According to various sources, bowls used for a party in Clark Lounge on Saturday, May 1 were found to contain derogatory language, including misogynistic, racist, ableist and pedophilic terms, individually directed at over 50 female members of the Grinnell College community.
An official complaint was filed with the College on Tuesday, May 4. About 75 of the estimated 150 bowls present at the party were recovered, according to Vice President of Diversity and Achievement Elena Bernal ’94. Bernal declared this a bias-motivated incident, in accordance with the Hate Crime/Bias-Motivated Incident Response Protocol.
The College Hearing Board was also convened to review a potential breach of the student conduct policy. No official information has been released regarding the organizers of the party.
Various official and unofficial responses are taking place, following rumors circulating on the cyber forum GrinnellPlans. SGA senators were officially notified that the Protocol was activated at their weekly meeting by SGA Administrative Coordinator Ethan Struby ’10. An all-campus e-mail was sent out by Bernal and President of the College Russell K. Osgood at approximately 9 a.m. this morning.
The bowls contained Jell-O, according to an anonymous source who saw them. The party was called “Cunnilingus,” presumably comparing the act of drinking Jell-O from a bowl labeled with a female’s name to the sexual act.
“The contents of the party and the evidence that was found pointed to a bias-motivated incident because it was an identity-based target group,” Bernal said. “In that instance everyone on a bowl was a woman. And then there were additional comments [discovered] that were racist and ableist.”
The writing took the form of first name, derogatory nickname, last name, according to Bernal and several of those named. As the Protocol mandates, the Offices of Diversity and Achievement and Student Affairs notified all of those confirmed to have been named before the all-campus e-mail was sent.
“No one received a cold e-mail … everyone received personal contact,” Bernal said.
Elizabeth Hamil* ’10 received a phone call Thursday from Student Affairs notifying her that she was named on two bowls.
“The one that was truly insulting was a racial slur,” Hamil said. “It’s hard knowing that it comes from some people that you have considered yourself very close with, and have had classes with these people, and hung out in social situations with some of these people.”
Those named were given the option to know what was written about them, according to Hamil.
“There were multiple family members of both faculty and staff who were targeted—along with students, staff and faculty members,” said Vice
President of Student Affairs Houston Dougharty. Bernal confirmed this and added that athletic coaches’ relatives were among those named.
Cunnilingus was founded by students in 1997 as a counterpart to the already existent “Blow Job Party.” The original Cunnilingus featured bowls of beer with the names of celebrities—not Grinnellians—at the bottom, according to an alumnus who attended the original party, who asked to remain anonymous.
No official complaints were filed about the party until this year.
“These [nicknames] are overtly sexist, racist, ableist, and all kinds of –isms, and that’s not what Grinnell is about,” said Elizabeth Temple** ’10, who was named on a bowl.
As more information became known, various members of the Grinnell College community began to respond publicly.
Evan Hunsley ’11 and Lexy Leuszler ’12 led a poster-making session on Thursday afternoon to put welcoming messages up across campus. The idea came out of a regularly scheduled Feminist Action Coalition (FAC) meeting on Wednesday, which was attended by many non-FAC members, including students with ties to people who attended the party, according to Hunsley.
“We’re not trying to point any fingers or cast blame or do anything other than show support for people who may have been made to feel unsafe,” Hunsley said.
Director of Athletics Greg Wallace is working to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.
“Education is the key—there’s no doubt about it,” Wallace said.
Wallace plans to take steps to acclimate new student athletes to Grinnell. Interim Head Football and Women’s Track Coach and Fitness Center Director Jeff Pedersen ’02 confirmed that male athletes were involved.
Bernal and Osgood further confirmed in their all-campus e-mail that the “‘invitation-only’ party was coordinated and attended by select male athletes.”
“[RLC] Dan Hirsch, from Real Men [and I have] been working together to talk about developing a program that we can be able to address with all the student athletes, and in particular the male athletes during their early time when they’re here on campus next fall,” Wallace said.
Students have also taken initiative to encourage discussions about these issues.
After commenting on the incident on GrinnellPlans, Gretel Carlson ’10 and Eleanor Russell ’10 were approached by five students with ties to the party. They are encouraged by the success of the resulting conversation, and hope to provide a similar opportunity for more members of the College community.
“I think it’s important to not just treat someone as misogynist or privileged, and throw out these buzzwords that sound really good,” said Carlson. “It just bounces off of people … it doesn’t get to the people we want to get to.”
Carlson and Russell are hosting an informal forum on the second floor of the Joe Rosenfeld ’25 Center on Monday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Students will break up into small groups to facilitate a more personal discussion.
Official responses will also be taken by the Office of Diversity and Achievement, according to Bernal.
An all-campus forum will be held Thursday, May 13 at 11 a.m.—during convocation time when no classes are in session—in JRC 101.
*Student’s name changed to protect privacy
**Student’s name changed to protect privacy