Year in Review 2021-22: News

Editorial Staff

Students concerned with Aramark’s history and GV’s campus dining options

Courtesy / Aramark Corporation

Since 2001, Grand Valley State University has contracted its campus dining service to a Philadelphia-based food service provider, the Aramark Corporation. Aramark is responsible for supplying food service labor to GVSU, and the company also determines meal choices and operational strategies for the university’s campus dining program.

The agreement between the University and Aramark has been renewed several times, most recently in 2019. The contract, signed in February of 2019, states that the agreement shall continue through June 30, 2028, unless terminated by the university in accordance with the agreement.

In the past, Aramark has been criticized for its ties to prisons, contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and reportedly sub-par food quality and unsanitary kitchen conditions. Some GVSU students, including student-led groups like Students for Food Sovereignty (SFS) have called for the university to end their contract with Aramark and switch to a self-operated dining service model.

To read more of Laker Life Editor Jacob DeWeerd’s deep dive into GVSU’s contract with Aramark, click here.

Lakers face impacts of pandemic on life after graduation

GVL / Meghan Landgren

Students, faculty and staff at Grand Valley State University have seen a return to some normalcy on campus. Along with masks and mandatory vaccines, the GVSU community has returned to in-person classes, sports and activities on campus.

The graduation ceremony is one important tradition for all college students- and GVSU students are no exception. In-person commencement is returning this semester. Students are allowed to bring up to four guests and must be masked per the GVSU alert level two guidelines. While there is no procession, students will be able to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas in person.

While there is a lot to celebrate for graduates, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted plans beyond graduation as Lakers leave the university.

To read more of Grace Smith’s coverage of the pandemic and how it affected graduating students, click here.

GV looks to the future as vaccine mandate deadline passes

GVL Archives

Students, faculty and staff attending or employed at Grand Valley State University are now required to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, hold a postponement or exemption in order to be in compliance with the university’s vaccine mandate. As of Oct. 15, the university will begin contacting those who are not in compliance.

As of Thursday, Oct. 14, 82% of all faculty and staff as well as 78% of students have been reported on their daily self-assessment that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In total, about 93% of the campus community is in compliance with the vaccine mandate.

Some students, staff, and faculty have been granted exemptions or postponements from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Of the roughly 10% of the GVSU community who were reported exempt, according to the GVSU Virus Action Team, 90% of recipients received a religious exemption.

To further explore Lauren Formosa’s coverage of the GVSU vaccine mandate, click here

VAT discontinues classroom contact tracing

GVL / Sydney Lim

Grand Valley State University’s Virus Action Team (VAT) and COVID Awareness Team (CAT) have discontinued contact tracing in classrooms and in faculty and staff meetings.

Faculty and staff were notified of the change via email on Jan. 24 as the third week of winter semester classes began. The message said that cases had decreased since the first week of classes and that the VAT anticipates fewer cases moving forward.

“The Virus Action Team and COVID Assessment Team (CAT) have on-going discussions with the Ottawa and Kent County Health Departments on best practices for close contact notification and quarantine,” the VAT said via email. “Based on these discussions and our experiences in 2021, the decision has been made to discontinue contract tracing in classrooms.”

To read more about Audrey Whitaker’s coverage of classroom contact tracing, click here.

GV Counseling Center starts conversation on health and social justice

GVL / Max Ritchie

This semester the Grand Valley State University Counseling Center is helping students facilitate conversations about social justice and healthcare in the United States.

On Feb. 3, the Counseling Center hosted its first event at the Kirkhof Center. These weekly events focus on episodes of the documentary series “Unnatural Causes,” which aims to answer the question: is inequality making us sick?

“Unnatural Causes” events are INT 100/201 approved. All GVSU students are welcome to attend and learn more about social disparities in healthcare.

Associate Director and Director of Prevention and Community Education at the GVSU Counseling Center, Melissa Selby-Theut, said that conversations about health inequalities related to social justice issues are important for everyone to take part in.

If interested in learning more about Lauren Formosa’s coverage on the Counseling Center, click here.

GV students create petition for netting on Little Mac Bridge

Courtesy / GVSU

Following the death of Grand Valley State University student Quentin “Quinn” Campbell, who died by suicide on Dec. 9, many GVSU students have come together to support one another through this challenging time.

Students organized a memorial on the Little Mackinac Bridge, shared information about mental health resources, as well as created a gofundme for funeral expenses which has raised over $37,000.

In addition to all of this, GVSU seniors Logan Congdon and Reagan McLaughlin were moved to take action on campus.

The two created a petition to GVSU and GVSU President Philomena Mantella through the website called, “Prevent Student Suicide: Install Netting on the ‘Little Mac’ Bridge.”

