Monday, May 5, 2014

Forget the "Cyber-bullying policy", forget the "Civility Policy" --let's just make all new students, all new hires, heck, let's make everyone at CSU attend Charm School!

While the faculty have their heads in their gradebooks this week two new policies are circulating around campus . One, a Cyber Bullying Policy, will be having its second reading at the Board of Trustees meeting this Friday, May 7th. It was trotted out at the Board meeting in March and I suppose if all goes well will be voted on at the June Board meeting. It was cribbed from something from Winston-Salem University (a problematic policy already) and doubtless, the academically-illiterate ruling body we call the CSU Board of Trustees will carry this water for the President it was appointed to serve.

These are the highlights:
Cyber Bullying is defined as any activity that deliberately threatens, harasses, intimidates an individual, places an individual in reasonable fear of harm to the individual or damage to the individual's property; or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the individual's daily life via the use of electronic information and communication devices, to include but not be limited to: email messages, instant messaging, text messaging, cellular telephone communications, internet blogs, social media sites, internet chat rooms, and internet postings.

Cyber bullying by a member of the CSU community directed towards another is prohibited.  It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sending mean, threatening or harassing messages to another person through texts, e-mail, web pages, or instant messaging. 
  • Spreading lies and rumors about victims through the internet or text messages. 
  • Posting pictures without the consent of the individual.
  • Tricking someone into revealing their personal information and sending it to others.
  • Creating websites, polls, or blogs about the individual that are meant to embarrass or hurt the person.
  • Recording conversations or videos without the individual's consent and then posting it online. 
Well, the thing goes on a little more about violations, suspension of privileges, disciplinary action... Excuse me while I reach for my copy of 1984. WW seems determined to stop the social media of this day and age. Good luck with that. 

Well, CSU's potential  Cyber bullying policy is one thing, but the really creepy policy that is being drafted right now and up for some discussion in some quarters is the "Civility Policy." I guess posting the CSU Code of Excellence on the walls of campus buildings just hasn't done the trick.  The Civility Policy seems to be a mishmash of ideas and language taken from rulings on workplace violence and a very negative view of human nature and a desire to monitor all individual behavior. I can't tell if they are purposely mixing all this up or are just too lazy to reason through the implications of what they are constructing in this list of do's and don'ts and we'll-get-youse-guys if you break these rules.  Be very afraid of this policy it seems to have the potential to allow anyone to charge you with anything if what you are doing, saying, how you are saying it, your posture, your gestures, makes them feel intimidated or harassed. This really is Orwell's dystopia. 

Highlights of this "draft" policy include such statements as: 

Any person who makes threats, exhibits threatening behavior, or engages in violent acts on university property shall be subject to removal from the premises as quickly as safety permits.  For the purpose of this policy, violence and threats of violence include but are not limited to:
·       Threatening or abusive behavior (written, verbal or physical);
·       Possessing weapons, including but not limited to firearms, explosives, knives, etc. in violation of the Prohibition of Weapons in the Workplace provision below;
·       Vandalism;
·       Harassment;
·       Intimidation (written, verbal, physical), gesture, or hand signs;
·       Assault (verbal or physical);
·       Physical contact (hitting, shoving, fighting, etc.).

Note: This list does not include every type of behavior that may be subject to this policy.

It discusses "Expected behavior" and "Unacceptable Behavior"

    Expected behavior.  As members of the Chicago State University community, all employees are expected to conduct themselves professionally and treat each other with civility and respect at all times, recognizing that disagreement and informed debate are valued in an academic community. 

    Unacceptable behavior.  Demeaning, intimidating, threatening, or physically or emotionally violent behaviors that affect the ability to learn, work or live in the Chicago State University environment are prohibited.

What is meant by "expression of intent to cause physical harm?"

Violence.  Violence is a behavior that causes harm to a person or damage to property or causes fears for one’s safety or the safety of others.  Examples of violent behavior include physical contact that is harmful and expression of intent to cause physical harm.  Such behavior is prohibited.  

RAT OUT YOUR COLLEAGUES, OTHER STUDENTS, WORKERS (cf. the Admin's hope that students will rat out profs to them in this year's SGA campaign, a la "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING")

    Responsibility to act.  A member of the CSU community who is involved in or witnesses behavior on campus that poses imminent danger should immediately contact the CSU University Police.

In situations that do not involve imminent danger or for advice on the appropriate course of action, a member of the community is to notify a supervisor, department head, or the Office of Human Resources.

And oddly this seems to appear out of nowhere...oh wait, it justifies one of our terrified administrators...

Orders of Protection.  CSU community members who have obtained restraining or personal protection orders are encouraged to provide a copy of the order to the CSU University Police for enforcement on campus.

Definition of Workplace Violence

The University defines workplace violence as a single action or a series of actions that constitute actual or attempted assault, battery, harassment, intimidation, threats, or similar actions against individuals, as well as actual or attempted destruction of, or threats to, University or personal property. A violation of the Prohibition of Weapons in the Workplace provision will be considered by the University to fall within the definition of Workplace Violence.
 Reporting Incidents
Employees who witness or are on the receiving end of threats of violence or any other situation that potentially falls within the definition of Workplace Violence should assess whether the situation is likely to result in immediate bodily harm...

As I said, I hope someone or the committee discussing this will refocus the animus of this document. In some of the literature on this topic, the distinction is made between "encouraging good behavior, be it civil, or ethical" and trying to "enforce" it. Fascism plays on the emotional over the rational and I fear this is the current campus climate the administration has created. The Administration will not engage its critics  and their "facts" and hard evidence, but rather complain about the "tone" in which it is delivered as "offensive" or uncivil or that it is being delivered "by people who do not look like the majority of our students/faculty/staff..." 

As an alternative to the Civility Policy I suggest Dr Watson found his own School of Charm. It would spare him from telling young men on campus to pull up their pants (hey, wait a minute--is that a form of bullying?). Think of it--young ladies (not women) balancing books on their heads to effect perfect posture, sitting with ankles (not legs) crossed, hands folded daintily on their laps, eyes cast downward,  men in jackets and ties (we could buy more of that green livery he likes to dress the kids in when he takes them to Springfield), opening doors for the ladies (not women), students standing when the faculty members enter the classroom, faculty standing when hizzoner the prez makes his impromptu visits to class, the cafeteria a place where people talk in hushed tones, the library likewise... department meetings all seriousness, decorum and hierarchy...

So, before we admit any more students, before we hire any new faculty (I know, LOL), let's make sure they all have their certificate from the approved CSU School of Charm. And just think, if we can change this outward behavior from incivility to civility then all our problems will be gone. 
Yeah, right.  

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