Professor and students sitting outdoors wearing masks

Values Guiding Actions

Guiding Principles for Decision Making

In what will forever be a defining moment in each of our lives, Grinnellians rose to meet unprecedented challenges and changes together. Grinnell College’s commitment to social responsibility is a call to action in which decisions are made with others in mind. The College approached every decision since the pandemic began using a community and public health framework that prioritizes the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and community.


Health and Safety

The College holds in deep regard that community health means protecting the health of the many people in our community: students, staff, faculty, and the broader Grinnell community that the College calls home.


Low-density Campus Residency

In addition to a small number of students approved for continuous residency, the number of students on campus grew incrementally throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

Partnership with University of Iowa

Partners from across campus meet with experts from the University of Iowa to review current status and discuss safety protocols.


The college launched a publicly available dashboard that aggregates local, regional and state data related to COVID-19. Grinnell’s dashboard received national recognition and earned an ‘A’ grade along with only 35 other colleges and universities nationally.

Campus Activity Level

The campus activity level system provides overall guidance for life and work at Grinnell based on community health conditions. Each level provides information about a range of topics, including personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols; class formats (in person, online or a combination); meeting formats (in person or online); and travel and visitor policies.

On-Campus Testing

This robust on-campus program plays a pivotal role in the overall effort to maintain community health. The campus testing program results are sent out in a weekly email to faculty, staff, and students and posted publicly to the website.

On-Campus Vaccination Clinics

The College collaborated with a local pharmacy to provide on-campus vaccination clinics for first and second doses when the vaccine became available.

COVID-19 Student Vaccination Requirement

The College will require COVID-19 vaccines for students enrolled at Grinnell for the 2021-22 academic year. The efficacy of vaccines, as well as expanded vaccine eligibility and availability, allows us to address the higher risk of transmission in a communal living environment and affirms this additional step to protect the health of our community.


  • The GrinnWell Together Commitment frames the expectations for students on campus. Similar measures were outlined in the Employee Commitment to Personal and Collective Health agreement.
  • The principles of THRIVE (Talk to improve transparency, Health and safety, Re-imagine and reconsider what is possible, Inclusion requires flexibility, Value all experiences of vulnerability, Empathy) provide good counsel for enduring and learning.


Academic Continuity

To maintain academic excellence and the quality of the student experience and remain socially responsible, increasing equity and providing access to a Grinnell education.


Transition to Distance Learning

Grinnell was one of the first colleges to announce a transition to online teaching learning in response to the pandemic. With our commitment to course and degree completion in mind, the College implemented temporary policy changes such as S/D/F grading and leaves of absence to provide flexibility to students and faculty.

Condensed Academic Units

In consideration of the ever-changing circumstances of a pandemic we began with a cautious approach. The 2020-21 academic year consisted of four 7.5-week terms, spread out over the traditional fall semester and spring semester, with an optional summer term serving as a means to ensure student academic progress. These shorter terms allowed us to start small and incrementally increase the number of students on campus.

Equity, Diversity, and Access

In response to concerns that barriers to taking standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT for underrepresented students would diminish participation rates and potentially lead to a decrease in the number of domestic students of color Grinnell could admit, we adopted a test-optional admission policy.

Grinnellians Stay Connected

We designed a virtual space to support Grinnellians’ well-being and to help our community to not only stay connected with each other, but to acknowledge the impact of this time on our identities, to continue to serve and extend the common good, and to create a global virtual community that offers resources and support.


Resources and Support

Our commitment to student support is steadfast, especially in challenging times. We continued adhering to our institutional responsibility for financial stewardship and sustainability while we worked to advance community, diversity, and inclusion.


Direct Investments to Students

  • We awarded every continuing Grinnell student enrolled in the 2020-21 academic year, with a one-time COVID-19 Response Grant of $2,500, which totaled $3.7 million.
  • Student workers across campus received work replacement grants, totaling $1 million.
  • We responded to student and family’s changing financial circumstances through reconsideration requests, totaling $900,000 to date.
  • In preparation for the 2020-21 academic year, we worked to ensure students had access to the technology and support they needed to overcome remote learning challenges, narrow the technology access gap and continue to make a Grinnell education accessible for all students, totaling $2.5 million.
  • We have allocated $3,640 per student in at-home food, living, and utility relief to ensure our students are supported in this unprecedented and challenging time.

Elimination of Loans from Need-based Financial Aid Packages

In response to the financial hardship that many families are experiencing because of the pandemic, Grinnell College is eliminating student loans in financial aid packages and replacing them with scholarships. This no-loan initiative endorsed by Grinnell College’s Board of Trustees is effective Fall 2021 for all new and continuing students eligible for need-based financial aid and is intended to lower the debt burden on students.



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