Since its inception, the petition was shared on various social media platforms and has gained almost 28,000 signatures.

To learn more about Mary Dupuis’s coverage of the Little Mac Bridge petitions, click here.

GV alumna’s backstory inspires authenticity and inclusivity

Courtesy / Graci Harkema

Graci Harkema is a Grand Valley State University alumna who founded Graci LLC, an international diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consulting firm.

On Feb. 11, 12 years after graduating from GVSU, Harkema returned to share her journey with the GVSU campus community.

From a young age, Harkema said she knew she wanted to be a motivational speaker.

Harkema got her degree in communications, with a focus in public relations and advertising. While she had the drive to pursue her dream as a motivational speaker, it wasn’t until later in life that she discovered what she wanted to motivate people to do.

She found her reason 7,000 miles away, in a face she thought she’d never get to see.

Harkema was adopted when she was a week old from the Democratic Republic of the Congo by a couple living in the Congo as missionaries.

Her adoptive parents, who permanently reside in Grand Rapids, stayed in Congo with Harkema until she was about four years old before bringing her back to the Grand Rapids community where she has lived since.

To explore more of Graci Harkema’s story covered by Jamie Wilson, click here.

GV administration and community mourns Brendan Santo

GVL Archives

Grand Valley State University freshman, Brendan Santo, was reported missing on Oct. 29, 2021 while visiting friends at Michigan State University.

On Nov. 12, 2021, GVSU President Philomena Mantella sent her first email to the student body about Santo’s disappearance, about two weeks after Santo was first reported missing.

The nearly three-month search recently concluded on Jan. 21, 2022 when Santo’s body was found in the Red Cedar River. The same day Santo’s body was recovered, Mantella issued a statement through email to the GVSU community.

The extent to which GVSU addressed the search for Brendan Santo has been met with some scrutiny from students. When Santo’s body was recovered, presidents from both GVSU and MSU sent emails to their respective communities which were later circulated in Facebook groups in comparison to one another.

To read more about Elizabeth Schanz’s coverage of Brendan Santo, click here.

GV ECS votes unanimously to implement suicide prevention measures on campus

GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Grand Valley State University’s Executive Committee of the Senate (ECS) recently met with the Student Senate to discuss suicide prevention measures on GVSU’s campus.

ECS is the highest committee of faculty members to decide on issues brought to them from the lower-faculty senate, the University Academic Senate (UAS) and the Student Senate.

Student Senate brought resolutions involving attempts to heighten awareness of mental health and prevent mental health crises of students on campus.

The first resolution discussed was to create a safety barrier on the Little Mac Bridge.

This resolution was formed after two students, Logan Congdon and Reagan McLaughlin, petitioned for a barrier following the death of student Quinn Campbell who died by suicide this past winter.

To explore more of Jamie Wilson’s coverage on the decision for suicide prevention measurements on campus, click here.

Fires at Standale apartments and GV housing lead to fire safety conversation

GVL / Max Ritchie

An apartment complex in Standale, Westown at Wilson Apartment Homes, caught on fire on March 19, just a few miles away from Grand Valley State University.

The building’s fire alarms didn’t go off to alert residents of the emergency. Many only realized there was a fire because of the commotion; cars honking their horns, sirens blaring and people yelling.

Although no one was hurt in the incident, it did spark a heightened interest in housing safety.

There was also a fire in GVSU’s North C Living Center on the Allendale campus on March 24. The fire was said to have occurred in the laundry room and there were no injuries involved.

Many GVSU students took to Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform where users can chat with others inside a five mile radius.

To read more about Elizabeth Schanz’s coverage on two separate fires, click here.

Violence Against Women Act reauthorized, GV Center for Women and Gender Equity responds

GVL / Josh Alburtus

As Women’s History Month shines a light on challenges to gender equity, Grand Valley State University’s Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity works to support survivors of gender-based violence and promote prevention efforts.

The Center’s Interim Associate Director and Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator, Leah Short, said she believes the significance mitigating gender-based violence can’t be understated.

“These programs and these conversations are so important, they’re so critical,” Short said. “When we don’t talk about these things or when folks internalize them or carry this on their own, it leads to more harm for that person – whether you can physically see that harm or they are internally, mentally or emotionally having to deal with this trauma alone.”

Short said the Center offers a myriad of services for survivors of gender-based violence including private, non-reported meetings with its victim advocate, Rachel Dziabuda,  on violence prevention education and survivor support.

To read more about Josh Alburtus’s coverage on the Violence Against Women Act and the Center for Women and Gender Equity, click here.