GPA Updates Log

Graduation Pledge Alliance - 1st Update for 2003-2004

Dear Pledgers,

Welcome to a new school year and a beginning or continuing effort for the Graduation Pledge at your school. As always, we hope you can take things up a notch (or more!) each year. And though it may seem early to think about graduation, the best efforts begin with fall planning.

---> Below is our popular "Steps" piece that has been helpful to many in

their Pledge efforts.

---> Before starting through the steps, note that our local organizers

---> have

taught us that things work best when a committee works on the project. And the ideal committee includes not only seniors, but juniors, sophomores, and faculty/staff.

---> Experience has also shown us the benefits of a committee structure

that will stay in place for the future (e.g., a permanent GPA organization, a permanent committee or project of an existing organization, an ongoing project of an academic department/program/center). Building in such continuity means a strong effort this year and progress toward getting the Pledge institutionalized--a regular part of graduation, recognized by campus publications, promoted by Career and Alumni Services Offices, incorporated into first-year orientation or academic programs, and the like.

---> Besides the "Steps" piece,  a visit to the website (with the

now-shortened address has been most helpful for both Pledge organizers and for those who will sign the Pledge. For example, there is a fuller description of the project and a list of schools involved--along with links to local Pledge school web pages. (Please let us know about changes in the schools listed or links to them.) For example, check out the sites for Middlebury College ( and the University of British

Columbia* (

--> It isn't too late to send us a report on what happened Pledge-wise

--> at

your 2003 graduation, and to send an email contact for the 2003-2004 school year. Thanks!

Finally, let us briefly report that last year ended well. Likely 120-130 schools were involved in the Pledge at some level, and we now have schools in Canada, France, Singapore, Australia, and maybe the Philippines participating (and some high schools and graduate school programs). Please send the below "advertising" piece to folks you know at other schools and encourage them to join and to contact us. We "spread the Pledge" in part through the great media attention we receive (for example, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, and France's Le Monde last year). But word of mouth, friend to friend, still works best.

That's enough for now. Keep in touch, and good luck for the year.


Neil Wollman, National Coordinator

Graduation Pledge Alliance

MC Box 135

Manchester College

North Manchester, IN 46962

(260) 982-5346

*UBC uses the term "Sustainability Pledge" to describe their efforts. In most all cases the term "Graduation Pledge," or some slight modification, is used by Pledge schools. (A few schools have changed the words of the Pledge statement a bit to fit their needs, which is fine with us.) If you have used or are considering using a different name for your effort, we prefer it contains the words "Graduation Pledge" somewhere in it.


Steps for Building Support for and Participation in the Pledge Campaign

"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."

At small schools in which high-level administrators can be brought on board quickly, it may be possible to start the pledge the first year it is attempted--and at the "whole-school" level. In most cases, however, things will move more slowly, going from having smaller groups being involved and informally, to when the Pledge, hopefully, becomes "institutionalized" and fully a part of the school officially as part of commencement and otherwise. Experiences at various schools suggest certain steps that will make it more likely that the school, as whole, will formally adopt the


1. IF ONLY ONE PERSON IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MOST OR ALL OF THE WORK, THE WHOLE PROJECT MAY COME TO A HALT IF S/HE FALTERS. While a highly motivated leader may be helpful in making the Pledge happen, a committee allows work to be distributed and enables people to pick up the slack when different members of the group have other obligations.

2. A PERMANENT GROUP IS BEST (campus organization, graduation pledge committee, official college administrative or student office) that makes sure the Pledge happens each year, as individual students who work on the Pledge will graduate. Find what makes most sense for your school and circumstances. Our ideal is the Pledge as a community effort, with students, staff, and faculty involved in planning. Earlier in its history, the Pledge was on a number of campuses, but disappeared in all but a few due to lack of institutionalization.

3. GET SOPHOMORES/JUNIORS/FACULTY INVOLVED TOO, as it helps insure that the Pledge continues. It also means that those involved in subsequent years aren't reinventing the wheel and can try to institutionalize the Pledge a bit more each year. One school gets non-seniors on campus to sign up, as well, in a show of support; while another school allows alumni to sign the pledge.

4. GET ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES that have sway over the commencement activities to come on board. If that doesn't happen the first year, it may in the future if there is enough grassroots support on campus.

