Students read banned books, discuss Supreme Court

October 3 2007

Events are part of American Democracy Project

Banned books and the U.S. Supreme Court became the focus of Indiana State University’s American Democracy Project this week.

As part of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, students, faculty and staff gathered at the university bookstore on Tuesday to read aloud from books that have sparked outcries.

On Wednesday, in the project’s newest initiative, “Citizenship Corner,” students met with faculty members to discuss the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court and cases the justices intend to hear during this session.

Students leaned over a newspaper-strewn table toward Linda Maule, as she peered into her laptop’s screen amid the din of the Hulman Memorial Student Union. “Everything is brought to it,” said the associate professor of political science and women’s studies as she searched for a U.S. Supreme Court case. “They decide what to focus on.”

Citizenship Corner seeks to bring faculty and their students together to discuss topics and current events.

“Research shows very clearly that students who interact in a meaningful way with faculty are more likely to succeed and to stay and finish their degrees,” said Darlene Hantzis, communication professor and American Democracy Project campus coordinator. “It seemed like a great idea to say ‘let’s talk.’”

The alternative, she said, is to sit in her office and wait for the students to come to her, and then to be disappointed when none come.

For students who attended the luncheon discussion on the opening days of the U.S. Supreme Court, the chance to interact with their instructors proved to be a reason for attending.

“I just like talking to teachers,” said Justin Todd, a freshman political science major from Dugger. “It lets you get to know them better. They have interesting things to talk about.”

For freshman Zachery Dusing, a communications major from Poland, he said he had an interest in the topic and it helped him with some classroom work.

“It helped educate me about the political process,” he said.

That is part of the American Democracy Project’s goal: creating graduates who understand and participate in democracy. The project grows out of a concern about decreasing rates of participation in the civic life of America in voting, in advocacy, in local grassroots associations, and in other forms of civic engagement that are necessary for the vitality of democracy. ISU was one of the original universities to join the project in 2003. Now, it is one of the 225 universities in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to participate in the project.

In the first Citizenship Corner of the semester, students discussed 9/11 and its impact. During the second meeting on Wednesday, the students and professors turned their attention to an entity that can have a localized impact • the Supreme Court.

Sadie Davis, a junior political science major from Martinsville, said she was interested in an Indiana case concerning voter identification that the justices will consider this year. The state established the need for voters to have identification two years ago.

“It makes more of a difference for some groups to vote,” she said. “It’s usually the impoverished groups, who vote Democrat.”

During the Banned Books Week event, Alyssa Whitesell, a communication major from Clinton, read from “Piano Lessons Can Be Murder,” a book in the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine.

“This day is important because people need to be able to express themselves freely without restriction,” she said.

Hantzis said the week’s observance is important because of the freedom to choose and the freedom of expression.

“I love this day,” she said. “The most important thing we do is read and by using our mouths create language, talk and engage with one another, as the ‘Banned Books Out Loud’ helps bring our communities together.”

Maule agreed.

“Nothing is more powerful than reading to one another,” she said.

ISU’s next American Democracy Project event, “Pizza and Politics” at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 in Hulman Memorial Student Union, Dede II, will feature another look at the Supreme Court.

Supreme interest: Indiana State University junior Sadie Davis of Martinsville, Ind. (left) and freshmen Justin Todd of Dugger and Zachery Dusing of Poland listen as Linda Maule, associate professor of political science, discusses the U.S. Supreme Court during a "Citizenship Corner" discussion Wednesday in the Hulman Memorial Student Union Commons. (Kara Berchem/ISU)

Banned reading: Indiana State University senior Colin Pizarek, a communication major from Plainfield, reads "On The Road" as other students look on during a "Banned Books Out Loud" event Tuesday in the University bookstore. In the foreground is a copy of the U.S. Constitution that students were invited to sign. (Kara Berchem/ISU)

Contact: Darlene Hantzis, professor of communication and campus coordinator, American Democracy Project, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3658 or

Writers: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, (812) 237-7392 or and Claudine Gaston, media relations intern, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3773 or

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Story Highlights

Banned books and the U.S. Supreme Court became the focus of Indiana State University's American Democracy Project this week. Among the first universities to join the project in 2003, ISU is now one of 225 in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to participate in the project aimed at getting young adults to take a more active interest in democracy.

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