CSU, Chico News

‘Great Debate’ Culminates Events on Immigration Issue

Date: 04-18-2011

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico students are preparing for a Chico Great Debate event Thursday, April 21, on whether the state should increase restrictions on immigration.

As in the previous two Great Debates, students and other community members will take part in speeches, presentations and debates during the day, starting at 9:30 a.m. and leading up to a main debate at 6:30 p.m.

The activities take place in the Chico City Council Chambers and are open to the public. Volunteers are needed – call 898-6579 for more information.

The Great Debate follows a symposium on immigration Feb. 15 hosted by CSU, Chico’s Community Legal Information Center (CLIC) and a presentation by the CSU, Chico Speech and Debate Team March 29 on who benefits from the immigration process.

Zach Justus, coordinator of the public speaking course in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, said about 70 students made speeches on the Great Debate topic this week; of that group, 30 will give presentations April 21.

Justus said about 50 students in small group communication classes will participate in panel discussions and about 20 students in argumentation and debate classes will take part in one-on-one debates.

For the main event, a student on the Speech and Debate Team is paired with a community member for a two-on-two debate.

Overall, close to 1,000 students in speech and communication classes are introduced to the Great Debate event and have an opportunity to participate, Justus said.

Students see themselves in a different and very valuable way after participating, Justus said. “Students transition from seeing themselves as just students to seeing themselves as civic actors – people engaged in the civic process.” Also, the community members who attend the Great Debate experience first-hand that students are smart and informed, Justus said.

The Great Debate events, sponsored by CSU, Chico and the city of Chico, are dedicated to restoring civility, reason and rhetorical argument into public forums, as well as reinvigorating such forums as a site of democratic practice.

CSU, Chico’s First-Year Experience Program (FYE), which also sponsors community town hall meetings led by students since 2006, helps organize the Great Debate events. The First-Year Experience Program is designed to assist first-year students succeed in their transition to university life and become active community participants.

Prior Great Debate topics were the pro and con aspects of legalizing marijuana and whether California should repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act.