The civility flag is a symbol and tradition of Arcadia, so ingrained in the foundation of the campus and institution that it is a core piece of the University’s identity. The flag discourages bigotry and stands for respecting all members of the campus community, regardless of circumstance or difference. It was actually one of the factors that determined my college selection. Where I come from— a small town in Texas— the concept of a flag to promote kindness and respect would have been a joke. Not that my high school wouldn’t have tried; no one would have paid notice.
When I received an email from Student Affairs that there had been reports of racially offensive language being used in our community last October, I stared at my computer screen for what felt like hours, reading the words and feeling the weight of them. This may seem like a pretty dramatic response to an email, but hear me out.
I chose Arcadia University for so many reasons, one of which was the presence and importance of the civility flag. I step onto campus and I can actively feel the safety and comfort provided by the accepting environment.
– Olivia Armacost
Leaving Texas was not an accident. I have wonderful friends, an exceptionally supportive family, and a thriving day-to-day life, all of which were unbearably hard to leave behind. However, I had always seen college as my way out of the South. I, of course, do not generalize the South as being a bad place and absolutely do not believe that it is inhabited by bad people. I can only speak from my personal experiences, many of which pertain to listening to vile racism, bigotry, and hate. Racial slurs littered the hallways of my high school. Sexist jokes sat at the center of “humor,” shrugged aside by the vast majority of the institution’s population. Living this way was nothing but exhausting, infuriating, and disheartening.
I chose Arcadia University for so many reasons, one of which was the presence and importance of the civility flag. It is important to me because it works. I step onto campus and I can actively feel the safety and comfort provided by the accepting environment. You can’t say hateful things here. And on the rare occasion that someone does, it doesn’t slip into the fabric of conversation. The students and educators are brave enough to stand up and say “no.” We need the civility flag to keep this spirit alive.
When an act of incivility occurs on or near campus, students are encouraged to report the occurrence to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Student Affairs, Public Safety, or any faculty member in order to begin the process of finding a solution. After the initial report, a thorough investigation is conducted by the university, working with all affected individuals. Based on the conclusion of these investigations, the University decides whether or not to lower the civility flag and inform the community of the instance of incivility.
I speak for myself and numerous other members of the community when I say that I will not tolerate hatred and bigotry. I will not sit idly by if the community I have spent so long wanting shifts into the one I left behind. While I was discouraged by the lowering of the civility flag that occurred last semester, I am in no way without hope. Because here, we talk about it. This is a place so committed to their environment that discussions, conferences, and meetings are held to not only express and address concerns, but to educate those who have questions, giving us the tools we need to be the accepting people that the Arcadia community is built upon.
The university has hosted a series of discussions under the umbrella of Civility in Action and Breaking the Silence, broaching topics ranging from race, mandatory orientation on civility for all students, the effect the civility flag has on the university, and beyond. These meetings are meant to open a dialogue between students, faculty, and staff, allowing for an even more accessible platform to discuss ideas and thoughts on how to better improve campus culture.
I am proud to walk past the civility flag everyday. It is my greatest hope that it continues to be respected and honored, raising the standard of the words and actions that we, the students, faculty, and entire community, demand.