Pledging social responsibility

“I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work.”

Thousands of graduating seniors at more than 50 colleges nationwide are taking a pledge to consider the social and environmental aspects of their future jobs. And the number of educational institutions that implement a pledge in graduation ceremonies could double by the end of the year, according to Neil Wollman, senior fellow of the Peace Studies Institute at Manchester College, in North Manchester, Indiana. Wollman coordinates the Graduation Pledge Alliance.

The GPA, headed by Manchester College since 1996, originated at Humboldt State University in California in 1987. The GPA allows students to determine individually what actions and policies they consider to be socially and environmentally responsible. About half of the students at each institution take the voluntary pledge at graduation ceremonies.

“It makes individuals think more about their lives and makes them more meaningful,” Wollman said. “Schooling is more than just gaining skills for particular jobs. It is necessary to talk about citizenship and values.”

Wollman said the pledge is working. Some students who took the pledge turned down job offers because companies did not follow the practices students pledged to keep, while others notify their employers about their pledge and try to make differences in the workplace, Wollman said.

A variety of institutions, including small liberal arts to Ivy League schools, support the GPA. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the universities Notre Dame and Kansas have recently started campus-wide GPA campaigns, and schools in the United Kingdom and Canada have also shown interest in the GPA, Wollman said.

GW does not currently support the GPA, and some students said they think a pledge would be ineffective.

“No one would (follow it) because it has no meaning to people,” sophomore Brandon Fuhrmann said.

“People might sign it but it wouldn’t effect how people search for jobs,” senior Allison Consoletti said.

Sophomore Tori Reimann said the pledge is a good thing.

“We’ve been taught values in our college careers and (with the pledge) they would be cemented in our minds and made formal,” Reimann said. “In a global society we should consider this forward progressive thinking.”

The GPA has faced little opposition at most institutions, with only minor complaints and no protests, Wollman said. Some people call it idealistic and others say it is “another liberal left-ordered thing,” Wollman said.

The GPA is now focused on expansion, targeting college Web sites, student groups, listserves, environmental groups with campus chapters and service-learning organizations to spread the word.

When enough people sign and carry out the pledge, a significant minority will have an influence in the workplace, Wollman said.

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