Oh Grinnell… Part 1

August 3, 2006

My feelings towards Grinnell have become quite polarized. Sketching out the traditional pros and cons sheet, I find the same listing under both headings. In other words, a large number of Grinnell’s selling points also serve as its largest detractors, with only a few exceptions.

Consider, Grinnell is a perfect example of “pure” liberal arts. I love this; I love learning about history, theory, communications, mythology, and basically every other subject that falls under this label. I’ll adamantly oppose anyone who questions the value of such an education, but such an education does not train. True, you may become a sociologist, English teacher, or historian, but even in these situations, the training isn’t formal by any means. We are given knowledge, but rarely the ability to put such knowledge in to practice.

Yes, we can form “clubs” to gather and do whatever you want. You can join work organizations such as the newspaper, ITS, or catering to gain work experience. Unfortunately, each of these organizations operates in a little bubble, separate from the rest of the world. Most clubs fail miserably because their founders can’t find enough support among the student body, who largely attend meeting to eat free food. The student jobs are simply a joke (though this isn’t a Grinnell-specific attribute) as none require significant training or, in several cases, time commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love ITS. Working as a tech head is the highlight at Grinnell, but watching other ITS students sleep on the job and fail at basic applications saddens me. They’ve actually lied to users to get out of solving problems.

Mine you, several of these problems stem from Grinnell’s attempt to be larger than it really is. During any given year, less than 1,500 students attend the university with a hundred or so off on leave. Assuming the school will somehow expand exponentially (though nothing in our history would suggest this), Grinnell has created dozens of completely useless services to model their significantly larger counterparts. We have a “Technology Discovery Center” which, as far as I am aware, has never been used. We have a small kindergarten to be observed by the few dozen education seniors. Of course the town of Grinnell has similar institutions, as do nearby cities, but let’s not use those. Grinnell has a very lovely gymnasium, pool, track, etc. to cater to our excuse for sport teams. I understand our “peer” institutions are doing the same. I understand why we would want to “keep up” with similar institutions to attract more students, but does that mean we should shoot ourselves in the foot if they do?

This argument was the largest (actually the only) made in favor of increasing Grinnell’s tuition. We must increase our price to represent the “true value” of a Grinnell education. We must attract students to our institution by equating our tuition with that of our peers. …Right? No, you stupid, stupid idiots. Upping the price-tag does not attract the same type of students originally promoted at our college. Upping the price-tag manages to bring more rich students. Notice how I didn’t say more intelligent students, more compassionate students, or more productive members of society. Further, though I’m sure the administration would argue this for hours, Grinnell is not equivalent to its “peers.” We are in the middle of nowhere. I don’t mean Fort Wayne, Montgomery, or Juno; I mean absolutely nowhere. Spin this all you want, you can’t take away the fact that this sucks. Grinnell is not any one of its peers. We don’t have the interships of Macalester, the cozy Olde England feel of Carelton, or even the business majors of Davidson. We aren’t necessarily better; we are simply different. Our goals, students, and methods are different. Accept it and accept that prospective students would much rather see a large financial aid packet than attend the first (or second) college to be wind powered.

Give me a day or two to catch my breath; brace for part 2!

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