Student Senate to hold campus forum

GVL / Emily Frye
Student Senate

GVL / Emily Frye Student Senate

Sexual assault, violence, free speech and the bias incident protocol are currently hot-button issues at Grand Valley State University. The Student Senate is hosting a Campus Forum at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6 to discuss these topics.

Andrew Plague, Student Senate president, said he plans to have open discussions for students to ask questions and receive feedback. He and Rainesha Williams-Fox, vice president for diversity affairs, will moderate the discussion.

“The idea was to bring (in) the administrators who are responsible for our response to these kinds of issues that are getting a lot of attention nationally and locally,” Plague said. “Hopefully it will be a non-intimidating setting for students to voice their concerns.”

This topic emerged from weekly Student Senate meetings, where GVSU faculty and staff have presented. Plague said he wanted students to have the same opportunity.

“The forum gives students a chance to take ownership of their campus,” he said. “I hope students leave with greater confidence in the work our administration is doing to create the safe space we all want.”

Plague added that it is important to emphasize solutions to these issues.

“We need to focus on what all of us can do to be active bystanders and create a campus that prevents violence,” he said.

The forum will include a panel of four GVSU staff members. One of these is Theresa Rowland, the Violence Against Women Act grant coordinator and victim’s advocate at the Women’s Center. Rowland said this event is important because it is crucial to raising awareness about sexual assault.

“The more that we raise our awareness, the better we can support victims and better learn to prevent sexual violence as a community,” she said.

A 2012 campus survey found that one in four women and one in 15 men at GVSU will experience sexual assault, which Rowland said is aligned with other universities in the nation. Although the number of incidents has not changed much recently, she said more people are reporting the crimes.

“We really encourage victims and survivors to come forward to get the assistance they need,” she said. “Rape is never the victim’s fault. We are working to strengthen the system so victims and survivors know they’re going to be supported when they disclose.”

Marlene Kowalski-Braun, the assistant vice provost for student affairs, is another panelist. Kowalski-Braun agreed with Rowland that raising awareness about sexual assault is important.

“It is essential to continue the commitment that we are doing all that we can do to address violence by way of prevention,” she said.

In addition, Kowalski-Braun is looking forward to the event because of the benefits it has for the GVSU community.

“Communication is at the heart of a healthy community,” she said. “We welcome opportunities to be able to dialogue and de-mystify things that are confusing. What people think about what we’re doing really matters.”

GVSU Chief of Police Renee Freeman and Associate Vice President for Affirmative Action and Title IX Officer Dwight Hamilton will also answer questions at the forum.

Student Senate is accepting questions at the event and online through Thursday. To submit a question, visit