After a series of canceled Town Halls, the final Town Hall of the 2014-2015 academic year took place in JRC 101 on Thursday, April 23 at noon and 8 p.m. Students, faculty and staff engaged in a conversation about the different dialogues that have taken place on campus this year in light of the backlash against Yik Yak, Tyler Kingkade’s Huffington Post article about the College’s mishandling of sexual assault cases, and the issue of diversity on campus.
SGA President Opeyemi Awe ’15 explained the importance of these Town Hall meetings in an email to the Grinnell Community, exploring different questions concerning discussions on campus.
“So looking back on the year, how have we done? Did we have successful conversations or not?” Awe wrote. “If not, why and what do we do about it?”
These questions were posed in both town hall sessions, which hosted a smaller fraction of the College community than in past town halls. In spite of the relatively low turnout, Awe believed the discussions were more fruitful.
“Although there were fewer people, the conversations were richer,” Awe said.
Professor Eliza Willis, Political Science, and Ombudsperson Chinyere Ukabiala moderated the noon and evening town halls, respectively, along with Awe. Throughout the Town Halls, both moderators moved the conversations along by asking attendees to think about what conversations were missing from the table, who should—if anyone—instigate conversations around the hot topics of the year and how Grinnellians felt about the College’s handling of the tough conversations that arose throughout the year.
“The Town Halls are always a great starting point for conversation,” Awe said. “I think I was affirmed in the fact that it’s okay that we had a hard year but this is part of the college experience. For me, I hope to give students a tool kit. It’s not always about the issues that we talk about, but it’s how and the process through which we individually embody the conversations that we have.”
Town Hall attendees also brought to light the number of safe spaces on campus, conversations that we should—or should not—have in classrooms and the acts of intimacy among Grinnellians.
“We are afraid to have intimacy on this campus. We’re afraid to get to know each other,” said SGA Vice President of Student Affairs Iulia Iordache ’15.
At the end of the evening town hall session, both Awe and Ukabiala spoke about bringing humanity to the forefront of the conversations taking place on campus.
“There are different ways of having conversations,” Ukabiala said. “Recognize one another’s humanity because we are a community and I hope that we are a community that works together.”