Creating Civility on Campus

by Alex Wehrung June 28, 2019
 

 

image004Elaine Galinson’s vision of America has slipped away, a consequence of growing incivility in both the United States government and the world at large. “When we can not feel safe as Americans sending our children to school, going to our religious institutions, going to work, going to a concert, that is just not the kind of America I want to live in,” she said.

To fight against growing incivility, Elaine helped found the Galinson/Glickman Campus Civility Program, an educational program on college campuses that is aimed at increasing understanding between disparate student groups. Elaine recently donated $5 million from a fund entrusted to her by her late father, for whom the program is also partially named.

Elaine attributes her Jewish upbringing to her commitment to civil discourse, social justice and the importance of education. “I just feel that part of my Jewish heritage and my Jewish teachings that I have been part of all my life have been that people need to be civil to one another,” she is quoted in UCSD News. She was also once a board member of both the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Community
Foundation.

The Galinson/Glickman Campus Civility Program asks that students participate in its three-hour ‘Art of Inclusive Communication’ workshop, which is offered during daytime, nighttime, and on the weekends. At some universities, like UCSD, it has become mandatory for student leaders to attend so that their organizations—clubs, fraternities, sororities, et cetera—may continue to operate and have access to certain facilities. The Galinson/Glickman program has spread to at least ten campuses across the western United States.

“I am proud that it is spreading and I think that it needs to spread,” Elaine said, “because the students that are attending our universities now are going to go on to become leaders in their community, they’re going to go on to become parents, and there are ways they can learn to relate to one another, [to] people with whom they disagree, that can increase empathy and can make our communities and our social world much more safe and supportive.”

“The Art of Inclusive Communication” course is offered through the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC), a San Diego organization whose objective, per its website, is to “provide the resources, training and expertise to help people, organizations and communities manage and solve conflicts, with civility.”

The course is designed to teach students through providing them with essential communication skills, “like active listening,” said Steve Dinkin, president of the NCRC.
“And in addition to that, it also discusses a range of different topics around inclusivity. So focusing on one’s own identity, on unconscious bias, on a number of different matters regarding sort of identity issues. So we sort of intersperse, have identity issues with communication skills, and that’s through a number of different, really varied interactive exercises.”

“Students walk through all those different exercises, they’re doing role-playing and moving around the classroom, so it’s very engaging.”

Elaine worked with Steve to develop the program which launched in 2012. Steve had previously worked with Murray Galinson, Elaine’s late husband and former president of the Cal State system. Steve credits Murray for conceiving of bringing the NCRC’s conflict-resolution program to college campuses. “I had worked closely with him,” Steve said, “to take the methodology of communication and conflict resolution training that we’d done extensively—in the community, in workplaces—to higher education, and launched the program [on] a couple different college campuses locally. And Elaine was also involved in those earlier discussions.”

The program has trained at least 10,000 student leaders across its active campuses. Steve estimates at least 1,700 of them are being taught at UCSD alone, where Elaine Galinson has also contributed as a member of the Chancellor’s Associates and the Foundation Board of Trustees. “In addition to that, we’re now working with faculty where we’re providing similar training to the faculty on campus,” Steve said. “And we’re also starting to work with student employees on the campus as well, so it’s…and working with the recreation department. So the program is really starting to expand beyond the student population to include faculty and some staff,” Steve said.

Regarding the program’s effectiveness, Steve drew attention to the story of of a UCSD student senator. The senator was involved in addressing tensions regarding the activities of the Students for Justice in Palestine at San Diego State, for which the NCRC sent trained mediators to address any conflicts that occurred between students. “He said he would go home at night and he…like, his stomach was hurting, because he couldn’t…there was so much tension between the students. But he said after having gone through [the program] and learning the set of communication skills, that he was able to help to have a more respectful conversation, and it allowed the discussions to move forward in a much more respectful manner.”

The NCRC has also conducted a series of tests and studies to test how effective the program has been. “What we do is we do a baseline study, and then a post-study determining attitudinal changes of students, then we do a post-post study that goes out forty days after to see if there’s any behavioral change. And we measure change in three key areas. One is in communication skills, the second is in diversity and inclusivity, and the third is in the area of conflict resolution. And across the board, we’re seeing statistically significant changes in attitudinal and behavior of the students participating.”

“And so just to give you an example of a couple of the types of questions that we ask, like, ‘I’m able to create environments where differences are celebrated. I’m able to appreciate the cultural perspectives of others. I’m able to speak up when I see discrimination in action. I’m able to respond respectfully during conflict.’”

“And so, across these types of questions, we measure changes
from, you know, what their attitudinal change…how their attitude has changed their confidence level, and their behavior, and across all these types of questions, there’s several more. We’ve seen significant changes. There’s another one: ‘I’m able to stand up for others when I see prejudice.’ So these are the types of changes that we’re…questions we’re asking, changes we’re seeing.”

Regarding how he’d like to see the program expand throughout the country, Steve said, “Well, we’ve seen that the program is really been transformational, and if we can reach enough students, we can really see a tipping point. So initially what we’ve been doing is really focusing on the western United States.”

“But we believe that this is really…the time is so great, because the sense of incivility that we’re all facing in our lives. And student leaders are really the future, it’s not just about changing the college campus, it’s about changing society. And these students that are leading the campus and serving as ambassadors of those campuses, they’re then filtering into synagogues, into churches and businesses and into communities, and if they have those set of communication skills, it’s gonna make our society stronger. So the more campuses that we can bring the Galinson/Glickman program to, the stronger we’ll be. And Elaine is really at the forefront of it, in terms of helping us with that growth and expansion.”

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