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Grand Valley State hopes to change campus culture after former football coach's Hitler comments

This will include more expansive Holocaust and Native American education, according to the school's interfaith coordinator.

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Leaders at Grand Valley State hope to expand the university's Holocaust and Native American education – and address white supremacy – in wake of a former football coach's controversial interview. 

Morris Berger resigned as offensive coordinator on Jan. 30 after he told the student newspaper he would like to have dinner with Christopher Columbus and Adolf Hitler, calling Hitler "a great leader."

Following the resignation, University President Philomena Mantella told the Board of Trustees on Feb. 7 it was an opportunity for education and reaffirming values of inclusion and equity. 

"We will use this moment to work diligently toward institutional, systemic change that creates a healthier campus climate for all," Mantella said.

RELATED: GVSU coach who resigned following Hitler comment to get settlement payment

The university's educational ad committee will meet next week to discuss Grand Valley's next steps. The hope is to expand current Holocaust and Native American education, said Kevin McIntosh, coordinator of campus interfaith resources. 

"Our president has charged us to look at what we do already and how we expand it," McIntosh said. "What have we stopped doing recently that we can pick back up? What are some new things we can do?"

This incident is an opportunity to address some deep-rooted issues on campus, he said.

"How do we deal with some of the white supremacy and privilege that are on this campus and some systemic issues?" McIntosh said. "Students hear these comments not just by staff members that are here for three days. These are the microaggressions they hear almost every day on this campus."

A culture change needs to start with the administration and faculty to properly reach the student body, said Senior Camarie Smith, president of the Black Student Union. 

"I understand you want to bring this into the curriculum, that's wonderful, but you have to start with y'all selves," Smith said. "You have to start with the higher-ups and address it head-on." 

There has not yet been a date set for the committee meeting. 


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