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Northampton values civility

Editors note: The author of this article was one of the presenters of civility on April 8.

On April 8, Katrina Popovice, Jose Galarza, Michelangelo Murina, and Alex Tushinsky-Robie, graduate from the 2015 Leadership Class, gave a presentation on civility. What is civility? It is a very broad idea, but boils down to awareness and responsibility. Awareness of how your behavior affects others, and responsibility to affect the community in a positive way. With 50 plus students and faculty members in attendance, the presenters outlined a plan to identify and confront issues that affect everyone on campus. This comes on the heels of last semester’s NCC Confessions Twitter debacle, where students anonymously posted inflammatory and hurtful remarks online about anyone from professors to other students.

The Leadership students were advised by the champions for the project, Assistant Dean of Students Mitchell Murtha and Councilor Matt Bartholomew. Both champions deal with issues of incivility on a regular basis and are passionate about seeing them eliminated so that students can get the most out of their education, and go on to be successful beyond the college environment.

The bulk of their presentation was based on research from other colleges’ Civility Programs, some of which were very successful, and some that failed. The most successful program they cited was from Monroe Community College in New York, and our very own Dr. Susan Salvador was instrumental in its success. Monroe did extensive surveys for two years before finalizing their Civility Program, and also involved students and faculty in the Committee overseeing the program. These were the first steps outlined for Northampton after defining civility specifically for NCC.  Other recommendations included a Civility Week, seminars, and a Mentorship Program for incoming high school students.

The presenters stressed that civility is active, and that doing nothing about incivility is the same as encouraging it. However, civility isn’t difficult. Say hello with a smile, hold the door for someone; say please and thank you. Small actions like this can help you to make a good impression at a job interview, and also reflect well on Northampton when our students enter the workforce. Start a ripple, and create a wave. If you start making a habit of civil behavior, it can become almost automatic.

The audience also engaged in discussions about positive and negative experiences on campus, which ranged from random acts of kindness to loud and disruptive behavior in common areas, like the cafeteria and library. Despite Enough Is Enough’s vow of silence falling on the same day, the presenters involved the muted students by reading their written responses out loud, and in general, most comments were positive. The presentation ended with resources available to students, including contact information for Counseling, Security, and See It, Report It (www.northampton.edu/reportit).

With the first steps toward a Northampton Civility Project well received, Matt Bartholomew commented on further steps saying, “The interest is there, coming from the top. Dr. [Gloria] Lopez, Dr. Salvador, Mitch [Murtha], and I want to see this happen. We’ll take the recommendations and build on them, because it’s important, it will help set our students up for success, and that’s what we want.”

He also mentioned that, if not himself, someone from Counseling would likely be involved in the Committee. Lastly, he reiterated the role of Counseling, encouraging students to stop by if they are having issues on or off Campus.

Mitch Murtha is currently compiling sample surveys, along with Civility Statements from other schools to build off of. He also spoke about further research, and the formation of a Committee in the not too distant future. So start practicing your smile, Northampton, a happy face can do more good than you know.

Photos courtesy Adam Soltys.