Context for Expressive Activity
We are living in seemingly unprecedented times. The immense and multi-layered challenges of a global pandemic, combined with economic challenges, and civil unrest resulting from generations of racial injustice, have impacted all of us. Now, we return to campus as a community of learners, committed to GVSU’s mission of “educating students to transform their lives, professions and societies.” We will need to navigate these challenges together. Given these challenges, and the upcoming November election, there are many variables at work this fall. While it’s hard to know what will come next, what we can do is to approach challenges by remembering our GVSU values of inclusiveness, community, inquiry, integrity, and excellence; and by extending to one another patience, grace and respect in all interactions.
Because GVSU is a public university, we are obligated to uphold the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech at GVSU, without regard for the point of view being expressed. Additionally, lawful and non-disruptive public demonstrations are not restricted based upon content and GVSU’s Grounds and Facility Use Policy supports such activity. While GVSU safeguards individuals’ constitutional rights, we are also deeply committed to the values of inclusion and equity. The way that we talk to and treat one another at Grand Valley matters - Lakers treat all people with dignity and respect. As you engage with others who you do not agree with, or whose speech may offend you, challenge yourself to be “willing to be disturbed.” Further, consider using these guidelines for civil discourse, shared by the GVSU Padnos-Sarosik Civil Discourse Initiative. If you feel belittled, disrespected, or isolated because of your identity, refer to the Campus Climate Concern website.
Margaret Wheatley, in her book Turning to One Another (2009), calls upon us to be willing to be disturbed. “As we work together to restore hope to the future, we need to include a new and strange ally – our willingness to be disturbed. Our willingness to have our beliefs and ideas challenged by what others think… We don’t need to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes…To be curious about how someone else interprets things, we have to be willing to admit that we’re not capable of figuring things out alone.”
In other words, we are in this together – even when we don’t agree. Liberal education at GVSU is rooted in a willingness to explore multiple perspectives, think critically, develop empathy and to be challenged – or in Wheatley’s words, “to be disturbed.” This kind of learning is hard, and can be challenging or even painful when others express ideas that offend us.
As we return midst so many challenges, let us remember that at the end of the day, we all belong to one another. It is our shared responsibility - as members of the Laker community and the human family – to continue to dialogue, to ask questions, seek solutions, and look for the best in each other. As we do so - across differences, and with respect and dignity for each other – we will become smarter, stronger, better and more human, together.
Loren Rullman, Ph.D. Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D.
Vice Provost of Student Affairs Vice President, Inclusion & Equity and
Dean of Students Exec. Associate for Presidential Initiatives