On a daily basis, I recite to myself a very simple mantra: do the right thing for the right reason. Some days, I need to recite this mantra at several different times…some days I have to recite it every half hour.

My job in many ways is about balancing “right things”. There are many instances that the “right thing” is to follow the rules: the policy says “x”. The policy was written by smarter people than I based on a situation that warranted the creation of the policy…the “right thing” is to uphold the policy. There are other times when the “right thing” is to recognize the nuance of the situation and show compassion, particularly when showing compassion can lead to a “breakthrough” for the student involved. I think the artistry of my job is being able to recognize and quickly evaluate which “right thing” to choose.

Certainly, there are times when this balance of “right things” is in reality a false choice. There are times when the strict interpretation of policy is actually a compassionate act. For example, I am doing a student (and his parents) no favors by allowing him to remain a student even though he has no chance of earning a degree based on a low GPA. I have very clear guidelines for Academic Probation and what is known as Satisfactory Academic Progress. Although the student may hate leaving the University, it is the compassionate thing – the “right thing” – to tell him (and his parents) that it would be better for him to transfer to another school and ‘press the reset button’ so to speak.

Then there are other times…times when my heart tells me to show compassion, but the “right thing” is to uphold policy. Those are the tough times. I can rationalize by saying that the student put himself in the position, I can reframe it by saying that there are situations when “tough love” is the compassionate “right thing”, I can remind myself that part of my job is to be the first, last, and only line of defense for the values of the College (apologies to Will Smith). It still feels horrible…it is tough to do the “right thing”.

But it is the “right thing”. A friend reminded me today that without integrity, you really don’t have much. My personal mission is pretty straight-forward: live authentically, live intentionally, live passionately. A life of purpose is a life of integrity…that doesn’t mean being perfect, but it does mean working toward excellence. There are times when showing compassion – or what is perceived as compassion – actually damages my integrity, the integrity of the College, and the integrity of the University.

Why am I writing this? I’m waiting for a meeting that will put my integrity to the test. I don’t know why I started this blog, other than to post articles I’ve written for some handouts I give to faculty and students. But perhaps it could become a personal sounding board…a place where somebody might get a peek behind the curtain, a chance to see what sitting in the metaphorical chair occupied by Metcalf, Pinchbeck, Mateer and Bisese is like. On a regular basis, I am humbled by the example those men set for me. I attempt to honor them by doing the right thing for the right reasons…I know they tried to do that on a daily basis.  – jb

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