President Mullen Explains Civility Initiative

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 11, 2011

Thanks to Colin McNickle for his column “Most incivil be the judge” (Jan. 30 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and But in his eagerness to critique E.J. Dionne, he missed the key point on the Allegheny College Civility Award.

Allegheny College has been a national leader in the research, study and promotion of civility in politics. It is a nearly 200-year tradition at Allegheny. Our new award — in the works for a year and wholly unrelated to the tragedy in Tucson — stands out because it aims to shine a bright light on elected officials on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

Allegheny College believes that neither party owns civility, nor is either to blame for its deterioration. That is why we will honor both a proud Republican and a proud Democrat with our inaugural award. We seek to recognize proud partisans who argue their case passionately, yet with civility. Our national polls show this is what America craves.

As for Mr. Dionne — the college’s advisory panel on this project purposefully includes loyal conservatives and faithful liberals, and we make no apologies for either. We seek to surround ourselves with all points of view.

The honesty and rigor of Allegheny College’s Civility Award will be evident when we announce the winners. My guess is that Mr. McNickle will love one and bristle at the other. Yet I am confident he will do so with civility. And that is what political debate should be.

James Mullen