Robert Jensen of the Wharton School to Give Scholars' Convocation on Nov. 2

Robert Jensen, David B. Ford professor and chairperson of the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, will give the Scholars’ Convocation at Grinnell College on Thursday, Nov. 2.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Is Image Everything? The Surprising Power of Peer Social Concerns on Behavior.” The event will start at 11 a.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

Jensen is also the Wharton Director of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a fellow of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development and an affiliate of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. He has also served as an adviser to the International Labor Organization and the World Bank on strategies to eradicate child labor and the design of social welfare programs.

Jensen’s research focuses on the economics of poverty and economic development, including topics such as gender, health, education and fertility. His research has included projects in a number of countries including China, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nepal and India. His work has been published in leading journals including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economics and Statistics, and has been profiled in media outlets including The Economist, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, Science, and the Wall Street Journal.

The next Scholars’ Convocation, scheduled for Nov. 9 with Christina Sass, co-founder and COO of Andela, has been canceled and may be rescheduled for spring semester. Sass’s lecture was titled “Business Transforming International Development.”

George Anders, a contributing editor to Forbes magazine, will present the final Scholars’ Convocation of the fall semester on Nov. 16. His lecture is titled “Work’s Provocative Future: Which Graduates Will Thrive?”

Study finds copper surfaces in fitness centers reduce bacteria, possible infection

Using copper-alloy materials in fitness centers significantly reduced concentrations of bacteria on all equipment types, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study shows high-touch surfaces in gyms made with copper will maintain reduced bacterial loads, as found in similar studies performed in hospitals. These results could reduce the number of community-acquired infections (CAIs). Led by Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, associate professor of biology, the study found significantly fewer bacteria on equipment with copper alloy grips such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, specialty dumbbells, grip attachments, lat pulldown attachments, and low row attachments.

“Grip surfaces in athletic centers present an ideal environment for microbes to persist and spread,” said Hinsa-Leasure. “We have shown that copper alloy grips reduce bacterial numbers by 94% over control grips and thereby limit the spread of infectious microbes by reducing exposure to athletes.”

In the U.S., 57.3 million people are members of at least one athletic facility, and high-touch surfaces throughout a gym can serve as reservoirs for pathogenic microorganisms, including antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Though typically found in hospitals, outbreaks of MRSA infections have become more common in athletic centers. But, while hospital-acquired infections and hospital-onset infections have dropped by 27.7 percent and 54.2 percent, respectively, CAIs have only dropped by five percent. There is a need for proper hygiene protocols and other preventative approaches to reduce the potential for CAIs in high-touch environments such as athletic facilities.

According to the World Health Organization, the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is rapidly increasing and eliminating treatment options for infected individuals. Every year in the U.S., approximately two million people are infected with an antibiotic-resistant pathogen, and at least 23,000 die as a result of the infection. With the rise of MRSA and other CAIs in gyms, the use of copper alloy surfaces not only reduce bacterial burden, but also help prevent the spread of infections like MRSA.

MRSA and other pathogens can survive from days to months on dry surfaces, but copper alloy kills a majority of bacteria within two hours. Copper compounds have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, yet copper alloys were just recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as having antimicrobial effectiveness, driving the increased study and use of copper alloy surfaces.

The study was conducted over 16 months at Grinnell College Athletic Center. During the study, equipment was cleaned following the center’s protocol—machines, benches, and bars are wiped down with antibacterial wipes, users are encouraged to wipe down equipment, and a daily cleaning is performed every morning. High-touch areas were swabbed during open hours or immediately following is closing.

“We demonstrated that copper alloys excel at reducing bacteria in the athletic center environment at rates similar to those found in hospital settings,” said Hinsa-Leasure. “And we found the most common type of bacteria on these surfaces are Staphylococcus. In this high traffic environment with students, faculty and staff from all over the world utilizing the same equipment, installing copper alloy grips is a simple way to enhance the cleaning protocol of our athletic center.”

Hinsa-Leasure’s research team for this project included undergraduate students Zina Ibrahim ’17, Alexandra “Julia” Petrusan ’18, and Patrick Hooke ’15.

Grinnell Singers to perform 'In Converse with the Stars'

The Grinnell Singers will present “In Converse with the Stars,” a concert of choral music spanning five centuries, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29 in Sebring Lewis Hall in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St., Grinnell.

While the event is free and open to the public, donations will be accepted for Immigration Allies of Marshalltown, an organization that works to meet the needs of immigrant communities in this region of Iowa.

