The Speaking Tradition at CNU

The Speaking Tradition at CNU



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Christopher Newport University is the youngest public university in the state of Virginia. It was originally established in 1960 as Christopher Newport College, an extension of William and Mary. It attained its independence from William and Mary in 1977 and became a full university in 1992. In 1996 CNU made plans to become more competitive led by newly appointed President Paul Trible. The transformation of the school has been a huge success, expanding university property, adding new buildings and residence halls, and renovating the admissions process and academic programs. The administration and faculty have worked hard to establish traditions at this newly emerging university. These “new” traditions that have been established are; an honor code, ringing of the bell at graduation, and a speaking tradition. The speaking tradition is basically common courtesy in the form of holding doors open for each other, making eye contact, saying hello when passing each other, and treating your peers with mutual respect. During convocation I listened to President Tribble elaborate on this tradition and its importance, and mention it as one of the many factors that make CNU a truly special place. I decided to do my auto ethnography on this culture that the University has attempted to create, and see if they succeeded in doing so.  You receive information from interactions with people through your senses that your brain combines through perception to create something meaningful. Expectations effect the way we perceive information to fit it with our past experiences. As I approached my dorm I saw my friend Tyler holding the door open for me. Information he had received made him feel that holding the door open was the right thing to do. He is sending me information of respect and generosity, and he expects that I will make eye contact with him and say thank you sending him information of mutual respect and gratitude. ( ,

Snippet of Field Notes:  “I watched someone coming out of the building hold the door for someone who was on their way in. As I approached getting within ten feet that person held the door open for me. As I walked through I saw someone on their way out and in turn held the door open for them, a chain reaction of respect and upstanding behavior.”

Field Notes:

–   9/14  Potomac North does not offer an adequate number of washing machines for its residents. There may be machines on the first floor for residents but I haven’t seen them. There is a laundry room on the third floor that has TWO machines in it. Not only is there constant competition to get one of these machines creating tension between residents, but the machines cost $1.50 each. I feel like paying $3.00 to do a load of laundry is steep. Especially for broke college students, paying how much we do to attend this school annually. They could at least make the washing machines bigger, I’ve been in a bind between doing two separate loads that would cost $6.00 and cramming everything in one load risking the clothes in the middle not even getting cleaned.  EDIT: 9/21 one of the washing machines is now “out of order” there is a single working washing machine.

–   9/15  A couple buddies and I were going to a friend’s house off campus. Once we were in the car and about to leave my friend said he was going to get out of the car and go assist someone who had just asked him for help on his math homework, and would walk to the house in 15 to 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe the generosity. I have no problem helping people with their work, in fact I find it rewarding and good practice for class. But if I am already doing something I usually try not to go out of my way, which is why I took notice of his kind act. I decided to leave and pick my friend up twenty minutes later so he wouldn’t have to make the hike, he thanked me several times.

–    9/16 I woke up at 10AM for my 10AM today. I ran to class and got there at 10:06. My professor didn’t penalize me since she could tell I ran due to being out of breath and a little sweaty. I was thankful for her generosity.

-9/17Walking into the cafeteria to get dinner. I wasn’t greeted as usually but reminded that the cafeteria was closing in 14 minutes. This was annoying to me, maybe because it wasn’t what I expected. I already knew the cafeteria was closing in 20 minutes because I eat there every day, so I’m familiar with the hours. I may be irritable due to the stress of studying for multiple exams this week.

–   9/18  I’ve noticed that most of the people here on campus have common courtesy. If it’s convenient for both of you the door is usually held open. People say hi to people they don’t know, but usually only if either person isn’t with other people. People smile at each-other for the most part, the campus is generally friendly.

–   9/19  Was eating dinner in commons with my friends. Saw girl sitting alone and looking around nervously. Asked friends if we should invite her to eat with us, they said no. She was in my line of vision so I had to watch her while I ate, feeling slightly guilty because I would want someone to invite me to sit with them. Someone came and sat across from her. She was probably expecting them the whole time hence the looking around.

–   9/20  CNU destroyed ODU at the hockey game. The Uber driver who drove me and my friends gave us his phone number and told us to call him instead of contacting him through Uber and he would give us cheaper rates. Apparently Uber takes 20% of his earnings.

– 9/21Held the door to the dorm open for a group of people walking up behind me. Each one of them individually made eye contact with me and thanked me, it felt rewarding. Interesting that one can receive a benefit from doing for others.


I usually didn’t record my field notes until the end of the day so I had to remember my occurrences throughout the day to add to my list at night. That being said I was always on the lookout for information I could possibly add. I would say I enjoyed this aspect, it really made me take notice of the way people act and treat each other here on campus. One thing I took notice of is that people were more inclined to practice the speaking tradition when walking alone, and were too occupied to do so when in groups. This project really broadened the definition of information in my mind more than what you study for a test, type in a calculator, or record on a grocery list. In class we watched a TED talk on filter bubbles, which is when search engines use what they believe is our personal preferences to filter the information they provide us. This is a problem because the internet needs to show us all information that is useful to us not just what we want to see, but what we need to see. When I type in “Barack Obama is…” on google the results that come up are “Barack Obama is the Antichrist”, “Barack Obama Issues”, “Barack Obama is the Manchurian Candidate” among other neutral or negative results. I don’t search google for anti-Obama webpages nor do I affiliate with either political party yet at this time. I do click on some of my Republican family members posts on Facebook sometimes that portray conservative views. Is this why google thinks the top article I want to read is “Obama is the Antichrist”? This is an example of the problem with social bubbles as I would much rather google suggest more useful articles on our nation’s leader.


My auto-ethnography and field notes changed the way I view information. It is everywhere and everything, and we are constantly sending it and receiving it sometimes without even knowing it. Through my field notes I came to the conclusion that Paul Trible’s speaking tradition does generally exist here on campus. Not everyone participates in it every day, but you can always count on being treated with respect here. Through being treated with respect (receiving information), and treating others with mutual respect (sending information), we all come to expect it from one another creating an exceptional environment to live and study in.


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