Student Senate talks free speech at GVSU

Claire Fodell

The topic of free speech at Grand Valley State University came up more than once during Thursday’s Student Senate meeting. So far, Student Senate has not taken legislative action regarding the issue of free speech that has been buzzing around campus since the Lanthorn published several administrators’ responses to an editorial.

President Ricardo Benavidez said he does not believe legislative action will need to be taken.

“I think oftentimes we get caught up in the idea that we need to write a resolution to make change,” Benavidez said. “But I think a conversation is where we need to start, and that’s not a conversation between two people, it’s a conversation between groups of people.”

Instead, the entire body of the senate will receive necessary information about the issue and will have conversations within their committees, starting with the cabinet. Senators will collaborate within their committees and bring their best ideas to the general assembly meeting.

“We’ll see where to go from there,” Benavidez said. “Whether we need to have a committee take on the specific freedoms at Grand Valley, if we want to morph it into something, or if we want to bring it to the faculty.”

Even before the planned collaboration with the cabinet, Benavidez suggested that a public forum similar to a town hall meeting be held. He said he hopes the GVSU community can educate each other and help resolve some of the conflict.

“Right now, I think students have an idea of what’s happening and administration have an idea of what’s happening, and they’re not really coinciding very well together,” Benavidez said. “So we’re just trying to get that education there and see if we can all figure out what’s happening.”

One thing that Benavidez said people are misunderstanding is that this conflict is about more than free speech.

“I also think that there is two different issues, the freedom of speech and then also the donors and the red room issue,” he said. “They’re two separate issues that are combined, but I think if we break them apart and then talk about them together, it’ll be a lot easier to manage.”

GVSU senior Ian Post, a member of the student organization Advocates for Journalism, approached the senate during public comment with his idea of what should be done about the conflict.

“I was proposing a task force that I drafted to study the freedoms at Grand Valley regarding freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” Post said.

Post said he wants to get more students active and use other realms to bring attention to the issue such as student demonstrations, newsletters and leaflets. Post said that he suggests any realm that isn’t illegal, such as vandalism, and if necessary some institutional change at the level of Student Senate.

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