#SpeakYourPeace Campaign Encourages Civility in Campus Conversations
A new campaign launched by the Dean of Students Office, called #speakyourpeace, encourages members of the University community to exercise their right to free expression in ways that invite discussion and contribute to an environment where people can share their ideas in a respectful and civil manner.
"We live in a world where it is far too easy to seek knowledge and information from sources that align with our beliefs," said Kendal Washington White, dean of students and assistant vice president of student affairs and enrollment management. "In addition, advances in technology result in less meaningful and in-person dialogue due to social media, texting, etc. We see the results of this shift in human interaction when people of differing positions, thoughts and concerns have difficulty listening and hearing each other and having productive conversations. We planned speakyourpeace to remind everyone that dialogue is a beautiful opportunity to be heard and to understand."
The Dean of Students Office collaborated with others across campus to come up with the perfect phrase that would resonate with a variety of audiences, said SevaPriya Barrier, senior associate dean of students.
"The University of Arizona values academic freedom, free expression and inquiry, civic engagement, respectful debate, and care and concern for one another," Barrier said. "The goal of the hashtag is to convey many deeply held principles of the UA community in a simple manner."
The campaign falls in line with the efforts of the Dean of Students Office to educate the University community on how higher education relates to the first amendment. In June, the office hosted the Constitutional Issues in Higher Education symposium, which focused on the role higher education institutions play in encouraging inquiry and expression, and the concerns that can arise on campus when free speech rights are misused or misunderstood.
"The First Amendment is hugely important, especially at a public college or university," said Kathy Adams Riester, associate dean of students. "So we wanted to make sure that people realized that it was important, and that in the process of people stating their thoughts and opinions in opposition to each other, there's a respectful way to do it that can encourage dialogue."
Although employees might not engage in student protests or rallies, Adams Riester said, employees can also use the campaign's civility tips for everyday conversations that might take place in an office environment.
"It really applies to everyone," she said. "There are a lot of different areas within our community where free speech is exercised. So having an understanding of how that happens and occurs and what can and can't happen is also important."
The #speakyourpeace website outlines tips on what to do to have civil discussions, such as:
- Be respectful of others in speech and behavior.
- Listen to understand another's ideas.
- Question and dispute ideas in a way that respects and affirms others.
- Practice nonviolence, using words to inspire change.
The website also has resources for how to report and deal with an interaction that results in a true threat, direct harassment and/or violence.
"As employees of a higher education institution, we have an obligation to be curious, to question, to collectively solve problems and be concerned for the greater good," Washington White said. "Our hope is that the University community appreciates our duty to practice what we preach and model for the larger community how to engage."