Values to Live By
For the Students, By the Students
For many high school seniors, a looming rite of passage is to research, apply and decide on where to attend college. The pictures of the campus in the viewbook are stunning, and the students in the photos all look very happy. But leaving home, the prospect of living with a stranger and adjusting to a new community can cause trepidation even in the most self-aware and confident of students. Adjusting to college life and making a new set of lifelong friends is serious business.There is no instruction booklet for going off to college. You learn very quickly, however, that the time you spend in the classroom is only one part of the college experience-especially if you choose to live on campus. On a small campus like Lasell's, you become a member of a community. And what do you do if one a group of your peers demonstrates behavior unfitting a young adult? If you observe someone vandalizing school property, do you turn your back or report it to an administrator? If you personally encounter uncivil behavior, do you ignore it or do you just "dish" it back?
Those were questions raised at a Lasell Student Government Association (SGA) meeting back in late Fall 2009, where President Michael B. Alexander and Vice President of Student Affairs Diane Austin were invited guests. When asked for advice on addressing incivility on campus, Alexander made it clear that having the Senior Management Team determine sanctions for such behavior was not the solution. He told SGA that the students themselves were the only ones best able to influence student culture.
In Spring 2010, SGA members were invited to a conference at Mt. Ida College where they learned about other schools' "value statements." And that is where the idea of "Lasell College's Values to Live By (For the Students, By the Students)" was born.
SGA Officers Kevin Moloney '14 and Carrie Kenniston '13 soon began entertaining the concept of developing a campus-wide values campaign to increase civility on campus-not rules or laws, but a way to promote a way of life for students at Lasell. The initiative was gently introduced during "Civility Week" in Spring 2011 and more assertively at "Random Acts of Kindness Day" during Spirit Week in Spring 2012.
"In the last two years, the Student Government Association has taken on the task of addressing the issue of civility," Vice President of Student Affairs Diane Austin says, adding, "they have worked to shine a light on that issue and to spark conversation and action consistent with the ideals of a civil community."
Six students-a few now alums--(Kevin Moloney ‘13, Carolyn Kenniston ‘13, Holly Irvin ‘13, Kasey Looney ‘12, Alexandra Ferri ‘14 and Lara Kineavy ‘12) worked on the initiative resulting in six "Values We Live By:" the golden rule, respect, accepting differences, maturity, random acts of kindness, and commitment (see sidebar for complete text).
"We didn't want to force it on people," Moloney tells Leaves. "We always wanted it to be a student movement, not an enforcement issue." Today the six values are framed and hanging in strategic spots on campus, and stickers adorn books, computers, dorm room doors and walls. SGA continues to look for ways to spread the word about the "Values" in residential life, with peer advisors, and athletics, to name a few.
So the $40,000 question is-is this awareness campaign working? Have we reached civility nirvana on campus?
"It is difficult to prove what if any impact ‘Lasell College Values to Live By' has on campus, but I believe it has had a positive effect on how students treat each other," comments President Alexander. "It seems to me that the level of courtesy has gone up appreciably with people invariably holdings doors for each other, saying ‘please' and ‘thank you' and ‘hello' as they walk by. These may seem like small things, but they are indicators of the kind of community that is emerging here."
Alexander adds, "I used to get numerous complaints every year about individuals feeling socially ostracized and about the prevalence of cliques. I am sure those problems still exist, as they would in any crowded universe like a college campus, but I have now gone two years without hearing one such complaint."
In a recent SGA-conducted student survey to determine whether the "Values" are having an impact on campus, the responses were uniformly enthusiastic. "The ‘Values' were created to serve as a constant reminder that everyone deserves to be respected and valued as a person, not only here, but in their own communities as well." "I do believe that the ‘Values' have been effective in promoting unity on campus." "I have been making friends with people who I would never have talked to before, hanging out on camps with a whole new group of friends."
And Mairead Van Heest, manager of Food Service, concurs. "My experience with the students this year has been very positive," she tells Leaves. "They always send thank-you notes when we have catered an event for them. And this year the students have been taking better care of the dining hall."
In a message to the College community last Fall, SGA President Kenniston wrote, "We hope that by showcasing these "Values," that students will follow them during their time at Lasell as students, and after they graduate as alums."
Perhaps one of the undergraduates surveyed sums it up best. "Every community should have a set of values to live by. College is no different. And even more important is to have a set of values because we enter Lasell as complete strangers, but if we are civil and unified with one another, then we will leave as a family."