With the Civility Project launch only a month away, students, faculty, and staff across campus are hard at work completing the components that make up the multimedia project. On the evening of October 27th, the project’s organizers will unveil a museum exhibition, a web site, and a documentary theater piece exploring the history of incivility on UC campuses from many vantage points. To register to attend the debut event, please visit http://civilityproject.ucdavis.edu.
The web site provides an interactive history of incivility on UC campuses in the context of the public university as an environment that is characterized by goals that are often in tension: free expression and the exchange of ideas, and facilitating inclusion and tolerance in an increasingly diverse population. Tracing this tension from the largely campus-based free speech movement in the 1960s to the recent troubling incidents of hate and incivility at several UC campuses, the web history synthesizes journalistic evidence of key events, records of campuses’ official responses to those events, and documentation of the rapidly shifting demographics of the UC system from the 1960s forward that constitute that backdrop against which these events occur.
Entitled Paper Takes, the exhibition uses dozens of “extreme” pamphlets in the United States—housed in Shields Special Collections—to explore the power of uncivil words in order to identify and combat their circulation today. It transforms these pamphlets into immersive environments within which we can discern what has motivated intolerant points of view, how these ideas gain credibility, and what tactics draw readers in, and enable further dissemination.
The theater piece explores the campus community’s emotional responses to the alarming series of uncivil moments and hate-based incidents on the UC Davis campus during the 2009-2010 academic year. Based entirely on transcripts of interviews conducted on campus by a group of student researchers and performers, the piece aims to provide us with a reflection of ourselves as individuals reacting to moments which—at least temporarily—erupt the notion of community by presenting difference as both essential and intolerable.
Inspired by NEH Chairman Jim Leach’s “Civility Tour” lecture at UC Davis in April 2010, the Civility Project is grounded in the premise that the public university, as an environment in which diversity and the exchange of ideas are both vital and in which citizens are trained for various modes of participation in society, is an essential site in any critical conversation about civility. Launched by the UC Davis Humanities Institute in January 2011, the Civility Project was initially funded in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the UC Davis Office of the Chancellor. Supplemental funding has been provided by the Office of Campus Community Relations, the Peter J. Shields Library, and the Department of History.