Students and faculty were invited to the Memorial Union Building (MUB) on Thursday, March 30, to read pieces of literature from any point in history that spoke to the ideals of democracy.
The event was called Write Your Democracy: A Humanities Read-In on Free Expression. While the event was sponsored by the UNH Center for the Humanities, the turnout brought together many inspiring pieces of literature from several different time periods and writers, shared by the professors of many departments.
The chair of the English department at UNH, Rachel Trubowitz, first brought this idea up to Holly Cashman, an associate professor of Spanish, and Stephen Trzaskoma, a professor of classics, who both immediately jumped on the interesting idea.
“As departments that teach language I felt that we should work together,” Trubowitz said. “We wanted to create a way to get meaningful contact between students and staff – with no titles [of participants].”
Although there were no students in the group of 14 who chose to read their pieces of literature, the hope is that events like this will bring together students and faculty to express their ideas freely and have an open discussion together as a community. Trubowitz, Cashman and Trzaskoma all hoped for another opportunity to have another event similar to this, in the hopes of having a bigger turnout from the UNH student body.
Stories ranged everywhere from poetry to TED Talks, from 17th century to present day, in a variety of languages including English, Spanish and even German in one case. Although the languages and time periods varied a lot, all of the pieces dealt with defending free expression, rejecting hatred and upholding the truth.
When creating this event, there wasn’t a very specific set of guidelines for participants, but the underlying tone of democracy could be heard in almost every piece of literature presented. The main focus of this event was to bring the community together to share and discuss freedom of expression.
“We wanted to bring people together who are interested in talking about freedom of expression rather than reacting to a specific event, we wanted to be more proactive and specifically bring in texts from different cultures and people to offer different views,” Cashman said.
The speakers, who had different ethnicities and genders, offered different points of view on what democracy means to them. Trzaskoma, one of the faculty members who created this event had only one regret after helping create this read-in with his two colleagues.
“We have mostly faculty speakers, my one regret is not having as many students participate,” Trzaskoma said. He then went on to explain how undergraduates reacting to each speaker is just one beneficial part to having them, the other being having young adults bringing their life view to other adults not in the same sphere of influence.
The Write Your Democracy read-in event that occurred on Thursday is just one example of how the UNH community is being brought together to share ideas and express opinions in an effort to ensure that freedom of expression remains at the