FROM THE CHANCELLOR
A renewal of our commitment to campus civility
Many of us have had the experience of walking across campus for a meeting, a class or an event and almost not getting there because we’ve nearly been hit by a vehicle, bike or skateboard. The people driving the cars and trucks are not ill-intentioned, nor are the bikers and boarders. Nonetheless, this trend is troubling and worthy of some discussion.
The focus of this column is not to lecture about safety and regulation, it is to make a broader and more compelling case for us all to consider and is a renewal of our commitment to campus civility. Civility certainly relates to many aspects of our lives, but in this space, I am focusing on just a few of the daily interactions that we have on our campus. It has become increasingly clear that we need to be more concerned about one another and respect our unique qualities. Our community consists of nearly 40,000 people all pursuing goals and dreams and sharing expectations of safety, security and health.
A campus can support these objectives through regulation and by enforcing rules and policies, yet we all know that enforcement is not popular and it’s natural to believe that it is the other person that needs the regulation. Unfortunately, some of the behaviors that we’ve seen or may have experienced around campus this fall are lacking in terms of consideration for one another. We have near misses each day between pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and cars. We also see people of differing physical abilities who are not always treated respectfully. We have senior faculty who may not navigate a pathway as a biker or a boarder might, and we have people in wheelchairs who must contend with many obstacles and attitudes.
Consider this: a campus community, by definition, includes a wide variety of people with a wide variety of abilities. Individually, we tend to show great compassion for each other, yet in crowds and with anonymity can often come a noticeable disregard for our humanity. Although we can cite many instances, let me be very clear: this is not about statistics. Any number of incidents make this campus less welcoming for others and should not be acceptable to any of us. We can write tickets and try to enforce rules and social norms that could be better honored by a commitment to campus civility.
In a similar way, we also need to take care to avoid actions like chaining bikes to handrails that our friends and colleagues must rely on for their safety. As a campus, we support those who ride their bikes and we have plans in place to install more bike racks in the coming months. But in the meantime, we will all be better off if we exercise a bit more care and consideration and keep in mind those among us who need to use the handrails to make their way in and out of our buildings.
On a related subject, we also have to understand that crosswalks on and around our campus are potential conflict areas that can actually be effective if each of us takes responsibility for our safety and the safety of others. Please understand that just because you’ve spotted a car does not mean that the driver has spotted you. Many might not be aware that bikes are supposed to cross at a walking speed, which increases the likelihood of being seen, avoiding collisions and improving traffic flow for all.
Another related subject is the issue of smoking around our buildings, open areas and residence halls. We know that smoke travels through nearby windows and entrances and can even permeate our plazas. It has also been established that this can have significant health consequences for those who have chosen not to smoke. Therefore, it’s really not good enough just to be outside; we must also avoid locations with open windows, entrances and air intakes. If it sounds extreme, please consider all that we’ve now learned about the dire effects of second-hand smoke. Consequently, a bit more thought, consideration and personal action doesn’t seem much to ask. Perhaps we can soon enjoy a campus that is smoke and tobacco free simply out of our concern for one another.
Lastly, perhaps you’ve heard about a new and disturbing pattern of thefts from lockers at the Recreation Center and elsewhere around the campus. While such activity clearly constitutes a crime, there is also an underlying statement regarding our respect for one another. Remember, such violations are not the norm and are never acceptable in a civilized society.
Though these subjects may seem disconnected, the common theme here is respect and compassion for one another as well as for our campus. Consider what experience you would want for your son, daughter, brother, sister, friends and grandparents while they are a part of our community. This campus is our home and we are connected to one another and are stewards for future generations.
A little compassion and civility will go a long way and each of us has the power to effect positive change. What can you do? The answer is surprisingly simple: don’t be a bystander when it comes to such matters. Be aware, be engaged and do the right thing.
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