Civility Efforts Seek Better Behavior On Campuses

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jewish students in the University of California system labeled terrorists for their support of Israel. Black high school students pelted by bananas on a Tennessee campus tour. A hostile student in Maryland challenging his professor to a fight after the teacher limited the use of cell phones and laptops during lectures.

In a society where anonymous Internet commenters freely lob insults, and politicians spew partisan barbs, the decline of basic civility isn't limited to academia. But the push for more polite discourse — often as an extension of more entrenched diversity efforts — is firmly taking root on campus.

From the University of Missouri to Penn State and Vanderbilt, colleges across the country are treating the erosion of common decency as a public health epidemic on par with measles outbreaks and sexually transmitted diseases.

"What we're trying to do is remind people of what they already know, to get back in touch with things they probably learned growing up," said Noel English, who heads a new Missouri civility campaign called "Show Me Respect," a nod to the state's nickname.

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