In the 1960s and 70s, Richmond students engaged actively in public debate. Students used to host regular forums to debate current events and public policy. The forums were open to anyone; topics would be posted in advance in The Collegian.

Mallory Huggins, ’08, and Caroline DeHaan, ’08, both speech consultants at the University’s Speech Center and both rhetoric and communication studies majors, are bringing the forum back for the second year, a decision that students agree is long overdue. Another student, Liz Kania, will join them when she returns from studying abroad.

“Forum at the Forum is designed to focus on topics, either political or Richmond-specific, that students feel strongly about. So strongly that they choose to participate in public debate for their own sake, not because it’s a class requirement,” Huggins said.

To become a speech consultant, students apply and if selected, they go through a semester-long training course “Theory and Pedagogy,” which is taught by Speech Center director Linda Hobgood.

When Huggins and DeHaan took the course, Hobgood challenged them to come up with ideas that would improve the Speech Center. Another student, Ashley Loftin, who had taken the class the year prior, had come up with the idea of bringing back the Forum and Huggins and DeHaan had helped her pull off the first debate. When Hobgood suggested that the two women analyze the success of the Forum’s comeback and host it this year, they couldn’t refuse.

“By majoring in rhetoric and communication studies, I’ve become a stronger writer and speaker. I’ve developed a greater mastery of language and know how to construct an argument,” said DeHaan. “Creating an atmosphere in which students and professors can argue about a topic of great importance is really relevant. Too often, people think that today’s students are apathetic about current events and issues. This is our chance to show that this just isn’t the case.”

Huggins and DeHaan have spent months deliberating with students and faculty from across campus about this year’s topic, which will be announced soon. Forum at the Forum will be held in early spring.