Student organization targets diversity at GVSU

By Rachel Huck | 3/2/16 11:13pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Amber Hutson

by Amber Hutson / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Across the nation, universities and their students have been paying more attention to student demographics. At Grand Valley State University, the vast majority of Lakers identify as white. Now, the Student Diversity Coalition seeks to shine light on an issue they believe requires more attention.

“The mission of the Student Diversity Coalition is to enhance the campus climate by advocating for people of color,” said Amber Hutson, general officer of the student organization. “We want faculty, staff and students of color to feel comfortable on campus and be able to be as successful as all other individuals.”

The Student Diversity Coalition (SDC) was formed in 2015, when a group of black student leaders in different organizations called an emergency meeting with university officials to discuss prevalent issues of diversity on campus.

“Diversity on campus is important because it helps students of diverse backgrounds feel more welcome on campus,” Hutson said. “It helps give people that do not come from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to learn about different people and cultures. I think that diversity on campus is especially important on Grand Valley’s campus.

“We pride ourselves on our liberal education program. Diversity helps broaden people’s knowledge of the world around them.”

The SDC purpose is to ensure GVSU's campus climate truly reflects its mission statement. To achieve this goal, later in the semester they will host an event for community concerns regarding racial diversity and inclusion.

“We would like to hear the opinions of students, faculty and staff on problems they are facing, so the Student Diversity Coalition could start working on ways to address these issues,” Hutson said. “Moving forward, we are trying to get more students involved with the Student Diversity Coalition so we can do more work on campus.”

The Student Diversity Coalition operated as an unregistered GVSU student organization until the winter 2016 semester. Currently, Brandon Fitzgerald acts as president of the organization.

“This (mission of the SDC) doesn’t just impact minority students the way many people assume,” Fitzgerald said. “Having minority professors, staff members with disabilities, advisers who identify as LGBTQ, so on, will help develop students who work with those individuals. The work that the Student Diversity Coalition, and many other people, are doing right now will hopefully impact not just us but the hundreds of thousands of people that will come after.”

According to Fitzgerald, the current population in the state of Michigan for racial and ethnic minorities is around 20 percent, but the university's student minority population is less than 13 percent.

“I would simply like to see the university align their practices with their plan — align their actions with their statements,” Fitzgerald said. “Different people will have different values, ideals and perspectives, if you learn from and critique to create your own perspective, that will create the liberally educated person Grand Valley hopes to send out to shape their lives, professions and societies.”

The SDC welcomes any student interested in matters of diversity on campus. To start the application process or for more information, contact sdc@mail.gvsu.edu.

“Advocating for students of color on campus is personal to me because I am a black student on campus, and I understand the microaggressions people encounter,” Hutson said. “Every student at Grand Valley should be able to feel comfortable and safe here.” 

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