Reflections on the Miami Code of Love and Honor

cropped view of Miami's great seal

Even before Renate and I arrived at Miami, we were impressed by the Code of Love and Honor. It is such a distinctive statement of values among public universities, and each line has a meaning that resonates to me, personally. — Gregory P. Crawford, President

I am Miami.

I believe that a liberal education is grounded in qualities of character and intellect.

A Miami University education is not a four-year proposition but a 40-year one. It prepares students for a successful career as well as a flourishing life. Miami is a community of scholarship, teaching, and learning that imparts knowledge and wisdom from an amazing and accomplished faculty, and dedicated, committed staff. But at our foundation, we are a community, rich with human connections structured for mutual support, growth in personal values and virtues, the ability to learn, and service to others.

Our commitment to liberal education requires this human dimension. We are not in the business of merely transferring data to students so they can absorb facts and figures. Instead, we aim to bring students into an experience of the wealth of human knowledge and understanding, which finds expression in a rewarding life for individuals and societies. That life does not start upon graduation—it is an integral part of a Miami education that begins on campus and lasts a lifetime.

Liberal education at universities emerged in the 12th century to equip people for meaningful and successful life as free citizens and human beings. Its founders understood that progress, both personal and social, results from knowledge about the natural world and the ideas and achievements of people across history. They also knew that gathering students into communities was a vital element of such an education. Those principles remain relevant for the 21st century, even as dynamic progress requires attention to emerging competencies such as design thinking, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurialism and inclusive excellence.

At Miami, our grounding in these time-tested principles equips students for a dynamic synergy that accelerates learning and growth. With the Global Miami Plan at our core, we equip students for both lives and careers with high impact on the rapidly-changing world they will enter.

The intellectual and character virtues and values are not abstractions to Miamians. Critical thinking is exercised in the analysis of texts, faculty mentorship, and in-depth examination of issues. Perseverance is exercised in the arduous work of research and learning. Communication and dissemination are exercised in the production of publications and presentations. Wonder is exercised in the engagement with new questions and novel ideas. Openness and respect are exercised in dialogue.

Our goal is to position each student as an active participant in the community, respected as the agents of their own education, and expected to add their own contributions. Inspired by our faculty, students are creators of knowledge, not just absorbers of it. They learn to collaborate with others, including their professors and classmates, in teams where diverse insights are welcome. Growth in both character and intellect is accelerated by such relationships and interactions.

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.

I respect the dignity, rights, and property of others and their right to hold and express disparate beliefs.

Our Miami community is embedded in a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (men) are created equal," as Lincoln said, referring to the Declaration of Independence. Our national motto is "E pluribus unum"—from many, one. American history can be understood in one sense as an effort to make that assertion of human equality a reality for more and more people and groups, despite many failures and false starts. That goal of recognizing full human equality is fundamental to all of our activities on our campuses.

Recognizing our equality with others—and their equality with us—empowers us to practice the respect that this Code requires. The list of what we respect is comprehensive, from physical property to political opinions. Their dignity is no less than mine. Their rights are as non-negotiable as mine. Their property is theirs just as mine is mine. They have as much right to share their beliefs and opinions as I do. This inclusive excellence begins with empathy and finds its fulfillment in union.

All of this means that equality is far from a glib abstraction or content-free platitude. Rather, human equality is the organizing principle of authentic human society, whether the United States or the Miami University community. It resists discrimination, exclusion, bigotry, and the oppressive structures that treat others as inferiors or second-class citizens. Society guarantees its members opportunity to participate in its government and access to its goods. The public square is open to all the public. As the Myaamia language puts it, kakapaaci iišinaakosiyankwi—"we are diverse." When we include others, we are included; when we welcome others, we are welcomed; when we listen to others, we are heard.

Equality and dignity empower us to engage each other with the same respect and openness. We do not dismiss others' ideas or beliefs simply because they are different from ours, just as we would not steal or damage others' property because they are different from us. This does not mean that we must accept every belief, but we must respect the right to hold and express the belief. Such openness gives us the opportunity to examine the content of ideas that we have not considered before. We can evaluate the validity of the concepts without attacking the person who holds them; this is the basis of civil discourse. Often, we may discover that the free exchange can stimulate new directions, syntheses, and synergies.

This respect for others that we honor as Miamians empowers us to live in a safe, open, innovative, dialogical community of learning where we can practice the virtues we will need for success throughout career and life. This has always been our commitment—our alma mater asserts that Miami has "embraced the generation, men and women, young and old; of all races, from all nations." The world where we live needs such models of life based on equality, respect, and dignity.

