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Forum for Civil Discourse: Home


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The Forum for Civil Discourse Task Force was charged in January 2017 to brainstorm programming ideas to promote the library as a neutral zone and safe place for individuals on the Texas State University campus. Following on the heels of the 2016 election, the message to all faculty, students and staff from President Trauth on November 28, 2016, and libraries across the nation’s call to action, the Alkek Library has selected resources and provided programming available to the Texas State University community.

Please join us in the Alkek Library Open Theater for a series of presentations and discussion on a mix of topics related to civil discourse in society.

In addition to the spring speaker series, this guide was developed in order to provide a one stop shop for resources on a number of topics related to free speech, diversity, inclusion, civility, stereotyping, and more. Resources include those available in the library collection along with federal, state, and other evaluated resources.

All of the presentations take place on Mondays in the Open Theater on the main floor from Noon-1:00 pm unless otherwise stated.

Spring 2018 Series

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fake News: The importance of definitions and meanings in presented statistics

There is blatantly fake news, "Space Elvis has Love Child with Captive Manatee!" and then there is the far more insidious "Grey News." News outlets tend to lean one way or the other politically, but how can that explain FOX reporting that Trump has decreased unemployment while CNN and MSNBC are reporting the exact opposite? You may be quick to decry, “One of them MUST be lying! FAKE NEWS!” But the answer is much more nuanced. Through the clever use of statistics and slightly varying definitions of terms even major news outlets can bend a story to their political narrative, either to influence or pander to their audience. This presentation will delve into the phenomena and show what YOU can do to spot "Grey News."

Presented by:  Christian Fritz, Criminal Justice Doctoral Student

Where Does Fake News Come From?
Kate Starbird has been studying how fake news is created since 2012, in response to a number of crises, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Her results reveal a network of prominent news sites, Twitter personalities, Twitter bots (i.e. non-human actors) and responders, which create a vacuum or truth-bubble around the most inflammatory diction and indictments at the heart of these discussions of current events. After a brief review of Starbird's findings, I propose to discuss the emotional and discursive choices which lead to the creation of such tactics to spread disinformation, and what might be done to stem the tide of incorrect data in the pursuit of a greater measure of social, political, scientific and emotional or personal truth.

Presented by: Wade Martin, English, Masters of Fine Arts - Poetry Graduate Student


The Epistemology of Pizzagate: How Online Echo Chambers Facilitate Fake News

 In this presentation, I draw on current work in social epistemology to discuss the phenomenon of the "echo chamber" and its epistemological consequences: echo chambers are social structures in which the trust of members of the chamber have been manipulated to discredit testimony from any individuals outside the echo chamber. The result is that outside voices are excluded and inside voices are privileged. The internet is an especially fertile ground for the formation of these social structures, and this accounts (in part) for the tenacity of a great deal of "fake news" in online communities. In this presentation, I will focus on "Pizzagate"-a conspiracy theory that emerged in Fall 2016, which alleged that politicians were running a child prostitution ring out of a Washington D.C. pizza parlor. This conspiracy theory was largely the product of an online echo chamber, and its adherents persist in believing it despite numerous investigations debunking its main claims. This case illustrates how efforts to disprove such theories by outsiders may in fact reinforce the beliefs of those within the echo chamber. I conclude with some suggestions for how we might extricate ourselves and others from an echo chamber.

Presented by: Dr. Anthony Cross, Philosophy

Spring 2017 Series


Discourse plays an important role in the production and representation of the Other and as consequence of prejudice and racism. From the socialization talk of parents, children’s books, and television programs to textbooks, news reports in the press, and other forms of public discourse, white people are engaged daily in communication about ethnic minorities and race relations. In this way, they acquire the mental models, the social knowledge, the attitudes, and the ideologies that control their action, interaction, and dialogues with or about minorities.

Presented by: Prof. Alba E. Melgar and Prof. Gloria Velasquez

Where: Alkek Library, Open Theater, 2nd Floor

What is free speech?  We’ll look at the kinds of speech that are protected by the First Amendment (such as hate speech), and what’s not (intimidation, threats, hate crime).  Learn how to recognize the difference!

Presented by Prof.  Gilbert Martinez

Where: Alkek Library, Open Theater, 2nd Floor

When you listen, what do you hear?  Words do matter!  Listening first, responding second are critical elements in all relationships!  Let’s talk!

Dr.  Barbara Sanders

Where: Alkek Library, Open Theater, 2nd Floor