campus in the middle of nowhere.”

In terms of sports teams on campus, Rosenbaum admitted that the majority of the campus does not go to any of the games. “So there is a level of unity that we all need to subscribe to, and we all need to cheer each other,” Rosenbaum said.

David Opong-Wadee ’12 talked about physical division on campus.

“In some part of the campus, like South Campus, there are alternative concerts, DJs, etc. that are catering to that population over there versus Harris being over here even though everyone eventually flows to Harris on Saturdays nights because there’s nothing to do in the middle of the cornfield. I think people find where their friend groups are after their first year and get comfortable with where they live and continue their life. For example, people on South Campus make friends with other people on South Campus and athletes want to live closer to the gym. I think it makes sense,” he said. “And I do not think that’s a resource issue because whenever somebody does something on the national level or represents Grinnell outside, it goes on the website and there’s a immediate response by the campus to highlight whatever success that individual has.”

In the following small group discussion, people raised questions and shared ideas with others.

“The purpose is to foster open discussion about how we as Grinnellians view unity on campus,” said Jordan Young, ’14, the vice president of Pioneer diversity counsel said.

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    Colin MaisonFeb 21, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Suggestions: Better define the identity, mission, and programming at Grinnell and move forward with confidence. Build on Grinnell’s assets that will not change (location) and make space for scholarship (faculty research, visiting scholars) that will advance Grinnell as a groundbreaking institution. Use existing prizes and/or develop new partnerships that will brand Grinnell as an institution for social justice. This summary was primarily informed by faculty, staff, students, and alumni.