At Grand Valley State University, there are several designated “free speech zones” that any group can go to and be able to say anything they want. While free speech is encouraged – and mandatory at GVSU, as it is a public university – many students have taken issue with some groups crossing the line from free speech to hate speech.

In particular, students have taken issue with The Campus Ministry USA. 

At the Lanthorn, we are all about protecting free speech. After all, we are a newspaper. However, we do take issue with something the representative of The Campus Ministry USA said in the Gabriella Patti’s article. 

In the article, Brother Jed Smock said “we
don’t just choose people haphazardly out of the crowd and accuse them of things
but they usually initiate something,” in response to a question about if his organization targeted individual students. 

In a culture where victim-blaming is prevalent, this attitude is not surprising, but it is indeed still troubling. The idea that the religious radicals feel that it is acceptable to target someone if they “bring it upon themselves” is the exact same attitude which allows for people to say that a rape victim was “asking for it” by wearing revealing clothing. 

Of course, GVSU’s campus is not the only place where this thought process is used to justify actions. Recently, a host of nude photographs of celebrities was released without the celebrities’ permission. There are some that responded by saying that those individuals should never have taken those photographs in the first place if they did not want them shared with the public. 

However, those who spout this rhetoric are forgetting something very important. Behind every photograph, every comment on the internet, every comment made in person and every other act of communication, there is a human being. A human being with thoughts and feelings and ideas, and absolutely no action that human can take justifies any sort of hateful or harmful action in response. It is imperative that we think of others complexly, as a whole person, if we ever hope to live in a kinder, more accepting world. 

 We hope that in the future, GVSU takes the severity of emotionally harmful actions, as well as the victim-blaming mentality, seriously. After all, GVSU prides itself on leading the way, and we urge the university to lead the way in creating a safe, welcoming atmosphere as well as leading the way academically.