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Presentation on academic civility and incivility sparks interest

May 10, 2017 — 

Where academic freedom remains a fundamental principle, what do civility and incivility mean in the context of the university campus?

This question and others were examined at the April 13 presentation attended by academics and staff from University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and Brandon University, at the Senate Chambers and via video webcast.

The two keynote speakers were executive director emeritus of Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) James Turk, who is also a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University, and Loraleigh Keashly, associate professor and associate dean, curricular and student affairs, College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, Wayne State University.

Keashly observed that academics value — and are hired for — debate, critique, argument and dissent.

Within this value system, she said, collegiality should not be the equivalent of congeniality, but collegiality does require cooperation and a shared vision.

Moving towards a definition of cooperation and civility demands careful attention, Turk added. Universities’ definitions of civility might disallow certain types of speech such as satire and polemic/controversial discussion, and be unclear and highly situational, he said.

The speakers also noted that university contexts could be diverse. For example, Keashly noted although faculty might engage in critical debate, staff might find this distressing or unnecessary. Maintaining social contact and focusing disagreement on the task rather than the relationship are thus essential.

During the question and answer period, some action steps were discussed, including faculty educating others how faculty operate in this unique working environment and holding workshops to break down systematic barriers and to promote inclusion.

Some of these action steps were further explored in an afternoon workshop for academic administrators, led by keynote speaker Keashly. 


To read a previous article on the event, see this UM Today article

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