After massive backlash from students, alumni and others, the student government president of Grand Valley State University reinstated the Pledge of Allegiance to its meetings, a decision he made Monday after the Student Senate’s vote last week to nix it created a firestorm of controversy.
“I reinstated the Pledge of Allegiance after hearing from students and the broader GVSU community. Our Constitution allows the president to set the agenda,” Eric-John Szczepaniak, president of the Student Senate, said in an emailed statement to The College Fix on Tuesday.
“The original decision was meant to acknowledge differences that exist on our college campus. In no way did the Senate intend to cause any harm or offend people,” he said. “… Through many hours of conversation, and guidance from advisors, I came to the conclusion that allowing the Pledge of Allegiance is the best course of action.”
Szczepaniak’s decision basically overruled the 22 to 10 vote last week by the Student Senate to stop saying the pledge at meetings.
At the time, reasons cited to remove it were to create an inclusive environment, that it represented an oppressive government, and that there are international students and non-Christians who were marginalized by it.
Student Sen. Dorian Thompson (pictured), who had led the charge to keep the pledge at the meetings, said in a telephone interview with The College Fix on Tuesday that he is thrilled with the development.
He said while the original decision was made because some people felt uncomfortable with the pledge, more people felt they had been disrespected and marginalized by its removal — and they spoke out to that end. “Countless students” had reached out to him to tell him to “keep going,” he said.
The decision had also caught the eye of Michigan Republican state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, who tweeted: “Disgusting and unacceptable. I have put wheels in motion to make sure that this student organization gets no state funding.”
Thompson said in the end it all added up.
“I am very proud that the Grand Valley State community, consisting of students, alumni, and other stakeholders, made sure we sent a message that we didn’t think this was right, and that we wanted to fight and make sure all the students are represented,” Thompson said.
Szczepaniak’s decision had been made at a special meeting convened Monday to address the controversy. Thompson said a “compromise” was made in that a moment of silence that had long been on the agenda for “native land recognition” will now also include “identity reflection.”
“Everyone can reflect on their national identity or whatever their identity might be,” he said.
Thompson, who is also involved in the College Republicans, said he spoke to The Fix on his own behalf and not as a spokesman for the student government or any campus group.
In a statement to MLive, Szczepaniak “emphasized that the university administration didn’t pressure him into reinstating the pledge. He said university advisers alerted him people were threatening to pull donations and reconsider their childrens’ acceptance to the university.”
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