Campaign will promote civility to reduce student behavioral conflicts

The University will launch a long-term campaign this spring to reduce the number of behavioral conflicts on campus and encourage civility.

The multi-year effort, dubbed “Living in the Green,” strives to educate students about politeness, online harassment and responsible drinking, with a focus on heading off violations of the Code of Student Conduct before they occur.

“We are looking to decrease our own business,” Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira – who oversees the judicial offices of the University – said.

The campaign earned its name from the tri-colored traffic light symbol used by Pereira to explain the restructuring of Student Judicial Services that occurred last summer. That overhaul created two new offices which handle violations of the student code.

The first branch, the Office of Civility and Community Standards, handles all “normal college behavior,” including underage drinking and possession of alcohol. The University branded this department as a “yellow light” – a sign to slow down and reconsider decision making.

The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the other offshoot, oversees more serious cases that could result in loss of housing, suspension or expulsion. Pereira dubbed this office the “red light” students should avoid.

The Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education – an entirely preventative body dedicated to substance abuse prevention – represents the “green light” where students should aim to live, Pereira said.

She believes that many of the incidents referred to the civility office could be avoided if students were better educated about civil behavior and positive communication. The campaign is rooted in the office’s mission to be “proactive and educational” and was not launched in response to a noticeably negative atmosphere on campus, she said.

As the University undergoes a visual identity overhaul, the civility campaign will establish the stoplight as the symbol of the three behavioral offices.

“Living in the Green” will dovetail with current messaging about healthy lifestyles, complementing and expanding on house staff programming and the BeWiser alcohol awareness campaign, she said. House staff and Colonial Cabinet members often focus their educational outreach on alcohol abuse and making good decisions – themes Pereira believed could complement the introduction of a dialogue about civil behavior.

Pereira expects to begin outreach in April in order to coincide with a time of year that often sees a spike in behavioral violations.

“April is really a time to launch something like this, because traditionally, October and April are the craziest disciplinary months,” she said, citing cabin fever that comes with chilly weather and the excitement of spring.

The effort will include a reevaluation of the roles of peer educators in the civility office, shifting from an entirely reactive position to proactive outreach. Under the new structure of the behavioral offices, peer educators – instead of professional staffers – will meet with students to discuss minor violations. The shift in mediators was meant to change the tone of meetings from disciplinary to educational, Pereira said.

“The yellow is trying to keep people in the green and particularly to help them not go toward the red,” Pereira said.

Detailed plans for the peer educators and other expansions of the campaign have not yet been released, although Pereira said informational brochures will likely be created and distributed at campus events starting next academic year.

“The success of [the campaign] won’t be measured by a decrease of numbers though, but more of the general feel of what we see throughout the year,” Katie Porras, associate director of the civility office, said.

Presidential Administrative Fellow Rob Maxim helped developed the campaign and bulletin board kits, which will address common conflicts like tension with roommates.

“I can see a poster that just has some words on it and maybe it gives me some advice, and I just roll my eyes and keep going,” Maxim said. “But I think that the branding and the tying it into this unified series of offices as a whole is going to be important.”

“Living in the Green” will largely be geared toward underclassmen, who are most likely to encounter incivility while adjusting to college life, Pereira said.

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