I defend the freedom of inquiry that is the heart of learning.

Socrates noticed that "wisdom begins with wonder," and the inquiry-based approach to education still bears his name. The philosopher also noticed that the learner must move from contented ignorance to confused awareness of their ignorance before they can achieve understanding. So real learning happens when the student is the primary agent of their own education, and the essential tool for that education is inquiry—asking questions.

Students are creators of knowledge, not merely absorbers. This kind of learning is not simple information transfer, the downloading of a teacher's stored knowledge from their brain to the student's. That kind of education was more common in the relatively static societies of the past that expected the future to look largely like the present. The dynamic world of the 21st century requires a more agile, responsive, problem-posing approach that instills habits of questioning the status quo, anticipating change, and imagining the outcomes of alternative solutions.

Any effort to stifle or short-circuit such inquiry is a threat to learning itself. Inquiry must be free to challenge established ideas and seek new answers, especially in an environment of disruption and rapid change. This freedom is traditionally associated with universities, society's seats of scholarship, but it is an important feature in the larger community for fostering effective dialogue and discovery.

Successful practice of inquiry starts with the respect for others' right to express their beliefs that the Code of Love and Honor describes. Every person in the community deserves to be heard. The interrogative stance is especially open to dialogue because it is not declaring an assertion, much less giving a command. In the act of asking the question, the person becomes open to new answers. The inquiry extends to examination of possible answers, weighing evidence, gauging potential outcomes, and arriving at a conclusion, or perhaps a working hypothesis. Here, our commitment to honesty and integrity is critical. Falsifying, exaggerating, or omitting evidence can be fatal to learning. When the inquiry is conducted by a collaborative group, the freedom includes challenging others' suggestions—respecting their right to express the view does not preclude requiring evidence for its content to be accepted. At the same time, as Aristotle said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

This kind of inquiry is hard work that requires humility, patience, discipline, and generosity. The dialogue can include robust challenges to one's beliefs, even hurtful or offensive language when the interlocutors are not careful or sensitive—Miami's commitment to civil discourse is not universally shared. Even so, mature engagement means that we can persevere to seek solutions and common ground even when we are faced with ideas and attitudes that are an affront to our own foundational convictions.

Inquiry, of course, is not an end in itself but a means for acquiring knowledge and wisdom. However, inquiry does not come to an end—new information becomes the material for further inquiry in an upward spiral of discovery and innovation. The habit of inquiry that you develop at Miami will go with you through your life of learning and discovery.

I exercise good judgment and believe in personal responsibility.

The strength of the Miami community depends on the virtues and values of each of its members. We are One Miami, a combination of of many campuses coming together as one, each distinctive in their own way, all on the same page with respect to mission, teaching and scholarship excellence, and every one fulfilling its role in that mission. That requires accurately evaluating circumstances in order to make good decisions that advance everyone.

Such good judgment involves practical wisdom, also known as prudence. Prudence is called the "mother of all virtues" because it is involved in identifying the good outcomes that all the other virtues are exercised to achieve. Like all virtues, good judgment requires practice and habit. Chances are that exercising the good judgment to enroll at Miami involved going through a detailed process of researching university options, making lists of pros and cons, seeking advice from trusted friends, and embracing perspectives from some with alternative ideas and thoughts. As you continue to face choices, the decisions will become more second-nature because you exercise and strengthen the virtue of prudence. Often, instead of a long process of deliberation, you will quickly recognize the right thing to do.

Opportunities to practice good judgment abound on our campuses. Every day, we choose how to spend time; how to take advantage of the educational, social, club, and service activities available; whether to engage new people in conversation; how to talk to a friend who might be making a mistake. On a longer timeline, we are making such choices as class schedule, summer activities, major, projects, career. As we develop good judgment, we found ourselves increasingly confident in the choices we make.

Those decisions find real-life expression in the exercise of personal responsibility. When we know the right direction to take, we have a responsibility to act accordingly. We acknowledge our role in failures rather than focusing on how to blame others—and we use the failure as a steppingstone to success by exercising good judgment to reassess, persevere, or pivot.

Personal responsibility finds particular expression in a strong community like Miami. We are surrounded by so many strong, passionate, dedicated people. Each one of us bears responsibility for our own actions and for the good of our community. We have committed ourselves to exercise the good judgment and personal responsibility that make those actions possible. We are Miami.

I embrace the spirit, academic rigor, opportunities, and challenges of a Miami Experience, preparing me to make the world a better place.

