Dec. 8 update: Check out the Civic Debate Wall in action!
As a way to encourage dialogue about the most critical issues facing Florida and the nation, this fall the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida launched a 44-by-26 inch interactive wall.
The Great Civil Debate Wall, aimed specifically at engaging students, will encourage those with diverse backgrounds and political views to express their opinions.
The new Knight-funded project was featured in this month’s edition of Florida Trend magazine in an article titled “Civic Engagement: Raising Questions.” Cynthia Barnett covers a debate students had at the wall over whether the federal government has done enough to create jobs:
“Eighteen students voted yes; 23 no. Among the ‘no’s’, Sara Eileen wrote: ‘The government needs to focus on ways to regain local jobs that have moved due to increasing globalization.’ Travis countered: ‘Yes! Per-job-saved spending on the stimulus was $280,000 - that’s enough.’ ”
Ann Henderson, the center’s executive director also detailed the relationship between increasing civic participation and increasing voter turnout:
“Voting is a key measure of civic health...But when you look at those numbers, it’s clear that the State University System is not, in a deliberate way, saying ‘How can we ensure our students are prepared for citizenship?’”
The article also notes the current wall is a prototype. If it shows promise, the center plans to expand it throughout the campus and the larger Gainesville community.
The wall complements other programs at the center, such as an innovative online curriculum and a “citizenship fellows” program that seeks to encourage civic commitment among University of Florida students.
The wall was created by Jake Barton, founder and principal of Local Projects, an award-winning media design firm for museums and public spaces.