“A crucial measure of our success in life is the way we treat one another every day of our lives.”
Those are the words of P.M. Forni, an award-winning professor at Johns Hopkins University, founder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins and author of several books, including Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct.
When I recently revisited his book, I was reminded about the connections between civility and the nature of the community interactions here at RIT. Universities and colleges are exceptional institutions for discourse, intellectual debate and expression of ideas. With that in mind, a group of RIT colleagues has been exploring how RIT can build on those pillars of academic freedom and also foster respectful interactions among all community members and stakeholders.
Recent campus surveys provide evidence that, in general, RIT community members feel we have established a community in which many feel comfortable interacting with colleagues and community members. The Civility Community@RIT team decided to explore this further, to gather ideas from the community about what is working well plus suggestions on how to enhance further civil and collegial interactions within RIT.
At the end of last semester, the project team hosted a series of open town hall-style meetings and invited students, faculty and staff to come together and share ideas about the current climate as well as their vision for the future. Some comments on civil experiences included:
• “Everyone is generous with help.”
• “Orientation and open houses shine with considerate interactions.”
• “Pedestrian/driver relationships.”
• “The RIT community is also good about greetings and acknowledging one another.”
But there were also some examples of uncivil experiences, including “using hierarchy to dismiss someone’s value,”as well as “limiting inclusion in informal discussions” and a call for more “Quarter Mile etiquette.”
It’s clear that the RIT community has wide-ranging views, definitions and experiences of civility on the campus.
The vision of the Civil Community@RIT project is to better understand and enhance a culture of heightened civility and collegiality at RIT. The Civil Community project team includes individuals from across the university interested in civil communications and behaviors.
The goal of this project is to identify inter-actions and communications that are going well and, over time, help our community build on those, identify areas for improvement and develop strategies that will lead to a higher level of understanding and civil interactions on campus.
For more information on this effort, please feel free to contact any member of the Civil Community@RIT project team: Lee Twyman, Dawn Sullivan, Hope Williams, Stacy DeRooy, Rebecca Johnson, Colette Shaw, Molly McGowan, Marc Goldman, Sarah Pillittere, Michael D’Arcangelo, Susan Provenzano, Jessica Ecock, Donna Rubin and Henry Hinesley.
Or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CivilityProjectRIT.