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Raise Your Voices

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Over Columbus Day weekend, three Tesserae staff members and adviser Mike Simons head to Potomac, Maryland for two days of strategic planning at the National New Voices Training Institute hosted by the Student Press Law Center

The following is a roundtable discussion between Tesserae editors Liz Hogrefe, Alivia Jiang and Mia Perry; transcript edited for clarity and brevity.

Liz Hogrefe, 12: “Mia, for anyone who doesn’t know, give me a little refresher on what New Voices is.”

Mia Perry, 12: “So New Voices is a campaign that's nationwide but is concentrated in certain states, and we’re part of the New Voices of New York coalition. Our goal is to pass the Student Journalist Free Speech Act for our state. That would reinstate what's called the Tinker standard, which came from the Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case, which would give students back final editorial control of their work and take away unfair censorship by administrators.”

The Student Press Law Center invited New Voices advocates and student journalists from eight states to Potomac, Md. for a two-day intensive training institute. Campaigns from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia, Hawaii, Michigan and New York were represented.

Alivia Jiang, 10: “This weekend we went to Potomac, Maryland; we were at a New Voices Training Institute held by the Student Press Law Center. We were there with people from seven other states, a mix of journalism advisors and student journalists, and we went through a program with some instruction and some strategic planning to help us plan for the year with New Voices and figure out our next steps.”

MP: “I definitely think the experience was extremely constructive, because even though everyone in each state was at around the same place with their bill, they had all done something differently than us. And so everyone's different experiences aided what we were learning, and what we were gaining from the weekend, because even though our experiences were different, they strengthened us all as a group.”

LH: “There were some really really impactful stories— there was a journalism advisor that talked about how she had a son that died just a few minutes after he was born, and her students covered that in their yearbook and it was censored. She was also subject to these really vicious verbal attacks from the principal and others in administration, and she spoke about how she felt like her job was currently on the line. That was a real eye opener for me because we're so far removed from the actual effects of censorship, because we're so lucky to have the supportive administration that we have. So heading into this past weekend, what kind of experience were you expecting?”

At the New Voices Training Institute on Oct. 12, attendees from eight states listen as facilitator Dan Furmansky guides them through a strategic planning activity.

MP: “I was definitely nervous because I didn't know what would be expected of us and expected of me personally, and also I thought it was going to be kind of boring. But although we were sitting there for two days straight, it wasn't boring at all. Everything we were doing was interesting and relevant to us, especially in New York, and the weekend was really constructive in helping us plan on what we can do to move forward in our campaign. I wasn't expecting to get as much out of it as I think that we did.”

AJ: “Going into it, I didn't really think that I knew enough information about New Voices, in all honesty. I kind of questioned my knowledge, and I kind of was just thrown into the deep end, but in a good way. All of their seminars really helped me learn more about the legislative process and other things.”

LH: “Heading in I honestly had no idea what I was expecting. I was like, ‘Oh, we're going to DC for a weekend and it's going to be about New Voices.’ If you had told me that I was going to willingly spend a Saturday sitting in a conference room for nine hours, learning about the legislative process, I would have cringed. But I had a great time and I learned so much.”

MP: “I think specifically from the New York standpoint, our situation was unique because right now we don't have the support of the ACLU yet and most other states do. I think we were able to offer a different perspective on our situation than other states had, because we have had great success in regards to New Voices. But ultimately, we weren't able to pass the bill through a committee or get it onto the assembly floor yet, which is disappointing.”

Senior Liz Hogrefe and sophomore Alivia Jiang stand with SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris, author and journalism instructor Katina Paron, Syracuse University professor Roy Gutterman, Tesserae adviser Mike Simons and senior Mia Perry at the close of the New Voices Training Institute, hosted by Harris and her staff.

LH: “I also think that being there as student journalists we were able to offer a different perspective. There were only eight student journalists and there were 32 people there. We were definitely the minority. I think being talked down to by administration or politicians is a big feature of being a student involved in New Voices, and one of the biggest things I took away from this weekend was learning how to combat that, and I walked away feeling like I was better prepared for people to take me seriously.”

AJ: “So what else did you guys take away from the weekend?”

MP: “I think after this weekend, I'm definitely more excited about this and about New Voices. I think it was a good jump start into this half of the session, and I think I left energized about New Voices and excited about what's to come. Especially having developed a strong strategy at the training institute this weekend, I'm definitely feeling excited about New Voices and the possibilities this year.”

LH: “Whenever you're really passionate about a topic or cause it can be a real drag when people around you aren't as excited, and getting to be in a room with 30 or so other people that were just as incredibly passionate about this as I was, I really walked away with a new kind of energy. I'm a lot more positive about it and a lot more hopeful and I'm ready to get started again. I'm hyped.”

To learn more about New Voices New York, find the campaign on Twitter at @NewVoicesNY.


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