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Panel discussion to address lack of civility in politics

March 13, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The perceived lack of civility in the current political debate will be the subject of a panel discussion Wednesday, March 19, at Western Michigan University.

The event, titled "Civility in the Political Arena," begins at 7:30 p.m. in Room 107 of the Bernhard Center. It is presented by the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

Participants include politicians, political scientists and members of the news media. Serving as panelists will be Dr. Peter Wielhouwer, WMU assistant professor of political science; Stephen C. Trivers, former president of Fairfield Broadcasting; Charlotte Channing, opinion page editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette; and Hannah McKinney, vice mayor of Kalamazoo and professor of economics and business at Kalamazoo College. Gordon Bolar, development director at public radio station WMUK-FM will serve as moderator.

The presentation is a response to the fact that many agree civility seems to be absent in the current political debate. Leading the disintegration of rational and respectful discourse are commentators in the media on both sides. People are separated into categories, groups and sects. Name-calling and demonizing takes place with increasing regularity. In a year when American voters will make important decisions, discourse, reasoned debate and discussion appear lacking.

Panel members will explore the erosion of civility in the media and in people's personal lives. Panel members may also suggest ways to encourage civility in the political arena relevant to the decisions looming in the voting booth. The discussion also will touch on how schools, universities and other public institutions can take a more active role in education or awareness about the importance of civility.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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