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Rude, crude research

By Doug Published: March 29, 2011

Scholars to tackle incivility in politics
UA, Mount Union, CSU arrange panel

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

Published on Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011

Three Northeast Ohio universities on Monday unveiled a program to explore rude, crude and downright unkind public discourse and maybe find a way to do something about it.

Officials at the University of Akron, the University of Mount Union and Cleveland State University announced at the Union Club in Cleveland that the collaboration would be the first of many joint projects.

''To many people, 'civility in politics' is an oxymoron like 'jumbo shrimp,' '' John Green, director of UA's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said in a news release. ''But more civil and constructive public debate will help Ohioans address pressing problems.''

Harry Paidas, interim director of Mount Union's Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement, got the ball for collaboration rolling. He wanted to use the expertise of the three institutions to generate meaningful white papers, or research.

Incivility was a natural for the inaugural effort, given what seems to be rising rhetoric of vitriol on both sides of the aisle.

''The players pretty much said, 'Let's pick a topic that
everybody can relate to,' '' he said. ''Incivility was the low-hanging fruit.''

The collaboration will kick off at a May 6 panel at Mount Union. Lee Leonard, retired statehouse reporter for the Columbus Dispatch; Pat Sweeney, former minority leader in the Ohio Senate; Thomas Suddes, a statehouse columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer; and former Lt. Gov. Nancy Hollister will discuss the tenor of talk over the last few decades.

Faculty and students from the three institutions will use information gleaned from that event to help examine one or more questions about incivility this summer.

Details what they will research, how it is to be done, etc. are being developed now. The study results will be released next fall, a short turnaround time in academic research circles.

The spadework ''will bring solid evidence to bear on the issue of civility, dispelling myths and offering ideas for improvements,'' Stuart Mendel of Cleveland State said in a news release.

Each institution is kicking in money to provide a stipend for at least one faculty member and student from its university to conduct the research this summer. The plan is for the partners to look at one issue each year, Paidas said.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.

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