Today, I am participating on a panel at the 6th Annual Conference on Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue “Rebuilding Civility” at the University of San Diego Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
We have been asked to reflect about the role of community colleges in respectful community engagement. As I think about my remarks for this conference, I reflect on my experiences in the California Community Colleges in the various locations that I have had the honor of serving. Many of the issues I deal with and have dealt with revolve around the issues of incivility and lack of respect. Working through the issues of First Amendment rights, academic freedom, and civility is not easy for community college faculty, staff, administrators, and boards. These are complex issues for higher education.
How do we agree to disagree respectfully when we have such passion about what we believe? And as community college professionals we are passionate about student learning and equity. How does respect translate to social justice, to student equity? We are the role models for our students, we teach them critical thinking and we can teach them to have respectful discourse.
Community colleges have the most diverse student population in higher education…and we have the distinct opportunity to influence a civil democratic discourse. Dan Walters in his talk on civic engagement asks us “How does our dialogue lead to something constructive?” and reminds us there is more to civility than politeness, good manners.
As I discussed with our college leadership yesterday for over sixteen years the following (written by Mark Nepo) way of acknowledging others has been a part of who I am. When I meet with people I try to “see” the magic that lives in a person, and to be fully present. While some times I fail, it is something I believe is essential to respect. Everyone brings something that adds value to our world.
“I see you”
“I am here”
For centuries, African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When the one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush, he exclaims, “I See You!” and then the one approaching rejoices, “I Am Here!” This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound, found, and it is telling that much of our modern therapeutic journey is suffered to this end: to have who we are and where we’ve been be seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, “I Am Here.”
Mark Nepo. The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (p. 428). Kindle Edition.
I hope you will think about what respect means to you, some of the questions I have posed, and how your actions translate to the civil discourse that is essential to a well-functioning democracy and to our student’s learning and experience @SWC.
Quote for the day…One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
Bryant H. McGill
I see you and I am here.