GV faculty draft letter of support for Ukrainian and Russian community

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GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Anthony Clark Jr. , Staff Writer

Recently Dan Cope, affiliate faculty of Grand Valley State University’s Integrative, Religious and Intercultural Studies Department (IRIS), created a letter of support that recognizes the Russian invasion of Ukraine and community members affected by the events.

As a community of scholars, we hold ourselves accountable to certain ethical standards as faculty and staff,” Cope said. “We expect our students to do the same, which is why we teach them important skills like ethical reasoning.”

Cope teaches integrative studies, which is an interdisciplinary program that prepares students going into diverse fields to be ethical, engaged and compassionate community members. 

This program looks to provide capacities for individuals who want to reach out and assist those in need, Cope said.

“There are many both in and outside our community who felt compelled to say ‘this is not just’ when witnessing the movement of the Russian military into Ukraine,” Cope said. “Lakers are doing this individually and collectively by reaching out to our Ukrainian and Russian students, faculty and staff to provide them support and resources.”

Although an educator, Cope believes the value held for basic human rights should not be differentiated when wearing the shoes of a scholar versus a civilian.

“As such, GVSU should be an example of the society we want to create and inhabit,” Cope said. “Due to this, I see no division between how I behave as an academic and how I behave as a citizen. If I fail to uphold or see behavior that violates these ethical principles, I’m bothered, and I should be. We all should.”

Cope believes that fighting for these rights are more than a mainstream phenomenon whenever tragedy strikes, but instead, an everyday fight in order to maintain respect.

“This isn’t a commitment we can pick up when it’s convenient,” Cope said. “Instead, it’s a way of life that we should embrace as global citizens who see ourselves as neighbors in a ‘world house.’”

Cope said it’s the duty of the GVSU community to recognize this, based on its shared values amongst students. 

“Our institution is shaped by the shared values of intellectual freedom and integrity, autonomy and collaboration precisely because we believe them to be vital components of a healthy community,” Cope said. 

IRIS continues to create thought-provoking resources that bring on inclusivity, an equitable community and more innovation through the Reach Higher 2025 initiative. 

Reach Higher envisions learning experiences to produce globally-minded citizens through their professions and life aspirations.

“We hope people will keep signing and sharing the letter because we know there is strength in numbers,” Cope said. “As stated in the letter, we’re called to ‘think and act on a global basis’ in our new Reach Higher Initiative.”

Cope said the letter acknowledges the injustice in the fight Ukraine is facing, as well as honors the bravery of the people of Ukraine and Russia. 

“This letter recognizes Ukraine’s right to sovereignty,” Cope said. “It also acknowledges the courage of ordinary citizens, journalists and activists, Russian and Ukrainian alike, who are working tirelessly and at great personal cost to bear witness to the injustice of the military invasion of Ukraine.”

Students, faculty, alumni and others can use the link above to sign the letter of support. 

“This is an opportunity to enact our values in a meaningful way and I’m proud to be a member of a community who clearly cares deeply about achieving justice,” Cope said.