Letters to the Editor

Spring 2019

As a usually proud alum of Grinnell College, class of 1984, I was shocked and appalled to read [in The Des Moines Register] that the College is fighting the unionization efforts of its students and potentially threatening the organizing rights of college students across the United States. Such action couldn’t be further from Grinnell’s proudest traditions of promoting social justice. When Debra Lukehart, a Grinnell spokesperson, argues that unionization undermines the College’s core educational mission and inserts priorities that are “economic, not educational, into learning outside the classroom,” she misses the boat. To paraphrase the U.S. Supreme Court in its Tinker v. Des Moines School Board decision from 50 years ago, students don’t shed their rights to economic justice at the schoolhouse gate. On a practical matter, less than two percent of Grinnell’s operating expenses go toward student salaries. Is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in opposing unionization really worth the risk of alienating donors and alumni who expect more from our alma mater

Editor’s note: For context, for the 2016–17 school year, institutional grant aid to students comprised about 27 percent of Grinnell’s operational budget.

- Jon Krieg ’84

Fall 2018

I support the recommendations on climate impact, sustainability, and divestment as presented in The Grinnell Magazine Summer 2018 issue. What could be better than reducing the College’s carbon footprint? The electric utility that serves Grinnell College offers an optional program through which all (or a portion of) the College’s electricity could be renewable for a reasonable additional cost.
More than two decades ago I led a team that developed such a program for Minnesota electric cooperatives. At that time no other utility in Minnesota or Iowa offered such a program. Now most of them do. That program is easier and more cost-effective, and therefore more likely to succeed, than having the College try to develop its own renewable resources. Over time the College could add electric vehicles and electric boilers, replacing fossil-fueled vehicles and boilers, thus becoming even more renewable. It’s a way to take action that is less showy but more substantive than some of the alternatives.

- Rick Lancaster ’76

Just wanted to add my thoughts about the article “Dean of the Cage” [Summer 2018, Page 18] regarding Roger Bauman. I was one of the first student employees to work with Roger in the “cage” in the PEC [Physical Education Center] when he started in 1985, and I was subsequently one of the first to benefit from his mentoring and friendship. Roger was there for me in many ways. He fixed my car to get me home by Christmas. He organized a hayride for a friend’s surprise birthday party. And I believe my friends and I were the first of many students who have had Roger barbecue a hog for a post-Commencement party on High Street. But even more than these things were his friendship and the example he set each and every day just by being himself.
Since graduation, I’ve worked for almost 30 years in higher ed. The fact that I’m a staff member working with students, just like Roger did with me, may certainly be in part because of his influence. I hope I have been the friend and mentor to my students that Roger was for me. And now that my daughter is a high school senior and we have been touring colleges, I find myself looking at the faculty and staff on those tours and hope she will find someone like Roger to help her find her way like he did for me. I only wish there was a U.S. News & World Report list of Top 20 College Mentors. Roger and his big Grinnell family would most certainly be on that list.

- Mark Gempler ’88

In response to the letter from Daniel Litten ’94, “Your partisanship is showing” [Summer 2018, “Letters,” Page 2]: how can The Grinnell Magazine report on our school without representing values that are biased? The values which are the essence of Grinnell — ethnic and gender diversity, intellectual curiosity, help for the less fortunate, and the embrace of ugly questions — directly oppose an American president whose policies attack immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and the science of global warming.

As Grinnell students from travel-banned countries fail to return to school this fall, as transgender women have our rights rolled back under this president, as Iowa braces for climate changes that threaten its crops, why would Grinnell and its magazine not be the ideal stage for us to debate what our country and world should be?

- Marin Luria Harbur ’94

In response to Daniel Litten ’94, I would like to point out that nothing, including The Grinnell Magazine, is nonpartisan... . After all, aren’t Grinnell College’s “values” diversity and social responsibility? The fact that U.S. Rep. Tom Cole ’71 [R-Okla.] is a Grinnell alumnus certainly provides a “real Grinnell angle” to the piece.

