The COVID-19 pandemic and the historic 2020 presidential election have many in the JMU community. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, 1 for All, is dedicated to raising awareness about and promoting First Amendment rights.
On Nov. 12 and 13 from 12-1:30 p.m., 1 For All hosted events at Warner Commons where students were encouraged to share their opinions on the sidewalk.
Taylor DeRossett, a senior communication studies major, explained 1 For All’s mission, encouraging the free expression and exchange of ideas.
“1 for All is a movement all across the country basically designed to elevate and promote First Amendment rights on college campuses,” DeRossett said. “What we’ve done here is we got a grant from the overall organization to promote it at JMU.”
Carli Aldape, a junior media arts and design major, said that the group discovered the need to inform students on how they could practice their First Amendment rights.
“We also did some research before our campaign and found that people knew about their first amendment rights but weren’t really sure on how to practice them on campus,” Aldape said.
Guidelines at JMU limit the number of students that can assemble because of COVID-19. Aldape said that this event provided students with a way to share their voice with a large group of people in a safe manner.
Mary Comerford, a junior communication studies major, said that some of the topics students were encouraged to write about included post-election stress and the university’s response to COVID-19.
Students responded to a question regarding their anxieties about next semester, writing about asynchronous classes, not wanting to graduate or staying motivated. Participants also responded to a prompt about their thoughts on the spring break cancellation, writing that “students should have a voice,” and they’re “a little upset but [they] understand.”
Helen Nguyen, a junior communication studies major from Vietnam, said that she encourages students to use their voices to express their opinions on campus.
“This kind of event is really eye-opening for me as I am an international student,” Nguyen said. “We don’t really talk much about free speech in my country, so it’s kind of cool for me to [see this] and [you should] practice it if you have the chance.”
Comerford said she recommends students attend events similar to “Chalk It Up” that focus on providing students with a way to freely express their opinions.
“It can definitely be eye-opening for people and different ideas can come together to enlighten you on things you didn’t notice before,” Comerford said. “It can also help promote diversity and inclusion on this campus.”
While 1 For All gave away free masks to those who opted to participate, DeRossett said she noticed many students had motivations beyond the incentive in writing their thoughts.
“Everyone seems really willing to do it, they don’t even need the [free] masks,” DeRossett said. “All of these things are questions that people have on their mind that they really want to talk to someone about, so it's not hard to get someone to sit down and write it out.”
Aldape said that the main goal of the event was to provide students with a platform to practice their First Amendment rights.
“[We hope that people will] just come out and give us their opinions and express that freedom of speech, to show JMU that their students do have an opinion as well,” Aldape said.
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