Attendees at the kickoff Reduce the Rancor event.
Attendees packed the Iversen Center for Faith for the kickoff Reduce the Rancor event March 11. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

St. Thomas Takes Steps to ‘Reduce the Rancor’

In an effort to help foster civility and diminish political polarization, the University of St. Thomas co-hosted the kickoff event for the statewide initiative, Reduce the Rancor. The university, in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Braver Angels, seeks to elevate discourse and reshape perspectives on political differences without altering individuals’ views on the issues themselves.

The event, held at the Iversen Center for Faith on March 11, surpassed expectations with an impressive turnout, reflecting a collective yearning for positive change. The initiative aims to address the divisive culture that has permeated various aspects of society, from government and schools to churches and families.

Rob Vischer speaking.
University of St. Thomas President Rob Vischer speaks at the kickoff Reduce the Rancor event. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

University President Rob Vischer set the tone for the evening by addressing the consequences of the prevailing “politics of personal destruction.” He emphasized that this toxic environment not only discourages students from engaging in political activities but also hinders open and constructive discussions within classrooms.

Key figures from both major political parties, including the Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin and Minnesota Republicans Chair David Hann, were also in attendance. Both leaders took time to share their perspectives on the matter, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and compromise and pledging to model civility during the upcoming campaign season. Their commitment to the initiative signaled a shared dedication to overcoming the toxic rhetoric that has marred political discourse in recent years.

Representatives from influential civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Citizens League, and Rotary, joined leaders from other Minnesota colleges and universities, such as the University of Minnesota, Macalester, St. John’s-St. Ben’s, and Northwestern. Religious leaders, including the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church of Minnesota, also highlighted the crucial role of reducing rancor in achieving their organizational missions.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the event was the presence of many University of St. Thomas students. Leaders from the Aquinas Scholars, College Republicans, College Democrats, and Students for Justice and Peace spoke passionately about the importance of building relationships across the political spectrum.

Attendees talk at the Reduce the Rancor event.
Attendees converse at the Reduce the Rancor kickoff event. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

Student Claire Mitchell said how impactful the evening had been to her, “pushing her to think more deeply about issues.” A student shared her unique approach to reducing polarization, using her psychology research to identify nostalgic memories that bridge gaps rather than widen divides. Her dedication to finding common ground through evidence-based methods exemplifies the innovative thinking that characterizes St. Thomas students. Students, speaking organically and from the heart, emphasized the importance of celebrating diversity while remaining true to one’s convictions.

The St. Thomas community is encouraged to learn more about the different opportunities for engagement with the campaign by attending the upcoming workshops, and events.

The university’s Tommies Reduce the Rancor initiative stands as a beacon of hope in a climate often overshadowed by divisive rhetoric. The event showcased the power of collaboration, the commitment to dialogue, and the determination to bridge the political divide. As the initiative gains momentum, it holds the promise of creating lasting change not only within the university community but also across the state of Minnesota and beyond.