2018-19 Campus Theme


Over the last few decades, politicians, moralists and newspaper columnists of various stripes have bemoaned the coarsening of public discourse and called for a return to civility. These voices have laid blame on a number of causes: loosened censorship, news that no longer must follow the Fairness Doctrine, the prevalence of satire, the way social media allows for—even favors—rudeness.

But, what is civility? Is it simply politeness, courtesy and good manners? One definition of civility asserts that it is an essential virtue for respectful dialogue in a pluralistic society. Another understanding of civility proposes that invoking it is a way to censure and silence unwanted dissent.

Etymologically speaking, civility comes from the Latin civis, which means citizen. From it, we get the words city, or a community of citizens, and civil, or those things which pertain to members of the community.

What kind of city do we want? What kind of citizen? How should we live with one another as neighbors and residents of a shared space? If disagreement is inevitable, how might we disagree with one another in productive ways? How do we speak what we believe, not just so that others hear what we are saying, but so that we hear what those with whom we disagree are saying? Are there times when it might be necessary to put civility aside? How do we negotiate the breakdown of civility?

​We invite the Transylvania community to consider and debate the case for and against civility in the academic year 2018-19.




Check back in the fall for a list of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and more surrounding our theme for the academic year.