By Richard Elgar, Thomas S. Foley Institute

Political polarization, decreasing trust in government, and rising populist rhetoric, have made political civility a hot-button topic. One that WSU’s Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service has been tackling head on for quite some time.

Pursuing that goal, Cornell Clayton, director of the Foley Institute, announced Sept. 25 that the institute has joined the National Civility Network, a program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NIDC).

The National Civility Network is composed of centers and institutes on college campuses around the country dedicated to creating a more robust democracy through collaborative projects focused on civility and civic engagement.

Other members include:

  • Center for Civility and Democratic Engagement
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Center for Politics
    University of Virginia
  • Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership
    Pepperdine University
  • Ethics Center
    California State University, Fresno
  • Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy
    Kansas State University
  • Institute of Civil Civic Engagement
    University of San Diego, San Diego City College, and San Diego Mesa College
  • Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement
    College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
    Tufts University
  • New Hampshire Listens
    University of New Hampshire
  • Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service
    Arizona State University
  • Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics
    University of Akron

Foley Institute’s engagement with the National Civility Network will be spearheaded by Steven Stehr, who was recently named the Sam Reed Distinguished Professor in Civic Education and Public Civility at WSU. Stehr, who also serves as director of the WSU’s School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, plans to use the professorship — housed in the Foley Institute — to work with the NICD and other organizations to build programs to educate elected officials and the public more widely about the importance of civility in politics.

In addition to this new effort, the Foley Institute has sponsored numerous other programs and initiatives aimed at political civility.

In 2016 the institute partnered with WSU Vancouver to establish the Initiative for Public Deliberation in Southwestern Washington. This program works directly with local governments and other community stakeholders to host public participation events and policy forums around issues of regional political concern.

The Foley Institute also was one of four institutions nationally to be awarded a $250,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011 to study the relationship between civility and democracy in America and to host conferences and other events on the subject.

The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service is a nonpartisan public policy institute, located at WSU Pullman, focused on bringing world-class speakers for public events; supporting student internships in public service; and supporting scholarly research on public policy and political institutions.