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Dinner with trustees (#1186)

Topics/tags: Grinnell

It’s been some time since I’ve mused. I miss musing. However, I haven’t had much time of late; I didn’t even have time or energy to write a final Cuts, Closes, and Balances musing [1]. I’ve also felt disinclined to muse because musings often become rants, and I’ve been trying to rant less. Fortunately, my leave starts in about three weeks, so I hope to be able to restart my daily [2] musings. Even though time is limited, I did feel the need to write a short [3] musing about tonight’s evening activities, my dinner with some Grinnell College trustees [4]. Since I haven’t been writing for a while, my skills are perhaps a bit rusty. Please be generous in your reading.

This spring is the first time the Trustees have been on campus in about two years. They are here both for the spring Board meeting and for the inauguration of Anne Harris, Grinnell’s 14th president [5,6].

A few years ago, the Trustees started a tradition of meeting with a faculty from different divisions of the College when they are on campus, rotating between Science, Social Studies, and Humanities. They may also rotate in other groups; I’m not sure. I hope that they also dine with a variety of staff members from time to time [7].

I had signed up to attend the dinner. But when it came time to head over to the Grinnell Golf Club for dinner, I had second thoughts. Just as I don’t want to rant when I write, I also didn’t want to complain to the Trustees about the things that are upsetting me about Grinnell, such as the way our draft Learning Spaces Climate Policy is dividing the faculty, how the overreach of ITS security concerns is making teaching and working much harder, the long-term understaffing of computer science, or the effects on morale of two years of low raises [8]. And, while I share a deep love of Grinnell with the Trustees, my love has been tempered of late. I also don’t think Trustees should pay attention to individual issues at the College.

Plus, I was tired, behind on sleep.

But there are Trustees I know and like. And I learn things talking to the Trustees. I also knew that I’d have friends and colleagues from the sciences there who I could talk to or listen to as they spoke with the Trustees.

And so I went.

I’m glad I did.

It was a bit strange. Two of the first Trustees I talked to said something like Sam, I love your ’blog. I knew a few Trustees read what I write, but I had thought that was mostly the Trustees I know. These two were ones I did not know well. And, well, I haven’t been musing for a while, so it’s surprising that anyone thinks of me as actively writing.

Talking to them reminded me of why I like talking to our Trustees. We talked about Grinnell, legendary Grinnell faculty, the past and future of libraries, and more. The new Trustees I met [9] exhibited the same thoughtful and caring approaches I’ve encountered amongst our Trustees of late [10].

I also saw Trustees I’ve known for some years. I got to talk to one about the classes they visited, as I do each time I see them; I appreciate that we still have Trustees who enjoy attending classes [11]. One shared an amazingly snarky comment [12].

Plus I got time to talk to my wonderful colleagues in the Sciences.

I’m glad I went. And I’m glad that our conversations were casual and not about deeper issues at Grinnell. As I said, the Trustees are responsible for high-level issues and not for micromanaging Grinnell. Still, these are smart and thoughtful people. It would be nice to talk more carefully about some of the more significant issues at Grinnell. What should we do about faculty and staff morale? How can we improve the experiences of students of color and other underserved groups [14]? And, since it is part of their wheelhouse, how do we balance security with freedom and creativity in academic work? Or perhaps I’d ask them to consider the broader question of how we reinsert Grinnell’s academic program at the center of our work and decision-making processes.

Oh well. There are always other meetings. And I’m sure that others will be sharing the recent reports on faculty and student experiences. Plus, I now know that some of them read what I write. Perhaps this musing will prompt some conversations.

Postscript: Hmmm. Writing this wasn’t that bad. But it did take time. And I don’t have a lot of time in my life. Does it even have a useful point? I’m not sure. Still, I enjoyed writing; perhaps I can consider it a reminder that I should take the time to muse, even when I am overtired.

Postscript: I still recall my first dinner with Trustees. It was at a time when faculty who had received tenure were invited to dine with the Trustees at the President’s house. The year I got tenure, we had just announced that we were raising tuition by some large amount, perhaps 8% or more. And, at dinner, the dessert was a pudding covered in gold leaf, which is edible. All I could think was We’re raising tuition by 8% and the Trustees are eating gold.

As I said somewhere in this musing, I have had much better experiences with the more recent members of the Board of Trustees.

Postscript: I didn’t actually eat with the Trustees; I took my meal to go. Compliments to the catering staff! As usual, the food was excellent.

[1] This semester should be the final instance of Grinnell’s innovative registration system.

[2] Or almost daily.

[3] I assume.

[4] No relation to My Dinner with Andre.

[5] Anne has been president for nearly two years now. But this is the first real opportunity to celebrate her in person.

[6] I suppose I should make a snarky comment about President Kington being number 13. I’ll leave that comment for another day or another musing, perhaps one on the excessive Kington Plaza sign.

[7] Perhaps a Trustee will read this and think about ways to connect with more staff.

[8] Whoops. I guess I’m still upset about things.

[9] New to me; I’m not sure how new they are to the Board.

[10] I don’t know whether I’ve changed, or the Trustees have changed, or both, but I find myself much more appreciative of the Trustees I’ve interacted with over the past fifteen years than those I interacted with in my first decade or so.

[11] All in the Humanities.

[12] It is inappropriate to share it further.

[14] As I’ve said in public, I don’t think the Learning Spaces Climate Policy addresses the deeper issues that make Grinnell a difficult place for many of our students from underserved groups.

Version 1.0 released 2022-05-04.

Version 1.1 of 2022-05-04.