Bowie State University Core Values 2: Civility
By Dr. George Acquaah
Hello! I hope the last two weeks were fruitful times, and that our conversation on the subject of excellence was helpful. This week, we shall focus our conversation on the second BSU Core Value - Civility. A dictionary definition of civility is "the act of showing regard for others." Civility is courteous behavior or politeness. It may be exhibited through both word and deed, that is, what you say as well as how you act.
Anytime you live or work in a community (such as a university campus or neighborhood), it is absolutely critical to conduct yourself in a manner that acknowledges the presence of others. In other words, do not live as if the world revolves around you. A quote attributed to a Rev. John Howard states that "It's too much to expect in an academic setting that we should all agree, but it is not too much to expect discipline and unvarying civility." In other words, we can disagree without being disagreeable, obnoxious, or at each other's throat.
In order for your academic experience to be memorable and successful, civility must prevail not only in the classroom setting, but also in the dorms as well. Just before you get the impression that I am placing the onus on students to have civility on the campus, let me say that we demand similar conduct of faculty and staff. Further, let me acknowledge, with disappointment I might add, that sometimes some faculty and staff display incivility towards students and each other! When such incidences occur, we appropriately reprimand the persons involved.
Now, let us focus on incivility in the classroom, where faculty and students interact, and discuss how they can be addressed. We should all pledge to demonstrate concern for others, their feelings, and their need for suitable conditions that support their work as teachers and learners. So what are some specific behaviors that constitute to incivility in the classroom? These are some of the many that my research has shown to adversely impact teaching and learning:
Disruptions, distractions and irritations - When you arrive late for class, ‘text' or talk on the cell phone, allow the phone to ring, engage in conversation with your neighbor while the teacher is teaching, rummage noisily in your bag, read the newspaper, use your I-pod, or eat in class, you can significantly distract your colleagues from focusing on the lesson being taught.
Dominating the classroom discussion - Do not monopolize the discussion; allow others to get a word in edgewise. You can contribute to discussions without showing off!
Aggressive challenges to the authority of the teacher - It is possible you may know something the teacher may not know. Be polite when you point out errors or misstatements to the teacher. Also, note that teacher has the right and obligation to set classroom standards and code of conduct. Respect such guidelines. Should you desire to dispute a grade, do not be confrontational about it, but be courteous.
Insensitivity, disrespect for others - The University is a place where students and faculty may exercise freedom of speech. In doing so, be culturally sensitive and refrain from the use of demeaning language. If you respect yourself, it is less likely you will disrespect others. Last semester, a student wrote to complain about a teacher whom he felt had been disrespectful to him in class. The kind of language the student used in the letter left little doubt in my mind that he was a very disrespectful student!
In closing, please note that you cannot complete your education at Bowie State without interacting with faculty, staff, and students. Remember, nobody likes to assist a student who is discourteous. Let, words such as "please" and "thank you" be a part of your daily communication. Until next time, this is Dr. G saying, thank you for spending this time with me!
The author is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bowie State University