5. GET CAMPUS GROUPS TO ENDORSE, participate, and get out word to their

constituencies: (a) student groups--e.g., social service, community service, environmental, peace, human rights; (b) programs/departments/ schools within the university--social work,, sociology, environmental studies, women's studies--or any socially concerned active ones on campus; and (c) offices/councils/centers--career services, community services, women's centers, Student Government. Another approach is to get senior class officers or reps involved, as they often have good channels of communication with other seniors.

6. GET AS MUCH PUBLICITY AS YOU CAN both on and off campus (local newspapers and TV often take an interest), as this will get people's attention and more students will get involved and participate. It will also help spread the idea to the general public and to other schools. There could be posters, displays in glass cases, materials at the alumni office, events at homecoming, etc.

7. DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR CAMPUS regarding specific actions tied to the Pledge. Here are some examples:


Have those taking the Pledge wear green ribbons, as might supportive faculty. This has become standard at many participating schools.

Get one of the speakers to mention the Pledge at the ceremony.

Have the Pledge printed in the commencement program.

Have posters/brochures describing the Pledge near the commencement festivities.

B. DIFFERENT SCHOOLS RECOGNIZE OR CELEBRATE THE PLEDGE IN DIFFERENT WAYS. Be it a reception for Pledge signers, a speech by a faculty member, or otherwise, think of good ways to make the Pledge a fuller experience for participants. At least one school has made attending a seminar relevant to socially responsible employment a prerequisite to signing the pledge; this might decrease participation, but increase commitment. Another possibility is to make such a seminar strongly recommended. One school has instituted an "Alternative Graduation" ceremony to celebrate/recognize the Pledge. Another has a Pledge taken by all first-year students which incorporates the basic Pledge ideas, but goes into other areas as well. Other possibilities include discussion in classes, introduction in first-year orientation, and Pledge-related service projects.


At Manchester, we give cards and diplomas (stating the Pledge) to participants well before graduation day. Such cards have become standard at many schools (see webpage for sample cards).

Another school has participants sign a poster, which is on display.

Another has people sign a sheet after they have gone across the stage and gotten their diploma.

Some schools sign up pledgers electronically (their own website, mailing lists, etc.).

Some do tabling during the spring term. IF YOU NEED TO GET SIGN-UPS QUICKLY, DO TABLING. And if you can, give out pledge cards, green ribbons, and some materials taken form the nation Graduation Pledge web site.

See another piece on the website called "Building Consciousness Raising Around the Pledge." It has various further ideas on institutionalizing the pledge (e.g., campus forums and bulletin board displays).

D. THERE IS MUCH INFORMATION AVAILABLE FOR PLEDGE SIGNERS AT THE WEB SITE FOR THE PLEDGE ( For example, there is information/links to socially responsible jobs, listings of questions one might ask a potential employer, links to information on influencing one's employer to be more socially and environmentally responsible. There is a "one page handout for graduating seniors" that gives some of theses ideas, but, importantly, gives the opening page website address for the Pledge so that signers can get full details on such concerns. Consider getting at least that page to all Pledge signers. Lead people to the web site or distribute such information to all graduates, Pledge signers, Career Services office, etc. Seriously consider listing the Pledge web page address ? and what is available there ? on the back of Pledge cards noted in 7C above.

E. CONSIDER WAYS TO REMIND AND SUPPORT PLEDGE SIGNERS AFTER THEY GRADUATE (articles or blurbs in alumni publications and materials, a listserve of signers, a GPA newsletter, a presence at any alumni events on campus or around the country, formation of a pledge committee of ten or more alumni who work to publicize and support previous signers.) And see a piece on the webpage on getting your alumni and career services offices involved in the effort.

F. A FEW SCHOOLS HAVE MODIFIED THE PLEDGE WORDING to fit their own needs. The Pledge wording is "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."



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 what being "responsible" means to themselves. Students at well over a hundred colleges and universities have used the pledge at some level. The schools involved include small liberal arts colleges (Whitman and Skidmore); large state universities (Oregon and Wisconsin), and large private research universities (Harvard and Stanford).. This now includes some schools overseas, graduate and professional schools, and high schools. 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, 50 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 just 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, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and Boston Globe), 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).

The pledge helps educate and motivate one to contribute to a better world.

Think of the impact if even a significant minority of the one million college graduates each year signed and carried out the Pledge.


Contact for information/questions/comments, or write GPA, MC Box 135, Manchester College, 604 E. College Ave., North Manchester, IN  46962. The Campaign also has a web site, at