The Miami Experience—the education, the community, the virtues and values, the personal relationships, and so much more—prepares us as individuals for success in career and life. Beyond that, we are equipped here to become a positive catalyst for change in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our nation, and the world. Understanding this dimension of the educational experience can help one reach higher, persevere longer, and find deeper satisfaction in pursuit of a purposeful vision. Miami's focus on the liberal arts for every student in every major is the foundation for a lifetime of effective engagement and service to the larger society. The liberal arts are deliberately designed for more than vocational preparation—they are not so much about learning things as about learning to learn, engaging the past, understanding human flourishing, and becoming equipped to contribute to the present and the future. The founders of the first universities aimed to prepare free persons for fruitful citizenship by leading them to reflect on the world around them, the ideas and achievements of other human beings, and their own place in this big picture.

That capacity is even more important in the 21st century than it was in the 12th. The world is far more interconnected, the challenges are daunting, and the dynamic pace of change is ever accelerating in a way that demands such qualities as agility, curiosity, courage, and resilience even more than technical skills and expertise. Solutions are not likely to arise from a single field, such as science or engineering, but from comprehensive collaborations transdisciplinary in nature that can address historical, social, economic, and cultural dimensions in addition to scientific and technical elements. Miami is a place where one encounters that full range, committed to its role as a "uni"-versity rather than a "multi"-versity of isolated specialties.

That's not an easy education. One can't hang out in their comfort zone. They can't pick only courses that advance the particular career goals they might have identified in high school. Somewhere along the way, they will meet assignments that are beyond their natural abilities and ideas that challenge their preconceived notions, concepts that challenge both things we see and things we can't, like the notion of infinity or the limits to zero. In the face of such challenges, our first response might be that is not useful or there is no practical application—but the Miami education brings to bear the interconnectivity and unity of knowledge. That's part of how the Miami Experience prepares one for life, where such tests are an inevitable part of growth and advancement.

These opportunities can happen anywhere—in the classroom, in the library, in the cafeteria, in the dorm, on the sidewalk as we walk across our campuses. You can even seek them out: introduce yourself to a person from a different background—face, religion, socioeconomic class, nationality, etc.—and try to understand their experiences and perspectives. Grow in empathy, practice open and effective dialogue, seek ways that new ideas can modify your own views or trigger a serendipitous synthesis. Those are powerful ways to make the world a better place.

The Miami Experience aims to prepare one for a full life of service and success in whatever field they choose. Success in the 21st century requires engaging new and unfamiliar people, processes, and perspectives effectively. Practicing this engagement here, while gaining the knowledge and expertise necessary for a particular field, one will be empowered as a catalyst for positive change wherever they go and whatever they do. This is one way a Miami education is preparation for far more than the first job—it is equipment for transformative leadership through life and career in today’s globalized and complex world.

I demonstrate Love and Honor by supporting and caring for my fellow Miamians.

Love and Honor are not platitudes or abstractions at Miami—they name a Code that directs our personal actions and organizes our relationships. They are a lodestar by which every Miamian can make good decisions and evaluate their progress. They impact both our inner life and our outward expression. Love and Honor are both nouns as well as verbs—the names of vital qualities and their active practice in real-world circumstances.

Love is the virtue that seeks the well-being of others, rejoices at their success, and unites people in solidarity for the common good. The word "love" is used in a vast array of contexts, from superficial preferences—"I love ice cream"—to the deepest intimacies: "I love you." At Miami, it includes the tradition of the midnight kiss under the Upham Arch that explains why some 14 percent of Miami graduates become Miami Mergers and 1,087 couples once set a world record for renewing their marriage vows here. At the heart of the Code, love means loyalty, inclusion, compassion, affection, and devotion to Miami, the members of its community, and all that it stands for. It is more than a sentiment—it is a commitment to uphold our virtues and values, to expect our colleagues and classmates to practice them, and to support one another in pursuing our vision and ideals.

Honor is both an internal quality and an appropriate response to worthy individuals, institutions, and ideas. To have honor means to live by a steadfast moral compass, even in the face of challenges and temptations. It involves integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, and dependability. To give honor means to recognize the personal dignity and the valuable contributions of others, to reward success at practicing and modeling the qualities that elevate the flourishing of the community. It involves the virtues of selflessness, humility, justice, and respect. Our Code commits us to practice both—to live honorable lives and to reward exemplary behavior in others.

As the Code of our community, Love and Honor calls us specifically to relate in these ways, first to other members of Miami. In the Myaamia language, the word for "our community"—meenapiyankwi—translates as "we sit together as a distinct group." We know that our colleagues and classmates have made the same commitments that we have, and we have a common language for supporting and caring for each other. We have numerous opportunities to practice Love and Honor in our encounters with each other on our campuses every day. This support means both encouraging each other in our praiseworthy actions and helping each other avoid behavior that brings dishonor on the individual and the institution.

