Rutgers To Launch ‘Project Civility’ Sept. 29

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NEW BRUNSWICK – P.M. Forni, professor, author and noted advocate of civil behavior as an essential component of society, will be featured at two public events to inaugurate Project Civility, a two-year, campuswide initiative being launched this month at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The kickoff event, a public lecture, is at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 29, at the Rutgers Student Center, 126 College Avenue. Forni will be introduced by Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick.

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In his talk, Forni will be making “a strong case for good manners, politeness and civility in contemporary society.” “They are not trivial,” he said. “No society can survive it if does not have a substantial amount of goodness.”

The following day, Forni will moderate a panel discussion, “What Does Civility Do for Us? Respect, Restraint and Responsibility in Public and Political Life.” The event will take place at the Rutgers Student Center at 3 p.m. Panelists will be Ruth Chang, professor of philosophy; Douglas Greenberg, executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences; Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, and John Pavlik, professor and chair of journalism and media studies. Both events are free and open to the public.

Forni is the author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct (2002) and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude (2008).  He is a professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he has taught for 20 years.

Forni co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project in 1997, and is director of the Civility Initiative there. The program promotes good manners and the importance of kindness. Forni’s work has inspired civility projects nationwide. Los Angeles established May 13, 2009, as “Los Angeles Civility Day” after launching a civility project. Similarly, Rutgers has been inspired to expand on Forni’s work through Project Civility.

In addition to the public programs, Forni will lead an interactive workshop for professional staff and students involved in campus residence life on Sept. 30. The workshop will offer the participants tools for training their peers to cultivate respectful and inclusive living environments.

Project Civility is an attempt to revive ethics and a sense of social responsibility within the Rutgers community. The goal of the two-year project is to encourage small acts of kindness that will lead to positive changes in the overall campus atmosphere. It aims to reduce hostility and increase understanding and effective communication within the university.

Other Project Civility events scheduled for the 2010-11 academic year include “fireside chats;” a debate exhibition on civility on campus; a panel discussion addressing bullying, hazing and stalking, a panel discussion on technologies and civil behavior; and a program on sportsmanship. For a schedule of events and more information about Project Civility, go to http://projectcivility.rutgers.edu/.

Project Civility is sponsored by the offices of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. Kathleen Hull, director of the Byrne Family First-Year Seminars, and Mark Schuster, senior dean of students, are coordinating the project.


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