In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Patricia Williams of Columbia Law School and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic will come to Grinnell College for events on Jan. 19-20. All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.
On Monday, Jan. 19, Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University and recipient of a 2000 MacArthur "genius grant," will give a "teach-in" on "Hoping Against Hopelessness: An Anatomy of Short Lives." The teach-in, an interactive mix of lecture and discussion, will start at 10:30 a.m. and resume at 1:30 p.m. after a break for lunch.
On Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m., Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic, will give a lecture titled "The Case for Reparations." Coates's June 2014 cover story of the same name, which focuses on race relations in America, set a record for number of downloads in a single day from The Atlantic's website.
"Fostering respectful interactions in a diverse community is a critical part of Grinnell's mission," says Poonam Arora, chief diversity officer and associate dean of Grinnell College. "It is an honor to welcome Mr. Coates and Professor Williams to Grinnell, and I look forward to hearing their words as we come together to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day."
Sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Office of the President; the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice; the Student Government Association; the Office of the Dean; and the Center for the Humanities.
Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. The Joe Rosenfield '25 Center is located on Eighth Avenue, with accessible parking on the east side of the building. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.
A seasoned diplomat will delve into the growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia in his talk on Nov. 20.
Ambassador Ian Kelly will deliver the lecture “The U.S., Russia, and Bridging the East-West Divide” at 4:15 p.m., Nov. 20 in the Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.
“Ambassador Kelly has broad experience in the foreign service, particularly in the former Soviet republics,” says Edward Cohn, assistant professor of history and member of the Rosenfield Program Committee. “It is a privilege to welcome him to Grinnell.”
Kelly is the Diplomat in Residence for the Midwest, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was most recently the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE). He has previously held positions with the Department of State in Rome, Ankara, Belgrade, and Moscow, and has had several regional assignments that took him to all 15 former Soviet republics. Before joining the Foreign Service, Ambassador Kelly taught Russian at Columbia University, and received his doctorate there in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1986.
As a Diplomat in Residence for the Midwest, Kelly leads a program designed to recruit college students to Foreign Service careers.
The Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights is sponsoring the lecture.
Fighting in the Middle East continues to have broad implications for the rest of the world, according to a political analyst who studies the violent groups jockeying for control in Iraq.
Ahmed Ali ’08 will give the talk “Iraq’s Crossroads: ISIS and Political Challenges” at noon Tuesday, Nov. 18 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209. The talk will include a free lunch. No reservation is required.
Ali is a senior research analyst and Iraq team lead at the Institute for the Study of War. Ali has been researching Iraqi affairs for eight years, and he worked as an analyst on Middle Eastern Affairs at Georgetown University.
Ali shares his insights on the “most dangerous terrorist and military organization in the region and world.”
What does ISIS membership look like? What's its current connection with al Qaeda?
A: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is now a multinational organization. It is primarily led by Iraqi members who attacked U.S. forces during their presence in Iraq. The presence of Iraqis in ISIS’ upper echelons includes the leader of the group, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and high-ranking members of the ISIS senior leadership council. ISIS also has within its ranks foreign fighters who hail from Middle Eastern, European, and North American countries. ISIS is in a direct competition with al-Qaeda. ISIS conceives itself as the leader of the global Jihadist movement and Baghdadi promotes himself as a reincarnated leader of the Muslim world. ISIS vision, however, is not accepted by the majority of Muslims who view the organization as a brutal group that is intolerant of the social and ethnic diversity that dominates the Middle East.
What other political challenges does Iraq face?
A: Iraq’s challenges are military and political. Politically and socially, Iraq needs a major national reconciliation initiative. The different communities feel aggrieved by governmental behavior and policies throughout Iraq’s history. Therefore, there has to be a mechanism to address those historical grievances in order for the country to move forward. ISIS is a threat to all Iraqis and its defeat in Iraq can signal the beginning of a process that can bring the communities together under an inclusive government and system.
What are differences or similarities of the many groups fighting against ISIS in Iraq?
A: There is a civil war in Iraq. In this civil war, there are different groups fighting. ISIS is the major threat to Iraq given its regional and global ambitions and its indiscriminate use of violence. There are also other Iraqi Sunni insurgency groups that fight the Iraqi government that are either Islamist in nature or have ties to the Ba’ath Party that ruled Iraq for 35 years. But ISIS remains the most dominant anti-government force.
Additionally, there are Iraqi Shi’a militias that are backed by the Iranian government and are countering ISIS while concurrently carrying out sectarian attacks against Iraqi Sunni civilians in addition to conducting criminal activities.
