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Fall Deans’ Initiative on Civility Means More than Being Nice at UT

Published: September 28, 2011

The University of Tampa will discuss what it means to lead a civil life, especially in the context of a university community, during the Fall 2011 Deans’ Initiative on Civility.

Leading the discussion will be P.M. Forni, an award-winning professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins University who founded the Civility Initiative there in 1997. His campus-wide address will be held Oct. 6 from 4-5:30 p.m. in the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values. It is free and open to the public.

Forni will also host a workshop for faculty and student leaders on Oct. 6, his book Choosing Civility will be this fall’s book club selection, he’ll lead the fall leadership retreat on Oct. 8 and civility will be the theme of the mixed student, faculty and staff Community Conversations discussion groups that meet this fall.

“There are a lot of people in the academic world who feel that it is not sufficient to go about our business without being deliberate about our actions and the way we interact with the community,” said Haig Mardirosian, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “Our society has become very fractious, cruel and impersonal. I hope this initiative gives people a sense of thoughtfulness. I hope we all become more reflective and introspective and are able to create a moment years from now where students will recognize and use these tools.”

Issues that will be discussed include:

  • The definition of civility and arguments for choosing to be civil
  • Incivility and its costs; civility and its rewards
  • The major causes of incivility
  • How to be at our best with others
  • The physiology of conflicted and harmonious encounters
  • Fostering a culture of civility in the workplace
  • Strong, smart and nice
  • The future of empathy and relational skills

Dean of Students Stephanie Russell Holz said the holistic approach is meant to get the entire campus discussing and defining civility and thinking about the Spartan Code, a pledge all UT students make to be productive and responsible citizens who embrace the values of honesty, good citizenship, trust, respect and responsibility.

“We all need to work on this as a University community,” said Holz. “Our goal is just to get the conversation going.”

The Deans’ Initiative is being led by Frank Ghannadian, dean of the Sykes College of Business; James Gore, dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences; Anne Gormly, dean of the College of Social Sciences, Mathematics and Education; Joseph Sclafani, interim dean of Academic Services; Holz and Mardirosian.