In what is expected to be a three-year campaign, this fall Lincoln
College has launched a Civility Initiative to promote more civil
behavior among the students. The campaign is being led by Tina Nutt,
Lincoln College's dean of academic affairs, and Bridgett Thomas, the
school's dean of student services.
The idea for beginning a
Civility Initiative on the college's Lincoln campus came to Nutt as
she was conducting research in pursuit of her doctorate degree from
Olivet Nazarene University. Originally, Nutt was exploring faculty
and student perceptions of uncivil classroom behavior. Examples of
such behavior include sleeping in class, inappropriate cellphone
use, walking in late or leaving a class early.
"The more I investigated the topic, the more I discovered
classroom incivility was an increasing area of concern in higher
education," says Nutt. "Student uncivil behaviors were negatively
impacting the classroom learning environment, faculty morale,
retention rates and even alumni relationships."
In response, major universities like the University of Missouri,
Rutgers and University of California began addressing the issue
through various campus civility initiatives.
It was time, Nutt decided, to address the problem at Lincoln
College. Not necessarily because the school was facing more issues
than other colleges, but because Nutt and others believed a Civility
Initiative was directly in line with the college's mission. Rather
than focus solely on civility in the classroom, Nutt elected to
partner with Thomas in an effort to promote civility both inside and
outside of the classroom.
"Our Civility Initiative tag line is, ‘What we permit -- we
promote!' meaning if we don't address incivility head-on, we are in
effect giving permission for students to behave uncivilly," Nutt
Research shows people often believe if they ignore an uncivil
behavior, it will spontaneously disappear. In fact, the opposite is
true. If more mild uncivil behavior is not addressed, the behavior
will likely escalate to a more serious concern. Thomas believes that
by addressing lesser incivilities, there is potential to curb more
serious student conduct issues. Nutt says the research supports such
First, Nutt and Thomas needed to determine which student
behaviors they wanted to target. They constructed a campuswide
survey for faculty and staff members to identify which behaviors
were found to be most uncivil and also most frequently occurring at
From the survey, three behaviors emerged that Nutt and Thomas
decided to focus on: general rudeness, use of profane language and
inappropriate cellphone usage.
"General rudeness," Thomas said, "includes such behaviors as
excessive noise, punctuality and lack of respect for faculty
members, residence hall staff, maintenance workers, office staff and
In August, campus personnel attended several workshops hosted by
Nutt and Thomas. The workshops focused on helping faculty, staff and
students recognize and address the three mild uncivil behaviors
identified in the campuswide survey. The summit included
role-playing skits performed by current students and staff members,
where steps for identifying and addressing uncivil behaviors were
One of the students who participated in the role-playing activity
was Kennetta Thomas, a native of Normal and sophomore at Lincoln
College. Although she says she was uncomfortable being rude to an
adult even in a role-play setting, she said the summit was both fun
and educational for her as a student.
"Those of us who participated benefited from the experience by
becoming more aware of the impact of our behaviors in different
settings," she said.
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Aside from training faculty and staff about how to address
uncivil behavior, the summit also encouraged employees to recognize
and promote instances where students were especially respectful to
Reinforcing positive behaviors has been a critical element of the
civility campaign, according to Bridgett Thomas, the student
"We have used coupons for pizza, Wal-Mart gift certificates and
free popcorn at sporting events as rewards," she said. "The campus
community continues to recognize students who have displayed
positive behavior within the Lincoln community."
Student and faculty response
The initial student response to the civility campaign has been
overwhelmingly positive, according to Nutt and Thomas.
Students are appreciative too.
Sophomore Sarah Edwards, a Lincoln Community High School
graduate, says she has noticed a difference in the atmosphere on
campus this year, compared with last year. She attributes that to
the civility campaign.
"Last year, people wouldn't turn their phones off," said Edwards.
"So a professor would be lecturing and you'd hear a phone go off and
(that) just throws everything off. It makes it more difficult to
learn when that happens. But this year has been a little easier
without as many of those distractions."
Kennetta Thomas agreed, saying she has also seen improvements as
a resident of campus.
Edwards says many of her professors addressed civility on the
first day of class and made their behavior expectations clear.
Faculty members also pledged to reciprocate the civil behaviors of
their students by treating them with due respect.
Joe Baker, associate professor of criminology, said: "The entire
campus seems to have bought into the Civility Initiative, and it has
made a tremendous difference in the classroom as well as other areas
on campus. I am proud of our student body and the strides they have
made toward creating a more positive campus climate."
"I was happy. It shows that the faculty care about their
students, and they're trying to make it a better place to learn,"
said Edwards. "They're concerned about their students and the
learning. Our faculty members have a personal connection with their
students, where they really want everyone to understand the material
without any distractions -- to be successful."
Both Edwards and Thomas said they were pleased to see the college
be proactive this year in promoting civility and addressing issues
that were hampering their experience.
"We are proud of the early success of the Civility Initiative,"
said Nutt, who believes the long-term success of the initiative will
depend on the college remaining diligent and consistently working
together to create the best possible environment for teaching and
learning. "The Civility Initiative provides our students with a
transformational learning opportunity, which will help them reach
their full potential."
Founded in 1865 as Lincoln University, the college is the only
institution of higher education named after President Abraham
Lincoln during his lifetime. Today, Lincoln College operates two
campuses in central Illinois region, united in the goal of helping
students achieve a greater measure of happiness, personal
fulfillment and economic success through education. More information
on Lincoln College and its many academic programs is available at
[Text from file received from