Civility focus spawns campus involvement group

February 5, 2014

PLAINVIEW -- Wayland Baptist University’s ongoing emphasis on civility took center stage during Wednesday morning’s chapel service in Harral Memorial Auditorium as the School of Fine Arts led in a time of reflection on what it means to be and act civilized.

Wednesday’s chapel, “Wayland the Barbarian, II,” was a continuation of a chapel service held last October at which time the emphasis was placed on uncivilized behavior. Through the process of scripting the performance Runnels researched what other religious and secular organizations are doing to address civility. He came up with the idea of challenging students to join a group dedicated to performing one intentional act of kindness every day.

Runnels said people need to understand the importance of a simple act being passed on from person to person. He said researching the project even had a profound effect on him.

“It seems like a little, small thing, but before you know it … I found myself more conscious of other people ‑‑ more conscious of holding a door open or saying the right things,” Runnels said. “If you’re thinking about kindness every day, then you end up doing it.”

The chapel production pointed out some of the little things people can do that make a big difference such as writing a thank you note or saying a kind word. The service also touched on ways to have civil conversations about hot-button issues such as race and politics.

Several academic deans gave a response following the presentation, pointing out different acts that each person can do to behave in a more civilized manner. Dr. Cindy McClenagan, Dean of the School of Languages and Literature, complimented students for writing thank you notes to scholarship donors, and encouraged them to continue with that act of kindness.

Dr. Herbert Grover, Dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences, pointed to simple things like recycling that make a big difference on the environment. He encouraged students to think about where they are depositing their empty drink cans and water bottles.

Dr. Ann Stutes, Dean of the School of Music, encouraged students to “start small and think large.

“I think that regardless of our theology, our philosophy or whatever paradigm it is in our world that drives our life choices, we all know in our heart that civility is the right choice,” Stutes said.

Runnels isn’t sure what form the new act-of-kindness group will take, or how many students will sign up to participate, but he hopes it is something that will grow and influence the university community.

“We will form a group on campus,” Runnels told the students. “Not one that meets regularly or has any set rules or anything like that, but one that believes that doing a simple act of kindness a day can change the world.”