In the past weeks I have been following the fallout stemming from the Central Student Government elections. Amid the allegations of voter coercion and mismanagement of election funds, I came to the disheartening conclusion that there’s a major problem on our campus — a problem that often goes unacknowledged. The matter in question is this: Nobody ever seems to talk about ethics until after someone has done something wrong.
The CSG election code is meant to establish a base level of ethical integrity, one that is expected to be used in carrying out a campaign. It presents candidates, whether running as an independent or a member of a party, with a universal standard that’s meant to be upheld by all parties involved. Yet in my time at the University, I’ve only seen it used as a device to disqualify the opposition. I’d like to believe that all representatives in the legislative branch of our system are committed towards the betterment of our community, but from reading the various responses issued by some of the main political parties on campus it has become clear that our government has fallen victim to many of the same petty squabbles that we see in the partisan-dominated U.S. government.
A similarly dismal state of affairs can be associated with the academic honor code and the lack of knowledge that the average student has regarding the code. Outside of the required comment on academic integrity that seems to be the mantra of every “Syllabus Week,” most students only become acquainted with the honor code after being told that they’ve been suspected of violating it. In coupling this with the increasing trends of honor code violations, I believe that a growing issue is present here.
I believe that the true issue at hand is that there’s a lack of discourse and awareness directed toward the broader topic of ethics. Students need to come to the realization that all of their actions have potential ethical implications, and with those implications comes an association that’s bigger than themselves. As we enter the workforce our actions are not only representative of our own ethical standard, but it also reflects on the ethical integrity of the greater University community.
I write to you because as the president of the University, you have a vested interest in maintaining the quality of its reputation. I also write to you because you once took a strong stance on the importance of ethics by leading an initiative for the creation of the Center for Ethics in Public Life. More significantly, when the center was closed in 2011, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald issued a statement saying that, “the evaluation was that its mission of ethics in public life was now embedded in the community,” and that “the provost’s office believed that would be sustained without having a specific center focused on that.”
Regretfully, I now say that whatever understanding of ethics that was then instilled in the community is no longer present in the actions of our students. We’ve reached an impasse in our campus community; I fear that honor and ethics are now principles found only in history and literature.
Patrick Baumhart is an LSA sophomore.