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Grinnell celebrates freeing of Dorje Gurung '94 from Qatar detention

Dorje Gurung

NOTE: This story was updated at 4:05 PM on Monday, May 13, 2013, to reflect the fact that Dorje Gurung arrived in Nepal. 

Last week Dorje Gurung, a Grinnell College graduate from the Class of 1994, was arraigned in Doha, Qatar, on charges of insulting Islam and jailed. Grinnell alumni came together to organize support by creating petitions, building advocacy networks on Facebook, arranging legal counsel and creating a legal defense fund. Within 48 hours more than 13,000 individuals had signed the Change.org petition calling for Dorje's release.

On Sunday, May 12 (in U.S. time zones), the authorities in Doha released Dorje Gurung from jail. Today he was permitted to leave the country, and he is now safely back in his native Nepal.

Grinnell applauds the decision by the Qatar government to release Dorje and allow him to return home. Believing that free speech rights and religious freedoms are entirely compatible in a civil society, we celebrate his freedom while remembering the many others who still face repression in Qatar and elsewhere for their work on behalf of social justice. The College stands with Dorje and all those who work around the world to advance religious tolerance and respect for civil liberties.

Grinnell is also extremely proud of our alumni, whose initiative and leadership sparked the worldwide effort to free Dorje Gurung '94. You are the living embodiment of the Grinnellian commitment to justice.

Originally published as an online web extra for The Grinnell Magazine Summer 2013 (PDF).

Fire and Ice

Two courses of students and faculty participated in international field trips during winter break 2013. 

Kathy Jacobson and Peter Jacobson, associate professors of biology, traveled with students from their Namib Desert Ecology course. 

Students in Korea's Economic Development course traveled with Jack Mutti, Sidney Meyer Professor in International EconomicsKeith Brouhle ’96, associate professor of economics; and Man-Ching Chan, assistant professor of economics. 

For more about the courses, see "Fire & Ice" from The Grinnell Magazine Spring 2013.

Brus Sets NCAA D-III Record

On Feb. 17, Grinnell Pioneer Michael Brus ’14 swam his way into the national record book, setting an NCAA Division III record in the 200-yard backstroke with a clocking time of 1:45.94.  Brus was competing at the 2013 Midwest Conference (MWC) Swimming and Diving Championships, hosted by Grinnell.  The mark is pending certification.

Brus is no stranger to awards. He has been named the MWC Men's Swimmer of the Year three times, earned multiple All-America honors the past two seasons, and was a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 200-meter backstroke.  Going into the conference, he already held the MWC D-III records in six individual events and three relays.  At this year’s MWC championship, Brus won seven events and helped the Pioneers earn their 12th team title in a row. He also set meet and school records in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, 200 and 500 freestyles, and as part of the 200, 400 and 800 medley relays and 400 free relay.

Brus will be competing in the NCAA D-III Championship on March 20-23 in Shenandoah, Texas. He currently has the fastest NCAA D-III times in both backstrokes.

Yarn Bombing the Peace Grove

A guerilla art project knits together a group of students, townspeople, and local alumni

“I was working on my calculus homework in the math lab, and one of the tutors got sidetracked and started to tell me about an article that she had read about ‘yarn bombing’  — people knitting sweaters for trees to decorate public places — and I was seriously intrigued. I’d never knit anything before, but women in a knitting group in town [including Joan Baker ’51 and Dorothy Palmer ’62] welcomed us into their Sit ’n’ Knit group and taught us how. They have us over to their houses every Thursday night for knitting sessions! Almost half of the students in my tutorial joined the project, and we set up a knitting station in Burling so anyone could take a break and knit on one of the sweaters.” —Cassie Miller ’16

“At first people were hesitant about the project, sometimes thinking that we were trying to keep the trees warm. After we explained it was more of a public art installation that we were initiating as part of our tutorial [anthropology professor Jon Andelson ’70’s Our Prairie Town: Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives], they were much more enthusiastic. At the public knitting station in Burling, people were knitting like crazy. That sweater turned out to be much longer than the rest and was full of different knitting styles and patterns, representing, however cheesy this may sound, all the different people who worked on the project. I like thinking about people walking up to the library feeling stressed about school or life in general and smiling when they see our tree sweaters. —Sophie Neems ’16

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An Athlete's Community of Support

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Author: (Unpublished) Erin Labasan

If you’re a student-athlete (emphasis on “student”), you will almost certainly love it at Grinnell. Sure, depending on your sport, you can find higher levels of athletic competition at other schools, but to find a place where you can be encouraged to excel in the classroom just as much as you excel on the field (or in the pool or on the court) is a much rarer phenomenon. The key to Grinnell’s success in both the academic and athletic spheres is the support the athletes receive not just from teammates and coaches, but also from professors and the student body at large. All these people care about my development as a human being and push me on multiple levels to achieve beyond my expectations.

