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Students pledge to remain ethical

Jan. 31, 2001

Alliance seeks to improve workplace



When Baylor seniors graduate this spring, they will set off in search of jobs that fulfill their goals, degrees and expectations. When seniors at Indiana's Manchester College graduate, more than half of them will search for jobs that not only fulfill their degrees and goals, but also their moral standards.

Manchester, an independent liberal arts college of about 1,100 students, started supporting the Graduation Pledge Alliance in 1988 and became the headquarters for the program in 1996. The Graduation Pledge Alliance is a voluntary pledge asking supporters to think about the ethical implications of taking a job. The pledge 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,' Neil Wollman, the pledge coordinator, said. 'The pledge was begun for students who, after graduation, wanted to carry on the values their school represented. Students agree that they will look into jobs or change their workplaces morally and environmentally for the better.'

Wollman said the program, which was begun at California's Humboldt State University in 1987, lost participation in the mid-90s until Manchester took over the program.

'We had 50 schools involved last year in some way or another,' Wollman said. 'We are expecting anywhere from 70 to 100 schools to participate this year.'

Individual schools decide how their students participate in the program. Wollman said that most schools find on-campus sponsors for the pledge. Students can either simply sign a pledge sheet or take the pledge a step further, as Manchester students do.

'Our students wear ribbons at graduation and receive a wallet-sized card with the pledge on it,' Wollman said. 'Then when they look in their wallet, they remember their pledge.'

The program encourages students to determine for themselves what they consider to be socially and environmentally responsible. According to the Graduation Pledge Alliance Web site, pledge takers have traditionally not taken jobs with companies that neglect or violate such issues as human rights, environmental responsibility, sweatshop labor and weapons manufacture.

The project emphasizes that pledge takers should not turn down jobs in businesses or occupations they like but do not meet their ethical standards. They should instead work to bring about positive social and environmental changes in that company's policies.

Manchester reports that graduates who have taken the pledge have promoted recycling at their organizations, removed racist language from a training manual and worked for gender equality in high school athletics. The results of a Manchester survey found that one student convinced her employer to refuse a chemical weapons contract.

Baylor student Rebecca Drennen, a Houston senior, said she believes the pledge is a worthy effort. She said that signing the pledge would make her think twice about some jobs if she 'thought that their attitude or complete vision gave off any negativity about work ethic or promoted racism.'

Last year, students at the University of Kansas, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Notre Dame all participated in the project. Wollman said he has received contact from students representing nearly 40 colleges and universities interested in supporting the program this spring. He believes that the effort can have a positive effect on society.

'If enough schools participate, then corporations will be worried graduates will ask about these issues and they will change their workplaces,' Wollman said. 'If enough people participate, it could have a major effect on society and increase concern of social and environmental issues.'

Students or organizations that are interested in participating in the project should e-mail Wollman at or visit the Manchester

Web site for more information.

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