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Creating an Intentional Community of Compassion
by Jim Malley

On May 4, 2015, the CCSU Faculty Senate unanimously endorsed the Campus of Compassion campaign and recommended the appointment of a Presidential Committee to oversee efforts “to weave the principle of compassion into the fabric of CCSU university life and its neighboring communities.” During the floor discussion, one senator asked, “what would this resolution allow our campus community to do in the future that we are not already doing?” It’s an important question.

We humans have a great capacity for compassion, but its a not always in the forefront of our consciousness. Let’s face it – more often than not, we are on autopilot focused on just getting through the day, fighting traffic, answering e-mails, working to-do lists, and getting to classes and meetings on time. Compassion takes a back seat when we are otherwise preoccupied and self- absorbed. A study conducted in the 1970’s at the Princeton Theological Seminary provides a good example.*

A group of seminarians were assigned the task of studying the parable of the Good Samaritan, preparing a sermon about it, and walking to another building to deliver a sermon on the topic. Unbeknownst to the students, the researchers planted a man appearing to be suffering at the entrance of the building where the students were to deliver the sermon. What happened? With perhaps the most famous story of compassion firmly implanted in their brains, more than half of the seminarians walked into the building without offering the suffering man any help, some literally stepped over him to get into the building!

The study illustrates that compassion does not come naturally, especially in an culture that measures self- worth on the basis of narcissistic values like social status, financial or political power. Like a virtuoso violinist or champion athlete, cultivating compassion requires a quality of mindfulness that comes only from intentional practice and reflection.

To intend something is to focus on the goal like an archer fixes aim on a target. Extraordinary human feats have resulted from the power of intention, not the least of which was landing a man on the moon.

There is clear evidence that our society’s failure to cultivate the positive qualities of human empathy and compassion is at the roots of the world’s most troublesome problems including intolerance, racism, hatred, violence and poverty. Terrorism, the massacres at Sandy Hook and Charleston, racism, rampant drug and alcohol addiction, even environmental destruction can all be traced to a failure to cultivate positive human qualities. Universities, the home of many of our nation’s leading thinkers, must be a place for finding solutions to these global problems that contribute so much to human suffering.

By intentionally making compassion a dynamic force on the campus, CCSU will foster a more mindful and compassionate staff and faculty, promote scholarly inquiry and research on compassion, and increase community engagement and service learning. A compassionate community will also contribute to student health and well-being.

* Darley, J.M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.

For more on the benefits of compassion see: compassionate_mind_healthy_body


Compassion in Action


This page showcases examples of
charitable acts and service projects
that effect the CCSU campus.