Webinar Focuses on Communication and Civility

graphic of globe against night sky
August 12, 2020

A dozen experts from Austria, Croatia, Dubai, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Uganda, Vietnam, and the United States—featuring different generations, professions, and sociocultural-political contexts—addressed this question as they highlighted a multitude of current challenges in our communicative environments during an August 7th webinar attended by almost 100 participants. 

“I think we need this discussion today about civility now more than ever,” said Glenn Gerstner, Ed.D. ’81SVC, Interim Dean and Associate Professor of Sport Management, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. “We need to talk about what constitutes debate.”

The discussion was led by Basilio G. Monteiro, Ph.D., Chair, Division of Mass Communication, and Director of the Institute for International Communication.  ‘The Institute is glad to initiate this global conversation on this critical topic of communication and civility.” said Dr. Monteiro.

The speakers also proposed solutions: we need media education, as well as better governance of politics, corporations, and the media—but we can and should also do our share as individuals. 

“Civility in communication requires balance between the individual and the community and is not synonymous with mere politeness,” said Candice D. Roberts, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Mass Communication. “When citizens are not provided with the tools required for autonomy, for work that fosters harmony within the given environment—or what Austrian philosopher and priest Ivan Illich refers to as conviviality—it creates a rupture in communication. Rather than insisting that the people conform to institutionalized etiquette of the ruling class, conviviality calls for democratization of the tools and technologies necessary for participation in civil society.” 

Elisabeth Fondren, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Mass Communication, spoke about the relationship between free speech, professional decision-making, journalistic objectivity, and moral decency. “The first half of 2020 has seen several paradigm shifts,” said Dr. Fondren. “The changes in civil society have had ripple effects on journalistic coverage of news events and have also highlighted discussions on the press’s responsibility to define lines of moral decency.”

Click here to watch the webinar.