Civil Preview Art

Five Nebraska state senators will discuss how to take part in civil discourse during a panel as part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Peace + Civility Project. 

The event will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Nebraska Union Regency Suite B and C and is free and open to the public. The panel, titled “Breaking Through Politics: Meeting in the Middle,” will focus on the importance of civil discourse in democracy and working across the aisle in politics, according to the Office of Student Affairs website

Michelle Waite, assistant to the chancellor for government and military relations, helped organize the event by inviting senators. She said the goal of the panel is to give students a better understanding of how to work across divisive political lines. 

“We have a handful of senators coming that come from different parts of the state and have very diverse political philosophies,” Waite said. “We want to know how they come together and reach across party lines with different political philosophies and how they work together when they have such diverse opinions.” 

The five senators who will be in attendance are Tom Brandt of District 32, Myron Dorn of District 30, Suzanne Geist of District 25, Patty Pansing Brooks of District 28 and Anna Wishart of District 27. Associate professor of broadcasting Rick Alloway will moderate the panel. 

Alloway said he hopes students and members of the community that attend the panel take away the importance of civil discourse and recognizing other perspectives in politics. 

“Our hope is that you hear from a range of state senators about the need for us to be able to work with each other,” Alloway said. “The big chunk of working together is being able to handle differences of opinion and to actually embrace differences of opinion and differing viewpoints because in looking for and welcoming all different kinds of viewpoints, we can find out if ours is really the right one.”

According to Alloway, the discussion will primarily be up to the senators participating but will start off with talking about the climate surrounding political discussion and partisanship today. The discussion will then move into specific experiences the senators have had with civil discourse and how students can apply civil discourse to their own lives. 

Alloway had a podcast with former professor Jerry Renaud in early 2019 that talked about civil discourse and the importance of remaining civil when discussing politics. Alloway said he feels the UNL community generally remains civil when it comes to politics, but he still sees room for improvement. 

“My experience with UNL is that people from differing viewpoints seem to get along well and work with each other, and I am pleased by that,” Alloway said. “But I think it does fit into the general pattern within the country and the world with folks who feel like they have to shout to get their point made. They have to ratchet up the anger and the anxiety about the discussion, and I hate to see that.” 

The panel caps off two weeks of Peace + Civility programming, which aims at promoting civility and encouraging dialogue across campus. All of the Peace + Civility events were organized by the Office of Student Affairs. 

“I would hope that college students would come to a discussion and hear how people from different sides of the political aisle learn to work together to get things done for the greater good and the bigger society,” Alloway said.