Aggressive conduct, disrespectful attitudes, cyberbullying, hate crimes and downright rude behavior have become more prevalent in our culture and on university campuses nationwide. But at CSUSM, a new initiative aims to take the high road with the launch of its Civility Campaign.

“Because we seem to be bombarded with acts of incivility from yelling at the President in Congress to cyberbullying of gays, it seemed like the right time to highlight civility,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Eloise Stiglitz. “Our community here at CSUSM is strong, and we want to make it stronger, which is why we have launched this campaign. By expecting respect from one another and highlighting our acts of civility, we will create an even stronger foundation for our community.”

Designed to promote courtesy, empathy, understanding and inclusiveness, the Civility Campaign is a campus-wide effort spearheaded by the Dean of Students Office. At its core, the campaign reaffirms the University’s values of demonstrating respect, treating others with dignity and behaving in a way that promotes a physically and psychologically safe, secure and supportive campus climate where all members are able to participate in the exchange of ideas and be acknowledged for their unique perspectives.

“Coupled with the five University values – intellectual engagement, community, integrity, innovation and inclusiveness – we hope that our campus community will join us in embodying the civility principles of care, respect and empathy,” said Associate Dean of Students Greg Toya, who chairs the civility committee.

Toya and his team introduced the inaugural program first to incoming freshmen and transfer students during orientation in a seemingly unconventional way. While listening to a routine presentation, students were shocked when a disruptive outburst unfolded in the lecture hall. The well-orchestrated dramatic scene was planted by members of the Civility Committee and O-Team to demonstrate uncivil behavior, as a convincing student actor angrily yelled obscene comments to the presenter, expressing frustration with the activity and orientation as a whole.

Recognizing uncivil behavior is only part of the process, explained Toya to the roomful of new CSUSM students stunned by what they had just witnessed.  Knowing how to respond, assertively and not aggressively, is key. Civility is an individual responsibility, and as such is put onto the shoulders of each campus member to ensure uncivil behavior is not tolerated.

“Creating a culture of civility promotes a climate of camaraderie, mutual respect and trust for all members of the university,” Toya added.  “A civil campus climate facilitates academic excellence, learning, sense of belonging and pride.”

Following the skit and a group discussion, orientation students stood to declare their support of the campaign, reciting the pledge: “I will conduct myself with care, respect and empathy while acknowledging the culture and humanity of others.” More than 2,700 students pledged their support during orientation and signed their names on the “I am CSUSM” banner. Beginning on Tuesday, September 6, the entire campus community – students, faculty and staff – can join the campaign and pledge their support, either at civility-sponsored events or online.

“Civility is a welcomed initiative on our campus,” said social sciences and mathematic major Matt Walsh, who co-emceed the Civility Kick-Off event on September 6, 2011,  “As students we need to carry ourselves to a higher standard and show care, respect, empathy and dignity to others. We are the next generation of leaders and we need to be prepared to lead civilly, and become effective citizens and responsible self-directed adults.”

The launch puts into motion multiple initiatives that will continue to foster the University’s inclusive-spirit. In addition, committee members will identify faculty, staff and students displaying the principles of civility and deem them as “Civility Champions.” At the end of each month the committee will review nominations and select two Civility ICONs (Initiating Civil Opportunities Now). Civility ICONs will receive special recognition from the committee.

For more information on the Civility Campaign and to join the movement, visit www.csusm.edu/civility. Civility, civility, civility — pass it on.

“Coupled with the five University values – intellectual engagement, community, integrity, innovation and inclusiveness – we hope that our campus community will join us in embodying the civility principles of care, respect and empathy,” said Associate Dean of Students Greg Toya, who chairs the civility committee.