Civil Discourse Thriving at CEHV in Autumn 2022

December 4, 2022

Civil Discourse Thriving at CEHV in Autumn 2022

the 4Cs
Civil Discourse for Citizenship

In Autumn 2021, after receiving feedback from hundreds of students, the Center for Ethics and Human Values (CEHV) launched its Civil Discourse for Citizenship program and introduced a set of civil discourse principles called the "4Cs": Be Curious, Be Charitable, Be Conscientious, and Be Constructive.

This program builds on earlier work of CEHV. It draws out the values that have informed our "Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society" (COMPAS) program and expands our student engagement effort that began in 2018 with a new undergraduate major in the College of Arts and Sciences: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). The major helps students become thoughtful and engaged citizens by providing them critical problem-solving skills and introducing them to a wide range of ideas.

Both PPE and the Civil Discourse for Citizenship program are led by CEHV steering committee members Eric MacGilvray (Political Science, ASC) and Piers Turner (Philosophy, ASC). Other members of the CEHV steering committee, Sahar Heydari Fard (Philosophy, ASC) and Emma Saunders-Hastings (Political Science, ASC), complete the PPE core faculty. There are now nearly 200 PPE majors on campus.

But we wanted to create a university-wide program focused explicitly on fostering civil discourse.

Civil Discourse Fellows - 8 headshots

In Spring 2022, we therefore welcomed our inaugural cohort of eight undergraduate Civil Discourse Fellows, who plan and moderate Civil Discourse Forums. The Forums model the benefits of vigorous and respectful discussion by featuring speakers with contrasting views on difficult topics. The first two Forums addressed immigration and the moral limits of markets. The Fellows were drawn from four different colleges at Ohio State and represent a wide variety of majors and student programs. More than 45 students applied. Our aim in this and some other aspects of our program is not only to expose students to constructive debate and discussion, but to give them meaningful experiences in leading and conducting civil discourse themselves.

We are pleased to report the continuing success of this program in Autumn 2022.

During the summer, CEHV was invited by Provost Melissa Gilliam to join a new Civil Discourse Project that brings together key partners working on that issue at Ohio State. Provost Gilliam articulated the university's goals for this project in her "Academic Voices" blog in August, and we have been very pleased to work closely with others on it. As the Provost explains, the Civil Discourse Project builds on work that CEHV and others have pursued in the University's Shared Values InitiativeFor this work we were featured in the Ohio State Alumni Magazine in September.

Winston Thompson giving E4C address

As part of the Civil Discourse Project, the Provost kicked off the semester by inviting CEHV steering committee member Winston Thompson (Educational Studies, EHE) to deliver the first "Education for Citizenship" address to highlight the importance of civil discourse for first-year students. His talk was entitled "Connecting Virtues of Scholarship and Citizenship".

Aaron Yarmel teaching students in ARTSSCI 2400

At the same time, CEHV introduced a new 3-credit, semester-long course on civil discourse, ARTSSCI 2400/2400E. Taught by CEHV's Associate Director, Aaron Yarmel, the course introduces students to debates about freedom of speech and the 4Cs, and develops their practical skillset for dialogue facilitation. It also incorporates opportunities for students to engage speakers in our Civil Discourse Forums and special COMPAS events, as well as attending panel discussions offered by the Columbus Metropolitan Club off-campus. 36 students enrolled in the fall semester, and we will offer the course every semester beginning next academic year.

Civil Discourse Forum on gun control
Civil Discourse Forum on teaching American history

Our Civil Discourse Fellows organized and moderated two more Civil Discourse Forums in the fall, on gun control and the teaching of American history. These events each attracted more than 50 students and community members to hear robust and respectful exchanges on difficult topics.

Ben-Porath in conversation with Provost Gilliam and Winston Thompson

In October, our COMPAS program on Education in our Democracy hosted a keynote address by Professor Sigal Ben-Porath, a national leader on debates about free speech on campus. She was then joined in conversation by Provost Gilliam for an engaging session in front of nearly 60 audience members about the challenges facing universities. Winston Thompson, CEHV's COMPAS Coordinator, served as moderator. Click here for video of the event.

L&S and CEHV event on the midterm elections

At the end of November, in conjunction with the university's Civil Discourse Project, CEHV reached out to the Law and Society Scholars program to co-host a discussion on young voters and the new political landscape after the midterm elections. With support from CEHV, the Law and Society Issues Committee led the planning of the event, which welcomed three undergraduates and three faculty members to offer a range of perspectives. Dana Howard from CEHV's steering committee joined as one faculty speaker. Corinne Miller, one of our Civil Discourse Fellows, served as moderator, and nearly 50 students were in attendance. Read the coverage by the Lantern here.

Through our Civil Discourse for Citizenship program and PPE, CEHV is connecting with hundreds of students each semester in substantive ways, from the classroom to special events. We are excited to build on these efforts. Applications are currently open for our new cohort of undergraduate Civil Discourse Fellows. And with support from the Office of Academic Affairs, we are currently in the process of hiring a new, full-time Civil Discourse Program Specialist who will further integrate civil discourse into existing student programming at the university, help teach our civil discourse class, work with our Fellows, and coordinate closely with university partners on the Civil Discourse Project. In the future, we hope to raise up our curricular and research profile to ensure that civil discourse becomes a vital part of the shared experience of all students at Ohio State.

Please contact CEHV Director Piers Turner, with any questions.

The Civil Discourse for Citizenship initiative is pursued with generous support from the Derrow Family Foundation and in partnership with Ohio State's Civil Discourse Project