Class pushes advocacy

Published on January 30, 2018 in Pacer Times, University of South Carolina Aiken’s college paper. This article won first place in the Feature Story category in the South Carolina Press Association’s News Contest.

Communication professor Dr. Jason Munsell introduced Public Advocacy for Social Justice to USC Aiken’s Campus.

Stamped on the syllabus is “TIME’S UP on waiting, TIME’S UP on tolerating discrimination harassment and abuse.”

The spring of 2018 is its first semester being offered. This is only Munsell’s first year at USCA after having taught at Columbia College for 14 years, and he is already making great changes.

“I think students should take a course like this or other courses that involve teaching social responisbility and civic engagement. I do hope students take that sense of social responsibility from the class, along with a good understanding of communication and rhetorical theory and the skills to advocate effectively,” Munsell said.

On the first day of class, Munsell passed out white poster board, markers and crayons with the prompt, “Social justice is,” to allow for students to voice what they believe in. Responses ranged from Chik-fil-a on Sundays and eight hours of sleep a night to issues such as gender equality.

Munsell has taken part in various movements, marches and protests but believes that we all take part in social activism. He recalled a favorite memory in his history of advocacy, which was being a part of a student-led march to the state house in 2004.

“It was cool seeing my students get angry and do something about it,” Munsell said.

Students wanted stronger policies on domestic violence and Munsell remembers the march leading to those stronger policies.

“My inspirations are regular people, especially my colleagues that have done things to make for a better world” Munsell said.

He’s a fan of people like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart who both critique those in power with satire, a rhetorical strategy that has a long political history, according to Munsell.

“Not only are satirical shows like that humorous and relatable but viewers get more information from them,” Munsell said. “Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. More people actually attended that than the rally that it was satiricizing.”

Munsell brings laughter to the class, especially because he knows that social activism often has cliche depictions. Not all activists are outrageous and not every political song is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Aside from a weekly activist journal, the class calls for a semester long advocacy project where students are to create a campaign of their choice. The project asks for students to utilize four ways of communication- oral, written, social media and body rhetoric.

USC Aiken students taking this class are excited for what’s to come. Many have taken it for practical reasons. This class isn’t mandatory and so many aren’t simply fulfilling a requirement but have passion regarding the class content.

Amethyst Marroquin, Student Coordinator at the Student LIfe Office of Diversity Initiatives, said she took the class “to acquire skills to better advocate for students, particularly minority students at USC Aiken.”

Munsell has made a remarkable contribution to the school’s cirriculum by pushing advocacy into the classroom setting.

“I want to see how situations can be handled in an effective way,” said senior communication major Charlie Abney.

Abney commented on recent events that have happened in the country and realized that people aren’t effectively coming together to fix issues.

If you’ve missed the opportunity to take the class this time around, be sure to keep it in mind when it’s available again and registration is open.

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