Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guns, Civility and Campus Safety

The recent horrible events at Northern Illinois have led to many people asking for a reprint of my 2006 article on campus safety, Making Your Campus Safer Starting Today: Objective Correlatives, Broken Windows and Customer Service: 10 Steps to Increase the Feeling and Reality of Security on Campus. I am disheartened have to respond and reprint it here. The horror at NIU is too vivid to think about. The ideas in my piece may help but the reality is we need to look at something much more basic. We can do all we can to respond to these incidents on campus. We can do all we can to make the campuses more secure as I discuss in the article. But until we address the core issue, we will not stop these slaughters or the daily killings on our streets that will lead to our campuses.

In my forthcoming book The Power of Retention I discuss how the same students and people who live off campus come to our campuses everyday. The same issues that are reported in the metro section of our thinning newspapers walk onto our campuses, through our halls and into our classrooms everyday. We cannot escape the issues of society. So we need to face them head on and demand that we do something about these issues. We have to be there showing students and others the way to create greater civility and safety on our campuses and society.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is at the core of all shootings – guns and us. It used to be that we would read about people on campus shooting their mouths off at one another. And we would sort of look the other way and keep shuffling along. Then we shot our academic mouths off over guns but well we had other things to do like get a job so we let the mouths fall silent. And now, we don’t talk about the core issues of guns and our indifference to them and the people they kill because, well, they are not us.

Let’s realize that the people who died at NIU, Virginia Tech, Columbine and elsewhere died because people shot their GUNS off, not their mouths. Guns killed the people. Without the guns, people would still be alive.

We do have an opportunity now to get people to focus on the core issues of guns and us. We are in an election year. Candidates want our votes. The college age vote is central to any candidate getting elected this year. I ask every one of us to challenge the candidates of ALL and ANY office on their stance of at least handguns and automatic weapons. The ones that kill people not animals. If the candidate hedges or says he is in favor of individuals other than law enforcement officials having handguns or automatic weapons – shoot your mouth off and do not vote for them.

You like to go hunting. Well, that's your thing and do it safely. But handguns and automatic weapons? Only for hunting people. And the current laws? The NIU killer got guns legally.

And about ourselves. Caring, respecting and valuing others is a basic customer service and the central issue to civility. If you do not feel upset when someone shoots another on or off campus, then don’t claim to care please. People are dying on campus yes and that is horrible. But there are people who are being killed daily in parts of our cities, suburban and rural areas everyday too. They are just as important as those on campus. Their deaths are as real as those of our colleagues. Their families mourn with as deep a grief as anyone on campus. Their bodies are as dead as any shot in a classroom. They are as important as any one on campus is and we should care.

We need to realize that being in college does not allow you or any of us to just be concerned about what happens on our campus but on all the campuses of life. Shoot your mouth off about the value of all people and then treat every one even people you may not yet know with dignity and value.

Here’s a simple start. I know some will say it is dumb and will not stop slaughters in the classroom. They are right. My 10 suggestions below will do a better job on that. But it will help make life better for an important person - you. You will actually have a chance to make the world better even if it is just one small, one miniscule piece at a time.

1 Shoot your mouth off over guns. Make gun control an issue for candidates

2. Smile at every person you walk by and say”hello”. Just a simple “hello”. You’ll be surprised and pleased at the result. Some people will smile and say hello back. Nice feeling to have your value recognized even by stranger. The stranger is you by the way; not the other person. You take the action. More of the value of saying hello is in the article below and how it can help keep a campus safer. But here I want to simply stress the value of recognizing another. Many people kill others because they do not believe any one cares or values them so they reciprocate by not valuing others. Peoples’ murders become just a means of making a statement. We can replace that statement with another through hello.

3. Follow Good Academic Service Culture Principle 8

8. Just because someone else did a dis-service

or harm does not relieve you of correcting the injury.

Hey, I don’t even go to NIU. Right. You did not pull the trigger of a gun but that does not relieve you of the responsibility to heal the wounds to civility, social and personal well being the actual bullets caused.

3. Start today and DO SOMETHING Most people who read this blog are faculty, administrators and staff in higher education. We are in a position to do something. We can influence students and others. We can be the leaders on building greater civility on our campuses and in our societies. Recall why you became involved in higher education. Part of that was likely to be involved in building a better world and culture. Here is an opportunity to do that. Start by smiling and greeting your students in class and the halls. Engage students with a smile and shoot your mouth off about guns and civility with them. Maybe not in class because that is not what the classroom is supposed to be about perhaps but perhaps in the cafeteria, the halls, everywhere students are. Go to them. Smile and say hello then engage them in discussion about the issues of guns and civility.

Be a change agent. And if I can help, let me know. I will do all I can to help out.

HERE IS THE REPRINT. Making Your Campus Safer Starting Today. Click here

If you'd like me to send you a copy of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, just let me know. Be glad to do so. Just ask you share them with others. Click here

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits; workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. www.GreatServiceMatters.com 413.219.6939 info@GreatServiceMatters.com

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