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Speech Limits conference organizer Jenny Lambe (far left) and University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan (far right) congratulate second place Voices Matter winner Eric Hastings, a graduate student in the MPA program (left), and third place winner Jymere Stillis-Stanford, a junior who is majoring in mass communication and psychology. Absent from the photo is first-place winner Mia Carbone , who was unable attend because she was studying abroad for the spring semester.
By Charles J. Mays, Graduate Fellow for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication; Walker Chavatel, University of Delaware junior and CPC intern; and Caroline Gassert, University of Delaware junior and CPC intern
Note from Charles J. Mays: It was an amazing opportunity to serve as this year's Voices Matter producer. I was particularly moved by the amazing stories written by our entrants, weaving both personal and vulnerable stories, with a message of the power of one's voice. Some might think it would be concerning to have such a number of stories about feeling silenced, but rather I saw, in many of the entries, the discovery of self-confidence that led to the writers rising above their situations and making their voices heard. Thank you to all the entrants for their stories and congratulations to all of the finalists.
Listen to the top 10 Voices Matter audio essays. Listen to Delaware Public Media's segment about the top three essays.
APRIL 3, 2019―The fall 2018 Voices Matter Audio Essay Contest, hosted by the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, not only gave students a platform to discuss important political issues. It also gave them confidence.
The contest's theme centered around First Amendment expression and unheard voices. Essay topics ranged from navigating interpersonal relationships to feminism and anti-Semitism. Students submitted 2- to 4-minute recorded essays considering these questions: Do you feel free to express your opinion? Have you been affected by hate speech? Have you ever experienced or witnessed censorship? What does the First Amendment mean to you? How have you made your voice matter? Judging was based on content; originality and creativity; delivery; and production value. First-place, second-place, third-place, and three honorable-mention recipients received cash awards of $500 to $50. The project ran in tandem with the CPC's National Agenda speaker series, "Midterm Matters," which also took place last fall.
University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan, who presented the awards at a public event on March 14 at Mitchell Hall, recognized the hard work of all the students who entered the contest. “It was an honor to see so many students embrace the opportunity to share their voices with regard to the First Amendment. On a college campus, in particular, it is imperative that we balance our constitutional rights with consideration of others—that we strive to assess our own perspectives by listening to the positions of those around us. The Voices Matter Essay Contest provides a platform for our students to express themselves in a way that benefits us all. It was my honor to be a part of it.”
The event was part of a conference entitled "Speech Limits in Public Life: At the Intersection of Free Speech and Hate." Dr. Jenny Lambe, an associate professor of communication at UD, organized the two-day conference to discuss how to effectively respond to hate speech on college campuses and digital platforms. The kick-off event featured the Voices Matter awards presentation and guest speaker Christian Picciolini, an award-winning television producer, a public speaker, author, peace advocate, and a former violent extremist.
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Mia Carbone, a sophomore majoring in political science and communication, received first place in the Voices Matter contest for her essay, "The Line."
This year’s winning entry, “The Line” by Mia Carbone, asked "Where is the line between the voices we want to hear and those we don’t?" Carbone, a sophomore majoring in political science and communication, wanted the audience to consider the often silenced voices of those who express a less popular point of view. People tend to overlook those voices, especially when they disagree. Carbone received high praise from the judges about valuing the opinions of others, even when we don’t necessarily share their views. One judge said, “She admits her disdain for the boy's comments, but ultimately concludes that―since many other voices have been marginalized and silenced in the course of our history―we should listen to those voices with whom we disagree as well. This is at the heart of the discussion of free/hate speech.”
Carbone, who is studying abroad this semester, was thrilled to learn that she won first place in the contest. She didn't expect to rank in the top 10, much less win. “Being a finalist in this competition was definitely a surprise for me, and has definitely given me a little more confidence in my work. It's also been super humbling being the youngest finalist among nine other clearly intelligent and talented writers and speakers. I think most of all this whole thing has just been surprising and taught me to put myself out there a little more.”
Speech Limits conference organizer Jenny Lambe (far left) and University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan (far right) congratulate the three recipients of Voices Matter Honorable Mention awards, from left to right: Christine Colalillo (junior), Morgan Kolukisa (junior) and Jenna Lee (senior).
Second-place winner Eric Hastings, who completes his MPA degree this spring, wrote about learning the value of just “shutting up and listening.” Hasting’s piece centered around his coming to understand his privilege as a white man and how his position affords him the opportunity to effect change with just a whisper while minorities around him must yell. One judge noted that Hastings “does an excellent job of intertwining personal experience with consideration of the structural inequalities that silence some voices.” Hastings said his essay was intended not only to be about challenging white peers to listen, but was also written as a thank you to the people of color in his life who taught him that. “It was a way to thank my mother for how she raised me and to thank young people of color I have worked with in my public service career for teaching me how to listen.”
Speech Limits conference organizer Jenny Lambe (far left) and University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan (far right) congratulate the recipients of Voices Matter finalist commendations, from left to right: Rachel Stamberg (junior), Delaney DeTitta (junior) and Joshua Diehl (graduated in December 2018). Absent from the photo is Allison Delaney (senior).
"The Word" was the title of this year’s third place entry by Jymere Stillis-Stanford, a junior majoring in mass communication and psychology. As the title suggests, his essay focused on a desire to educate his white peers about the history, power and significance of the "n-word" especially when they thought it appropriate to belt it out in song lyrics. Stillis-Stanford felt empowered by the willingness of his classmates to listen and that his voice did indeed matter. For Stillis-Stanford education is key, “If conversations aren't started, then people will remain clueless and ignorant."
Morgan Kolukisa, a junior majoring in English, received an honorable mention for her essay entitled “The Monster on My Shoulder.” Her essay was quite personal, describing the numerous ways her identities as an immigrant, as someone who is queer, and as someone who is disabled have intertwined to shape her experiences. Together these identities have often ended up becoming the monster on her shoulder, influencing her interactions with people and altering how others treat her.
“Participating in the contest really made me consider some things I never really have before. I’ve always been very conscious of my position in the world," said Kolukisa. "As a queer woman with an immigrant father, I can't go a single day without hearing something that reminds me of it, whether on the news or around campus or even from professors sometimes. But I can't say I've really considered the impact that individual people have had on my life until I puzzled it out into an essay.” The judges were impressed with her use of the monster analogy to describe how identity can result in one being silenced. Ultimately, Morgan also comes to understand the monster as something empowering for her to find and produce her voice.
The other finalists were Christine Colalillo, Allison Delaney, Delaney DeTitta, Joshua Diehl, Jenna Lee and Rachel Stamberg. All essays were lauded by the judges for their creativity in using personal―and sometimes painful―stories to illustrate the impact that feeling silenced can have. Overall, the finalists were grateful for the opportunity to not only make their voices heard but also to bolster their confidence in both their work and their voice.
The CPC produced the program in partnership with the University Writing Center, the University of Delaware Library, Delaware Public Media (WDDE 91.1, WMPH 91.7 and WMHS 88.1), the College of Arts & Sciences Journalism Program, WVUD Radio (91.3), the University of Delaware Vice Provost for Diversity and the University of Delaware Department of Communication. The CPC debuted the Voices project in 2017 as part of its mission to promote civic engagement. Through nonpartisan, interdisciplinary outreach, the CPC equips students and the community with the political, social, and communication literacy needed to engage in civil discourse. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or call 302-831-7771.