By Chris Nolan
Public debate maestro, communication professor and social activist aficionado Maxwell Schnurer enjoys keeping the students of Humboldt State involved and up-to-date with current-event topics from all around the world. A professor who is keen on social movements, advocacy and freedom of speech. Recently Schnurer hosted a public debate alongside his Capstone Research class on the University Quad regarding Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem and if it is an effective tactic for civil rights or not. The debate was held on Oct. 4 2016 and allowed anyone on campus to voice their opinion on the topic. This is just one of the ways Schnurer stresses public communication to motivate students of all kinds to have an opinion on matters in modern-day America, to be passionate about their perspectives, and to make the most out of one’s freedom of expression.
“This is your school, your debate, your topic!” Schnurer said, in between speeches during his public debate on Oct. 4. He encourages students to make the most out of their chance to listen and be heard and extends an open invitation to grab the microphone and contribute two cents. The topic of: “Is Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem an effective tactic for civil rights?” was chosen by the students of Schnurer’s capstone class, as they voted on what topic should be debated for Oct 4.
Before Schnurer became a social advocate and professional communicator he was a student at Humboldt State University. Then Schnurer attended the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 where he received his Ph.D focusing on fields such as rhetoric and women’s studies. Schnurer was on a debate team before he received his Ph.D, which greatly affected his passion and perspective for public debate.
“[Debate is a] method for changing culture and the world so that when people debate they can not only change minds but think critically for themselves,” Schnurer said. He said he had grasped the power to change the world through freedom of speech and never looked back.
Now Schnurer is using his background of social activism and public debate to inspire the minds of students on campus. He even co-wrote a best-selling debate textbook called Many Sides: Debate across the Curriculum in the early 2000s. Schnurer also contributed to groundbreaking passages and texts on animal liberation, earth liberation and anarchism in general.
“He is a perfectionist when it comes to social advocacy,” said Eliana Hall a communication major and social advocate. “He’s clear, concise and always knows how to break down a topic in a way everyone can understand.”
Hall was enthusiastic about Schnurer.
“Max has a way of keeping a conversation interesting, positive and important while always keeping a smile on his face,” Hall said. “It seems he has really left a mark on the student population of Humboldt State.”
Communication professor and fellow social advocate Hunter Fine said “Can I live?” when attempting to describe Schnurer in one sentence. This quote refers to a Jay-Z song in which Fine debates all the time with Schnurer regarding who was a better emcee, Nas or Jay-Z. Schnurer argues for Jay-Z and Hunter for Nas. It isn’t always about extremely serious political topics when it comes to Schnurer’s ideas for expressing one’s freedom of speech, which makes him that much more versatile.
Schnurer hopes to host a pop culture public debate on the quad during the spring semester of 2017.
“It’s easier to get people involved if we debate a topic a lot of people already know about,” said Schnurer. “It would be interesting to see people debating on lighter topics such as the most powerful person in the Star Wars or Marvel universes. People tend to come together more over topics that are easily relatable to further influence robust civil dialogue.”
When asked if he has any advice for students that have great opinions but are too microphone shy, Schnurer replied: “There is no harm in being a quiet person, as long as you process what is being performed in front of you, you’re awesome!”