Civitas: What is it?

Civitas, a new initiative that promotes civility-based programs and attitudes throughout the AU community, debuted this semester.

Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor of Italian literature and civility at Johns Hopkins University, helped establish the first civility project at Johns Hopkins in 1997. This venture motivated other universities to create similar programs in hopes of creating a more courteous atmosphere for the community as a whole, according to the Johns Hopkins Web site.

"To live a long, healthy and serene life, we need the help of a network of caring people-we need social support. In order to gain and to keep social support we need social skills," wrote Forni in his book "Choosing Civility."

According to Sara Waldron, assistant dean of students, Dr. Forni attended an annual retreat planned by AU's directors of Campus Life last June, and inspired AU to create a program that concentrates on the idea of civility - Civitas.

Civitas is a program designed to "extend beyond basic etiquette" and to have the entire AU community think about how we "treat and speak with each other," according to Waldron.

"Civitas means city, especially in the sense of a community," said Bernard Schulz, assistant vice president of campus life, when describing the program.

Schulz said that the whole concept is geared toward interaction of the faculty, staff and students as a community where people respect diversity in a civil nature.

"It wasn't prompted by any event, but situations have arisen [and] we have an obligation to one another to engage in proper discourse," Schulz said. He believes that "there will [always] be disagreement, but it can be dealt with civilly."

Both Schulz and Waldron are adamant that Civitas is "not in response to any one thing," but that it will help to serve as "an illustration of how we conduct ourselves."

Director of New Student Programs Tiffany Sanchez said that Civitas is about teaching people about themselves and others at AU in terms of being part of a more civil and responsible community.

"The core piece of the whole idea is to have people think about their actions in the classroom or [on the] Quad," Sanchez said. "I think we have a civic community and this will take it one step further."

Student Confederation President Nick Terzulli believes that Civitas is a great idea because it will make people think about if they are being polite.

"It's important for any community to explore the meaning of civility," Terzulli said. "The mud incident is a good way to explore civility. Were students and [members of] public safety acting civilly that night?"

Students who want to get involved with Civitas or learn more about the program can e-mail the Office of Campus Life.

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