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Proud and Thankful (#1034)

Topics/tags: Thank-you notes, Grinnell

These past few weeks have been, well, crazy. Like most people, I’m not sure how to react to it all. I’m doing my best to physically isolate myself from others (with the exception of my family) and to support others as best I can. Because I am on sabbatical and because I spent the week of March 9 in Portland, attempting to attend a conference, and the week of March 16 mostly at home since the College asked me to stay off campus, I’ve been spared from the vast majority of the complexities on campus. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening.

I am proud of the way Grinnell College has reacted to the pandemic and thankful to the many people who have been involved in the College’s response.

I am thankful that the College was proactive in its response to the pandemic and was ahead of most schools in deciding that students should leave campus if possible. I appreciate the many people involved in those decisions. I am especially thankful for the people who did the hard work of figuring out policies and procedures and carrying out those policies and procedures to help our students get safely out of the dorms and to home (or other safe place). I expect that not all students agree with individual decisions, but it strikes me that Grinnell has done a much better job than most institutions. And I know that our staff, particularly our student affairs staff, worked far beyond their normal hours, to support our students. I am so thankful for these wonderful colleagues.

I am proud that the College is working hard to be financially supportive of its various constituencies, that it is committed to continuing to pay staff and faculty members (even if their responsibilities do not permit remote work), that it is committed to continuing to pay student workers with work study (and some others, I believe), that it is refunding room and board for the students who have left campus. I am thankful to the Trustees and administrators who developed and supported these policies, even as the College’s endowment takes a significant hit due to the market downturn.

I am proud and thankful that the College also considered technological needs and included mechanisms for students to borrow laptops and wireless access points. I appreciate the hard work of our financial aid office and of ITS in these kinds of support for our students.

As I watch my colleagues discuss the transition to teaching online, I am proud to see their dedication to their students and thankful for the extra effort that they are putting into this transition. And we are all thankful to the folks in ITS and CTLA who are working so hard to support the faculty in this transition.

I am proud that the College has been so open in its communication. The College provided two public town halls whose recordings I was able to watch while remote. Dean Harris and a bunch of other people had two phone conversations with parents. The deep care that they expressed for our students in those conversations was quite moving. Members of Communications were active in posting information on the Parents Facebook Group and in sending announcements. It feels like Grinnell parents got a notification from the College nearly every day [1]. Student Affairs also set up a Facebook page that provided additional information.

Grinnell has done a much better job than the institution my other son attends, which has done none of that. I get a weekly message, at best, from that institution, and they’ve left many issues up in the air. I also haven’t heard of these kinds of open communication at most other institutions. So I am particularly thankful that our Administration is so willing to talk about these issues. Anne Harris, Sarah Moschenross, and Keith Archer were the most public speakers, so I particularly appreciate their leadership, but I also appreciate the others who’ve spoken and who have worked behind the scenes.

While Grinnell has asked most faculty and staff to work from home, there are many who must still work on campus, including staff from Facilities Management, the Mailroom, Dining Services, Campus Safety, ITS, Student Health and Wellness, and more [2]. I expect some Administrators and some Student Affairs folks are also on campus. I am particularly thankful for the extra work these folks are putting in. Especially with children home from school and the broader state of the world, I expect that is particularly hard.

This musing feels woefully incomplete. I know that I’ve missed a lot: Students who supported each other and the staff, folks who’ve done things small and large, alumni, townspeople, parents and families, and more. Thank you to everyone for being a wonderful community.

[1] Since I’m both a faculty member and a parent, it’s hard to tell.

[2] Wow, that’s a lot.

Version 1.0 of 2020-03-23 .