The ability to stand up and voice one’s opinion — something often taken for granted in a truly democratic society — is one of the key tools used in promoting awareness and implementing change. These are the steps six K-State students took Tuesday afternoon, as they took the stage in Nichols Theatre one by one to bring attention to specific problems they have found on campus.
The event, addressing campus issues with persuasive speech, has been held every semester for 30 years. It works to take classroom persuasive speeches from the Public Speaking II class, and make them accessible to the general public. Often members of the Student Government Association and administrative officials, including former K-State President Jon Wefald, have attended the speeches to gain an idea of the problems K-State students see around campus on a daily basis.
“Every once in a while they would show up, and occasionally the university president would show up, and something was done almost immediately because they didn’t know about these things,” said Phil Anderson, retired advanced public speaking professor and creator of the event. “Democracy in action is a contact sport … If you have a better idea about the way in which the university functions, there’s a way to address that.”
Anderson said in the past there were dozens of issues addressed through these persuasive speeches, including structures in the academic curriculum, campus safety, parking restrictions and biking and crossing lanes around campus, that all brought about changes.
“They may not have changed right away, but over a period of time they changed,” he said. “When I got here, this university did not have any minor programs. One of my students asked, ‘Why doesn’t this school have minors? All of my other schools I’ve gone to have had minors.’ They addressed the issue, and within two years, we had minors.”
While several past issues have managed to make their way up to the administrative ladder and onto Student Senate agendas, this year’s speech students brought a new list of issues most concerning to them and affecting many groups of students at the university.
The persuasive speeches included the topics of increasing lighting and surveillance around the university to decrease theft; modifying the current campus inclement weather policy; inadequate curriculum and underqualified professors in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications; bringing back a Division I wrestling team to the university; creating a fundraising branch for the College of Arts and Sciences; and improving the effectiveness of K-State’s alcohol education survey.
Students presented each problem with respective solutions and benefits, and many presented petitions that could be signed and brought to the administration.
“One reason we open it up to everybody … is because a lot of times we talk about these things, but they never leave the classroom,” said Travis Smith, instructor in communication studies. “Sometimes we get the big figureheads that can make the changes that we’d like to see. It’s a lot of fun.”
Smith has taught the Public Speaking II class for several years. This year’s class speeches were voted on by each of the persuasive speech classes, and the top three from each class were chosen to present their issues at the event.
“I think it’s important. It gives you the real time experience of possibly doing this in the future,” said Phillip Gomez, one of the speakers at the forum and sophomore in marketing. “K-State’s all about family and being close together and we all want to improve our campus — making everything better for everyone — which in the long run is the most important thing in my mind.”