By Christopher Vitale
Catholic University’s Center for Cultural Engagement (CCE) provides a weekly discussion series entitled “The Civility Dialogues.” Every Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. in the CCE office of the Pryzbyla Center, a staff or faculty member is invited to lead a conversation about the week’s specific topic. Javier Bustamante, director of the CCE, spoke with The Tower about The Civility Dialogues and its place within the CCE and the University as a whole.
“The Civility Dialogues educates students about the critical skills of civil discourse and provides them with opportunities to practice those skills during conversations initiated by staff and subsequently by students in the greater campus community,”according to the CCE.
The Civility Dialogues were launched in fall 2017, but did not develop into the regular discussion series that they currently are until this school year.
“The campaign began as a passive poster campaign and eventually grew into a campus-wide collaboration including active programming and community dialogues,” states the CCE.
Bustamante discussed the “Five Step Journey” employed within the dialogues which strives to emphasize five thematic facets of virtue—encountering others, dignifying others, recognizing humanity, embracing vulnerability, and acknowledging imperfections. It is his hope that these guidelines will shepherd the weekly conversations in order to cultivate students’ confidence to express themselves.
This past week’s discussion was lead by Dr. Megan Murton, Assistant Professor of English, and focused on medieval imagery and white supremacy. The conversation opened up many opportunities for students and other members of the University community to engage with questions, meditate upon presented issues, and articulate their thoughts about controversial issues in a safe and respectful environment. The CCE hopes that future talks in the series will continue to spark intrigue.
The dialogues prepared for the month of October are “Life After Breast Cancer” by Mrs. Emmjolee Mendoza Waters on October 8, “Myth/Fact: Relationship Violence” by Dr. Sharon O’Brien on October 15, “Adventures in Parenthood” by Tony Chiappetta on October 22, and “The U.S. Culture of Violence” by Mr. Brooks Singer on October 29.
Bustamante explained that the CCE’s mission is to provide a space for students to approach some of the issues and characteristics that define them.
“We help students navigate their questions of who they are. It’s a sense of self identity, a sense of belonging, and a commitment to the common good,” said Bustamante, explaining the three pillars upon which the CCE was founded and aspires to function.
Among its engaging and assistive programming, the CCE also boasts a prominent first-generation student initiative entitled “Take Flight”—which aims to guide students who are the first in their families to seek higher education through their college journeys—as well as men’s and women’s small groups—which are geared towards generating healthy, comfortable conversation encouraging students to evolve into beneficial contributors to the community.
Bustamante also shared that he will be relying on students to prompt the discussion topics for The Civility Dialogues of the spring semester and that members of the University community who are interested are invited to make suggestions about topics to the CCE.