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Campus rumors

In recent days, I’ve heard two really interesting rumors from students. In both cases, the students claimed they had reliable sources.

  • The College is spending $100,000 to remove the crane from campus during graduation.
  • The College spent two million dollars to get Google maps to have people take the exit before 182 so that they enter town on US 6 rather than 146.

To be clear: Neither rumor is true [1]. And they sound absurd, don’t they? Where do these rumors, and other like them, come from? I expect that it’s a combination of factors.

Students know that we’re spending a lot of money on the HSSC [2]. They know we spend a lot of money on making graduation perfect, including replanting flower beds. They’ve seen us spend extra money related to HSSC on things they think are silly. So if someone says that they are spending more money related to these two endeavors, it makes sense.

I’ve heard the College discuss the route into town at past discussions of admissions. The industrial park by the interstate is not particularly nice. I’m pretty sure that we’ve updated the directions we give to people to suggest that they exit I-80 at exit 191 (coming from the east) or exit 179 (coming from the west) so that they travel to town in a nicer way. Google Maps does, in fact, tell people to get off at exit 179 (or before) when coming from the West. We’ve been known to spend money on strange marketing ploys, or at least strange marketing firms, and our current marketing plans involve discussions of our location. So it is perhaps a reasonable, if incorrect, conclusion that we bribed Google to change their routing algorithm.

Of course, there are alternate reasons for the Google Maps routing. For example, it is slightly shorter if you get off at exit 179. It is also quicker, since you don’t deal with any traffic lights. So the normal Google optimization does what we want [3]. No payment necessary.

But there are likely broader reasons that students [4] come up with these rumors. In particular, in spite of efforts at more transparency, many things still happen behind closed doors at the College.

The discontinuation of our relationship with Posse happened behind closed doors [5]. Given the many benefits our partnership with Posse brought to campus, you would have dismissed as a rumor any claim that we were discontinuing Posse. But we did.

The decision to build a new admissions center, even though we recently built the Chrystal center, happened mostly without public discussion. Yes, the admissions center was announced, but there was a lot of behind-closed-doors planning before it was announced. So if you heard about it before the announcement, you would likely have assumed it was a rumor; discovering it was true would make you more inclined to believe other rumors.

You’d think that it would be a rumor that they did not allocate individual prayer space of key religious groups in designing the new Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice. But it turns out that it was true. And it’s only because people spoke openly about the rumor that the issue was addressed.

As far as I know, almost no one on campus, including those who make regular use of Mac field, knew that we were closing Mac field for the spring, summer, and fall. I thought the claim that they were building a walkway through Mac field was a false rumor, but they are building a walkway through part of that field and they have not talked to the Ultimate [6] teams about it, even though the Ultimate teams use it [8].

If you knew that Grinnell is making student success one of its core foci, you knew that SHACS [9] is perpetually understaffed, and you heard that Student Affairs, which SHACS reports to, has received seven new positions, you’d think it was an absurd rumor that six of the seven positions went to Campus Safety, wouldn’t you? But it’s true [10]. Now, I don’t dispute that having more Safety Officers is useful, and probably even necessary. But from the perspective of a student or faculty member who has been worrying about SHACS, hearing about hte hiring in the context of other issues seems off-kilter, at best.

I guess it’s not surprising that people come up with strange rumors or that people believe them.

Let’s make a deal. If you are a student or faculty member and hear what sounds like a strange rumor, ask the office that should be involved [11]. If you are an office who is planning a large change, try to be transparent about the change and talk to the people affected [12]. If you’re not sure who your decision affects, take the time to find out.

Whoops! I had planned this as a short musing about incorrect rumors. It turned into a bit of a rant about recent campus decisions. I guess I’m in more of a curmudgeonly mood than I thought.

[1] Yes, I did ask, just in case.

[2] Humanities and Social Science Complex, aka Husk aka that building whose architectural drawings make it look like a convention center.

[3] And yes, it is a prettier route.

[4] And, at times, staff and faculty.

[5] Given the issues involved, it almost certainly had to happen behind closed doors.

[6] You might think of them as the Frisbee teams or The Sticky Tongue Frogs, Grinneleanor Roosevelts, and Grinnellephants [7].

[7] Don’t you love the names students choose for their teams? Bonus points for those who know which team used to be the Buddhas.

[8] The last I heard, no one had found space for Elephantitis yet. I’ve heard some concerns that in the short term, Mac field won’t be ready this fall, and in the long term, the new walkway will interfere with the spaces.

[9] Student Health and Counseling Services.

[10] The seventh went to disability services, which is a great use of a new position.

[11] If you’re uncomfortable asking, feel free to ask me to ask.

[12] Aren’t you proud of me for not using the term stakeholders?

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-05-28.