Conflict and Communication in the Workplace: An Inquiry and Findings from XYZ University's Study on Religious Tolerance and Diversity Suggesting Ironies of Cultural Attitudes, Free Expression and Conflict in an Academic Organization

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW

Exploring attitudinal and legal perceptions of diversity and tolerance on a macro view

The founding fathers did not include the term "diversity", nor did they include the phrase "tolerance" in the First amendment. In founding father George Washington's address to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island in 1790, (Karp, 1991) a sense of respect for religious tradition and expression is clearly present, but more as a mater of civility than law. "Diversity" and "tolerance" are more modern terms used to indicate modern concerns related to freedom of expression and freedom from government sanctioned religions, government prohibitions of religious practices, and inhibition of religious expression. The desire to create mutual respect and a sense of mutual beneficence is both old-fashioned, and modern; multiculturalism is an ideal which has yet to be realized, though it is still a vital and worthwhile goal, according to Tilson and others (Tilson, 2011) (Thomas, 2008) (Barnard, 2010).

Basic individual freedoms, such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion (Amendment I, 1791) are guaranteed to each of us by the United States Constitution's first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, ratified December 15, 1791. Every alert school age Jack and Jill knows this; but do our highly educated, intellectually refined and astute scholarly faculty know how these rights affect their workplace environment...and whether the private university workplace differs from the public University workplace in regard to religious expression, tolerance and diversity?

There is a need to open a conversation on this topic; many scholars have described the potential benefits of heightening awareness and commencing positive change (Harris & Ackah, 2011) (Wegner, 2006) (Farrell, 2003) (Sorenson, 1996); others remark on the need to neutralize the influence of religion and thus the terms tolerance and diversity are sometimes a counterweight to favoritism (Hanson, 2008) (Barnard, 2010) (Schultz, 2007), or so-called "mainstream" viewpoints (Bryant, 2011) (Huntington, 1996)(Lichterman, 2008). Many look to institutional culture or policies for guidance in preserving individual rights, like those described in the first Amendment; others look to the courts for definition, boundary making and interpretation of these complex issues. The climate and culture of the modern college campus is a perfect laboratory to experiment, though in contrast to a pristine scientific lab, the college campus cannot truly be controlled, made uniform, nor produce results that can be perfectly replicated.

Does the law clarify or confuse?

The Constitutional guarantee (US Constitution, 1791) for separation of church and state is provided for in the "Establishment Clause" of the first amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,"; this prohibition, this statement of restriction upon Congress is simple in verbiage, but complex in meaning. How can these words offer both individual protection and governmental restrictions?

To address this question, one must also grapple with the functionality of law and the system of judicial review of laws. A shared belief may or may not result in a shared perception; this is evident to scholars who may study the intersections of university practices and religious tolerance and diversity. We may well ask, what is the role of the university as it relates to religion, expression, diversity and tolerance (Harris & Ackah, 2011) (Schultz, 2007)and may find no true peaceable kingdom is possible (Tilson & Venkateswaren, 2004) and yet the commitment to opening and maintaining a dialogue (Dufford, 2009) (Gray, 2010) is tremendously important to the integrity of the organization (Davis G. B., 2009) (Marchand & Stoner, 2012). When we attempt to reconcile practices and policies we may realize the impossible complexity of achieving a singular viewpoint, particularly and certainly when we realize the actions which seem beneficial to some are branded as onerous to others. …