Students pledge to behave responsibly beyond the classroom

Promising to uphold the oath takes only a moment. Students pin the green ribbons to their dark graduation robes, vow to "take into account the social and environmental consequences" of any jobs they consider, and cross the stage.

Upholding the oath is the tricky part. As thousands of college seniors venture into the job market, many are facing an age-old choice: Take a job for the money or to further some greater good?

"Most students are just concerned about their own employment, rather than thinking about what it will mean overall," says Neil Wollman, coordinator of the Graduation Pledge Alliance and psychology professor at Manchester College in Indiana. "Not only does [the pledge] remind students of the ethical implications of the knowledge and training they received, but it can help lead to a socially conscious citizenry and a better world."

What began as a small pilot project in the mid-'80s at Humboldt College in California has blossomed into an international effort to get students to think about how their work might affect the world around them.

"Sometimes people don't take into account their moral convictions," says Erika Sweitzer, who was on the alliance task force before graduating from Manchester last week. "[The pledge] would mean more involvement, like activism in the work place."

But might the students making pledges at the 130-plus participating schools be the very ones already thinking about the jobs they take and the businesses they support?

"Well, a million people graduate every year," Mr. Wollman says. "Even if a minority started taking this pledge, it could have an influence."

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