Student-run organization hopes to facilitate free speech at James Madison University

“Bluestone Communications” holds free speech events throughout campus.
Spirit Rock at James Madison University
Spirit Rock at James Madison University(WHSV)
Published: Nov. 21, 2020 at 7:33 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Bluestone Communications is a student-led public relations firm on James Madison University’s campus. The organization wants students to freely express themselves without fear of repercussion.

“It’s important to hear everyone’s opinion, because that is what makes it great that we have these rights,” Liv Hart, an account associate at Bluestone Communications, said.

Bluestone Communications held a “Chalk It Up Event” November 11th and 12th, where students were asked to write down how they felt about different themes like anxieties for next semester, thoughts on administration’s response to COVID-19, cancellation of fall and spring breaks due to COVID-19, diversity and inclusion on campus, and thoughts on the 2020 election.

“We just encouraged students to talk a piece of chalk and write down what their thoughts were, and practice their freedom of speech,” Hart said.

Hart said over 100 students participated.

In doing research with students, Bluestone Communications found many are afraid to speak their mind, especially in their social circles.

“Students understand what their rights are. They know their 5 freedoms and everything like that, but they had a really hard time safely expressing those,” Hart said.

“1 for All” is an organization created at Middle Tennessee State University to educate students on their First Amendment Freedoms.

With a grant from the 1 for All, Bluestone Communications wanted to create a space for everyone to speak freely and use their First Amendment rights.

Last Thursday, they took some of those expressions written at the chalk event, and put them on JMU’s “Spirit Rock.” The Spirit Rock is a place of expression for many on campus.

In the time between Thursday and Saturday, parts of the Spirit Rock have been vandalized.

“It’s pretty sad that it didn’t last long, but this is the whole point of our event. Anybody can express their opinion. The Spirit Rock is the symbol of free speech,” Associate Professor of Communications at JMU and Faculty Director of Bluestone Communications, Isaac Woo, said.

But Woo adds, it is important to do so respectfully.

“To make this campus safer to express everyone’s opinion, we need to respect each other a little bit,” Woo said.

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