The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 27, 2012

Minnesota State University launches civility campaign

MANKATO —  Across the Minnesota State University campus, acts of kindness can be seen in doorways, hallways, behind counters, inside classrooms.

Teachers are smiling. (More than usual?) Cashiers in the Student Union are making eye contact and, in a friendly voice, thanking students and staff for their purchases. (Friendlier than before?)

Folks are holding doors open. Saying excuse me. Even nodding hello.

Granted, this is Minnesota, a state that’s known for its “Nice.” But MSU is making an official, concerted effort to be an even more positive place to work and be.

“We want to make sure our employees and our students have a good, healthy, civil work and educational environment at MSU,” said Linda Hanson, director of Affirmative Action and a primary leader in MSU’s recently launched Civility Campaign.

The campaign is encouraging folks on campus to ask themselves a key question: “Who are you?” Reflecting on and making changes to your own behavior can have a ripple effect on the campus atmosphere, Hanson said.

Plans for the campaign began in August 2011 when President Richard Davenport challenged the campus in his convocation speech to develop a plan to eliminate bullying and increase respect across campus.

While many people might associate bullying with middle or high schools, the problem is prevalent on college campuses, too, Hanson said.

“There are instances in which, certainly, during my work history, that bullying has been part of the work environment,” Hanson said.

A classic example, Hanson said, is raising your voice to another employee during a disagreement or purposefully trying to intimidate another person during an argument. David Jones, associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, cited a more serious and well-known incident of cyber-bulling at Rutgers University, which led to student Tyler Clementi’s suicide.

Heather Biedermann, who works in the library, said she and her colleagues have had numerous discussions about civility since the campaign began. They have a “Thank You” board in their office where employees can post notes about good deeds.

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