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With the goal of establishing connections among diverse members of the Tufts University while exchanging perspectives on subjects that are significant to our community, the Office of the Provost launched a new university-wide community dinner series named Tufts Table09/24/2018 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - The first of a series of Tufts Table events, this one hosted by the Bridging Differences Initiative, took place on September 24, 2018. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

The second event of this series successfully concluded on October 15th, 2018 and was co-sponsored by the Tisch College of Civic Life. The event was attended by over 50 members of the Tufts community from different backgrounds and fields of work. The event started with Provost Kochevar’s welcome address followed by a brief description of the event outlined. The theme was Election Imperatives: The State of the Discourse, which encouraged participants to think about political conversations in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

The following questions guided conversations for the night:

In your experience, how is politics discussed at Tufts?

Should Tufts encourage more debate & perspectives?

Is civility required in political discourse, and should it be a goal?

The attendees shared their key takeaway with us through feedback forms. Some of the key highlights from the discussion takeaway were:

  • Opportunities for political discourse are abundant, but not evenly distributed across Tufts’ schools.
  • Students outside of the political majority do not always feel welcome to voice their opinions.
  • Be open to listening to perspectives that are different from your own.
  • Exposure to diverse perspectives is an essential part of meaningful debates.
  • Civility within political discourse can be hard to practice.
  • Greater exposure to political discourse can lead to increased civility.

Tufts students, faculty, and staff gather to discuss topics at the first Tufts Table.The event further echoed that there are abundant opportunities for discourse at Tufts, although participants felt that these opportunities were not consistent across schools and disciplines. Additionally, when sharing perspectives it was found that students outside of the political majority do not always feel welcome to share. Participants agreed that exposure to diverse perspectives is an essential and worthy endeavor that will improve political debates.

This discussion of political civility resulted in the most varied response. Some believe civility is essential, while others feel differently- especially when topics involve policies, organizations or individuals that could be harmful to others. Some question the definition of and limits of civility entirely. However, the general consensus was that civility is a learned behavior that is acquired through effective role modeling and experience.

This event series continues to be well-received by the Tufts Community, and we will continue to ponder upon ways to further improve with your valuable feedback.

The Office of the Provost would like to thank all the participants, the Tisch College of Civic Life and everyone who made this event possible. To learn more about this event, and to find out about future dinners, please visit our main page.