For the Iraqi Kurds, the Peshmerga are a major force countering ISIS. The Peshmerga are trusted by the Iraqi Kurds and since June 2014 when Mosul fell, there has been increased acceptance of their role by the Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Turkrmens in certain areas due to the ISIS threat. The Peshmerga will have to maintain that trust by performing well and treating the population fairly. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which includes the army and police, are also very important players but they have to be rebuilt after years of mismanagement and challenges.
How many people have died in the violence so far?
A: It is clear that the last 11 years have witnessed continued violence touching every Iraqi family’s life and affecting many American families that have members serving in the U.S. military and other crucial U.S. government agencies.
What is ISIS' endgame?
A: ISIS wants to establish an Islamic state that is transnational and is the leader of the global Jihad. However, ISIS has always overplayed its hand and failed to garner public support. Therefore, the organization can be defeated.
What is the United States’ current anti-ISIS strategy?
A: The U.S. is a significant actor in the effort to counter ISIS. It can mobilize the international community and marshal unparalleled military assets. U.S. current strategy is based on militarily weakening ISIS while also encouraging the Iraqi government to be more inclusive.
The program is sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.
Campus committees abound at Grinnell and are among the numerous ways for students to leave their footprint. High student participation in campus committees may be an obvious result of self-governance.
“Self-government” and “a democratic student community” were concepts invoked by the College’s founders, notes Chris Jones, College archivist. Student representation on campus committees was regularly documented in the early 1900s.
So, the work of student involvement in the inner workings of the Grinnell campus is indeed a well-established practice. Some committees are elected; some are appointed; some are show-interest-and-you-are-in.
Benefits to students
“Through the Rosenfield Committee, I'm involved in the process of bringing fantastic speakers to campus to talk about issues of human rights and international relations,” says Nipun Basrur ’15, a chemistry major. “I have the opportunity to meet and interact with these speakers and to plan events and symposiums on topics that I personally care about — an incredibly rare opportunity for undergraduate students.”
Basrur is also a member of the Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC) for chemistry. Each academic department has its own SEPC. Basrur says, “I'm able to build a closer relationship with other majors and faculty and learn more about the planning and working of an academic department — which will be helpful if I choose to continue in academia in the future.”
Roni Finkelstein ’15 says, “I have learned so much about event planning, college operations, and networking from being involved in campus committees. I've also had invaluable enlightening conversations with accomplished scholars and professionals. My involvement with campus committees has shaped my perspective on my own career path.”
Last year, Finkelstein was involved in the Budget Planning Committee as Student Government Association treasurer. She currently serves on the Grinnell Prize Advisory Committee, the Rosenfield Program Committee, and the SEPC for history.
“I reach out to my social networks to gather opinions about what other students would like to see happen and share those opinions with staff and faculty,” Finkelstein says. “By gathering student opinion, committees become more effective in their missions to enrich campus life.”
Benefits to campus
Sarah Purcell ’92, professor of history and director of the Rosenfield Program, also knows well the benefits students gain from campus service. As a student, she served on the committee for the program she now directs.
“Everything in the Rosenfield Program involves students. It’s impossible to imagine doing this work without them,” Purcell says. “Students are the majority on the committee, are full voting members, and have input from ideas to planning to execution.”
Grinnell’s committee work culture “is self-gov in practice,” she says. “Sharing committee responsibilities helps students to gain experience. Committee work is a great way to get to know Grinnell and build skills such as workplace etiquette. It’s definitely a resume builder, especially if the student has taken an active role and can talk about specific projects and their part in them.”
“Students at Grinnell have uncommon opportunities to be involved in academic departments, standing committees, and task forces that directly impact the student experience. I tell students to take the role seriously. ‘You are a student whose voice is being heard so be an active participant in the process.’”
Peltz also sees a direct tie to self-governance. “Student participation is an expectation here, more so than at other places. Grinnell’s commitment to self-governance is the foundation on which committee decisions are made — from SEPCs where students play a role in recruitment and hiring of faculty to participating on Board of Trustees’ committees*. Students’ active involvement serves us better as a campus community.”
*The Student Government Association’s president and two vice-presidents regularly attend and participate on Board of Trustee committees.
Benefits for all
Basrur agrees: “When you give passionate and intelligent students the resources to plan events or student policies, our campus can only benefit.”
Nipun Basrur ’15, a chemistry major, is from Bangalore, India. Roni Finkelstein ’15, a history major, is from Tenafly, New Jersey.
Grinnell College Dean Michael Latham will deliver the Scholars’ Convocation titled "Development at War: The United States and Modernization in South Vietnam."