The concert will feature Claudio Monteverdi’s “Sfogava con le stele,” which translate to “In Converse with the Stars,” in which a man sick with love gives vent to his pain beneath the night sky, paired with Johannes Brahms’s “O schöne Nacht,” translated to “O beautiful night,” which, like the Monteverdi, combines the two themes of star gazing and an outpouring of love.

The Grinnell Singers will also perform “To the Hands” by Caroline Shaw, a powerful work that focuses on America’s promise of welcome as inscribed at the Statue of Liberty and the reality of the current refugee crisis and issues surrounding immigration. In addition, the ensemble will perform portions of John Rommereim’s “Convivencia,” a multi-movement work for choir, string quartet, and harp that explores points of connection in sacred love poetry from Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions. Rommereim is the Blanche Johnson professor of music at Grinnell College and conducts the Grinnell Singers.

The concert will also include a selection from Rachmaninov’s “All-Night Vigil,” an evocative setting of a Pushkin poem by the 20th-century Russian composer, Gyorgii Sviridov, a folk song setting by Shawn Kirchner, a colorful work by Finnish composer Einojunahi Rautavaara and Rommereim’s “Amara – Breath of Grace” with Mark Laver, assistant professor of music, on the jazz saxophone.

The Grinnell Singers are an ensemble of students who perform music from an extremely wide variety of traditions and locales — from Brahms to Bluegrass, from Renaissance England to 21st century New York. They work hard to craft the very best musical performances together, and as they pursue these high ideals, they are committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and supportive for each and every member. In addition to their musical work, the ensemble regularly contributes to the community in the form of volunteer projects.

Celebrate Halloween with a spooky organ concert

Organist Michael J. Elsbernd will perform a Halloween concert at Grinnell College on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the free, public performance will start at 9 p.m. in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell.

Elsbernd, who serves as director of worship, music and organist and choir director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, will open the concert with J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in d minor. The program also includes selections from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera and works by Johann Pachelbel, Jehan Alain, Pietro A. Yon, and Leon Boëlimann.

The audience will be invited to join in singing three Ghoultide Scarols composed by Thomas Paviechko. Scarols are Yuletide carols set in a minor key with spooky accompaniments and Halloween words. The scarols featured in Grinnell’s concert are “Rattling Bones,” “I Spied Three Haunted Ships” and “The Wailing Scarol.”

In addition to his work at St. John’s, Elsbernd is an adjunct faculty member at Grand View University in Des Moines, where he teaches organ.  Prior to his 2015 appointment at St. John’s, he served as director of music ministry and principal organist at First Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

A graduate of Luther College, Elsbernd also holds a master’s degree in music from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Michigan. He has made concert appearances as an ensemble player with Boston Brass, Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, Arrowhead Chorale, Twin Ports Wind Ensemble, and the choirs of South Dakota State University. As an organist and harpsichordist, he performed regularly with the Michigan Sinfonietta Orchestra.

Grinnell College’s Public Events Committee is sponsoring this performance.

Scholars of Race & Sexual Violence Discuss the Politics of Human Thriving

Two scholars of race and sexual violence — Sharon Block, a historian, and Ladelle McWhorter, a philosopher and social theorist — will discuss “Race, Sexual Violence, and the Politics of Human Thriving” in a free, public event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

​In this special interdisciplinary event, the two will illustrate how humanistic inquiry can help us think through pressing questions in our individual and collective lives. Each will briefly discuss their own approaches and the insights they make possible before opening to extended conversation and questions.

Caleb Elfenbein, director of the Center for the Humanities, will moderate.

Sharon Block

Sharon Block is a professor of history at University of California, Irvine. She works in colonial North American history, with specializations in history of sexuality, race, and the body, as well as more broadly in computational humanities. She is the author of Rape and Sexual Power in Early America and the forthcoming Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America.

She was an early advocate for computational humanities and published a variety of articles using topic modeling, including on the place of women’s history in academic publishing. She is a co-editor of Major Problems in American Women’s History and a special issue of the William and Mary Quarterly on sexuality in early America. She has also published an additional two dozen articles and essays focused on rape, the history of sexuality and gender, and race in colonial North America. She has promoted campus diversity and inclusion as an equity advisor, served as an undergraduate associate dean, run an education abroad program in Australia, and currently serves on University of California, Irvine’s peer review committee on faculty sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Ladelle McWhorter

Ladelle McWhorter is author of Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization, Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy, and more than three dozen articles on Foucault, Bataille, Irigaray, and race theory. With Gail Stenstad, she edited Heidegger and the Earth: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. She holds the Stephanie Bennett Smith Chair in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and is also professor of environmental studies and holds an appointment in the philosophy department at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.


