Originally published March 17, 2013

Most people who pass by Grand Valley State University’s Transformational Link have heard the condemning mantras of crowd-drawing preachers and religious activists, whose message of justice seems to incite more jeers than repentance. And though most people hear it, even fewer take the time to combat that message with one of earnest love and mercy.

But one of GVSU’s LIB 100 sections organized a ‘demonstration of acceptance’ during their Friday class to take a stand.

“We’ve been discussing issues related to ethical reasoning lately and are reading a couple of pieces by Martin Luther King,” said professor Justin Pettibone. “In class on Wednesday, we discussed King’s injunction against the white moderates’ of his time who opposed segregation, but did nothing to stop it. Several of the students brought up the point, rightly, that we still face forces of division and exclusion in our country today, and noted that there are often people who spread such messages at the Trans Link sculpture on campus.”

To complement their course material and contribute to the campus culture, the students unanimously proposed a sort of counter-rally that Pettibone said he supported.

“Students then began to debate what could be done in response to the homophobia and sexism that is sometimes heard on campus,” he said. “Thinking about the ideas that King wrote about, they decided that they wanted to collectively take a stand for acceptance and spread positivity to people as they passed by the Trans Link.”

With posters and leaflets spreading uplifting messages, the students and their professor cheered passersby, telling them, “You’re awesome” and “Spread the love,” or simply encouraging them to smile.

“There are a couple reasons I thought it would be a good use of class time, and (it reflects) topics we’ll discuss in class next week,” Pettibone said. “I wanted them to be able to respond to the ethical challenge that they saw in the divisive speech that was taking place on campus. I wanted to see what MLK’s ideas would do to animate them, and I’m really proud of what they did. They took their roles as members of the GV community seriously and decided to articulate, through this demonstration, what being a responsible community member means to them.”


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2013/03/lib-100-class-spreads-the-love