Monroe Community College’s Civility Campaign
August 2011, Volume 14, Number 8
By Rebecca Herzog
The Enough is Enough campaign is a critical collaboration designed to create a new paradigm for peace and safety on the nation’s campuses by addressing the societal hostility that has contributed to unprecedented violence in some of the very places our students should feel most safe (http://www.naspa.org/enough/default2.cfm). This concept evolved out of NASPA’s Annual Conference keynote address by Virginia Tech’s vice president for student affairs, Zenobia Lawarence Hikes, in March 2008. She shared what happened the day of the unpredicted shootings, declaring “Enough is Enough” and asking that everyone act with “fierce urgency” to curtail the wave of societal violence (http://www.naspa.org/enough/campus/).
Conceptualization. The city of Rochester, New York, is the second largest regional economy in New York State, and with a population of approximately 210,565, it is New York's third most populous city. Rochester is home to corporations such as Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox that conduct extensive research and manufacturing in the fields of industrial and consumer products. Rochester is also known for its medical and technological development, and is an international center of higher education. Located in Rochester, Monroe Community College (MCC) is nationally ranked and recognized as one of the most innovative community colleges in North America. MCC is many things: a place to continue learning and acquire career skills, a foundation for a four-year degree, a center for academic and cultural opportunities, a vital catalyst for workforce development, and so much more. It is also one of the best academic values in the country (www.monroecc.edu).
Generation Y, or Millennials, make up the majority of the traditional college students today. In our age of technology, face-to-face communication is a foreign language to many of these students. As at many community colleges, MCC’s student body is made up not only of these traditional-age students (Generation Y), but also older students (Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation) who may or may not have previously attended college. Eighty-one percent of the student population attending Monroe Community College lives in Monroe County.
Like many other cities, Rochester is not exempt from violence, crime, hate, and disrespect. One out of every 95 people has a chance of becoming a victim of a crime (www.neighborhoodscout.com), a statistic that generates among MCC educators a particular concern for the college’s students. In 2010, MCC’s president, Anne Kress, asked the Director of Public Safety to gather a committee and implement the Enough is Enough campaign. MCC already had a collegewide Civility Committee that promoted the campaign, “Making Courtesy Common,” an effort to educate the campus community on what it means to speak kindly, to listen, and to pay attention to others. Monroe Community College prides itself on being a safe environment, and its administrators take seriously their responsibility to provide resources and programs focused on topics such as civility and violence, and that help students develop skills and behaviors that give them the confidence to create change in their own environments. With thousands of commuter students who will likely stay in the area, programs such as Enough is Enough have an important role in helping develop strong, safe communities.
Primary Goals. The Enough is Enough campaign committee identified three goals for the program:
- Provide programs that addresses different populations on campus and expose how violence can affect individuals differently.
- Engage MCC’s campus community in the efforts to promote civility, anti-violence and school spirit.
- Educate the campus community and remind them that violence happens every day and to envision ways to stop it.
The committee developed a series of specific events, lectures, bulletin boards, discussions, and movies to accomplish these goals.
Cross-college Collaboration. The committee was charged with a task but was given no budget, so it was time to put on creative thinking caps. After reviewing resources across campus, the committee started brainstorming event ideas that correlated with the three goals. No idea was too outrageous. After outlining a weeklong series of events, it was time to create a budget. Some of the costs included purchasing promotional materials such as t-shirts, silicone bracelets, posters, and banners; arranging for speakers; screening movies; and providing decorations and food. To cover the costs, departments and student groups agreed to host some of the events. For the larger events, the committee put together proposals that were presented to the vice presidents of the student services and administrative services divisions.
Feature Programs. The final schedule of 21 events included a “Civility Flash Mob” orchestrated by a student who felt strongly about the uncivil behavior on campus. She developed different scenarios that featured talking loudly on a cell phone, stealing, littering, and disrespecting others, and she recruited students, faculty, and staff to act them at unannounced times and places during the noon hour. This event was not advertised, and after each scenario the actors revealed their campaign t-shirts, stood in a semi-circle, and addressed the audience with the statement, “All it takes is one simple action to change someone’s day.”
