Engaging Civic Ethos through Creed Week


Author
Michael L. Sanseviro, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, Kennesaw State University

Published
February 21, 2018


In 1998 during a particularly tumultuous time on a campus struggling with an infusion of diversity that forced students and employees alike to question their assumptions about inclusivity, Kennesaw State University developed a Student Human Relations Task Force to guide and inform the transition of campus culture.  To that end, The Owl Creed (so named for the institutional mascot) was born as an aspirational statement to define the character of the institution and establish a civic ethos for all future generations of students, their families, faculty, staff, and the greater local and global communities within which the members of the institution serve.

The Owl Creed reads: “The community of Kennesaw State University is steadfast in its commitment to academic excellence and personal integrity. Members of the Kennesaw State University community are obligated to a practice of civilized behavior. Choosing to become a member of this community proclaims the acceptance of KSU's Creed as suggested by the following ideals.

I WILL ALWAYS STRIVE FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE.

I WILL ALWAYS RESPECT THE RIGHTS, FEELINGS AND PROPERTY OF OTHERS.

I WILL ALWAYS ENCOURAGE UNITY BY APPRECIATING THE DIFFERENCES IN PEOPLE AND THEIR IDEAS.

I WILL ALWAYS REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE IDEAS SUGGESTED AND DETER ANY BEHAVIOR THAT THREATENS THE RIGHTS OF ANY KSU MEMBER.

I WILL ALWAYS STRIVE TO CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE WHERE IDEALS WILL DEVELOP AN ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL COMMUNITY THAT IS CIVILIZED, REWARDING AND DYNAMIC AT KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY.

The text of the full Creed is available online at http://advocacy.kennesaw.edu/owl-creed/student-creed.php.

As John Dewey (1937) reminds us, democracy must be “enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institution.”  As a division of Student Affairs, we reflected on our values and the role we are obligated to play in connecting the Creed anew to each generation of students that joins our community, while simultaneously refreshing the spirit of the Creed in a tangible way across the entire institutional community.  The Creed already displays prominently in our First Year Convocation ceremony each fall, where it has served as our Matriculation Pledge. However, beyond a handful of special appearances at ceremonies and events, how is the Creed infused in our daily lives?

Both in light of our national climate and its residual impact upon our local and campus communities, and 2018 being the 20th anniversary of the creation of The Owl Creed, the Office of Student Advocacy within the Division of Student Affairs spearheaded KSU’s first ever “Creed Week” from January 28 – February 3.  This week-long celebration included programs, activities, competitions, as well as providing time and space for people to just ‘be’ with one another, in the true Deweyan sense of educative and civic engagement.  For details and the full offerings of KSU’s Creed Week, visit http://advocacy.kennesaw.edu/creed-week/.

As a division and an institution, we have committed to making Creed Week an annual event. There was discussion about moving it to correspond with Constitution Week, a long standing theme week built around Constitution Day and National Voter Registration Day in September. However, I personally like having Creed Week as a free standing celebration in the Spring semester to compliment the efforts of Constitution Week in the Fall semester.  Yet I still struggle with the challenge of whether two theme weeks focused on civic learning and democratic engagement are sufficient to truly engage the civic ethos we strive to infuse across our community in our daily lives?

Maybe we need to embrace our inner John Dewey and reframe the question.  A core principle from Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916) is that “education is not a preparation for life but is life itself.”  Therefore, as Student Affairs practitioners, are we not uniquely suited to serve as the very soul of our institutions in our daily interactions with students? Do we not demonstrate and infuse our desired civic ethos in each and every individual interaction, much as one saves the proverbial starfish washed upon the shore – one starfish at a time?

References:

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.

Dewey, J. (1937). “Education and social change.” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 23, 6, 472-4.


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