A panel of 27 faculty members, after meeting on Feb. 25 for 70 minutes to discuss overall issues on campus, began a conversation of an honor code and civility that has culminated in an emphasis on the St. Mary’s Way, a document all incoming students see during orientation but seems to be less emphasized by the College this year with an increase in disrespect among different groups and disregard for civil behavior among students and faculty in day-to-day interaction.
In an email with subject line “On Civility” sent to students and faculty on March 10, College President Joseph Urgo emphasized a troubling observation: “Simply put, word on the banks of the St. Mary’s River is that people are becoming less nice.”
While this is something that not all students seem to notice outside of recent conflicts regarding the selling of Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the Daily Grind, overall civility on campus has taken a downturn with a rise in what Urgo called “mean-spiritedness.”
Students and faculty alike have shown less attention to one another on campus, with less of that inclusive, personal feel that the campus is known to possess. Given increased property damage this year, last year’s spray paint tagging issue by Joe Ireland, and what seems to be increased discomfort among members of the College community, Urgo’s email is appearing to be even more relevant as the semester continues.
These issues were mentioned before Urgo’s email to campus during an honor code discussion meeting on Feb. 25 to discuss overall campus issues. While the meeting initially began to discuss the College’s lack of (and potential need for) an honor code, the discussion turned into a conversation about a civil code, and how the importance of such a code seems more important now than it has in past years.
The panel, hosted by the ODK chapter on campus, was a continuation of honor code discussions hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA).
During the meeting, Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Tickle found an online version of “The St. Mary’s Way,” a document given to all incoming orientees as they are inducted into the St. Mary’s community. “The Way” details the importance of tolerance of the ways of others, respect for the environment and community, open dialogue among those with different views, and ethical values. While this is something the community sees during orientation, a large number of students do not remember even receiving this document, or remember its main points.
For the panelists, this seemed to be the workings of an honor code of its own. While its lack of visibility on campus, need for a more concise message, and need for edits were discussed, it became important to the panel for “The Way” to be more emphasized, in Residence Life, new student orientation, and everyday life.
“It shouldn’t just be an academic code,” said ODK President Mary Walters, head of the ODK committee discussing this issue and part of the Feb. panel. “It’s an honor code … that doesn’t directly say honor code, but more sends a subconscious message of integrity and respect, one more attractive and community-based.”
The meeting marked a need for an update of “The Way,” its modification to be more of the style of an honor code that the community can embody (without being explicitly called an “Honor Code”), and its potential enforcement in the case of major violations after its incorporation in To The Point.
“Everyone should be a part of it,” said Walters, “and we’re hoping that others carry this on [after ODK].”
By the end of the semester, ODK is hoping to give “The Way” more projection in the Campus Center, as well as on campus with flyers of what “The Way” means to students once the College furthers its discussion of the issue. In the meantime, ODK encourages the student body to voice its opinion of “The Way” and the idea of an honor code.
“It’s not solely an ODK thing,” said Walters.