Teach-In sets new attendance record

GVL/Luke Holmes
The third annual Teach-In took place throughout the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale campus and in the Devos Center downtown Jan. 21.

GVL/Luke Holmes The third annual Teach-In took place throughout the Kirkhof Center on the Allendale campus and in the Devos Center downtown Jan. 21.

Maddie Forshee

During the past week, Grand Valley State University has been host to a lot of discussion about activism and equality. Through the keynote speakers on Monday and Wednesday, conversations were sparked about race and justice on campus.

These big-issue discussions propelled throughout the rest of the week during the third annual Teach-In on Thursday. The day-long event saw a record number of students this year at 1,450, about 300 more attendees than last year.

Karen Gipson, chair for the university academic senate said she was pleased with this year’s event.

“There was a lot of energy and thought about social justice,” she said. “I think that most attendees came away with greater awareness of the issues and with increased motivation for action.”

Organized by the university academic senate and student senate, the Teach-In theme was “Power, Privilege and Difficult Dialogues,” focused on inequality, oppression and social justice in the world and in the GVSU community. Many of the sessions talked about how to break down stereotypes of different topics like race or disability and how to spread awareness or use that education at GVSU.

The event, which is a series of sessions led by groups of students, faculty and staff, went from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. on both the Allendale and Pew campuses.

The Teach-In featured sessions from workshops to panel discussions with topics ranging from how to address gender-based violence to racial conflict to health disparities in different racial communities.

“We are thrilled with the increase in turnout and are glad so many students, faculty, staff and community members took advantage of the event,” said Maddie Cleghorn, student senate president. “I was really glad to see so many revolving around the idea of creating safe, inclusive spaces.”

This year’s Teach-In was the first year that the event fell during MLK Commemoration Week, but Cleghorn said it was fitting.

“I personally thought the Teach-In fit wonderfully with MLK week,” she said. “I think people were going into it from a very social-justice oriented perspective from all of the other events this week.”

Gipson agreed with Cleghorn and said she thought it went well with many of the ideas that Martin Luther King had about social justice and activism.

“The mission of the Teach-in is so closely aligned with Dr. King’s work and his vision of social justice,” Gipson said. “Although some modern examples of privilege may be somewhat different than those in Dr. King’s day, his statement that ‘whatever affects one of us directly affects all of us indirectly’ still rings true today.

“As was true in Dr. King’s day, social justice will unfold only when individuals build their capacity for empathy and take action to end to oppression.”

The Teach-In gives students the opportunity to work with other students, faculty, staff and community members to host workshops about an idea or topic that they’re passionate about and want to share. Many of the interactive sessions are held in hopes of spreading that excitement to students and connecting with each other.

“While students might have some of these discussions of issues of social justice on their own or in class, I think it is important for Grand Valley to proactively take the steps to provide this space for collaboration and dialogue among our community,” Cleghorn said. “This year has been a whirlwind, but days like today make me slow down and realize how incredibly grateful I am to be a part of the Grand Valley community.”