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A Thriving Campus Climate

Principles for a Thriving Campus Climate

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in many ways, the mission and core values of Grinnell College remain strong and intact. How we realize the mission and honor our core values will require us to change and adapt, which — during the past three months — we have demonstrated we have the capacity to do. The strengths and talents of the Grinnell campus community run deep. Now, as we navigate the ambiguity before us and face countless decisions in the weeks and months ahead, the following principles are designed to help us make wise, thoughtful decisions so our community can continue to T.H.R.I.V.E.

Talk to improve transparency.

Thoughtful transparency and respectful communication are essential to building and sustaining trust and facilitating organizational effectiveness, particularly as we continue our work in an environment where we will be interacting in person and virtually. As we continue to evolve and adapt the ways we teach, learn, and function as a community and organization, it is critical that we adopt and maintain a commitment to clear and consistent communication. Further, a commitment to transparency also facilitates our ability — as a community — to identify and thoughtfully address conflicts when they arise.

Health and safety must remain a top priority for our entire campus community.

Maintaining the health and safety of our learning community — including our students, faculty, staff, and the guests who join us — will require us to consider the implications of the decisions and choices we make. This pandemic requires that we demonstrate care for the physical and mental health of ourselves and for one another, comply with public health guidelines and expectations, and observe new practices designed to preserve the health and safety of our community. Every member of our community shares this responsibility.

Re-imagine and reconsider what is possible and necessary.

While the temptation to “do what I did before” may be strong, the conditions have changed (the world has changed). Let us simplify, streamline, prioritize, and try something new. Now is the time to re-imagine and reconsider what is possible and, more importantly, what is necessary to successfully navigate and adapt to the ongoing uncertainty and changes that we face. By exercising creativity, testing and trying new ideas, and letting some things go, we position ourselves to have an experience that is manageable and emphasizes our shared humanity.

Inclusion requires flexibility.

According to Grinnell’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan (Page 3), “Being inclusive requires an active, intentional, coordinated effort to promote full participation and contributions of all college constituents.” This requires using flexibility as an equity principle and being attentive to the multiple and complex ways that the needs and abilities of individuals are impacted by past and present circumstances, experiences, systems, and structures. Whenever possible, we should seek to create a learning and working environment where all campus members and our community partners have the greatest opportunity to thrive regardless of their unique circumstances, individual characteristics, and nature and location of their work (virtual, in person, abroad). This means providing multiple pathways that lead to a reasonably attainable goal.

Value all experiences of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not weakness. It is part of the human condition. As human beings we are all vulnerable to COVID-19. However, not all of us are vulnerable in the same ways. As we seek to deliver a learning experience to our students, we must acknowledge and respond to the concrete ways that our different experiences of vulnerability shape what is possible for us as staff, faculty, students, and community members. Our experiences of vulnerability are not static, and our policies and practices must remain nimble and flexible enough to withstand the various unforeseen circumstances that we encounter as we work together toward a common goal.

Empathy requires all of us — and especially leaders — to be aware, sensitive, and responsive ...

... to the experiences of our various constituencies and the myriad ways that individuals are impacted by this crisis. This means acknowledging inequitable living and working situations and compassionately working with students and colleagues to make necessary adjustments to expectations and workload. It also requires a systematic way to address the ongoing and shifting states of grief and processes of healing that members of our community may be attempting to address.

Ways to T.H.R.I.V.E. in Your Classroom, Work, and Community

  • Do put humanity and dignity first. Don’t cling to old practices or policies that may do harm to human dignity.
  • Do discuss and seek guidance from others. Don’t make assumptions about the needs or capabilities of others.
  • Do build a new path which considers all perspectives. Don’t dismiss the experiences, feelings, or expertise of others.
  • Do consider the impact of your decisions on others on campus, off-campus, and in the larger community. Don’t privilege self apart from community.
  • Do select one or two manageable priorities for the year. Don’t proceed with business as usual or try to do everything that you did in the past.
  • Do provide multiple and flexible ways to get through the year. Don’t pick one non-negotiable method or pathway to accomplish your major priorities.
  • Do assume that you will have conflict and have a clear way to work through it. Don’t shame or bully people who disagree with your perspectives.
  • Do seek common ground and build from there. Don’t expect to get everything that you want.
  • Do respect your limitations and those of others. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others.
  • Do ask for help when you need it. Don’t try to bear burdens alone.
  • Do find regular ways to honor and support each other. Don’t take each other for granted.

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