The student government and the student services division hosted a self-defense speaker from Fight Back Productions, and a local Rochester police officer spoke to residence hall students about the negative effects of social networking, gang violence, drugs, and alcohol. Students from the theater department joined representatives from Alternatives for Battered Women, a local nonprofit organization, to host “Try This on For Size,” an activity in which bruises were painted on students so they could “feel” the sensation of having someone else mar their bodies and experience how others responded to their bruises. In another activity, a counselor hosted Safe Zone Training for members of the campus community to become a certified “ally” for the LGBT community.
Secondary Programs. Other programs offered students a chance to read statistics on violence and sexual harassment, or ways to actively counter violence. For example, for the Brick Wall of Violence/These Hands Don’t Hurt pledge drive, tables were set up around campus were participants were able to sign a pledge committing they would not participate in violence and would stand up for victims. The committee showed the movie, The Blind Side; posters flanking the screen asked thought-provoking questions for viewer reflection during the film. The questions covered subjects such as being a victim of violence, judging someone before getting to know him or her, and being a recipient of a random act of kindness. Information was provided on joining Big Brothers/Big Sisters and becoming a foster parent.
Impact on the Campus. The campus community was influenced by these programs in numerous ways. The giveaways were spotted all over campus not only during the week of the campaign but throughout the rest of the semester as well. The committee received many comments from members of the college about how individual programs affected them, caught their attention, or informed them about an issue of violence. A few examples of these comments follow:
- "The Enough is Enough campaign helped me learn and understand what sexual harassment was. It also taught me ways to help identify and prevent sexual harassment in my community. My favorite part of the Enough is Enough campaign was the Students Fight Back self-defense presentation. It was very inspiring and has motivated me to take a self-defense class so I can learn how to protect myself. Another thing I enjoyed when participating in this program was pledging to be violent free and I often repeat to myself ‘what have you done to stop the violence’ and this helps me remember to fight back against the violence and inspire people to do the same."
- “The Enough is Enough campaign programs that were hosted at MCC this past year helped me in so many ways. Not only did they make me hyperaware about what is going on in the world around us and what is the reality of the lives of so many; it also helped to empower to make a difference. These programs have made me confident that if I were faced with a situation of any type of violence (either towards myself or another), I have the power to PUT AN END TO IT.”
- “Howdy, I just have to say… Sara’s painting of bruises on students to show what it feels like to ‘wear’ a secret had an amazing impact! About 6-8 students walked away with bruises and shared their stories with us of physical abuse and rape. It was just amazing with how many students wanted to share their story and heartbreaking with how many students had a story to share. Thanks Rebecca for giving me an opportunity to be involved in the Enough is Enough campaign. What a great program for the college!”
Overall, people who participated in the campaign learned how violence affects all kinds of people, how violence shows up in many different forms, how people can protect themselves from violence, how people can help someone else who is experiencing violent or provoking situations, and how it’s ok to talk about violence.
Moving Forward. This year the committee will take the series of events created last year and dissect what was successful, impactful, and feasible. The committee will expand on the goals and make them more explicit while targeting a specific population for the keynote address. The committee wants more student participation in the planning and implementation of programs during the week-long campaign.
The Enough is Enough campaign is a critical element on MCC’s campus because it exposes students to issues they might not be aware of, it validates what people are going through, and it gives people hope: hope that the future can change, and that we might be able to create and live in a more civil society. The committee anticipates that the Enough is Enough Campaign will become a campus tradition full of high-impact practices, excitement, awareness, and motivation for members of the campus community to become change agents. The committee hopes that this campaign is something that students, faculty and staff alike will keep in their minds as a way to live year round.
Rebecca Herzog is program coordinator in the Office of Student Life and Leadership Development at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York.
Opinions expressed in Learning Abstracts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.