By Daria Brosius
SGA and the faculty each discussed position statements this week advocating for the retention of need-blind admissions but leaving the administration leeway on other financial aid policy changes. The resolutions will be presented to the Board of Trustees later this month.
The faculty passed their resolution on Monday, and SGA will hold a final vote on theirs at Joint Board this Wednesday. Both Chair of the Faculty Kathy Kamp, Anthropology, and SGA President Colleen Osborne ’13 expressed their desire on behalf of students and faculty to avoid “micromanaging” the work of the admissions office.
SGA cabinet presented the resolution they wrote at Joint Board on Wednesday. The resolution calls for maintaining need-blind admissions, noting that the policy is directly related to the value of diversity.
“We recognize that the College faces immense financial challenges and that the current economic structure is not sustainable,” the proposed resolution states. “Acknowledging these realities, a change must occur; however, we do not want this change to occur at the expense of the full spirit of Grinnell’s need-blind admissions policy.”
Senators voted to add the extra reference to the “full spirit of” need-blind admissions to make clear that the use of proxies for wealth, such as an applicant’s zip code, is also an unacceptable measure to them. The Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid’s (CAFA) proposed options that left wealth proxies off the table, although the trustees have not ruled it out, according to Osborne.
The SGA resolution presented did not address the other policies being considered by the College. At Joint Board, some senators, led by Nathan Forman ’15 and Linda Beigel ’14, advocated taking stands on each policy being considered, rather than just on need-blind admissions and the use of wealth proxies.
There are nine policies split between the three options currently put on the table by CAFA. Partially eliminating need-blind admissions is one of the options.
“We really ought to be working towards getting into the specifics,” Forman said at Joint Board.
Osborne responded that adding positions on more specific policies would tread on the admissions office’s ground. “[It] would be infringing on their abilities—their superior abilities, if you will,” she said.
“We don’t have the capacity to say that, to tell the admissions office how to do their job,” she later added.
Solomon Miller ’13, a former senator and former editor-in-chief of the S&B, joined the debate from the audience, arguing Joint Board has a responsibility to go through all of the options and take positions.
“If Joint Board is not an appropriate forum for that, then what is Joint Board an appropriate forum for?” he said.
Several senators and cabinet members argued that SGA should not try to represent the opinion of the entire student body.
Treasurer Raghav Malik ’13 said individual students could express their opinions on the Grinnell’s Future website or by emailing administrators as an alternative to a more detailed SGA resolution.
“The College has made it so easy for them to speak on behalf of themselves that they can,” he said.
Senator Sam Mulopulos ’14, while not firmly taking either side, raised the problem that students had not given input to SGA despite outreach attempts such as hall councils. “Students have refused time and time again to make their voices heard on this,” he said.
After long debate on these issues and others, Malik led an effort to insert language opposing the proposed policy of adding five wealthier international students, whom the College is already need-aware in admitting. The amendment with this language and the extra anti-wealth proxy language passed nine to two with six abstentions.
“I think for the most part, the senators liked the resolution,” Osborne said in an interview after Joint Board. “There were a few who thought that it should be more specific. But, as I said at Joint Board, the cabinet put in a lot of time and thought.”
Osborne said the values expressed are at a level above specifics. “We decided after speaking with [Vice President for Enrollment] Joe Bagnoli, with support from administration and faculty, that these are our values and our principles,” she said. “It’s what we stand for. Access and diversity and all the specifics are under that umbrella.”
Osborne said Cabinet felt “like it would be infringing on admissions and their authority to do their job, saying that we urge them not to increase more Iowa students, well they’re already doing that and urging them not to isn’t going to do anything. We think we can say, ‘We don’t agree with that’ instead of micromanaging.”
The faculty resolution also endorses retaining need-blind without addressing other options.
“The resolution is purposefully general about the exact methods that would be used to increase student revenues, because we feel the faculty should not micromanage any administrative office or department,” the resolution’s rationale section states.
“The Grinnell College faculty supports remaining need-blind in making admissions decisions for domestic students and meeting the full demonstrated need of admitted students,” the resolution states. “Within the parameters of the commitment to need-blind admission and after examination of alternatives, the Grinnell College faculty supports the efforts to raise average per student tuition revenue by the Office of Admission and Financial Aid with regular consultation and annual monitoring by the Admission and Student Financial Aid Committee.”
The faculty voted on the resolution on Monday.
“It was approved, overwhelmingly,” Kamp said. “There was a lot of support for it, and just a handful of faculty who opposed it.”
“There was a lot of discussion, and the motion was designed to express what we already judged as being faculty sentiment,” Kamp said. “[The faculty advocated for] a need blind policy that admits the best student body possible, regardless of wealth or class.”
“The administration is convinced we need more money,” Kamp said. “[It is] very hard to control how much people donate, so to some extent some increase in student revenue needed to happen.”
She said faculty have a strong desire to find a way to raise the needed revenue while keeping need-blind admissions.
“Joe Bagnoli has created a lot of trust,” Kamp said, increasing confidence that faculty’s voices will be listened to.
She said faculty would continue monitoring the progress of changes to financial aid policies.