- Isaac Mielke ’18

In this recent poem, I attempted to recapture something from my own experience that might resonate with other Grinnellians as well. I always felt there was something magical about the sunlight that streamed down the South Campus loggia, especially how it looked after coming down from the stress of midterm or final exams. 

One afternoon the yellow sunlight

One afternoon the yellow sunlight returned 

that used to stream down the South Campus

loggia after final exams when most of 

the students had already left for home. 

I was lying on my bed after a walk and 

there it was, coming in through the window,

the sun from 35 years before, whispering

How could you forget me? How, through the long, 

long row of windows, I spread myself thin

across the red, blue and gold bicycles, 

along the smooth grey concrete stretching

200 yards to Main Hall. Were you not cold?

- David de Young ’86

Editor’s note:

Among the three statehouse candidates profiled in the Fall 2018 story, “The Year of the Grinnell Woman,” one alumna won, one lost, and as of this writing, one is still in a virtual tie. All are Democrats. 

Laura Clymore Ellman ’87 was behind on election night by 12 votes but won her race for Illinois State Senate after mail-in votes were counted. She won by nearly 1,200 votes. In northwest Wisconsin, Kim MacDonald Butler ’83 ran for state assembly and lost by about 4,400 votes. Kayla Koether ’12 ran for a seat in Iowa House District 55 in northeast Iowa. The incumbent leads Koether by seven votes, out of 13,831 votes cast. Koether has requested a recount.

- Michele Regenold

Summer 2018

I had great admiration for Mr. [Kenneth] Christiansen as a scientist and really enjoyed him as a person [“In Memoriam,” Page 46, Spring 2018]. I learned a tremendous amount from him, and he had a great positive influence on me. He was one major reason I was inspired to get a Ph.D. in entomological sciences from University of California, Berkeley.

I have many great memories of times with him: collecting Collembola in the forests of Oahu and visiting scientists at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu; working many hours together in his lab as his research assistant, especially during the summer of 1983 when I worked with him full time; publishing a journal article together describing two new species of Collembola; doing an individual guided reading with him on entomology; taking his courses, in particular invertebrate zoology; and appreciating good music together at many times in his lab while we were bent over microscopes. During the summer of ’83, he invited me to join the city of Grinnell’s performance of The Music Man — he acted on stage while I played saxophone and clarinet in the orchestra.

I’ll certainly miss him, as I enjoyed keeping in touch with him by letters and email over the years since I graduated.

Ken was a wonderful adviser and teacher, who really cared about his students.

- Greg Luther ’84

Kenneth A. Christiansen head shotI was saddened to read in the Spring 2018 issue of Ken Christiansen’s death and his wife’s not long afterwards [“In Memoriam,” Page 46]. I took biology from Mr. Christiansen when I was at Grinnell — I graduated in 1959. The classroom was one of those large rooms with banked seats for students. I loved the class, though I was an English and American lit major. What I remember most vividly was that during one of Mr. Christiansen’s lectures, a small squirrel climbed up out of his pocket, where it apparently spent the day, scrambled up the front of his jacket and onto his shoulder, where it peed. Mr. Christiansen smiled and went on with his lecture. What a man!

- Liane Ellison Norman ’59

That's So Grinnellian Winter 2016I find the use of the phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” in your regular photo feature a bit off mark. While my fellow Grinnell friends and I do use this phrase somewhat regularly and I certainly understand trying to tap into that vernacular, using it on a photo simply depicting the Grinnell campus isn’t the proper use of the phrase. The feature as it is currently curated would be more appropriately titled the somewhat less inspired but more accurate: “That’s Grinnell.”

The phrase “That’s so Grinnellian” describes that Grinnellian je ne sais quoi — the charming actions or appearance of a lovable nerd, or maybe in a more serious way, someone who is living out the social justice mission. And it should refer to a person and/or their actions — not a place. A view of the dining hall? That’s Grinnell. Taking the time to write a letter to the editor, nit-picking over the proper use of a colloquialism? That’s so Grinnellian.

- Thomas Agran ’09