College students are departing for popular spring break destinations such as Cancun, Myrtle Beach and Panama City this time of year. These trips often bring out their worst behavior—from reckless alcohol consumption to destruction of property.  But those worried about the college culture can take heart that many undergrads still embrace and act according to more traditional values.

This month, the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, is running the NeW Gentlemen’s Showcase, a national contest to identify and honor campus gentlemen. To participate, women nominate college men by submitting a picture on Facebook with a note on why their nominee is a true gentleman. These nominees then compete for a $500 scholarship and the title of 2014 Gentleman of the Year. The contest runs through March 31.

The nominations of these men push back against the common caricature of the modern college man. Take the nomination of TJ Mason from the University of Virginia, which highlights that he is respectful and values women as intellectual equals, rather than conquests.

“Yes, he embodies the classic notions of chivalry – I have never seen him fail to hold the door or treat any woman with less than the utmost respect and humility. He is a trustworthy, upstanding member of the University of Virginia’s community of trust, holding his personal honor and integrity above all. But what strikes me about TJ is his respect for the modern woman. As a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, he goes head to head with women on a daily basis and displays a level of respect and esteem for female intellect that I am positive all NeW women can appreciate. He is a thoughtful listener, someone you can turn to for a cup of coffee to discuss anything from relationship woes to U.S. foreign policy. Rather than taking advantage of the ‘hook-up culture’ that pervades all college campuses, TJ still believes in dating; he is more interested in getting to know women who share his values.”

What makes up a college gentleman? A few common themes emerge from the nominations.

A college gentleman shows respect for others, regardless of who they are or what they can do for him. Here’s how Derrick Simms, a nominee from California State University, Los Angeles, is described by his nominator:

“Whether he is on campus or on set, Derrick unabashedly shows respect and consideration to everyone he is around. As a true gentleman, these traits are demonstrated not only through words but through actions. He is one of few who not only opens the door for his loved ones but strangers as well."

A college gentleman prioritizes helping others. Ivan Yim, a nominee from the University of Florida, was recognized for his selfless spirit and volunteer work.

“As a Dance Marathon Operations team captain, Ivan not only believed in the mission of Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, but freely supplied his time and support to encourage a healthier future for suffering children.”

A college gentleman is willing to stand up for what is right. Take this description of Christian Keen from Santa Fe College:

“Being a gentleman is not something that can be accomplished by simple acts of kindness; it is a lifestyle. A gentleman is someone who stands up for his beliefs. More importantly, he will stand up for others when no one else will because it is the right thing to do.”

And a college gentleman takes care of the way he presents himself. Here’s how Logan Mauk, a nominee from Virginia Tech and member of the Corps of Cadets, is described by his nominator:

“Even though his schedule is constantly busy, he is always willing to drop what he is doing to change a friend’s spare tire or lend a listening ear. And we can’t help but mention the fact that whether in his uniform or not, he is always dressed to impress!”

The women noted how these men acted on campus—with a respectful attitude, spirit of volunteerism and willingness to stand up to what is popular.

Worried about college men today? There is a lot of work to be done to counter the anything-goes attitude on many campuses, but gentlemen on campus aren’t going unnoticed. We must encourage more of them.

Karin Agness