Bias incident causes uproar on GVSU campus
In Grand Valley State University’s Copeland Living Center, a white board on the outside of a freshman student’s door was vandalized on Monday. A drawing of a person being hanged was drawn on the board with “F—- black history month” written below it.
“The entire campus community ought to be outraged,” Dean of Students Bart Merkle said.
Merkle was notified about the incident on Monday afternoon in a weekly review meeting with various departments on campus.
Since then, he has been in contact with several students who have been affected by the incident. Merkle said he wants to to make sure they won’t let this incident hinder their comfort on campus.
Parents of GVSU students have also been in contact with Merkle. He said he has received multiple phone calls from parents voicing concerns for their children.
“We value freedom of expression, and we don’t always have to like each other or agree with each other, but nobody has the right to act in intimidating or threatening ways,” he said.
The GVSU housing department has also been in contact with students. On Monday evening, the department sent an email to residents living on campus to alert them about the incident and ask for help in identifying the perpetrator.
“This type of behavior is unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and standards of our GVSU community,” the email stated. “Any behavior that is threatening to any member of our community is an attack on the safety of all.”
GVSU will be hosting residential student community meetings to discuss the incident and will continue to offer support to students who were affected, said Andy Beachnau, vice provost for Student Affairs and director of Housing and Health Services.
As of now, there are no leads regarding who committed the bias act, Merkle said. He requested that students with any information about the incident contact the housing department or the Grand Valley Police Department. GVPD has already received a bias incident report and is investigating the act.
Anthony Clemons, vice president of the Diversity Affairs Committee of Student Senate, said it is common for bias incidents to go unreported, although students have a few different outlets in which they can confide.
Clemons said the most accessible way for students to report bias incidents is to fill out a Bias Incident Report form. The forms can be found at www.gvsu.edu/bias as well as in any office located on campus. Students can also contact administration directly.
“Visiting the Dean of Students Office is also beneficial in ensuring that your voice is heard, but that form is also a valuable resource to making sure that if you ever feel belittled, disrespected or discriminated against, you will be heard by administration,” Clemons said.
Clemons said the Diversity Affairs Committee is always willing to listen to student concerns, and it advocates for a campus free of discrimination. The committee will be revitalizing its “Speak Up” campaign for the fall to encourage students to educate others about bias incidents rather than just watch them happen.
Clemons said he hopes these efforts will bring GVSU one step closer to being a discrimination-free campus.
“Don’t let others define our community,” he said. “We need to define it, and I hope we can define it as more inclusive than we have as of late.”