Those who stop by the UMC terrace Tuesday may encounter a mob of students exiting a Buff Bus wearing matching social justice T-shirts, a crowd of observers and news reporters and Congressman Jared Polis.
Tuesday at noon, the CU Independent will unveil the new “Speak Out!” campaign. The student-run social movement aims to address discrimination on campus. Paul Voakes, the dean of the journalism school, said he thinks that the campaign will improve the community.
“The CU Independent will be able to show the rest of the campus that journalists have a stake in the health of the community,” Voakes said. “Part of that health is a community’s ability to celebrate diversity and be inquisitive.”
Amy Herdy, the adviser for the CU Independent, said she thinks the campaign will help reporters serve their journalistic responsibilities.
“If it works like we hope it will, it will enrich their coverage,” Herdy said. “They’ll hear voices from every community on a wide array of topics and it will make it more interesting, more colorful and more significant. They’ll be serving their journalistic responsibilities which is to give voice to those who otherwise may not have one.”
The subject of the Speak Out! campaign focuses on 10 main issues: heterosexism, sexism, body image, abelism, ethnocentrism, substance abuse, religionism, ageism, racism and classism.
Cameron Naish, a 21-year-old senior news-editorial major and managing editor of the CU Independent, runs the campaign. Naish said he wants the Speak Out! campaign to address topics most relevant to the CU community.
“Our goal and our ultimate responsibly is to report on the issues that matter most to students,” Naish said. “We hope to bring these issues to light on campus.”
Editor-in-Chief Danielle Alberti, a 22-year-old senior news-editorial and anthropology major, said she thinks the campaign will bring in more varied stories.
“I’m really hoping it will make us look for more stories outside of what we typically look for,” Alberti said. “We have an idea of what a news story is, so we don’t usually cover a lot of events on campus. It will open people’s eyes that there are bigger issues on campus.”
The Speak Out! campaign is unique in that it is completely student-run and concerns the implementation of social justice between students.
“This is the kind of material that the Daily or the Camera can’t cover; we are the students on campus,” Naish said.
The press conference for the event will feature a speech by Congressman Jared Polis of the 2nd District of Colorado. Polis signed on to support the CU Independent’s campaign, along with student groups on campus.
An excerpt from a letter of support presents the opinion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center:
“We were given the opportunity to review and critique the campaign and were very impressed by what we were presented… As an advocacy center on this campus, we feel that this campaign will make a very positive contribution to the climate and dialogue on this campus. We know first hand how difficult it can be to work on creating a space of inclusion and feel that this campaign is a great place to start the process.”
The Denver Asian Pacific American Commission also issued a letter of support to Chancellor DiStefano in regards to the Speak Out! campaign.
“The Denver Asian Pacific American Commission applauds their efforts and supports this campaign, and we believe it will reflect very well on the University of Colorado.”
Alexis Smith, the UCSU Diversity Director and 23-year-old senior news-editorial major, also sent a letter of support to the chancellor.
“The ‘Speak Out!’ campaign is the culmination of many hours of hard work and debate about how to best engage the campus concerning issues of inclusion and diversity.”
Naish said he is impressed with the support from the public.
“We were hopeful, but at the same time it’s amazing how many people have given us so much support,” Naish said. “Bronson [Hilliard, the CU spokesperson] supports it, the chancellor supports it, and student groups on campus support it. That’s the best part about it.”
Herdy said the outside press coverage does not surprise her.
“I know my fellow journalists and I have faith they realize something important when they hear it,” Herdy said.
The Speak Out! campaign goes far beyond Tuesday’s event. The campaign also comes with a wide range of T-shirts.
The T-shirts for the Speak Out! campaign make statements on issues ranging from sexual equality to same-sex marriage. The T-shirts were designed by TDA Advertising.
Jim Moscou, the director of strategy and development at TDA Advertising, said he was happy to help with the campaign.
“We love all the t-shirts,” Moscou said. “T-shirts are cool; people love wearing t-shirts. It’s a great way to spread the message.”
Moscou said TDA Advertising often works on social justice projects.
“The people involved are great journalists looking to get involved in great innovative journalism,” Moscou said. “[Advisor] Amy Herdy is just incredible and so are the editors. I’d do anything I can do to help them. The agency always has room and we always have a program helping public service announcements.”
The public service approach to news reporting, though not a previous focus in the CU Independent, will become an important aspect to the publication. Alberti said she thinks CU needs a social justice campaign.
“We should be advocating for social justice,” Alberti said. “Campaigns like this aren’t needed in larger markets, but the fact that CU is struggling for diversity, we see it as a need for this.”
Voakes said he thinks this new type of reporting will maintain journalism’s unbiased ideals.
“Doing the Speak Out! campaign won’t prevent the CU Independent from doing stories that are fun, balanced, impartial, but they’re saying there are certain values we all have,” Voakes said. “In all of the stories that have two or three sides, reporters will be capable of giving all sides of a story.”
Voakes said that this new movement in journalism brings reporting to a less detached level.
“It’s a new model for journalism,” Voakes said. “Traditionally, journalists would typically stand apart and be detached from community improvement and in the many styles that have broken down over the last few years, this isn’t as common as it once was. We actually do care about the community.”
Through reporting on social justice issues, the CU Independent hopes to bring problems to the forefront of the student community. Naish said he expects the religionism aspect of the campaign will have the biggest impact on the CU campus.
“In 2006, CU did a campus climate survey and the one issue people had the most problem with was religion,” Naish said. “There aren’t as many resources available to students regarding religion. Obviously, we hope to give all issues the same coverage, but religion is where we expect to learn the most.”
Student Grace Hokama, a 19-year-old sophomore international affairs major, said she thinks substance abuse will echo greatest across campus.
“I think substance abuse is a big issue,” Hokama said. “You hear more of that going on. People aren’t afraid to talk about it, but the other issues are more internal.”
With all of the issues exposed to the public, Herdy said she thinks Speak Out! will spark discussion.
“It’s not so much about the campaign as it is in terms of coverage,” Herdy said. “It’s important for a news publication to educate people on the issues that matter and to provide a forum for people to intelligently discuss those issues.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jennifer Retter at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.