November 30, 2020 at 7:37 pm

ACLU Student Group Hosts Speak Your Peace Roundtable with Faculty Experts

Campus Action Team ACLU Ohio University


The ACLU of Ohio University hosted Speak Your Peace, an event centered around initiating open discourse about various civil liberties topics, on Nov. 16.

The selected topics were criminal justice reform, election law issues in 2020, civil liberties and rights, women’s reproductive rights, and surveillance. Each topic had its own breakout room, run by an expert moderator. During the hour-long event, attendees could move in and out of breakout rooms and engage in meaningful conversations.

The organization hosted five “experts,” each with specialized knowledge on a topic. For Criminal Justice Reform, ACLU-OU hosted Greer Aeschbury, the Southwest Organizing Strategist for the ACLU of Ohio. Greer has organized on a variety of local justice issues, from policing to housing, since 2013. She joined the ACLU of Ohio in Dec 2019 and since then has built up Action Teams in Southwest Ohio to tackle some of the most pressing issues of local communities.

In this breakout room, attendees discussed everything from healthcare access in prisons, bail reform, mass incarceration, race in the criminal justice system, and more. Junior Cierra Smith-Carter especially enjoyed having the opportunity to speak to a professional like Greer, who is actively working to reform the criminal justice system.

“It gave me a lot of perspective into how criminal justice works beyond an academic scale and inspired me to consider community organization as a career,” said Smith-Carter.

CLJC Pre-Law Advisor Larry Hayman, Esq. served as the expert moderator for the election law in 2020 topic. In addition to being the adviser for the ACLU of Ohio University, he teaches and advises students and alumni interested in attending law school. Prior to joining the university, he was an election law litigator, representing federal, state, and local candidates, ballot issues, and PACs.

With this being an election year, and a year in which there was a Supreme Court appointment, ACLU-OU knew this was going to be an important topic to feature. And, they were thankful to host someone who was able to talk about everything from voter fraud claims to specific legal processes. ACLU-OU Deputy Director Katie Gold is very passionate about electoral politics and was thrilled to have this discussion as part of the event.

“I really enjoyed hearing from Larry. With our political climate this year a lot of us students have had a lot of questions; we have all struggled to find sources who are either credible or can answer tougher questions,” said Gold.

The Civil Liberties and Rights discussion was led by Dr. Jennifer Fredette, Associate Professor of Political Science. Fredette specializes in constitutional law, comparative law, and sociolegal studies and has been published on multiple occasions. Currently, she is conducting research on law and identity in the French Domestic and British Overseas Territories of the Caribbean.

Attendees were able to not only explore what civil liberties and rights are, but also talk about those that today are being threatened and/or expanded and how that impacts our society. More specifically, there were conversations centering around the future of Obergefell v. Hodges with the recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Junior Angel Vergona came into the conversation worried about the future of LGBTQ+ rights. “After speaking with Dr. Fredette, I felt reassured that so many of the people I care about aren’t going to lose all of their rights. However, it’s important now that we stand with and protect the transgender community who are most at risk of being negatively impacted by this appointment.” Vergona also was excited to discuss Fredette’s course, Civil Liberties (POLS 4040), that she took in the past and is being offered in Spring 2021. “I would highly recommend the course to anyone, it’s one of my favorite classes I’ve taken.”

For Women’s Reproductive Rights, ACLU-OU hosted Jaclyn Serpico, MA, MPH, a second-year law student at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. There, she is the Reproductive Freedom Chair of the Moritz ACLU chapter. Serpico is also the founding president of Moritz’s If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice chapter. In recognition of this work she received the national If/When/How 2020 Excellence in Organizing award. She was a summer intern and is currently an extern in Federal Policy Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and she is a student board fellow on the board of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

The insightful conversation in the Women’s Reproductive Rights room brought up questions and concerns regarding the future of these rights, contemporary issues, and misinformation surrounding the topic. “Jaclyn’s expertise was invaluable throughout this conversation,” said Naomi Kuo, treasurer of ACLU-OU. “Even coming in as someone who is really passionate about this topic and has done a lot of research, I learned so many things and was really inspired by all the work that Jaclyn does. She really motivated me to want to do more with the topic.” Serving on the Executive Board of the organization, Kuo was thrilled to see how much attendees engaged in the conversation.

To highlight the topic of Surveillance, Dr. John Gilliom, Professor of Political Science, attended the event. Gilliom does scholarship and teaching for the Center for Law, Justice & Culture on the social, political, and legal dynamics of surveillance. Along with numerous chapters, articles and papers, he is the author or co-author of three books, Supervision (Chicago 2013); Overseers of the Poor (Chicago 2001); and Privacy, and the Law (Michigan 1994).

Surveillance was a topic new to the event. However, since this has been a topic at the forefront of the national ACLU’s campaign, ACLU-OU wanted to raise awareness about the issue with an esteemed expert in the subject. Surveillance has grown exponentially in the past 20 years and impacts every American’s daily life.

“I had no idea how pervasive, and engrained surveillance was in our society,” said sophomore Hailey Gifford. She also noted that the conversation with Gilliom really made her want to take his Politics of Surveillance (POLS 4901) class to learn more. “I don’t think people talk about enough how scary surveillance is. It’s everywhere and needs to be better regulated.”

The event brought in over thirty students, and the ACLU of Ohio University was thrilled to see attendees engaged within the various rooms. “Our goal with these events is to create spaces for people to learn about different topics, ask hard questions, and engage with other OU community members,” says Director Micaela Beatham-Garcia.

With the success of the event, they hope to host another in the spring with new topics.

If you are interested in hosting a topic room for Speak Your Peace in the spring, you can reach out to ACLU-OU’s secretary Sydney Borsellino:



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