I know that at some schools, being a “jock” would be all that defined me, but at Grinnell, people recognize that’s not all I am. Even if I spend much of my time at the athletic center, no one’s stopping me from exploring additional facets of campus life. I get to be a student, a tour guide, a writer, a varsity athlete, and anything else I feel like pursuing, all at once. It’s kind of liberating, knowing that people will let you be you.

And it’s personal here. You can see it in the class sizes (the student to teacher ratio is about 10:1) and within our athletic programs, too. My senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges, I filled out maybe a dozen athletic inquiries online. In response, I received mostly generic, automated messages thanking me for my interest. But within 24 hours of sending my information to Grinnell, the head volleyball coach e-mailed me personally with some additional questions, like: What was I looking for from a college athletic experience? What was my philosophy of the game? He recommended I come to Iowa and experience the Grinnell community for myself.

I remember that word specifically: “community.” It has been the most relevant word in the last three years of my life while at college. Before I was even officially enrolled at Grinnell, the volleyball and softball teams made me feel welcome with personal e-mails and phone calls. Once I was here, I became part of a culture in which literally everything is an all-campus community event, where everyone, even the soonto- be-graduating seniors, cares about supporting his or her fellow students.

It really hit me during the last home volleyball game of the 2009 season. Looking up into the stands, I realized the gym was packed, vibrating with the crowd’s energy. But it wasn’t only other athletes who came out to support us, and it wasn’t just the student section that was crowded — professors, dining services and facilities management employees, the president of the College, and people from town who had no discernible connection to anyone on the team all turned out for our match, some with painted signs, some with painted bodies. Buoyed by this incredible support system, we won every one of our home conference games that season.

At Grinnell, you don’t have to choose between great athletics and high-quality academics. You can have both, plus a couple thousand people cheering you on the whole way.

Erin Labasan '11 is a Psychology Major from Neotsu, OR.

 

An Idiot’s Guide to Procrastination

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Issue: Summer 2008
Author: Patrick Laine '08

Going to college is a big step. When I arrived on Grinnell’s campus as an enthusiastic first-year, I was filled with grandiose visions of the four years that lay ahead. I was eager to immerse myself in the exciting world of higher learning and embrace a new lifestyle. I was ready to become an adult and use the liberal arts education to forge a new identity. I was so caught up in these romantic musings that the simplest of adjustments took me completely off-guard. For the first time in my life, I had to use the Internet!

At first, the challenges of navigating the World Wide Web addled my brain. I don’t doubt that most prospective college students practically think in 0s and 1s. However, there must be a few others out there who have never been to JSTOR or attached a word document to an e-mail. In order to deal with the pressures of college’s technological requirements, some Internet virgins seek refuge in a few frivolous websites. This is understandable; we college students spend so much time in front of a computer screen, it’s healthy to have a few recreational outlets. Internet procrastination seems harmless, but it can be devastating if conducted improperly. Having wasted many hours surfing the web instead of writing papers, I consider myself a procrastinator extraordinaire. I feel compelled to impart some of this hallowed knowledge to future Grinnellians, lest their souls become trapped in the “about me” sections of their Facebook profiles. To this end, I will tell you about a little website called Grinnell Plans.

In January of this year, Plans was reported to have 3,809 members, consisting of current students, alumni, and some faculty, staff members, and, by invitation, other friends of the College. Much like Facebook and MySpace, Plans is a virtual community consisting of individual profiles. However, Plans is different from these run-of-the-mill time-wasters. For one, the profiles are not little boxes for filling in your favorites. Plans members’ pages are akin to blogs: full of opinions, anecdotes, and unadulterated expression. Reading my classmates’ Plans lets me know what’s going on in their lives on a day-to-day basis. This allows me to actually learn about people as unique individuals, as opposed to reducing them to a list of their favorite things, and it can actually inspire real social interactions. In fact, my friend’s witty Plan impressed an admirer so much, she asked him on a date. Surely it’s better to ask someone out because of their scintillating wit, and not simply because he or she is listed as “single” and looks hot in the profile pic.

Facebook claims to be a social networking site, but I consider it a source of insecurity and a vehicle for divisiveness. Friend counts encourage people to quantify their social worth. Exclusive events can make people feel left out. Basically, sites like Facebook and MySpace perpetuate the social dynamics that govern junior high. As a college student, you should seek to expand your social horizons and develop mature relationships with people. Plans fosters this type of social growth by allowing you to connect with the people in your life in meaningful ways. Digital socializing will never replace face-to-face interactions, but in today’s fast-paced world, technology is central to communication. This doesn’t mean we need to interact as robots.

In light of this, I exhort you to spend two minutes on Plans for every minute on Facebook. Wasting time is too important of an activity to be carried out poorly.

Patrick Laine '08 is a Philosophy major from St. Paul, Minnesota.