Deakhead:Controversy was the name of the game at the Student Speakers Forum that took place at Lesar Law Auditorium on Wednesday night to discuss civil liberties.

By Gus Bode

During the forum that lasted exactly one hour, students were asked to give their views on the given resolution:”In its efforts to stop terrorism, the U.S. government should be allowed to limit the civil liberties normally accorded to its citizens.”

After two students opened the forum, one for the resolution, the other against, the podium was open to the floor for debate.

The sides went back and forth, taking turns discussing the issues depending on their position.

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But the audience knew what side a person was on before they reached the microphone because the room was divided into three groups with the right in favor the resolution, the left against and the middle undecided.

On occasion, people would move from one side of the room to the center, showing that the speaker who had just given his or her take on the issue had swayed their view.

In the end, everyone, even those in the middle of the issue, had to choose a side.

“Unfortunately, there is no door marked ‘undecided,’ so unless you plan on never leaving the room, you will have to make a decision for or against the resolution,” warned a program that was given to attendees.

The line in front of the “against” door remained long after that of the “for” side. When all was said and done, 148 were against giving up their civil liberties in hope of gaining national security, and 98 left willing to give up some of their freedoms in order to have a “safer” country.

But no one left before hearing both sides of the story.

Ben Smith, who spoke in favor of giving up some civil liberties, explained that Singapore, where he lived for five years, is one “cleanest and safest countries in the world,” because they do not have the extended freedoms that Americans enjoy.

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“I never knew that people made fun of others until I came to America,” he said. “I have lived all over the world, to over 100 different countries, and Americans are the asses of the world.”

A woman who spoke out against the resolution after Smith went to the podium and responded, “I am proud to be an American.”

She said she wanted to paint a picture to the audience about “1984,” a book by George Orwell that she read that deals with life without civil liberties.

“I would like to say this would never happen to our country, but if you keep limiting civil liberties, our government will become the terrorists.”

The debate went on inside the auditorium until the moderator, Richard Tomkins, called time.

Then a different debate took place.

Possibly, a more heated one.

A group about 10 Speech communications 101 students gathered in the hall, complaining about having to be at the forum in the first place. At the center of the controversy was Jason McDonald, a sophomore from Dallas, Texas, studying philosophy.

McDonald, who spoke out during the forum against the whole thing even taking place, and his classmates said they were forced to attend.

The group claimed that their speech teacher required attendance as a graded activity and that they were to go, “or fail.”

But Jonathan Gray, co-coordinator of the event, said that was untrue.

“We can’t require attendance at external events,” he said. “It was encouraged in our classes and students were offered extra credit to attend.”

As to McDonald’s comments that the forum was filled with nothing more than discussion without action, Gray said he did not agree.

“The difference between words and action are very concrete for some,” he said. “For the rest of us, it is really blurry.”

Reporter Kristina Herrndobler can be reached at [email protected]

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