Why Incivility Matters at VCU

Professors’ development of an in-depth understanding of these types of experiences as well as intentional awareness in the classroom can provide a buffer against negative outcomes of these experiences. As leaders in the classroom, professors are well situated to explicitly notice and facilitate open dialogue when these situations arise.

In the previous posting, we defined incivility as low-intensity rude and discorteous behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target.  One consequence to incivility is that in some instances it can serve as a “veiled manifestation of sexism and racism in organizations” (Cortina, 2006, p. 55).  In other words, those who behave uncivilly can engage in discriminatory actions behind the guise of everyday acts of “general” incivility.  With this guise, people may be able to maintain their image being an egalitarian. 

As members of the VCU family, we uphold our core values and mission statement when we show our commitment to “diversity that provides a climate of inclusion, a dedication to addressing disparities wherever they exist, and an opportunity to explore and create in an environment of trust” (VCU Bulletin, 2017).

Further, some may not realize their acts are discriminating.  For example, a man may consistently interrupt his female colleagues in class, while respectfully allowing male colleagues to have the floor when speaking.  He may not be aware of this inconsistent behavior, although it reflects underlying sexism and is uncivil behavior nonetheless. 

Thus, selective incivility refers to, “a particularly insidious, behavioral manifestation of modern/contemporary/covert sexism and racism” (Cortina, 2008, p. 55). Selective incivility impacts women and minorities, not only in its direct and immediate effects, but also by its insidious effects that may lead to subsequent withdrawal from courses, truancy and/or dropout.