The following is a lightly edited email letter written by Tom Boroujeni, Director of Debate and the Barking Bulldogs Debate Team to faculty, administrators and staff of the College of Arts and Humanities.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
At the end of the Fall and Spring semesters, I often ask myself if we are doing enough as humanists to help the students live through the complexities of our world? Does our facilitation of students’ learning process give them the tools they need to live better? I argue that the answer is “Yes” and I would like to offer you some evidence on how our collective efforts as faculty, staff, and administrators have allowed our students to become advocates and believe in the power of their voice. Especially, in a time that their voice is necessary.
For the past three semesters, I offered an alternative assignment in Comm 15 and Comm 115 classes. The assignment is called Public Advocacy, and it is a project where students select an issue that is important to them, research it extensively, and advocate for it in a public setting. Since I started offering this assignment, students have surprised me with their topics and how much effort they put into this assignment. The more they became involved with the project, the less they treat it as an assignment. They happily spend hours researching and preparing their advocacy. Some even come back the next semester to do more. Some changed their mind on their stance once they finished their research and some have changed their post-graduation plans to focus on advocacy. Some were told you shouldn’t advocate for this issue by opposition groups, which naturally made them more interested in what they were doing. Some had to spend significant time with individual or groups who were affected by their project to understand the impact of their advocacy. I have been very impressed by how involved every student became with their project.
I would like to thank the students for their perseverance and efforts. I also would like to thank all of you [faculty, administrators, and staff] for your hard work that makes this possible. Your work in every single class has contributed to their ability to do this project. Here are some of the highlight of the Advocacy Projects:
Victoria Cisneors: Victoria is a Communication major who took Comm 115 this semester. She wrote her advocacy about the inclusion of women of color in the #metoo movement. Her article is titled, “Feminism Works to Include All Women of Color,” and was published in The Collegian as a letter to the editor. You may access her article here. A small version of the same article was published as an editorial in The Fresno Bee and titled “Me Too Must Reflect All Women.”You may access that article here.
Primavera Leal Martinez: Primavera is studying English and is a Member of the Barking Bulldogs Debate Team. After multiple advocacy projects in Comm 15 and 115 about women’s rights, DACA recipients and immigrants rights, students rights, and diversity, Primavera was selected as the Editor in Chief of The La Voz de Aztlán, “an ethnic supplement of The Collegian, a student-run publication that serves the Fresno State Xicanx/Latinx community.” You may find more information about this publication here and here.
Lindsey Condra: If you look the yesterday’s edition (12/15/2018) of The Fresno Bee, you would find Lindsey’s article titled, “New Regulations Needed to Protect Real Service Dogs and Spotlight Imposters” on page 13A. Lindsey is one of our students in the Communication Department who is planning to go to Medical School. She also trains service dogs. Lindsey spent two months researching the topic and grappling with serious legal hurdles that come with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. She wrote a wonderful paper advocating for new regulations for service animals. She then condensed her paper into a publishable size and submitted it to four publications. The Fresno Bee contacted her and asked to use her article.
This is the second time that Lindsey Condra takes the Forensics class with me. The first time around, She advocated for an addition of a Medical School to the campus of UC Merced. Her editorial was published by The Fresno Bee titled, “Valley Needs UC Merced Medical School.” You may find that editorial here.
Daniel Buttle: Daniel was an English Education Major who took the class in the Spring of 2018. He Advocated for legalizing the production and sale of medical Marijuana at the Hanford City Council. About two weeks after his advocacy, Hanford City Council voted to legalize medical Marijuana.
Sehidy Gonzalez: Sheidy was a communication major who also took the class in the Spring of 2018. She advocated for the redirecting some of the DUI fine revenues from law enforcement operation funds to transportation projects. Her advocacy at the Fresno City Council can be found here.
Director of Debate
Barking Bulldogs Debate Team
(The Home of Scholars, Thinkers, and Leaders)
Department of Communication
California State University, Fresno