A tradition of public debate that began more than 50 years ago at the University of Richmond has been revived as “Forum at the Forum.” The fifth annual forum will be held Wednesday, March 30.  The public is invited and urged to participate.

Debate flourished across campus at Richmond in the sixties and seventies.  Regularly scheduled forum events encouraged members of the campus community to address issues of current concern or proposed public policy for the purpose of persuading those who came to listen.  

Alumni, faculty and staff recall stirring discourse by such professors as Jerry Tarver from the speech department and Martin Ryle from the history department before assembled audiences in the Greek Theatre.  

In 2007, senior Ashley Loftin revived the practice and proposed that it be held in the new forum in front of Gottwald Science Center.  Sponsored by the Weinstein-Jecklin Speech Center, the “Forum at the Forum” has drawn faculty, staff and students to the now annual springtime event. 

Speech consultants Alexis Drumheller, ’11, Mary Morgan, ’11, Samantha Quig, ’11 and Cathryn Winchester, ’12, serve as the Forum coordinators this year.  Morgan has been involved in planning the event since 2008, and said she was excited to be involved again.

“I hope to see the Forum get bigger and better every year,” Morgan said.  “The Forum is a great opportunity for students and administrators to come together to discuss issues—a conversation that might not be possible otherwise.”  

Drumheller, Quig and Winchester have been working to put together this year’s forum since last spring, when they joined the planning committee. The committee worked with the director of the Speech Center, Linda Hobgood, to come up with three sample topics for students to consider.  

The winning topic for this year is “Student Housing: A Low Priority?”

“I feel this year’s topic is more representative of the voice of the student body,” Quig said.  “Not just a select group, but everyone has an opinion on this issue.”

Last year’s Forum at the Forum topic explored the impact of rules on social life at Richmond and featured faculty, staff and student speakers.  

“Not only does everyone have an opinion, but housing is a concern affecting us all,” Winchester said.

“More students cast a Forum ballot this year than ever before,” Morgan said. “This issue was a runaway favorite.”

Everyone is eligible to participate in the Forum.  The student speech consultants plan and manage the annual event.  To become a speech consultant, students apply and if selected, enroll in a spring semester course, Theory and Pedagogy, taught by Hobgood.  When Drumheller, Quig and Winchester were in the class last spring, Hobgood encouraged them to join the Forum committee and begin planning this year’s event with Morgan.

“I’m excited to be involved in the Forum at the Forum,” Drumheller said, “because I feel we’re encouraging students, staff and faculty to be heard in a public, open, nondiscriminatory setting—it’s fun to be a part of something that gives everyone at the University a voice.”