At the beginning of the winter 2014 semester, students received an email from the Grand Valley Police Department notifying students of a sexual assault that took place on the downtown Grand Valley State University campus. Some students in the campus community reacted angrily to the e-mail because of the wording that, as they reported, sounded like victim blaming. One student presented the issue during last month’s Teach-In, and a conversation ensued between her and Police Chief Renee Freeman.
Freeman and Capt. Brandon DeHaan from GVPD responded to the student presentation and the general campus-wide backlash by saying they were following protocol; the email closely followed the outline found in long-standing department policies. The student from the Teach-In said that if the message sent to the campus community was rooted in protocol, then that policy is wrong and should be changed.
The student’s words echo those of St. Augustine of Hippo: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
The fact that a practice is written into official policy does not mean that it is everlasting and unable to be changed. And if the policy is deemed unjust or unreasonable, then it certainly needs to be adjusted so that it is just and reasonable. Just because something is rooted in tradition or history, that does not mean it is inherently unblemished.
We got to thinking: the student fighting the GVPD regulation is right. And her insight is not exclusively applicable to the GVPD instance. The concept of adjusting rules should be applied across campus.
This year, other policies have been called into question (consider the unconstitutional bias incident code). Even more have been overlooked and should be scrutinized. There are standards and regulations at GVSU that can certainly be improved.
For example, the bias incident protocol on campus is currently far to broad to accomplish what it was created to do. Students can say anything that is in disagreement with another and it could be reported as a bias incident. Re-examining this protocol and making changes so that a bias incident is better defined under more confined parameters is crucial to the success of GVSU’s overall mission. The bias incident protocol is not set in stone, so it can be — and should be — reviewed and reformed.
There are presumably other instances throughout campus where protocols are outdated or simply misinformed. It could be a great benefit to GVSU to go through some policies that have not been looked at in some time, or others that have generated complaints, and reconsider alternative regulations.
It’s important to remember that just because it’s written down in the GVSU guidelines or handbook doesn’t necessarily make it right.