Partners in Action Against Racism

Our Charge

Grand Valley State University acknowledges the hurt, anger, fear, and distrust that many of our Black faculty, staff, students, and administrators must feel following the reprehensible killing of George Floyd and the ongoing racial and social injustice that exists in our society.

We also acknowledge that the well-being of our entire community rests on fulfilling the elemental promise that every member of our campus community is welcomed, supported, respected, and valued. As an institution that educates the next generation of leaders, we will fail them, our communities, and ourselves if we do not act when we know that more than words are expected of us.

Learn. Understand. Act. Lead. The following are some of the ways Grand Valley will realize those standards against which we must be measured.


Message from President Philomena V. Mantella

We must elevate the voices and experiences of our Black faculty, staff, and students.

We must listen carefully, valuing each member of our community.

We must fulfill our goals for inclusion and equity.

We must all deepen our understanding and knowledge through education.

We must then use this knowledge as the basis for understanding and addressing institutional and systemic racism and oppression to make meaningful change.

Presidential Actions

  • Appoint a campus-wide network of advisors to ensure our full community shapes and commits to this work and that Black faculty, staff, students, and alumni voices are elevated to the highest level of engagement with me and all university senior leaders. (Dean George Grant & Vice President Jesse Bernal)
  • Convene a Grand Valley Campus Safety task force to review current policing practices and recommend any needed change. (Vice President Greg Sanial, Vice President Jesse Bernal, Chief Brandon DeHaan)
  • Identify opportunities and look to implement the formation of greater and clearer promotional, developmental, and recruitment pathways for employees of color. (AVP Maureen Walsh)
  • Identify structural changes and opportunities that strengthen accountability across the organization for leadership and supervisors in advancing inclusion and equity, including in our recruitment, evaluation, and promotion processes, campus climate metrics, and their own education. (Vice President Jesse Bernal)
  • Universal training for all members of our university community to enable each of us to build the necessary understanding, knowledge, and skills for social justice, power, privilege, and anti-racism. (Division of Inclusion and Equity, Human Resources, and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center)
  • Because of COVID-19, three important actions have been slowed. As all demonstrate direct impact for our underrepresented communities, we will move forward swiftly as the fall approaches. This includes: hiring a university ombuds, finalizing a salary equity study, and issuing final recommendations for the 2019 campus climate study with plans to reassess next year.
  • Explore ways we can expand education for our students and one another on the forces of systemic racism, with an eye to ensuring every graduate deepens their understanding of social justice and racial equity through a Grand Valley experience. (Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost, Dr. Maria Cimitile, University Academic Senate Chair, Dr. Felix Ngassa, University Academic Senate Vice Chair, Dr. Shawn Bultsma)
  • Embrace the opportunity for the GVSU Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation. Moreover, to assure this kind of culturally- and community-centered public safety education is a part of the systems of support necessary for communities to thrive. (Provost Cimitile & Dean Grant)
  • Support Student Senate in its development of peer-to-peer learning and other initiatives. (Vice Provost Loren Rullman & Associate Vice President Marlene Kowalski-Braun)
  • Develop an even more aggressive program for the recruitment and retention of students of color that will be undergirded by policies that remove barriers to access. (Vice President B. Donta Truss)
  • Develop a new strategic enrollment management plan with strategies and initiatives with the bold goal of removing all equity gaps. (Vice President B. Donta Truss)
  • Expand the university's financial aid program to include a racial equity scholarship in honor of the Black lives that have been lost due to racialized violence. Students that demonstrate a commitment to social justice and racial equity may be eligible. (Vice President Karen Loth & Associate Vice President Michelle Rhodes)
  • Host a national conversation on the need for racial equity, the disproportionate impact on male-identified Black members of our community, and how it can be strengthened in an institution and community that is historically white through a Black Male Symposium on campus. This convening, and extensions from it, will confront other transformative institutional and systemic responsibilities we have for our diverse Black community, including female-identified and transgender members. This symposium will inform K-12 and postsecondary educators, education adjacent leaders and organizations, non-profits, business and community leaders on the necessary equitable ecosystem that must be create to best serve our Black community. (Vice President B. Donta Truss)
  • We have a special obligation to the City of Grand Rapids which hosts nearly half of the university’s enrollment and many of our public service degree programs. We will commit university talent and resources to the City’s development of a new youth employment program – GRow1000 – a commitment to provide paid employment to at least 1,000 Grand Rapids youth ages 15-21 this summer with priority to those neighborhoods and zip codes which have been most heavily impacted by disproportionate outcomes, including COVID-19.
  • I will waive all financial requirements for Pell-eligible students in the City’s high schools for enrollment in Grand Valley’s new Math Advantage Program for rising high school seniors and college-bound high school graduates. Success in this gateway program will help to improve college readiness and retention which disproportionately impacts our communities of color.

Interested in supporting the Network of Advisors? Contact inclusion@gvsu.edu.

Anti-Racism Resources

Educate Yourself About Anti-Racism & White Privilege

Educate Yourself About History

      Videos & Training

      More to Read:

      • Between the World and Me  - Ta-Nehisi Coates
      • White Fragility  - Robin diangelo
      • Sister Outsider  - Audre Lorde 
      • How to be an Antiracist  - Ibram X. Kendi 
      • The Fire Next Time  - James Baldwin 
      • Just Mercy : A Story of Justice and Redemption  - Bryan Stevenson 
      • A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story  - Elaine brown 
      • Policing the Planet  - Jordan T. Camp, Christian Heatherton
      • So You Want to Talk about Race  - Ijeoma Oluo 
      • The Hate U Give  - Angie Johnson (young adult fiction) 
      • Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-based Stress and Trauma  by Dr. Gail Parker
      • Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience  by Sheila Wise Rowe

      More to Watch: 

      • Just Mercy Destin Daniel Cretton  (free on Youtube for the month of June!)
      • 13th  - Ava Duvernay
      • When They See Us  - Ava Duvernay 
      • The Black Power Mixtape  - Gõran Olsson 
      • The Black Panthers  - Stanley Nelson 
      • The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson  - David France 
      • If Beale Street Could Talk  - Barry Jenkins 
      • The Hate U Give  - George Tillman Jr 

      More to Listen:


      The Laker Familia student network at GVSU.

      A Native American Pow Wow held by NAAC at GVSU.

      GVSU students at the Black Excellence Orientation.



      GVSU faculty, students, and alums working on a community project.

      GVSU students talking out in front of Student Services.

      A GVSU student at graduation.