Scholarship News

Grinnell's Gifting Policies Under Fire Over Gun Connection


February 20, 2018 10:43 AM
by Susan Dutca
Photo courtesy of Galin Education

Grinnell College's Ignite Program, which allows local Pre-Kindergarten - 6th-grade students to come to campus for courses created and taught by college students, is facing criticism for being funded by a generous gift from the President of the National Rifle Association, Pete Brownell. As a result of the flap, the college revised its gift acceptance policy.
Photo courtesy of Galin Education

Grinnell College's Ignite Program, which allows local Pre-Kindergarten - 6th-grade students to come to campus for courses created and taught by college students, is facing criticism for being funded by a generous gift from the President of the National Rifle Association, Pete Brownell. As a result of the flap, the college revised its gift acceptance policy.

Several Grinnell alumni who are proponents of gun control noticed Brownell's name on the college website, along with his wife Helen Redmond. In their judgment, the gift "helped to whitewash a reputation stained by his leading position in the gun lobby." They further alleged that Grinnell's acceptance of the gift and public recognition of Brownell "bestowed upon [Brownell] a fig leaf of respectability with which to hide the indecency of the organization he leads." The Ignite Program has been largely successful in its first three years - hosting 580 students taking 105 different classes and "helping them get ready for higher education in the future."

The hype over Brownell's gift has pushed Grinnell to revisit its gift acceptance policy this month, which features four major changes. One of the newly added paragraphs states that "[t]he source of funds may be a factor when determining whether Grinnell College should accept or decline a gift." Another change provides input and "gift screening" from the parties that benefit from donations; "In cases where gift proposals would benefit a specific program, department, or unity on campus, leadership of relevant campus constituencies will be involved in proposal screening." The President of Grinnell's Alumni Council was added to a Gift Acceptance Committed for screening funds.

Not everyone believes that accepting Brownell's gift was inappropriate, including some professors; especially given that "colleges are always scrambling for money." "After all, it does not seem to bother recipients of Nobel Prizes that the prizes were created by the inventor of dynamite," according to Inside Higher Ed. In your opinion, should Grinnell have accepted this donation? Why or why not? Leave your thoughtful comment below.

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Matthew Dillon  on  2/20/2018 9:42:03 PM commented:

I believe that Grinnell College was perfectly justified to receive such a gift. I see no reason why members of the NRA, nonetheless the president of the NRA, should be barred from donating to the cause of education, especially when it has no bearing on gun control policy at all. It would be one thing if this donation was to fund a course that taught against gun control, but no such thing is mentioned. If anything, the dissenters could be said to be hindering education by trying to deny this donation. The reason given in this article is that the pro-gun control alumni didn't want Brownell to look good. To take such a stand is to have a very shallow view of a person, that one cannot be a good person that cares about education efforts and support the freedom to carry firearms.

Steve B  on  2/20/2018 6:44:50 PM commented:

It sickens me that these people can't countenance that a benefactor with views different than their own exists and still can do good for good's sake. Grinnell's students and the children of Grinnell's schools should not be victimized by a crass attempt by left wing radicals to impose their world view upon the Grinnell board or upon the tens of millions of us that support the second amendment. I thought universities were supposed to encourage the exchange and debate of ideas in an environment of mutual respect for people coming from different backgrounds. Instead I fear they've become a platform for a particularly vile form of intellectual thugery that demands 100% allegiance to their radical and monolithic left wing agenda or you'll face personal destruction.

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