Campus 'Teach-In' will be held in response to bias incident

Event will discuss issues of racism, homophobia and sexism

By Carly Simpson | 3/9/14 6:43pm

In response to the Feb. 17 report of racist graffiti written on a whiteboard in the Copeland Living Center, the University Academic Senate and faculty at Grand Valley State University are planning a Teach-In.

Faculty members and administrators hope the Teach-In will create a dialogue about issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism and other types of discrimination. The event will also be a chance to discuss how to handle bias incidents in the future.

The Teach-In will be held March 26 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Mary Idema Pew Library Exhibition Hall and Atrium Multipurpose Room.

“(Harassment), it’s like rape or incest or any other hateful, power crime that gets very minimally reported,” Provost Gayle Davis said. “We can get things out of the climate study and know there’s a problem, but it’s very hard to pinpoint who’s doing it and who’s being victimized by it.”

To fix the problem, Davis said, “it’s going to take a village and then some.”

The Campus Climate Assessment that Davis mentioned was released Sept. 23, 2011. The results show that harassment is a problem for multiple students, faculty and staff at GVSU.

The report states that 11 percent of survey takers personally experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct while at GVSU.

Of those who experienced harassment, 18 percent had been the target of derogatory remarks, such as the incident in February.

In addition to holding a Teach-In, faculty members at GVSU were asked to talk with their students in class about the bias incident. Some were uneasy with the idea though, and their concerns were raised at the UAS meeting on Feb. 28.

“One of the comments that I got back from faculty is that they are concerned that many faculty did not have proper training to talk to their students about the bias incident,” said Wendy Burns-Ardolino, a member of the UAS and the Executive Committee of the Senate. “Faculty felt that they were being asked to do something that they were ill prepared to do in their classrooms.”

She also said some faculty members want to know if the university has any plans to provide them with training and what the administration’s stance is on the issue.

“Other faculty have mentioned that they are concerned that the faculty are taking action and taking a stand, but they’re not aware of what the administration is doing,” Burns-Ardolino said. “We would like for the campus community to be proactive about not having this happen again.”

Davis said it is unlikely that there will be an additional “teach-in” specifically for faculty, but administrators will be present at the campus-wide event. In addition, the Division of Inclusion and Equity offers trainings and lectures if requested.

“Our hope is that we can make it uncomfortable for people to be that far out of the norms of our values,” she said.

A campus-wide email was sent from the GVSU Provost Office on March 5 announcing the Teach-In to students, faculty and staff.

Karen Gipson, chair of the ECS/UAS, said Christine Renner and the Division of Inclusion and Equity will be partners in the event. Other partners will include the Dean of Students Office, the LGBT Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, and the Women’s Center.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Teach-In should contact Gipson at by March 12. Details regarding the Teach-In, including a schedule of events, will be released March 17. Additional information can be found at

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