The first session of a town hall meeting series on civility began on Monday, November 11. These meetings are geared specifically toward promoting respect among all members of the RIT community. With three more meetings to come, this series will look in depth at issues of civility.

The meeting drew a range of students, faculty and staff members together. After a brief introduction to the purpose of the meeting by Rebecca Johnson, associate of the university, and Jessica Ecock, associate director of Center for Student Conduct, the attendees split up into groups for a handout-led discussion. The handout directed group conversations toward positive examples of civility on campus as well as examples of incivilities witnessed by group members.

Some examples of civil sightings on campus included:        

  • Students helping strangers, especially during Open House
  • Students showing respect shown toward different groups of people by choosing appropriate language, among other actions

Some incivilities included:

  •  Rudeness toward Facilities Management Services staff members
  •  Rude or distracting technology in classes or during conversation

The meeting ended with suggestions to improve civility issues at RIT, which the project team will continue to assess and explore.

Incivility has not been a particular problem at RIT but the team involved in running these meetings said its purpose is to start some conversation on campus and get a feel for what the community thinks about the issue. Lee Twyman, a member of the Civil Community project who works at the RIT Ombuds Office, said that the turn out at the first meeting was good. She said she expects that once more word gets out and they can “build more momentum and get faculty members on board,” the meetings will become more crowded.

The Civil Community project actually began three or four years ago, according to Twyman. An issue among faculty referred to as “rankism” cropped up. Some newer faculty members felt they were being treated unfairly by other faculty members who had been at RIT longer. Representatives from all areas of RIT were assembled from Human Resources, Public Safety, the Ombuds office, Student Conduct and beyond to challenge this new potential problem within RIT.

Twyman said that the team has potential plans to collaborate with RIT Improv in order to reach the greater portion of the community. She said that they hope this approach will create a more interesting and interactive way to incorporate RIT community members into the civility discussions.

The next meetings will be held from 9-10 p.m. on November 13 in the Bamboo room (2650) of the Campus Center, from 1-2 p.m. on December 3 in the Center for Campus Life Reading Room (2050) and from 7-8 p.m. on December 3 in the CSD Student Development Center (CSD-1300).