The Speak Your Mind lecture series, which seeks to engage students in an exchange of diverse ideas, free speech and stimulate critical thinking about national and global issues through presentations by informed speakers, is gearing up for spring.
“This semester, the theme is immigration,” said Kevin Mojaradi-Stenke, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Associated Students.
“Last semester it was the Middle East. The goal is to inform, raise awareness and get students involved.”
There are three talks planned for this semester. The first talk is with Hector Tobar, the bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times in Mexico City.
That lecture will be on “Latinos, the anti-immigrant movement and the struggle over citizenship and American identity,” said Tobar, who won a Pulitzer Prize for a story he co-wrote about the second day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The presentation is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m. in the University Student Union’s Plaza del Sol Performance Hall.
The second talk is scheduled for sometime in March and the Speak Your Mind Planning Committee is still in negotiations.
“The committee is hoping to get Bill Handel confirmed by next week,” said Spero Bowman, associate vice president of academic resources and planning.
Handel is a graduate of CSUN and hosts a radio show on KFI AM 640 weekday mornings.
His show, called “The Bill Handel Show,” consists of news topic discussions, skits with other radio personalities, and legal advice.
The SYMPC consists of 12 representatives from campus organizations and meets once a month.
“University Student Union, Educational Opportunity Programs, and Associated Students are a few of the organizations on the SYMPC,” said Bowman. “There are four students on the planning committee.”
The third talk, scheduled in April, will feature Maria Elena Durazo, who was elected as executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Durazo’s topic has not yet been determined.
Each speaker is paid an “honorarium (of) $6,000,” Mojaradi-Stenke said.
The presentations include a talk, question-and-answer session and book signing.
After the event, faculty from CSUN’s Center for Human Relations will assist in break-out sessions of smaller groups to continue the discussions with students and other interested individuals.
“Each presentation is about two hours,” Bowman said.
The SYM series made its debut on Oct. 23, with Reza Aslan presenting a talk on “The Future of Islam: Toward the Islamic Reformation.” Aslan is a scholar of religions and author of “No God but God.”
“It was a success. About 300 students attended,” Bowman said.
The second presentation about “The Difference One Person Can Make in the World” was canceled after the planned speaker, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, had to back out at the last minute. Bowman explained, “she was arrested for trespassing at the U. N. (and had to) appear in court. That is why the presentation was canceled.”
Sheehan’s 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004, and she has been proactive in opposing the occupation in Iraq since then. She was arrested while urging the United Nations to help prevent civil war in Iraq with other protestors on March 6, 2006.
When asked why a back-up speaker was not supplied or if there are back-up plans in the future, Bowman said, “No, it would be unfair to the campus community to substitute a speaker they were not expecting.”
The SYM series was born after ideas were bounced around at a meeting with various campus organization representations.
“The idea was we wanted to develop a theme each semester to present to students a broad perspective on issues relating to the theme,” Bowman said.
To find out what would interest students, a survey was conducted in Spring 2006. Students were asked which topics they would like to learn more about.
“The Middle East, immigration, environment and sexuality were the ones the students chose,” Bowman said.
Soumyajit Sukul, a senior economics major, said he heard about the SYM series but couldn’t attend due to scheduling conflicts.
He doesn’t think students would get any real benefit from the series.
“The whole debate on immigration is about nothing. We are not a country with limited resources,” Sukul said. “The U.S. has space.”
“As an economist, immigration helps the economy by increasing the labor force.”
He added that he didn’t think the theme this semester would benefit him as he is an avid news watcher and the questions are probably addressed there, but someone who does not keep up with the news might learn something.
Sukul said he does not think any grass-roots organizations or protests will develop from the presentations.
“People will be better informed but it won’t have a dramatic effect,” he said. “It’s not the sixties anymore.”
The series is open to students, faculty and staff, and although tickets are free with CSUN ID, a ticket must be presented to get in as seating is limited.
Tickets can be picked up at the Playa Del Sol courtyard ticket booth.