A Code of Civility for the University Setting: The Architecture for Implementation

By Seganish, W. Michael; Holter, Norma C. | Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, January 2013 | Go to article overview

A Code of Civility for the University Setting: The Architecture for Implementation


Seganish, W. Michael, Holter, Norma C., Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues


INTRODUCTION

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines civility as "civilized conduct, especially courtesy, politeness" (2010). This definition is overly broad and not particularly helpful in developing a Code of Civility. The definition does not begin to encompass all of the behaviors expected of an educated person in society. Perhaps another way of defining civility is to describe it as "the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together" (Carter, 1998, p 11). However, it can be said that identifying civility is similar to the long-standing legal observation that while I cannot define pornography, I know it when I see it. [sic, Justice Stewart, 1964). The same is true in this particular situation. Even though the definition of civility may be broad and you may not be able to specifically define civility, you certainly know incivility when you see it

In the United States, civility can be traced back to one of our founding fathers, George Washington, who had 110 rules for civility (Selzer, 2000). George Washington carried these guidelines with him throughout his life (Selzer, 2000). His rules included etiquette rules, as well as other types of rules. For example, Rule 24 states that you should not laugh too loud (Selzer, 2000, p. 32) while Rule 98 cautions one not to talk with your mouth full (Selzer, 2000, p.127).

Under the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation rules, ethics education has been required in the college of business for quite some time. With the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, a Code of Ethics must be developed (and published) by public companies. The Code is to be signed first by the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer. This watershed act brought an increased push for ethics education in the university. While most universities have incorporated a Code of Conduct/Ethical Behavior for their students, there are rising acts of incivility in the university environment.

A Code of Civility, while it incorporates some of the same concepts, is different from the Code of Ethics. Civility involves basic respect and courtesy and recognizes some unacceptable behavior not usually incorporated in a Code of Ethics, in addition to the traditional ethical considerations. Many institutions have recognized the uncivil act of bullying within their discrimination policies. However, there is a need for civility throughout the university. A Code of Civility will complement the Code of Ethics and reinforce many of the same attributes.

This paper will explore some of the causes of erosion of civility; introduce the concept of civility and develop the architecture of a Code of Civility. Basic to the development of a Code of Civility is the understanding of the interconnections of civility and the disconnections of incivility

SOCIETAL EROSION OF CIVILITY

Without delving into deep sociological concepts and theories, many factors have been bandied about as the cause for the continuous erosion of civility in our society. This has not been a sudden phenomenon but rather a slow erosion over a period of time during which many factors have dramatically changed. The changes may be characterized as precursors to student incivility and center around the students we now teach: often called Millennials born after 1982. They tend to be consumers of educational product, and technologically experienced and emulti-taskers. Baker, Comer, Martinak, 2008 p 67-69. Some of the contributing factors to this phenomenon follow.

Change in family structure

It is believed that the disappearance of the traditional family, where family members gathered for dinner and talked about their daily activities, versus today's modern family, a two-career family that copes with the daily logistical nightmares of transporting the children to the various sports and other after school activities, contributed to less communication and understanding, perhaps leading to less respect and interest in other family members.

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