Expressive Activity at GVSU

GVSU is a community of learners who share a mission to “educate students to transform their lives, professions, and society.” We do this by pairing our deep tradition of liberal education – an education that encourages freedom and growth – with our emphasis on creative thinking, innovation, and development of professional skills.

According to Dr. John Ottenhoff, interim chief operating officer of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), in his recent article “In Support of Civil Education” (May, 2019), “Many thoughtful observers are convinced that one of America’s urgent needs today is a continued commitment to the principles of democracy.” In this article, he cites a number of concerning trends which impact the nation and higher education, including “a lack of civic literacy and growing skepticism about democracy as a system and way of life; racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance.”

With these concerns in mind, we in higher education – and particularly here at GVSU - must take to heart our responsibility to educate students for informed and active citizenship. According to Ottenhoff, “we cannot take for granted that democracy will continue to operate and thrive without intentional efforts from each subsequent generation. As leaders of the sector of society that is fundamentally charged with educating citizens, every college and university holds a measure of responsibility for the health of our democracy.”

As we seek to fulfill our mission and our commitment to educating students as citizens, they are sure to be challenged by ideas and experiences that are different from their own, and they will encounter difficult and challenging situations. As we uphold our commitment to the First Amendment and maintain our deep commitment to our values of inclusion and equity, as educators at GVSU, we must seek to equip our students to engage respectfully and productively with a wide variety of ideas and speech.

With all of this in mind, please consider resources below, intended to support students navigate expressive activities on campus.

Tips for engagement with expressive activity you find offensive

Be curious and be challenged!
Be curious and be challenged!

Learn from those who are different from you and be willing to explore new ideas. Listen first, ask questions and seek to understand other points of view. 

More expression!
More expression!

If you disagree with expressive activity on campus, respond with more. If a speaker comes to campus who you disagree with or find offensive, you can peacefully respond by organizing an event or hosting a conversation to explore the issue. Engage the campus community respectfully and productively through more dialogue.


Dean of Students Office statement on Context for Expressive Activity at GVSU

As a public institution, GVSU cannot limit expressive activity based on content. We may not agree with what is being said or expressed, but given our commitment to free speech, the speaker or group has a constitutional right to freedom of expression, unless the speech threatens violence or is in violation of university policy.

View the Statement on Context for Expressive Activity at GVSU

If you feel threatened due to speech you find offensive, that targets your identity, use the Bias Incident Protocol

Incidents of bias or hate affecting a person or group are in complete opposition to Grand Valley State University’s commitment to creating an inclusive and respectful community that allows everyone to achieve their fullest potential. 

The University defines a “bias incident” as any instance where someone feels belittled, disrespected, or isolated based on their identity.

Learn more about the Bias Incident Protocol

The Grounds and Facility Use Policy includes specific information about expressive activity on campus

University property is primarily dedicated to academic, student life and administrative functions. But it also represents the "marketplace of ideas," and especially for students, many areas of campus represent a public forum for speech and other Expressive Activities.

For students and registered student organizations, certain areas of campus are venues for free expression, including speeches, demonstrations, and the distribution of literature, as provided by this policy. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Student Life Event Services Team at 331-2350 or at 1110 Kirkhof Center.

GVSU Grounds and Facility Use Policy

Additional Student Resources for Support can be found on the Division of Student Affairs website.