Women’s City Club of New York, National Institute for Civil Discourse Call for Civility and Issue Debate Standards for Upcoming 2016 Presidential Debates

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NEW YORK (September 22, 2016) – The Women’s City Club of New York (WCC) joined the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) today in calling on presidential debate moderators, candidates, and audiences to commit to more civil debates. NICD’s Debate Standards, if adopted, will ensure that the debates are fair, informative, and civil. More than 60 organizations already have signed on to the standards.

Recent polling by Weber Shandwick shows that Americans feel this election is the most uncivil in recent memory, with two-thirds of voters saying the 2016 is less civil than others and nearly three quarters agreeing that civility has decreased in the last few years.

In addition to WCC, a wide range of organizations endorsed the standards, including education institutions (such as Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, the University of California Berkeley Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement and the University of Virginia Center for Politics); civic forums (such as City Club of Cleveland and City Club of Portland); and, faith organizations (such as Faith and Politics Institute and Interfaith Alliance). A complete list can be found on NICD’s website: http://nicd.arizona.edu/standards-conduct-debates.

“The lack of civility throughout the 2016 presidential election season has been disheartening and destructive to our democracy,” said Jacqueline M. Ebanks, Executive Director of the Women’s City Club of New York.  “We must reverse this trend and restore civility to our debates to foster a robust exchange of ideas so that we can best meet the challenges of our nation.”

“After the constant vitriol and caustic rhetoric this campaign has wreaked on America’s political landscape, the debates represent our last best chance for a civil reset, for Americans to come together and hear the candidates’ cases,” said Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. “We urge the moderators to adopt the National Institute for Civil Discourse’s Debate Standards and therefore ensure a civil debate, where both sides are heard and respected and treated equally.”


The Debate Standards are:

I want debaters to:

  1. Be respectful of others in speech and behavior
  2. Answer the question being asked by the moderator
  3. Make ideas and feelings known without disrespecting others
  4. Take responsibility for past and present behavior, speech and actions
  5. Stand against incivility when faced with it


I want moderators to:

  1. Address uncivil behavior by naming it and moderating the conversation to move toward a more respectful dialogue
  2. Enforce debate rules equally
  3. Hold candidates accountable by challenging each candidate to speak the truth and act with integrity
  4. Treat all candidates equally in regards to the complexity of questions and debate rules
  5. Be respectful when interacting with candidates


I want audience members to:

  1. Be respectful of other audience members, the candidates and moderators in speech and behavior
  2. Refrain from creating disturbances that impact other audience members, candidates and moderators
  3. Take responsibility for personal behavior, speech and actions
  4. Speak against incivility by reminding candidates it is not acceptable
  5. Practice active listening when someone else is speaking, seeking to understand them


The presidential debates are scheduled for September 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; and October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The presidential debate moderators are NBC’s Lester Holt, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. The Vice Presidential debate is scheduled for October 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News.


About Women’s City Club of New York

Women’s City Club of New York (WCC) is a nonprofit, non-partisan, multi-issue activist organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers. WCC shapes public policy through education, issues analysis, advocacy, and civic participation. As WCC enters its second century of activism, it continues to pursue economic, racial, and gender justice with the goal of dismantling the social inequities that deprive citizens of the opportunity to thrive. Through member-led Task Forces, WCC conducts research, publishes reports, fosters dialogue with public officials, and launches public education and multi-year advocacy campaigns in the following issue areas: Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice, Good Government, Health, Housing and Homelessness, Income Inequality, and Public Education.


About NICD


The National Institute for Civil Discourse, is a non-profit, non-partisan institute based at the University of Arizona dedicated to addressing incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change. Informed by research, NICD’s programs are designed to create opportunities for elected officials, the media, and the public to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and effectiveness of our democratic institutions. NICD was formed after the tragic shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, and their National Advisory Board includes former President George H.W. Bush, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.



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