Ethnic Studies battle: Is civility lost?
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – When it comes settling disputes, Tucson became the test bed for civility after the University of Arizona founded the National Institute for Civil Discourse following the January 8th shooting.
Jared Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and is still recovering at a rehab hospital in Houston.
But the question remains: has civility been lost in the aftermath of TUSD's recent battle over ethnic studies?
Days after January 8th, Tucsonans pulled together, to mourn together and to heal together.
President Obama made note of it when he came to McKale to pull the nation together.
In February, UA founded the civility institute to promote respectful discussion in politics.
By March, Ron Barber, Giffords' aide who was shot twice, organized a community concert titled, "Civility, Respect and Understanding" to raise money to fund programs that support respect and mutual understanding.
But then in April, the tense battle over ethnic studies caused the community to relapse after students took over a board meeting and chained themselves to members' chairs. They claimed their voices weren't being heard.
A week later, someone posted a YouTube video suggesting the only way to hide the students was to shoot them in the head.
During the next meeting, about one hundred officers dressed in full riot gear stepped up their presence and arrested student protesters and adult activists who spoke out of turn during the call to audience.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked Fred Duval, co-founder of the civility institute, if civil discussion has once again been lost in this recent chain of protests.
"We've not yet engaged in it because we are too new and because our focus primarily is national," said Duval. "But it's certainly an illustration of the risks involved in how it is that you find this balance between first amendment rights on one hand and the ability for institutions to move forward on the other."
Barber, who's become the new face of civility, believes civility is attainable if the governing board meets with the students privately to encourage discussion rather than public demonstration.
"I think now what we need to do is to find a way for people to just sit down around a table outside of the public and outside of the media's eye to try to figure out how to go forward," said Barber.
Still, Barber and Duval also make it clear that civil discourse includes dialogue that leads to thoughtful decision-making away from "my way only is the only way."