GVSU student senators debate Indigenous Peoples Day resolution ahead of vote

GVL / Matt Read
GVSU Student Senate on Thursday September 14, 2017.

GVL / Matt Read GVSU Student Senate on Thursday September 14, 2017.

Joshua Vissers

Grand Valley State University’s student senate discussed the resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day at the Thursday, Sept. 14, general assembly in preparation to vote on the topic at this week’s meeting.

The proposed resolution calls for the administration to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples Day in its calendars, communications and observances, instead of Columbus Day, which takes place Monday, Oct. 9.

“I’m so blown away right now,” said student senator Joe Cadreau after the meeting. The resolution, which he proposed, faced resistance he wasn’t expecting. 

During the discussion, student senator Brian Branham, who works in James H. Zumberge Hall, questioned the value of the resolution, pointing out that Columbus Day isn’t marked on any official GVSU calendars.

“The day exists federally, and that cannot be changed by us,” he said.

Cadreau pointed to a set of GVSU-branded planners he brought to the meeting.

“You can look at them: Every one of them has Columbus Day,” he said. “I should not be reminded of a genocide every year when I go to fill my planner out.”

“The companies that created those calendars are not funded by the university,” Branham countered.

A.J. Carter, a freshman who has been appointed to the senate but has yet to be sworn in, suggested that instead of asking for administrative recognition, the senate could focus on awareness.

“I think it would be better to focus our energy on something that’s achievable,” he said.

The discussion was ended by procedure after about 30 minutes. The resolution will be up for a vote at the student senate general assembly Thursday, Sept. 21, in the Pere Marquette Room of the Kirkhof Center.

“I’m going to try and get as many students here as possible,” Cadreau said.

Outside of the general assembly meeting, Ethan Schafer, in his second term as a student senator, is working with GVSU’s Office of Sustainability Practices to clean up a large pile of scrap metal near the Grand Ravines North County Park, which might be creating a pollution problem.

“There’s standing pools of rust,” Schafer said.

They’re working to get samples of the soil in the ravines to see how bad the pollution might be and trying to get a grant for funding for the project. Schafer would like to see the ravines preserved.

“That’s something very unique to Grand Valley,” he said.