Book by: Paul A. Elsner and George R. Boggs, Eds.
Review by: Becky Bailey
Office of Student Services
University of Louisville
School of Nursing
Stephen L. Carter, a Yale University law professor, wrote Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (1998). In it Carter defines civility as “the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together” (p. 11). This definition is cited in the book Encouraging Civility as a Community College Leader, a collection of the personal experiences shared by community college leaders who discuss how incivility affected them and the colleges where they worked as CEOs, directors, or presidents.
Authors of the book, Encouraging Civility as a Community College Leader, provide four personal accounts of incivility written by leaders in the community college system. This book points out that incivility can be overt unmistakable rudeness or something as subtle as people who are habitually late. Because community colleges are a foundation for our larger society, they should be at the forefront of civility and its expectations for our behaviors.
The accounts represent a variety of incivility that range from non-supportive behavior and verbal abusiveness to threats against the life of the leader and their family. Each contributor offered insight into the history of the incidents along with the personal background each brought to the college system they served. In some cases campus reaction may have been more accepting had the contributor’s background or the social environment had been different. For example, one woman felt that the college community would not have reacted in such a negative manner if the appointment had been filled by a man. Each leader sought to explain why they were met with incivility and how they chose to respond.
The book points out that students and employees of community colleges can not be expected to know acceptable behavior if that behavior is not outlined in a code of conduct. However it is important that boundaries be set through codes of conduct that do not violate laws such as the free speech expectations set forth in the First Amendment. Martha Gandert Romero MAM wrote that the community colleges work to maintain an environment where civility and conflict can exist together. There is an energy generated by conflict where we have the opportunity to exhibit civility and grow or turn against one another. Community colleges should provide a setting where individuals are free to express differences without creating a damaging environment.
Overall, contributors acknowledge the need for a code of conduct and a forum for conversation about acceptable ways to confront differences with respect. A recurring theme throughout the book was that community college leaders must understand the causes of incivility and find ways to model civility on campuses and in the community. The contributors hope community college leaders will address incivility, not tolerate it, nor ignore it, but confront it and model a better way to cope with our differences.
Although this book is written from the perspective of community college leaders such as presidents, directors, or CEOs, civility is a valuable topic for all. The civility challenge for an academic advisor will be on a different level than addressed by the contributors and was not the purpose of this book. Still, these are valuable accounts of acts of incivility encountered by college leaders; advisors interested in how these leaders dealt with incivility issues will find this book of interest.
Carter, Stephen L. (1998). Civility: Manners, Morals, and Etiquette of Democracy. New York: Basic Books.
Encouraging Civility as a Community College Leader.
(2005) Book by Paul A. Elsner and George R. Boggs, Eds. Review by Becky Bailey. 90 pp., $35.00, (paperback). Community College Press ISBN #0-87117-362-X