Hundreds of students and employees gathered in an area of campus known as the Pine Grove over the noon hour Friday and stood holding hands “as a show of unity, inclusion and love”— a silent response to reports of minority students being harassed and threatened on campus, Vice President Public Affairs and Marketing Jennifer Fellinger said in an email to The Sentinel.
The college received reports Nov. 9 of derogatory comments being made by Hope students to other students on campus. Not all who experienced the threats and intimidation filed official reports with Campus Safety. However, the college did receive a few reports via an online system for reporting discrimination and harassment, and the college is following up and investigating each incident, Fellinger said.
“At Hope, we invite and welcome differing views and perspectives — political, social and otherwise,” she said. “That's what makes the Hope campus a place of deep and dynamic intellectual engagement. What we don't welcome is behavior that denies or denigrates the God-given dignity of each person — that behavior has no place in our campus community.”
People continued to arrive for the student-led event, making it necessary to start a second circle. By the end, about 500 attended. A Hope student from Africa read from the Bible and encouraged those there to “model the love of Christ,” she said.
Hope President John Knapp, in a letter to students and staff on Friday, urged them to maintain “respect and civility in our campus community.”
"For some students and employees, this is a time of fear, uncertainty and anxiety,” the letter read. “... Membership in the Hope community is by invitation, and that membership can be revoked for failure to adhere to our behavioral policies.”
Knapp asked Hope students and employees to be mindful of those who “may feel vulnerable” and to report inappropriate behavior, including links to the private college’s non-discrimination and harassment policy and a form to report incidents.
“Whatever messages we may have heard during the campaign season, Hope College remains fully committed to upholding the God-given worth and dignity of every person, regardless of race, ethnicity, place of origin, ability, gender or other differences,” the letter stated.
Many gathered on Hope’s campus in a time of prayer at Dimnent Memorial Chapel and students organized a "circle of unity and inclusion" Friday afternoon.
An unrelated “anti-hate” rally was planned for Centennial Park at noon Saturday.
“The point of this gathering is not necessarily anti-Trump, it is anti-hate,” organizers said on a Facebook page dedicated to the event. “It's to say we don't stand with all the hateful things associated with the way Trump got to where he is now, and all the hateful things currently happening in the wake of the election results.”