Alexandra Dileo ’16 and Samuel Holder ’17 Win Debating for Democracy Conference Competition

Update 03/20/15:

This article was first published on March 18, but Rhodes has learned since then that the students have won the Debating for Democracy Conference competition. Congratulations to them both!


Rhodes College students Alexandra Dileo and Samuel Holder are among the 55 student leaders and activists who will travel to New York City to participate in the Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference™. Dr. Amy Jasperson and Dr. Tim Huebner are their faculty mentors.

The two-day conference features panels and workshops with leading figures that focus on how students can take effective action on critical public policy issues. Topics include climate change and the evolving environmental movement; media and millennials; how to effectively advocate; and the role of non-profits in society.

At the conference, the students will represent Rhodes in a Legislative Hearing in which teams of students from different Periclean colleges and universities compete for $5,000 in prize money that they can use to develop advocacy and educational campaigns around their issues. This is the first time students from Rhodes are participating in the Legislative Hearing. Teams will present their public policy recommendations to a panel of former government officials including, U.S. Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA); U.S. Congressman Thomas Downey (D-NY); and the Honorable Edwina Richardson-Mendelson.

The five letters competing in the Legislative Hearing were selected from a pool of submissions from Periclean Institutions around the country. More than 75 students sent “Letters to an Elected Official” about issues they are passionate about. The letters proposed innovative solutions on a wide variety of issues ranging from the Arms Trade Treaty, to living wages, to local farms and food, to reporting of sexual assault in the military.

The Rhodes College team submitted, “A Letter in Support of Net Neutrality by Reclassifying Internet Service as a Public Utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934,” and it was sent to Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

The team wrote: “This letter urges Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to ensure net neutrality by supporting the reclassification of internet service as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Proposed legislation by Senator John Thune (R-SD) fails to create the robust protections necessary to ensure a free and open internet. Title II reclassification will enable the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect consumers from all forms of discriminatory practices by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and will ensure that consumers receive consistent and reliable internet service.”

The D4D National Conference is organized by Project Pericles – a consortium of colleges and universities committed to including social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential elements of their educational programs.

The conference will be held on March 19-20 at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts and is made possible through the generous support of the Eugene M. Lang Foundation.