Opinion | State of the student body address: Summing up 4 years at Miami University
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 00:04
These remarks should not be considered as framing students as apathetic. In fact, I think that a much larger challenge — and a great one to have — is that our students are too passionate. We have a huge portion of our undergraduate population that affiliates with at least one of the 435 student organizations on campus. The amount of time, energy and thought that students pour into their organizations, initiatives that they are passionate about and our outstanding co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities are a cut above what our peer institutions see.
The challenge then becomes harnessing that passion to incorporate a broader Miami perspective. At Convocation this year, I challenged all new students at Miami to, “work harder, play smarter and care more.” What I meant by “care more” was for students to see themselves as part of a bigger procession of past, current and future members of the student body and to engage with the issues that impact them as students.
I meant for students to support each other not just within their own organizations or academic departments, but between student organizations. Miami students have a tremendous amount of pride in their alma mater, yet this pride does not shine through when we have low attendance at Intercollegiate Athletic events. These remain issues that Associated Student Government is striving to tackle each day, but nothing will change if the culture itself does not.
Culture. This is one of Miami’s greatest strengths. Miami has a culture that inspires students to pursue excellence each and every day, expects mentorship from older to younger members of the community, and creates a sense of responsibility to Miami and to the larger Oxford community. The social culture that we have at Miami ensures that our students are sharpening interpersonal skills inside and outside the classroom, which is a feat that few universities can boast. However, Miami — along with all colleges and universities across the country — faces an issue with the unsafe consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol is not evil, at least I don’t think so. What it can be, however, is destructive. When individuals abuse alcohol — consuming to the point where they need to be hospitalized or wreak senseless, unprovoked destruction — a lack of personal judgment and self-control becomes a community issue. As a community, we need to send consistent messages as to what our expectations are. Our first priority absolutely must be the safety of our students; the second should be maximizing student success. The burden to achieve this safe yet accountable environment does not rest solely on the shoulders of the administration and is most effective if pursued at the peer level. It is my personal view that an Emergency Medical Assistance program, also known as a “Medical Amnesty” or “Good Samaritan” program, is key to sending a consistent message of our priorities to students.
I believe in the Miami Experience, in the dawn of the next phase of the Miami Experience that we are watching unfold before our eyes. We have nothing to fear on the horizon if we commit to our mission as an academic institution and, as President Hodge urged in his Annual Address this fall, if we are “opportunity obsessed” and “seize and seek opportunity.”
To our first-years: grab the next few years and hold on to them ... make them your own. They will pass before you in the blink of an eye, so leave your legacy while you can. To our sophomores and juniors: recognize the role that you play as stewards of the continuum of the Miami Experience. You are the link between the past and future generations of students, and are often times the movers and shakers on campus. With this power comes great responsibility. Use it well.
Lastly, to our seniors: thank you for the past four years. The experiences that we have shared as undergraduates have shaped our college experience, but the individuals with whom we shared said experiences are the core of what Miami will always mean to me. Go out into this great big world of ours, stare destiny right in the eyes and watch it flinch.
You are soon-to-be alumni of Miami University — the world is at your fingertips and absolutely nothing can stop you. For us, I quote former Miami University President Alfred Upham with the challenge to “stand by Miami, stand by Miami, stand by Miami!”
Love and Honor.