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Instead of shouting, Gee speaks about political discourse

Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer

Outrageous comments and those made in poor judgement should be avoided, although he has made those mistakes, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said Wednesday during a humanities conversation on political discourse.

The program “How Do We Restore Civility?” provided an atmosphere for discussion about national news and political discussions on television and Capitol Hill. Fred Andrle, OSU Humanities Institute associate and retired WOSU newsman, facilitated the discussion with Gee.

Gee said programming on news organizations, such as MSNBC and Fox News, was a “diatribe.” Gee said he rarely watches those networks because they make him “mad.”

“This world lends itself to incivility,” Gee said. People use “violent metaphors instead of well-reasoned dissent.”

Incivility is undoubtably worse now than in the past, Gee said.

“People spend more time shouting about issues rather than speaking,” Gee said in front of about 100 people at the Wexner Center for the Arts. “It’s about who puts a stick in someone else’s eye.”

Gee, who identified himself as a political moderate, said OSU is an institution that facilitates and leads civil discussions effectively.

“We produce ideas,” Gee said. “The political views of our faculty are all over the place.”

Andrle, who hosted WOSU’s “Open Line” call-in discussion program from 1988 to 2010, said ground rules for civility should be set so people know what is expected of them.

“Uncivility is unethical,” Andrle said.

But even Gee said he has violated these practices and suffered consequences. Referring to Texas Christian and Boise State’s football programs as the “little sisters of the poor” was a statement made in poor judgment, Gee said.

“When you make a mistake, an immediate apology is necessary,” Gee said.

But sometimes other university presidents have trouble admitting their mistakes, Gee said.

“President Gee does a good job working in a civil and courteous manner,” said Sam Smith, a fourth-year in business.

Recent Senate Bill 5 protests at the Ohio Statehouse have led people to proclaim many unproductive sentiments, Gee said. He cited some combative signs as evidence of potential uncivil discourse.

“Outrageous comments do no good,” Gee said. “Speech needs to be robust but we need to self-modulate.”

The discussion was hosted as part of the series Conversations in the Humanities with Fred Andrle.

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