Marking progress

GVL / Sara Carte
Eric Lacerna studies inside the LGBT Resource Center on Sept. 29, 2015.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte Eric Lacerna studies inside the LGBT Resource Center on Sept. 29, 2015.

Ty Konell

In a constantly changing nation, new information, along with new ways of self-expression, are almost always coming into the light. To recognize this, Grand Valley State University will be holding its first celebration for the GVSU social justice centers.

The event, which will be held Friday, Aug. 25, from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m., will highlight the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Campus Interfaith Resources and Disability Support Resources.

“This is an exciting new event,” said Marla Wick, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center. “The celebration will be a fun and informative way for new students to discover programming and resources that focus on social justice at GVSU. Students will have a chance to visit and learn about the various social justice centers.”

Officials within the social justice centers said they have hopes the celebratory event will introduce incoming students to the services that GVSU provides.

“I think this will give incoming students a chance to acquaint themselves with the social justice centers early so they know how much they have to offer, how they can get involved and how much fun we have,” said Jessica Jennrich, director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity. “Each center offers different ways to be a part of social justice work on this campus and in the community.”

For example, the LGBT Resource Center offers some of its programs to people who identify outside of the LGBT community.

“The (LGBT Resource) Center provides a welcoming space for students to gather in community with one another and to seek individual support and referrals,” Wick said. “We also offer a lot of social programming in addition to training to help (allied) GVSU students, faculty and staff gain insight into how to be more supportive and affirming to the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Moreover, the Center for Women and Gender Equity not only offers a physical space for students, but it is also a space dedicated to victim advocacy.

“We offer a place to hang out and study, excellent and informative programming, advising and scholarships, and so much more,” Jennrich said. “The Center for Women and Gender Equity specifically offers campus violence response and prevention services and ways to get involved in violence prevention work.”

Having a physical space for students to spend time with their peers and discuss what they learn in classes may be a major stepping stone to actively engaging in critical conversations with one another about social justice.

“Learning about social justice in the classroom is crucial, and we view the social justice centers as a place to practice that classroom knowledge,”Jennrich said. “Whether it is engaging in days of service or getting to know what is going on on campus, having a space to house that knowledge is crucial on a college campus dedicated to learning about the world in which we live.”

Based on the results of the most recent campus climate survey, one might view these spaces as a necessity on campus.

“Though our campus climate data from the survey conducted in 2015 showed many positive results, it also illuminated the fact that several marginalized groups are much more likely to experience the campus as unwelcoming,” Wick said. “Through our intersectional framework, the social justice centers serve as campus partners to offices and departments across the university in our commitment to student success.”