Olin and Respect for Others

I was prompted to write this article when I happened to hear a Candidates’ Weekend tour going through the mailroom area a few weeks ago. The tour guide was highlighting the fact that everyone leaves their mailboxes open because our community is built on “Respect for Others” – one of the pillars of the Honor Code.

It struck me as something sad to be talking about with pride. Not being a thief has a really low activation energy. What kind of world do we live in when it’s cool that people don’t steal from each other?

But that’s a little too big picture for me. I’ll stay focused on Olin. What it really made me feel is that I don’t think not stealing is enough to say we have respect for each other here. If not being a bad person is “Respect for Others” at Olin, we are setting the bar way too low.

Admittedly, I’m getting on a soapbox here. I am aware of it, and I hope you’ll come talk to me or publish a similar article in response if you disagree (or even if you agree). It’s not my place to claim my opinion on this is correct. However, the issue is one that’s important enough to me that I want to start a more public conversation about it.

Olin students are admitted – in part – based on the value they might add to our campus culture. I believe that truly engaging with the concept of Respect for Others is one of the key ways we can do that. Right now, I don’t think we are doing enough. At a basic level, Respect for Others is considering other people as you conduct yourself as a part of a shared community. When you leave a common area do you leave it exactly the way found it? What if you left it better than you found it?

We’re a small community. We should be able to take things way further than that.

Let’s all make active efforts to respond to HelpMe emails. Let’s clean the spaces we use regularly.

Let’s spend time organizing things for the benefit of other Oliner’s lives. Let’s take responsibility for important roles or tasks when no one else wants to or even shows up.

Let’s spread information about and try to solve the issues that are meaningful to us in order to improve the level of openness and quality of life at this college. Let’s talk to each other before making assumptions that fester and break down relationships. Let’s reach out to resolve long-standing conflicts with or even simple dislike of each other.

When we can say that we, in general as a student community, actively participate in those activities (and many more in the same vein), I’ll happily tell candidates about how Oliners have a deep Respect for Others.
It doesn’t take much as an individual, but as a community, it’s very difficult. It’s easy to feel your actions are anonymous and insignificant when part of a large group.

It takes very serious and conscious effort to consider Respect for Others in the small actions you take in everyday life at Olin; this is especially hard when being overloaded with work is a valid excuse.
I’m a culprit just like nearly everyone else. Like many things in life, it’s made easier when we hold each other accountable. I hope you’ll push me to strive for a higher standard, and I hope to push all of you.

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