Book by Judy Rookstool
Review by Barbara Kessel
Academic Advisor, Enrollment and Student Services
Idaho State University

Civility can be a difficult topic to broach since it has the potential to be viewed in negative terms and can be a complex concept to define and utilize. “Because there is so much discussion decrying incivility and the increase of rudeness in society…” (p. v) it begs the question:  what has happened to civility?  It would seem that the original intent of civility has been at a minimum altered, if not totally discarded. Courtesy, respect and open dialogue are the foundations of civility, which Judy Rookstool, author of Fostering Civility on Campus, explores from a positive viewpoint. In particular, she claims that college campuses could make civility flourish with instructors taking a leading role.

Beginning with the roots of civility from the Greeks and during the Enlightenment, Rookstool leads the reader through the subjective meanings and purpose of civility and how it relates to citizenship and diversity.  This relationship is best observed, “When people are engag[ing] in debate, shar[ing] knowledge [to] form the basis of dialogue that is aimed at reaching agreement while also taking into account the ideas of others” (p. 18).  She applies these concepts to college campuses, given that their primary mission is to educate and serve as a model for students.  In fact, she claims that not only should college campuses educate students but also instruct them on civility.  In order to accomplish this task, she suggests that instructors be vigilant concerning the inclusion of a civility statement on their syllabus, model exemplary civility and have the ability to detect and deter behavior that is uncivil.  Keep in mind that she is not alluding to etiquette, but rather adhering to the basic tenet of civility:  respect.  In other words, students should be able to engage in open discourse without the fear of reprisal, humiliation or ad hominem attacks.

This book is an excellent review of civility and democracy and the place they hold within higher education.  Rookstool offers many suggestions on how colleges can accomplish this goal and illustrates how others have already implemented these ideas, such as establishing a code of ethics.  In addition, numerous references and websites are presented to assist college personnel in establishing or reviewing a civility statement. 

The topic of civility is pertinent and relevant to education today.  However, Rookstool primarily focuses on community college campuses and instructors.  Universities and other key employees were not included.  Still, it would appear that her exploration of civility can be directed toward any college campus and, therefore, her discussion of civility should not be relegated only to the target audience.  Most, if not all, campuses can adapt this information to their unique conditions.  And, although the information may not be directly relevant for academic advisors, it is possible to utilize some of the information she provides.  Civility as a premise in interacting with students at any point is of utmost importance both individually and as a representative of the college.

Fostering Civility on Campus. (2007). Book by Judy Rookstool. Review by Barbara Kessel. Washington, DC: Community College Press.  68 pp., $38.00, (paperback).  ISBN # 978-0-87117-379-9
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |