Look beyond words for action

Look beyond words for action

With her first year as Grand Valley State University’s president, all eyes are on Philomena Mantella and how she will prove her value and dedication to the Laker community.

One way that Mantella has stepped up to show her commitment to serving the student body is with the Grand Huddles, a series of 16 meetings where students sign up to express comments and suggestions about the university directly to Mantella. Over 600 students, faculty and staff will attend these sessions in total. In addition, an estimated 2,200 comments have been gathered through online surveys and on-campus polling stations.

Between the time spent by Mantella herself at the in-person sessions, and the time spent by the Office of the President recording and organizing the additional comments, it is clear that Mantella has come ready to listen. This level of communication between the students and president is rare, especially at a university of this size, and should be praised.

That being said, there is room for skepticism. The open conversations between president and students look good, and of course the university knows that. There is always a risk that what seems almost too good to be true is little more than a coordinated PR stunt.

Right now, we are still in the early stages and it is too soon to make a judgement. We don’t yet know how this discussion will translate into action. We don’t yet know if this new president initiative will continue into an honest, responsive stream of communication from the powers that be.

We aren’t saying that we should dismiss these sessions, even if it can be easy to fall into a coma-like-state of cynicism and bitterness. We should take advantage of this opportunity to bring issues and suggestions to light, and we should take pride in the current relationship with GVSU’s president. But it would be naive to applaud Mantella too much before seeing where this project goes.

Students, don’t just look for words, but look for action. Pay attention to how the university responds to all of this gathered information from students. At the same time, don’t just talk, but seek ways to act and take initiative in the community yourself.

President Mantella, we hold you to this high standard because of the precedent set by the leaders before you. Notes on your vision for growing learning opportunities, expanding technology and accommodating a range of educational styles for students is reassuring and optimistic, so we expect you to continue to raise the bar. Listening is a promising first step, and we anxiously await your plans for action.