In recent times, many have tied the term rhetoric with words like divisive and hateful, but Aria Loberiti, a University of Rhode Island sophomore studying biology, political science and communication studies, hopes to help change that perception here on our campus.
Loberiti, a youth delegate at the United Nations International Human Rights Summit, plans to start a rhetoric club to help focus on promoting and exposing students outside of communication or political spheres of academia to the study of rhetoric.
By focusing on rhetoric, she hopes that her club will help, “bring awareness to this field and to unite and to allow us to become better people in whatever fields they decided to go into.” By studying the history and ethics of rhetoric, Loberiti hopes to host, “different kinds of discussion” and to eventually invite guest faculty speakers and other guest lectures to add their perspective.”
Loberiti can reflect on her experience in the United Nations, to see that one “can’t do anything without effective rhetoric, and at a huge scale like the U.N, if you can understand rhetoric, you are going to be a successful advocate.”
Communications lecturer Colin Syfert, the faculty sponsor of this club, believes that hosting meetings will “demonstrate the breadth of rhetoric in all areas of academic, professional, and social life.”
Syfert, who during his time as a graduate student created a rhetoric club, is optimistic that the club will take off because once his club was able to help students “overcoming the perception that rhetoric is either boring or irrelevant to students from diverse majors,” they will eventually be able to “make the club a long-lasting and vibrant community on campus.”
Graduate student, Andrew Lavelle, is excited about the idea of a rhetoric club focused on “helping promote positive kinds of rhetoric.” However, he is concerned that the club could
become a platform for extremists like Milo Yiannopoulos to promote their fringe views which
“still has a right to say those things in this country to say those things no matter how horrible or backwards they are.”
Professor Jeremiah Dyehouse, department chair of writing and rhetoric, is not concerned by the threat of extremists using this club as a platform because “the study of rhetoric is not a congenial platform for provocateurs and extremists.” Dyehouse said. “See rhetoric, in Harry Potter terms, teaching rhetoric is like the defense against the dark arts.” Dyehouse believes that a rhetoric club could help combat “hate speech, and those who use rhetoric to blur the line between truth.”
Dyehouse is confident that with the appointment Dean Jeannette Riley, there will be a
“renovation in the humanities.” In Dyehouse’s view, this appointment and the increased interest in rhetoric will help illustrate how “rhetoric can play a strong integrative role within different fields.”