Freedom of speech fair provides realistic debate experience

While it’s important to have the necessary skills to defend one’s position on a
controversial issue in the traditional classroom setting, communications professor Laura
Bruns knows that such a setting is a rarity in the everyday life.
For that reason, Bruns decided to create the first Freedom of Speech Fair at Bradley,
which was held Monday and Wednesday in the Michel Student Center Lobby.
“While creating a manuscript speech is an important skill, the bulk of public speaking
that we do as adults and citizens is extemporaneous,” said Bruns. “Our audience is not
always captive or passive as the in-class environment.”
The fair’s aim was to “create a more authentic persuasive speaking experience” for
what was traditionally an “in-classroom” persuasive speech assignment. Students were
required to choose a position on a controversial topic, which was not restricted by Bruns.
“I told students to pick a topic that they are passionate about, to pick something that gets
them fired up,” she said.
Such an intention was present in the wide variety of topics at the Freedom of Speech
Fair. From the push to create a Bradley football team to the advocacy of life beginning
at conception, each student had the chance to present something that garnered strong
feelings.
Freshman business undecided major Clark Becker, who choose the legalization of
marijuana as his topic, said he believed that this project helped challenge the status quo
by having the freedom to voice his thoughts about the issue.
“Freedom of speech is important because it is the catalyst for change and without it, not
everyone would have their opinion heard,” said Becker.
Students were required to create a tri-fold poster that displayed and defended their
position on a controversial issue. In addition to that, students had to be armed with the
appropriate information for any Bradley student, staff member or public citizen who
decided to stroll through and potentially challenge their position.
Freshman nursing major Laura Huneke chose a topic that was personal to her – Lesbian
Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) equality – because she said she witnessed her older
brother struggle with harassment due to his sexual orientation.
“You can’t fix a problem if no one knows about it…. [speaking] creates action, and
action creates results,” said Huneke.
This was the first Bradley Freedom of Speech Fair, but there is already discussion about
its future.
“If all goes well, I’d love to extend it to next semester or year and expand the event
scope,” said Bruns. “I’d also love for classes in other departments to participate.”
While there were strikingly different opinions present at the Freedom of Speech Fair,
among all of those who shared their thoughts, there was one thing they could agree on –
the importance of the freedom of speech.