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  • Delaney Hayden

Continuing the Conversation: Civil Discourse in an Era of Polarization

Delaney Hayden, Asst. News Editor

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, at 4 p.m., a combination of faculty, staff and students of Canisius University gathered in the Library Learning Center for the first meeting of the “Civil Discourse in An Era of Polarization” discussion series.

The Civil Discourse discussion series was announced via an email sent to the Canisius community by the Office of the President and President Steve K. Stoute as a part of the Strategic Plan “Answer the Call.” The email read, “In furtherance of our strategic goals, I am pleased to invite you to participate in a dialogue about polarization, which marks the beginning of a discussion series dedicated to fostering open and respectful conversations on topics that affect us all.” Furthermore, the email addressed how “this initiative is a part of our ongoing commitment to create an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are heard and valued.” The Office of the President believes that “through these dialogues, we can bridge divides and build a stronger, more united Canisius community that will be a model for others.”  

Although President Stoute was unable to attend the event due to previously planned travels, his staff that was in attendance reassured the audience that he has every intention of attending the next discussion series event.

The series is dedicated to fostering and maintaining open and respectful conversations on topics that affect everyone. 

Heading the conversation was Spencer Liechty, director of Campus Ministry, and Dr. Jean Gregorek, an associate professor in the English department. The room was set up with chairs in a circle-like fashion, and everyone in attendance was encouraged to contribute to the discussion in hopes of building bridges and creating a safe environment and space that facilitates discussions. This first meeting lasted about an hour.

 A handout was given to all attendees, including the statement of the discussion series’s mission and values. This section of the handout stated, “As leaders in Ignatian Civic Engagement, members of the Canisius University community are called upon to approach differences with the aim of listening, respecting and being open to learning from each other.” The section continued to say, “We can live out Ignatian speech principles by adopting these tools for a healthy conversation: Be Curious… Be Present… Be Open… Be Honest… Be Patient.” 

The community values and norms on the handout sheets were courage, respect, curiosity, compassion and self-knowledge. At the bottom of the handout, there was a QR code that can be scanned leading to a form in which anyone can submit suggestions for future dialogue within the discussion series.

Throughout the course of the first discussion series event, many in attendance voiced that they were there to respectfully listen with open minds. The conversations and topics discussed during this series are meant to remain within the walls they are talked about, with hopes of sparking positive initiatives and changes within the Canisius community.

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