Ancient Language, Modern Theory

Sam Zukoff, postdoctoral associate of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will give a free, public lecture on “Reduplication in Ancient Greek” at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, in ARH, Room 120. Light refreshments will be served.

Zukoff’s work draws from ancient Indo-European languages — Greek, Sanskrit, Gothic, Hittite, etc. — and tries to explain their patterns of sound and word forms in light of contemporary theory.

Reduplication is the process of doubling part or all of a word. An example from English is “itsy bitsy,” where “bit” takes on a diminutive suffix “-sy” and “-itsy” is copied and placed on the left. In Greek and Sanskrit, reduplication is used in conjugating verbs, and interesting problems arise from the interaction of reduplication and other phonological processes.

Zukoff's visit is sponsored by the Linguistics Concentration, Department of Classics, and Academic Affairs.

2017 Installation Ceremony

You are cordially invited to attend the 2017 Installation Ceremony for named chairs, professorships, and staff honoring:

  • Shuchi Kapila, professor of English, assistant vice president for global education, and senior international officer
  • Elaine Marzluff, professor of chemistry, Breid-McFarland Professor of Science
  • Daniel Reynolds, professor of German, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages
  • Erik Simpson, professor of English, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Humanities

The celebration, 11 a.m.–noon, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Herrick Chapel, will include remarks by President Raynard S. Kington, Dean of the College Michael Latham, and the newly installed faculty.

Please join us in celebrating these and all current faculty who hold named chairs and professorships.​

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, October 28, 2017, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152.

The film will be followed by a question and answer session with Prof. James Buhler, professor of music theory and director of the Center for American Music at the University of Texas at Austin. Pizza and chicken buffet dinner provided.

The event is sponsored by the Cultural Films Committee, the Music Department, and the Center for the Humanities.


Special Campus Memo: Title IX

Sept. 22, 2017

Today the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issued a notice to inform colleges and universities that the department has rescinded two pieces of Title IX guidance and has replaced them with new interim guidance. While the interim guidance gives colleges the discretion to use a "clear and convincing" standard of evidence, Grinnell will continue to use our "preponderance of the evidence" or more-likely-than-not standard as defined in the Grinnell College Policy, Procedures and Guide to Preventing, Reporting, and Responding to Sexual Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence.

The work the College has done to prevent and respond to reports of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment has positioned us well for the future. We remain committed to responding promptly and equitably when we learn of possible sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. We will continue to use an outside investigator and a third-party adjudicator for student cases. We also will continue to provide remedies and support measures for both complainants and respondents. The new guidance states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, and we are looking into the implications of this change. At this time we do not believe the announcement will affect our policies and procedures. Should any changes be required by the DOE, we will inform the campus community. Meanwhile, we have more work to do and our Title IX work will continue. We are grateful for the many, many individuals who work to support our community and foster a safe learning environment for all Grinnellians.

Grinnell's Sexual Respect website provides information about the Title IX policies, procedures, and resources available to our community.

As always, we encourage College community members to contact the Title IX Office (titleix[at]grinnell[dot]edu or call 641-269-4999) if you have questions or concerns, or are seeking support.

Title IX Office

Lavender Country Concert

Patrick Haggerty, founding member of first openly gay country music group, Lavender Country, will perform with his band at Grinnell College on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

The concert is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell. No tickets are required.

AJ Lewis, former Grinnell College visiting professor of gender, women's and sexuality studies, will open the show with a banjo act with Lavender Country.

Grinnell College Public Events is sponsoring the concert, which is co-sponsored by Student Government Association Concerts.

In 1973, Haggerty formed the first openly gay country band. The group, called Lavender Country, released 1,000 bootleg copies of its self-titled and community-funded album. They played LGBTQ benefits and festivals for a few years and then disbanded with little fanfare.

In 1999, Lavender Country's album was archived at the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2014, a still-unknown user uploaded one of Lavender Country's songs to YouTube. Up-and-coming record label, Paradise of Bachelors, rereleased the album to enthusiastic reception.

Since then, Lavender Country is bigger than ever. The band has recently been the subject of award-winning documentaries and there is talk of a feature-length movie in the works.