More than 300 students, faculty and staff attended a peaceful demonstration at Grand Valley State University last week in support of students of color at the University of Missouri. This is how free speech is supposed to work. Students joined together for a cause and were respectful and positive, giving strength to each other while speaking their minds. The students at the NAACP demonstration didn’t put anyone else down, but they made their point clearly and effectively. The Lanthorn commends the attendees of the demonstration for their upstanding behavior.

According to GVSU Institutional Analysis, 1,140 students at GVSU identify as African American/black, amounting to only 5.2 percent of the undergraduate student population. There are more than 18,000 white undergraduates on this campus, amounting to 82.6 percent of the university as a whole.

In the Lanthorn article, “We Stand with Mizzou,” NAACP President Kim Jones encouraged students to attend a student organization meeting they wouldn’t normally go out of their way to participate in. By simply attending a meeting or going to a new event, students could gain a new perspective on a situation. Even if one doesn’t agree with everything that is being discussed, it never hurts to learn about how someone else experiences an idea or event. This exposure to new world views can help Lakers make an educated opinion on a complex idea.

As the old adage states, you never really know someone unless you walk a day in their shoes. As cliche as this may seem, it makes sense. How can you properly evaluate a situation without at least considering both sides or another perspective? Be engaged, be interested, be respectful and make sure that your opinions don’t reflect a lack of consideration.

All too often in today’s world, we formulate opinions and stick to our guns without truly considering the power of a back-and-forth dialogue. Major political and societal issues are almost never black-and-white, yet agenda-driven groups try to sway the public to taking a concrete, absolute stand on one side of the issue.

This is not conducive to progress. We live in an age where sharing information across the world is as easy as the click of a button. It’s also an age of entitlement and excessive self-assuredness. Healthy dialogue between disagreeing sides can be disregarded in the interest of pushing an agenda or belief. People start to think of rebuttals immediately, rather than truly considering what the other side has to say.

In all issues, support and opposition are good things. We’re at a place where ideas are encouraged to be shared, and we’re exposed to thousands of students who don’t think the same way we do. Too often, this disagreeing factor becomes an uncrossable chasm rather than an opportunity for growth. This unique environment won’t exist after college, at least not to the same extent. Students at GVSU should take advantage of the opportunity to expand their experiences while they still have the chance.

Talk to each other. Learn more about why others see an issue differently than you do. Question people. Question yourself. College is a time for education. Don’t become bogged down in opinion and forget to grow. There’s a whole lot of gray area in this world, and now’s the time to sink yourself into it.