Theme 2013-2015:
Find Your Voice and Hear My Voice: Creating Civil Conversation

The vision of the Common Theme is to initiate more engaged and thoughtful conversations about national and global issues. This theme and its cross-campus discussions and events will highlight positive ways of communication that deal with complex situations and conflicts that students, faculty, and staff face in their daily lives to better equip them to succeed in the workforce, make them better community citizens and ensure that they reach their full potential in our globally connected digital world. This Common Theme will provide opportunities for rich discourse across the campus and our communities on communicating about diverse viewpoints in ways that validate our shared humanity, common purpose and connection.


Civility has been described as "more than just manners, politeness, and respect. The civitas side of civility calls for an individual to give of oneself to strengthen the community, usually at the sacrifice of one's own wishes and desires. In this sense, serving with volunteer organizations for the purpose of aiding others in the community is a form of civility" (Weeks, 2011, p.7). Hacala (2011) defines civility as "how we contribute to society and work together locally and globally with greater respect, awareness, understanding and acceptance of one another" (p. 5).

Forni (2002), states "acts of violence are often the result of an exchange of acts of rudeness that spiral out of control. Disrespect can lead to bloodshed. By keeping the levels of incivility down we keep the levels of violence down . . . If we teach youngsters in all walks of life how to manage conflict with civility-based relational skills, we will have a less uncivil society, a less violent one" (as cited by O’Mara, 2007, p.1). One study found that 90% of Americans believe incivility increases the chances of violence with another survey illustrating that eight out of ten respondents felt that "lack of courtesy and respect" was a national problem (Weeks, 2011, p.4; US News and World Report, 1999).

Civility is becoming more of a concern among American Colleges and Universities (Weeks, 2011). Many worry that "deep thinking is often the illustrious casualty in the digital revolution" (Forni, 2011, p.5). Others are concerned that there is an "ongoing assault against honest debate in America" (Williams, 2011, p.3). Cousineau (2011) writes that we can only move "forward through bold acts of self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others, and atonement. If we can do that, together we will heal the world." Kielburger & Kielburger (2006) add that we need a "life philosophy now more than ever called Me to We, a way of living that feeds the positive in the world-one action, one act of faith, one small step at a time. Living Me to We has the potential to revolutionize kindess, redefine happiness and success, and rekindle community bonds powerful enough to change your life and the lives of everyone around you."

This Common Theme will provide rich prospects for teaching millennial generation students the "virtue of how to respectfully interact with others" which is an absolute necessity as they are the "first generation to experience the phenomenon of online social networks (and the first to have internet access during their developmental years) and the first to carry portable forms of immediate communication-from pagers in the early 1990's to modern handheld wireless devises, capable of sending emails and texts messages from almost anywhere in the world. American teenagers send and receive, on average, 2, 899 text messages each month and make or receive 191 phone calls on their cell phones" (Weeks, 2011, p.11). This Common Theme will provide opportunities for rich conversation across the campus and our communities so that we "encompass values and attitudes that help us embrace our shared humanity and connection" even when there are significant differences of opinion (Hacala, 2011, p. 5).

Follow Common Theme on Facebook