Humboldt State University (California) initiated the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility. It states, «I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.» Students define for themselves what it means to be socially and environmentally responsible. Students at over a hundred colleges and universities have used the pledge at some level. The schools involved include small liberal arts colleges (Colgate and Skidmore); large state universities (Oregon and Utah), and large private research universities (Harvard and Stanford). The Pledge is also now found at graduate and professional schools, high schools , and schools overseas (e.g., in France, Taiwan, Canada, and Australia).

Graduates who voluntarily signed the pledge have turned down jobs they did not feel morally comfortable with and have worked to make changes once on the job. For example, they have promoted recycling at their organization, removed racist language from a training manual, worked for gender parity in high school athletics, and helped to convince an employer to refuse a chemical weapons-related contract.

Manchester College now coordinates the campaign effort, which has taken different forms at different institutions. At Manchester, it is a community-wide event involving students, faculty, and staff. Typically, over fifty percent of students sign and keep a wallet-size card stating the pledge, while students and supportive faculty wear green ribbons at commencement and the pledge is printed in the formal commencement program. Depending upon the school, it might take several years to reach this level of institutionalization. If one can get a few groups/departments involved, and get some media attention on (and off) campus, it will get others interested and build for the future. The project has been covered in newspapers around the country (e.g., USA Today, Washington Post, Associated Press, and Chronicle of Higher Education), as well as being covered in magazines (e.g., Business Week), national radio networks (for instance, ABC), and local T.V. stations (like in Ft. Wayne, IN).

In a sense, the Pledge operates at three levels: students making choices about their employment, schools educating about values and citizenship rather than only knowledge and skills; and the workplace and society being concerned about more than just the bottom line. Think of the impact if even a significant minority of the one million college graduates each year signed and carried out the Pledge.

The Campaign has a web site, at http://www.graduationpledge.org

PLEASE KEEP US INFORMED OF ANY PLEDGE EFFORTS YOU ARE EVEN CONSIDERING TO UNDERTAKE, AS WE TRY TO MONITOR WHAT IS HAPPENING, AND PROVIDE PERIODIC UPDATES ON THE NATIONAL EFFORT (INCLUDING HINTS ON A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN).

Contact NJWollman@Manchester.edu for information/questions/comments.

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