We will also shift the ethical climate on this campus. Some students come to us believing that they have a right to cheat and a right to plagiarize, as they have been allowed to cheat and plagiarize in the high schools from which they come. Often they don't realize what they are doing. We believe that for American higher education to stand by and countenance this for even two or three more years will make the efforts to correct this come too late. Dishonorable behavior is becoming institutionalized and that is a very serious problem for this nation.
We are only a speck on the body politic, but our conscience tells us we must do what we can. We must be satisfied that in the four years that our students are with us that we have given them all the tools. We must give them not only academic tools, but tools of personal ethics for them to go on and have a successful life; not only a successful living.
We will need some training for teachers who want to move in the direction of ethics, for some will need help in rethinking their lectures and teaching plans. Many faculty will not need it because, once again, we have been doing this at Muhlenberg College for many years and we are building on the firm foundation and the firm pillars that have existed here for decades. We will be the College of Caring and Character, which is stronger, more focused and more visible now that we have decided to move forward with intention.
Please keep in mind that when we talk about ethics and character, we are not talking about religious ethics; that is to be explored in other places. It is also true that it is hard to talk about character and ethics without touching on some religious themes because they are highly intertwined. This will be done in ecumenical ways so that the many faiths that are represented on our campus can embrace this and find something in it for themselves.
Now, this may take many years. Kathryn and I will not see the end of it because this is something that will have to be part of the soul of the College and be done in perpetuity. We are going to be the College of Caring and Character, which continuously improves.
The core of this effort will be the Center for Ethics and Leadership, under the direction of Professor Marjorie Hass. The Center has been in existence for more than six years and it has a remarkable record of achievement. It will continue, as it develops in the future, to supplement the classroom experience with frequent lectures, panel discussions and forums with people who have something to say about ethics, both good and bad. Professor Christopher Kovats-Bernat has been named assistant to Professor Hass and he will coordinate these activities as Margie works on future plans and faculty development. Kathryn and I will be deeply involved.
This movement will require funding and I hope it will bring forward not only large, but many small donations. It is a vote on the part of alumni and friends that they believe in what we are doing and find it consistent with their own conscience. All of us here on the campus are excited more than you can know about the fact that we will forcefully stand for things for which we have stood quietly for many years. We will do it publicly and we will look for students who wish to know about these things and we will literally change the face of the College before it is too late. The other places? They will have to deal with their own conscience when they understand that the current trends are becoming rapidly non-adjustable.
Everyone on this campus is revved up to move forward and we will do so. I would love to have your reactions.
Let me end with a recent Muhlenberg story. After the tragedies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania, we had rallies on the 11th and one on the 14th of September. Most of our student body and our faculty attended these rallies on the College Green. The scene was very somber. A few people spoke a few words, but the most poignant moment for me, when I felt tears running down my face, was when I realized that here were 1,500 of our students, with their hands over their hearts and their eyes on Old Glory. A few of these students had never said the Pledge of Allegiance before and many of them had never actually sung the "Star Spangled Banner" and certainly never "God Bless America". Yet their hands were over their hearts and I could see that the words had new meaning to them as they tried their best to follow those who led the singing. These are wonderful kids in every way.
Our College has a deep responsibility to see that we put before our students the choice of embracing these principles or rejecting them. I think we, the College, have no choice. We are now committed. We will move forward, on what we believe to be the right path.
Won't you join us?