By Jetty Hartsky
As a community we might recognize “that the integrity of word and deed forms the foundation of all relationships,” but we hardly practice it. “What is integrity?” one might ask. In fact, “What does that have to do with my friends or professors?” While it may be true in an ideal world that integrity of word and deed forms a strong foundation in a relationship, often people do not recognize their actions directly improving or destroying a relationship.
When a friend pledges a dinner date and then doesn’t show up, you may or may not hold their act against him or her. But you rarely think, “His/her integrity is useless.” If we define integrity as simply being true to one’s word, then most of us do not live up to that standard 100 percent of the time.
The Rider community as a whole may recognize this principle as an abstract truth or law that governs human behavior, but certainly not as a practical “community value.” If merely recognizing this principle is sufficient, is it seen as a tactic for personal gain or profit? Or is it a way of life? At this point in time, our university is concerned about the perceptions that those outside of our community hold. We know that our integrity is being scrutinized and watched closely. However, I argue that we have overlooked our responsibility and sincerity toward our current students.
The appeal that Rider held of being a small, private and student-centered university was ultimately the factor that influenced my decision to enroll two years ago. I have found that numerous professors and departments are intently interested in helping each of their students succeed. However, expansion of the University by way of enrollment is no way to support this ideal of student-centeredness. Admitting more students does not ensure a better education. The University runs the risk of losing its intent to focus on students as individuals.
Progressive change is good when it builds upon positive qualities that have previously existed, not when it uproots them. Not only does this contradict the aspects of Rider that I treasure, it also shows little sincerity to the currently enrolled student body. Although we have more people who are a part of the community, it is becoming harder and harder to motivate people to act with integrity.
Every student learns from a teacher. What happens when that teacher (the University itself via decisions and practices) inspires the student to become focused on quantity, not quality? What happens if that teacher overlooks his or her lack of integrity to former promises? Motivational author and speaker William Arthur Ward proclaims, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” As a community, we are not inspired to embrace “that integrity of word and deed forms the foundation of all relationships.”