Three students make their voices heard

Students make national finals in major competition

Lillian Vila

Licht livilalicht@ursinus.edu

Three students at Ursinus have made their voices heard at a national level. Sophie Auerbach ’21, Samantha Hayslett ’19, and Abigail Peabody ’22 were National finalists in the Project Pericles Debating for Democracy Letter to an Elected Official competition. According to the competition’s official website, “The D4D Letter to an Elected Official Competition engages students around public policy issues, the political process, and with their elected officials. Since 2008, hundreds of teams from Periclean colleges and universities have participated in the competition.”

“This isn’t just about abortion, this is about human life. The global gag rule isn’t just hurting women, though it is doing that. It’s also hurting the children and men of the area as it deprives the people of their local clinic.” —Samantha Hayslett Class of 2019

The group’s letter was selected to go to U.S. Congressman Anthony Brown, the U.S. Representative of Maryland’s 4th congressional district. Auerbach, Hayslett, and Peabody are invited to 2019 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference in New York City, where there will be presentations and programs encouraging civic engagement and teaching advocacy strategies. The group’s project aims to involve students in the process of engaging and advocating as a citizen. The group’s letter was about the H.E.R. act, which advocates to end the Global Gag Rule restricting United States’ assistance to foreign countries in need of medical assistance, if the country allows abortion.

Hayslett explains that the process to write the letter was collaborative and the group worked together to conduct the research and find the right words and sources to properly argue their point. She also stressed the importance of this work not only for the vast number of women it will affect, but also for the general population. According to the Ursinus website, Hayslett explains that writing the letter was collaborative with the group having to work together whether it be doing research or obtaining relevant sources.

Hayslett talked about what made her passionate for this cause.

“This isn’t just about abortion, this is about human life. The global gag rule isn’t just hurting women, though it is doing that. It’s also hurting the children and men of the area as it deprives the people of their local clinic,” she said. “Growing up the daughter of a feminist and a doctor, my mother instilled in me at a young age that medical treatment should never be stripped from anyone no matter what they chose to do with their life.”

When asked if they had any suggestions for how other students can help our community and promote change for the better, Auerbach said, “Speak out! If you have an opinion don’t be afraid to voice it because it’s yours. Discussions are key to making change and those can’t happen if everyone feels powerless and silenced.”

Hayslett seconded this. “If they can’t hear your voice the government doesn’t know what you want. Another one is to get involved in clubs on campus — we have quite a few that are very activism-oriented, and I find it’s always easier to make a change when you have a group backing you. Also, school-recognized groups make more of a change on campus than you think.”

Peabody emphasized that students must become more politically aware in order to improve things, “Educating yourself on any issue is the first step. I had no idea this was a problem until I was taught about it. We are at an age now where we have control over what we learn, so people have to make the first move to choose to learn.”