CSU, Chico News

Students to Tackle Diversity, Discrimination Issues in Chico Great Debate

Date: 04-04-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Zach Justus, Coordinator
First-Year Experience Program

Diversity and discrimination issues will be in focus for nearly 2,000 students from California State University, Chico and Butte College who will participate in the Chico Great Debate on Friday, April 11, in the Chico City Council Chambers.

Held each semester, the Great Debate is a daylong event featuring speeches, presentations and debates prepared by students on a timely and controversial public issue. The aim is to encourage respectful exchange and collaborative civic learning through civil discourse. Students in first-year communications courses spend the semester researching their topics and preparing to present their findings at the event.

The day begins at 9 a.m. with opening remarks by Tray Robinson, director, CSU, Chico Office of Diversity and Inclusion, followed by student presentations and debates every hour. The main event begins at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a debate by students and community advocates on affirmative action in college admissions. A civic expo featuring interactive presentations by student groups will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the City Plaza.

The Great Debate is a component of CSU, Chico’s First-Year Experience program, which aims to help new students acclimate to campus life by engaging them in civic activities. A joint project of the University, the City of Chico and Butte College, one of the event’s goals is to restore civility, reason and rhetorical argument to public forums. Prior Great Debate topics included free speech and protest, education reform, increasing restrictions on immigration, legalizing marijuana and whether California should repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Since its launch in 2010, the program has become a model for other colleges and universities. Butte College joined the program in 2012, placing students from speech courses at the community college alongside their peers from CSU, Chico’s communication classes. Chabot College in Hayward and Shasta College have patterned programs after Chico’s, and faculty from the University of Nevada, Reno will travel to Chico to observe the April 11 event with plans to develop their own.

“Assessment results strongly indicate the Great Debate has a positive impact on the civic and academic engagement of students,” said Zach Justus, coordinator, First-Year Experience Program. “After attending the event, students are more likely to see themselves as community leaders and pay attention to the political world. Students are also more likely to come to class and be more engaged while they are in class.”

More information on the Great Debate may be found at www.csuchico.edu/fye/greatdebate and www.facebook.com/GDChico.