This habit of Love and Honor developed at Miami becomes a core feature of your character for the rest of your life—you can probably think of many alumni who demonstrate this effect. One takes this identity into one's family, career, friendships, personal decisions, and professional relationships. The world needs such models today, and you will make a positive impact by living as you have learned at Miami. The world is better because of Miami graduates.

And because I Am Miami,

I act through my words and deeds in ways that reflect these values and beliefs.

The commitment to live out the Code of Love and Honor takes two primary forms: what we say and what we do. This means, to begin with, that none of us can be silent spectators—Miami life is an active, engaged life. The mindset of Love and Honor constantly finds expression in our behavior. We may make mistakes—we are growing, not yet perfected, but we are dedicated to recognize where we have missed the mark and return to the practice of our ideals. Our Code gives us the capacity to encourage right action, correct mistakes, and restore our relationships in a positive direction so that we are an undivided One Miami.

Our habitual deeds are a clear reflection of our values and beliefs. If our actions routinely demonstrate hatred, exclusion, hostility, and contempt, our claim to be Miami is hypocritical. If we are reliably guided by Love and Honor, we can avoid the wrong actions that can have disastrous consequences for ourselves and others. It's important to remember that our words equally matter. The old view that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" has been long discredited. Words can do deep and lasting damage to people and to relationships. Words can also heal and uplift. Words of prejudice and scorn divide; words of welcome and inclusion unite.

The focus on these qualities should set our university apart from the bad behaviors that seem rampant in society today and on some other university campuses today. Miami has the solution to those problems—Love and Honor. When words and actions start with Love and Honor they will not end with scandal and shame.

Every encounter is an opportunity to speak and act in a way that reflects these values and beliefs. None of us is perfect; all of us will make mistakes in this area. That's why it's important for us as a community to support one another in fulfilling these commitments. When we see someone beginning to act in a negative way or hear someone begin to speak in a negative way, we have a responsibility to help them avoid the blunder by educating them. Our words and deeds can have a positive impact on everyone in the situation.

Beyond Miami, the world needs more speech and action based on Love and Honor. The right to hold and express disparate opinions, upheld by our Code, becomes even more important as society becomes more and more diverse. Civil discourse and mutual respect are vital to advance understanding. Miami aims to leverage our inclusive environment to convene such dialogue in a way that benefits our state, our nation, and the world. We can achieve this because each of us is committed to reflect our values in all we do and say. Miami graduates go out into the world and make a powerful impact because they spread Love and Honor.

With a deep sense of accomplishment and gratitude,

I will Love, Honor, and make proud those who help me earn the joy and privilege of saying,

Our motto at Miami—Prodesse Quam Conspici, "to accomplish without becoming conspicuous"—captures the rightful pride and humility of our community. Gratitude is perhaps the strongest reflection of humility: we know that we did not achieve all of our success, as remarkable as it may be, on our own. We are part of a community in this place that empowers us to live such a life.

The accomplishments in the motto include both individual and institutional achievements that are in many ways interdependent. This is a sign of a flourishing community: the success of each of its members elevates the whole group, and the advancement of the whole contributes to the growth of each individual in an ever-upward spiral. Miami is such a community because of our commitment to Love and Honor. We are united by a vision, a life of higher purpose both individually and together, and everyone's contribution is welcome. We live in an environment of openness, intellectual curiosity, and collaboration that offers opportunities for synthesis, synergy, and serendipitous discovery to help us achieve our goals. We have a foundation of respect, inclusion, and civility that empowers us to address our challenges and disagreements frankly so we can find a way forward.

Our gratitude for this life goes to countless women and men across more than 200 years whose courage, generosity, and perseverance have established the remarkable institution that Miami is today. From the frontier pioneers to the advocates who sacrificed for civil rights, from the magnanimous individuals and families who have given so much to support this university to the dedicated faculty and staff at the heart of its academic mission, we have abundant examples of Love and Honor in every aspect of life. Because of them, we enjoy the privilege of learning and living here. We are Miami today.

When you leave here, you will still be Miami. In fact, for many of the people you meet across your life, Miami will be you. Our graduates find themselves in places across the country and around the world where people have never before met a Miami alum. They will see your accomplishments. They will sense your gratitude. By encountering you, they will have an experience of the Love and Honor that shaped you because you led such a life in this place. Your presence will make your part of the world a better place.

"To think that in such a place, I led such a life."

up close view of a cupola on Miami's campus