His talk examines how the U.S. responded to global decolonization in the midst of the Cold War, and the role that concepts of development played in American strategic thinking.
“I’m interested in the fundamental ideas that have guided the way the U.S. thinks about the rest of the world,” says the history professor.
The lecture will be held at noon Wednesday, Nov. 12 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.
Diverse models of economic development and social change became the subject of intense Cold War competition between the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and China, he says.
“That bridge between development, security concerns, and warfare appears in many other cases too,” he says. “You see it today in the way that American policymakers think about places like Iraq and Afghanistan.”
American liberals may indeed have had altruistic ambitions in terms of raising living standards and fighting poverty, but the U.S. also promoted economic development as a way to solve its concerns about security, he says. It often did so in ways that produced profoundly undemocratic and illiberal results, he says. He cites Vietnam as a classic example.
“The U.S was trying to create in South Vietnam a country where one had never existed before,” he says. “Trying to promote development not only to create and sustain a government, but win a devastating war.”
Latham’s talk is part of the ongoing Scholars’ Convocation series, which was created in the late 1970s.
A political expert will discuss the Tea Party and reactionary politics on the heels of a highly charged and historic election season.
Chris Parker, associate professor and Stuart A. Scheingold professor of social justice and political science at the University of Washington, Seattle, will give the talk “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America.”
The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will start at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in the Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.
“The political science department is thrilled that Chris is returning to Grinnell for this lecture,” says Barbara Trish, political science professor. “He taught at Grinnell about fifteen years ago, and was a popular faculty member whose courses tackled important ideas, drawing into the mix lively contemporary politics.”
The lecture bears the same title as the book Parker wrote with Matt A. Barreto. Published by Princeton University Press, it won the 2014 Best Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.
Parker analyzes the party’s motivations and the political implications. Parker and Barreto contend that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse.
Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, the book shows that what actually motivates Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is in danger because it’s being stolen from "real Americans" — a belief triggered by President Barack Obama’s election.
The event is part of the College’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.
Jonathan Kozol, a nationally recognized expert on education and New York Times bestselling author, will deliver a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in Herrick Chapel. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Kozol has devoted most of his life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity within our public schools to every child, of whatever racial origin or economic level. He is considered by many to be the most widely read and highly honored education writer in America.
Kozol’s lecture will address the continuing and growing resegregation of minority children in America’s schools, and how the rising charter school movement actually exacerbates these trends. He also will explain why meeting the needs of poor students of all races is fundamental to the future of our country. In addition, he will discuss why his work matters in predominantly white communities like Grinnell.
“Mr. Kozol has broad and deep experience with the United States education system, and it will be a privilege to hear his insights,” says Grinnell College Life Trustee Penny Bender Sebring ’64. “I am pleased to welcome him to Grinnell.”
Sebring is co-founder of the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions program, which sponsors Kozol’s lecture along with the Office of the President and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.
After graduating from Harvard and studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in the 1960s, Kozol taught school in a poor black neighborhood of Boston. He won the 1968 National Book Award for his first book, Death at an Early Age, which was based on the journal kept during his first year as a teacher.
His 1995 bestseller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor Kozol shares with Langston Hughes (1954 winner) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1955).
Ten years later, Kozol exposed the conditions he found in nearly 60 public schools in 30 different districts in The Shame of the Nation, which appeared on the New York Times bestseller list the week it was published. In this book, he concluded that inner-city children were more isolated racially than at any time since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
His latest book, Fire in the Ashes, has drawn widespread critical acclaim. This book tracks inner-city children from infancy to young adulthood, showcasing stories of triumph and tragedy.
Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.
Spoken-word artist Malcolm London has been called the “Gil Scott-Heron of this generation.”
The young activist visits campus Saturday, Nov. 1, for two events.
- At 3 p.m., Grinnellians who recently took part in a rally in Feguson, Mo. join London for a group discussion in the Joe Rosenfield Center '25, Room 101.
- At 7:30 p.m., London performs his spoken-word poetry in Bob’s Underground Café.
Kevin Coval, head of Young Chicago Authors, says the young poet “is that rare and important breed of poet-activist who can engage in a civic conversation via his art.”
London appeared on PBS's TED Talks with John Legend and Bill Gates. He’s shared stages with actor Matt Damon and rapper Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast and also appears on season two of TVOne’s Verses & Flow. Malcolm’s work has been featured on national outlets including CBS, NPR, Huffington Post, The Root, and the Chicago Tribune.
His visit is co-sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; and the Student Government Association.