Posted February 24, 2012 by Erin Morrell 

All We're Asking for is a Little Respect

As Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.” This rings true, especially for me and the other staff in my department this year. I’m not sure if it’s this generation of students or perhaps just the students at my institution, but the lack of respect toward professional staff and each other has declined.

If you ask any of my friends or colleagues, they’ll tell you I’m mostly a positive person that occasionally vents my frustrations, and then I move on. I always do my best to respect what people are saying, even if I happen to disagree.

Lately, I have seen more students blatantly ignoring a staff member’s request to be quiet in our residence halls or ignoring the simple respect level that should be expected. We’ve even had some staff members on the receiving end of students swearing and screaming at them for no reason. While we don’t tolerate this behavior, it still occurs.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times students will see me in my office on a phone call (whether personal or work related), and they will just come in and sit down and wait for me to be finished. Other times, I will have students that will knock while I’m on the phone or in a meeting and interrupt me because they “need” something. Since I’m at a small school, we don’t have an administrative assistant or anyone that prevents this. While I’m all for customer service and trying to help each student as much as possible, it has become increasingly frustrating when I can’t even eat my lunch without someone interrupting because they “just have a quick question.”

While I’m sure this post seems like I’m just complaining, I decided to write about this not because I want sympathy, but in hopes that others have seen this and have some good advice on how to approach the topic. We recently brought in a speaker to talk about civility and respect that we required all of our students living on campus to attend. He did have a positive effect on many of our students. A good amount of students stayed after the program to speak with him, and we even received some emails saying that what he talked about resonated with them. I still noticed that some didn’t pay attention and were even being rude and making jokes during the presentation.

While I know this isn’t an easy fix, and certainly we are always going to have some students that just don’t appreciate others and what they bring to the conversation, this experience has taught me to be more patient, but also more strict about “my time.” 

Do you have this type of issue on your campus? How do you address it?


Erin Morrell

Erin Morrell is the Associate Dean for Campus Activities & Orientation at Albertus Magnus College.

Erin has responsibilities in advising student organizations, including the programming board and student government, and supervising department student employees. She oversees the Albertus@Night late night programming series, and serves as the Director of New Student Orientation.


Thanks for sharing Erin. I can empathize with your observations about the occasional rude or "entitled" approach some of our stindents choose to exercise. Even at a larger school, the front-line defense of an assistant or student staff can do little to deter a student on a mission. And those quick questiins inevitably are anything but, in my experience. If/when the opportunity presents itself, I never back down from providing the student some useful feedback on how to navigate their next encounter with a staff member. Whether I do that before or after helping them depends on how snarky I feel like being in the moment. To my surprise they are usually receptive to feedback, and I always offer it from a position of wanting to ensure they don't frustrate my next colleague. It may not help in the encounter I have with them, but I think of it as paying forward a little bit of social excellence. I'm curious what others think too.
Jeff Pelletier
Comment posted 02/24/2012 6:46 PM
Students in these modern times don't possess the traits and attitudes of students in earlier days. They exhibit lack of attention and lack of respect towards their elders. I am not saying all students, but a lot of them. How is anyone to teach or learn with this type of disruption?
Comment posted 02/27/2012 3:42 PM
Somewhat in the same boat as Erin... working at a smaller school and with multiple entrances to the office, many people don't know exactly where to go. If they're familiar with the office, they know EXACTLY where to go. And both situations do offer some learning experiences, although there are some frustrations along the way. I am surprised at how much more "entitled" (to use Jeff's word) some students are. I literally had a closed door phone meeting (probably for ACUI) when I heard a knocking at my door. Thinking it was one of my staff who needed something in a pinch, I opened the door only to find that it was someone who had come in the side entrance (our office assistant sits outside the main entrance) and was looking for directions. Seriously? Who knocks on a closed door?
Joe Gutowski
Comment posted 02/27/2012 4:49 PM
We are going through some of the same things, Erin. We are noticing some directed towards staff, however much of it is in the way they treat each other. We are seeing more "out of the norm" respect issues in the halls and around campus. I am not sure what it is, but it sounds like many of our institutions are in the same boat. Unfortunately, it may be a generational or cultural thing much larger than the confines of an individual institution.
Tim St. John
Comment posted 03/01/2012 2:20 PM
It's actually kind of calming (yet scary) knowing it is not just my students. The standing in the doorway or pointing to the chairs in front of my desk while i'm on the phone is a common occurance and i'm always surprised by it. We also notice disrepect for each other, disrespect for authority in general and very little concern for consequences. In small groups or individual discussions students will tell me they find it disturbing but also admit they are not willing to speak up to their peers about inappropriate actions or words. For me I try to address the action, explain why its not okay( sometimes they really don't know) and then try to apply the "what would you do if.." question. One thing is for sure, the generation gap widens each year in more ways than I anticiapted.
Comment posted 03/01/2012 3:14 PM
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