Letter to the editor

H. Bart Merkle

Dear Grand Valley Community:

With the warmer spring weather, there will be various outdoor programs and speakers similar to previous years. As a reminder, Grand Valley is a public university that supports the free exchange of ideas. Without freedom of expression, sharing and testing ideas is not possible, which diminishes learning for everyone.

Consistent with this principle, the university embraces individual rights under the First Amendment that afford everyone the opportunity to express protected speech freely. I encourage members of our university community to embrace the tenants of free speech even when ideas or expressions may seem offensive or wrong. People at the university often engage in civil discourse about ideas even when their notions differ extensively. In fact, at times, the only area of agreement may be “to agree to disagree” on an issue.

Unfortunately, sometimes people strive to drown out the voices of those who differ with their thinking – this is antithetical to free expression. Sharing one’s views via protected speech, even when judged offensive or distasteful by some, does not violate the protections of the First Amendment and should be respected in our community. Each of us can choose how we will react to the ideas of others – if you encounter a speaker(s) expressing views that are disagreeable to you, I encourage you to ignore them as you go about your daily travels on campus.

Grand Valley is a special place for learning – let’s keep it special by understanding and valuing free expression!


H. Bart Merkle

Vice Provost for Student Affairs & Dean of Students