Reflections on the Miami Code of Love and Honor – Line 2

This blog series shares my personal reflections on each line of Miami’s Code of Love and Honor, a statement of the core values at Miami to which we aspire.

Line 2:
I stand …
for honesty, integrity, and the importance of moral conduct.

Intelligence, technical skills, and field expertise are important, but not adequate, for meaningful success in career and life. What a person is – the kind of character they form and express – establishes the foundation for what a person does. Without a habitual pattern of moral conduct, the person will lack the temperament, strength, and resilience required for true achievement. In particular, without honesty and integrity, they will lack the vital elements of trust, respect, and collaboration.

Because these intangibles are not easy to measure and certify in the way academic degrees and skills are, they do not show up on a person’s résumé. Virtuous people are not likely to brag about their honesty and integrity, much less their humility – to them, these are ordinary, baseline ways of being. As our motto on the Miami University seal declares, we seek to achieve rather than to be conspicuous. Employers know these qualities are indispensable for the success of their organization, and they will prize Miami graduates whose liberal arts education grounds them in virtues and values.

I have served on many hiring committees in the academy during my career, and I know that moral character, especially integrity, is the No. 1 quality that people expect in their colleagues and leaders. It’s more important than educational background, work experience, publications, conference talks, grants received, professional honors, or any other item that might rank high in a curriculum vitae.

Part of the reason for this focus, I believe, is the impact a person’s moral character has on the community where they live, especially when they lead. Personal values and core virtues strengthen both the individual and the community, in an upward spiral where individual contributions elevate the group while the group’s healthy functioning uplifts the individual. Those human relationships depend on trust that is impossible without honesty and integrity.

The habitual practice of honesty and integrity is as vital for the life and education of a student as it is for the life and career of a graduate. Moral life begins long before commencement. The Miami community provides a foundation for education and interaction that fosters such a life, with respected scholars practicing integrity in their groundbreaking research, mentorship, and publications, servant leaders acting openly and transparently, and everyone alert to the importance of others’ success. In such an environment, each member naturally develops the personal habits of character and intellect that will continue to flourish for a lifetime.

Beyond the classroom, honesty and integrity are also necessary for the health of our human community. They must mark all of our dealings with each other, with our neighbors in the local community, and with every person we meet. The moral conduct that governs our interactions creates an environment where we all can flourish. This environment finds concrete expression not only in academic pursuits but in residence life, dining halls, playing fields, gyms and other venues where we encounter each other with respect and camaraderie.