In Defense of The St. Mary's Way

Last semester the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Honor Society found an old document in the annals of the school website called the St. Mary’s Way. I don’t remember being handed The St. Mary’s Way when I first came to the College. If I was, it probably was another paper that, I’m sure, ended up in my Orientation folder amidst a large handbook, tips about College life, and a calendar of events. After reading over it once, I doubt I paid much more attention to it then.

So when the discussions regarding The Way came up last year, I wondered what the big deal was, and what this long-forgotten document of mine actually said about what our College holds dear. While a committee “first” discussed it on Feb. 25, The Point News didn’t cover the story until mid-April. By then, ODK had begun discussions of its revisions and President Urgo had voiced his concern about overall civility among faculty, staff, and students.

Although the document is 15 years old, it espouses time-honored campus values of environmentalism, service, diversity, acceptance, honesty and responsibility. Its informal and self-regulating nature reflects the general behavioral ethos of the St. Mary’s community.

It is with these values written that all members of the St. Mary’s community may strengthen their bonds of fellowship and look to what I hope will become a beacon of campus pride, integrity, and guidance.

With two simple words in the introduction, “I accept,” it creates a community standard that students and faculty should recognize. Not only are these recommendations for a happier lifestyle; they’re expectations we should be meeting when we meet people on the path by the pond, spend time with friends on the weekends or at The Pub, or are in class engaging with a professor.

Organizations from the U.S. Senate to The Washington Post have a code of conduct or a mission statement or some other written document that defines the organization. The St. Mary’s Way is paramount because it defines how we as individuals of community become better selves and how we as community unite and profess our values.

Without a document like this, we would be at a loss. The only thing that would group all of us together would be the regulations in To The Point and The Golden Rule, which seem to me to be a little to impersonal for such a close-knit group.

These values are a bedrock for our campus, serving as a lighthouse when we stray from the good of our humanity. While we may not be perfect, we have created a snapshot of our more perfect selves in the St. Mary’s Way.

By excluding the St. Mary’s Way from an incentive structure of rewards and punishment (such as that found in an official honor code or code of conduct), we exemplify the St. Mary’s ideal that intrinsic motivation towards positive fulfillment produces a more genuine self than a system of extrinsic motivation.

Arguing against the St. Mary’s Way seems, to me, a way of saying that changing campus character, and embodying our own set of values, isn’t possible.

As President of Omicron Delta Kappa, I look forward to the continued discussion of campus civility and how we define ourselves.

Dr. Urgo’s desire to rewrite the St. Mary’s Way every few years (starting with this year) with a committee of students from all different walks of campus life builds upon the diversity embraced in the original document and allows our generation of students to tweak and amend the document in order to more properly reflect the image of ourselves.

With a student body rewrite of the St. Mary’s Way, we (ODK) hope the St. Mary’s Way moves  from an ODK event (last year) to a St. Mary’s tradition.

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