Good morals should define A&M attitudes
Aggies do not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. Yeah, right.

Maybe some of these lies sound familiar: "Yes, I'm over 21," "I didn't know it was a 30-minute spot," or the age-old, "All our problems are due to the assistant coaches."

Sure Aggies don't cheat, but they do counterfeit parking tags or have classmates sign the roll sheet for them when they are absent from lectures.

If Aggies don't steal, why is every bicycle on campus securely fastened to an immovable hunk of metal or concrete?

This ethics void is not limited to the college campus. A recent study of the American workforce shows that 48 percent of U.S. employees admit to committing illegal or unethical acts within the past year. The list of acts varied from calling in sick when they feel fine to accepting kickbacks or forging signatures.

Americans have become callous towards many unscrupulous deeds. People flippantly give their word without even considering whether they intend to keep the commitment. Everyone knows people who schedule appointments with no intention of being punctual. This has become such a common occurrence that these late-comers are rarely chastised for failing to keep their commitment.

The biggest cause of this ethics void is pure selfishness. Employees embezzle funds because they feel they need the money more than big corporations. Because people have no regard for someone else's schedule, they don't mind "forgetting" an appointment.

The prime example of how selfishness leads to poor moral choices is the prevalence of prenuptial agreements. This agreement says, "Since I may be lying about 'until death do us part,' I want to be sure I get the best deal if I do break my word."

The flip-side of the wide-spread selfishness is a lack of consideration for others. Customers don't care if they get extra change from a store clerk, even though cash drawer shortages often come from the employee's paycheck. Few people will correct a waiter when the bill was incorrectly figured in the diner's favor.

America is facing a real problem. Some employee screening firms estimate that retail stores lose more money to employee theft than shoplifting. But then, the mere existence of employee screening firms is alarming. Falsified resumes are so common that some companies pay employees to verify information provided by job applicants.

No one seems to care about poor moral character anymore. Americans expect politicians to lie. Our president has been assaulted by so many allegations of wrongdoing that they are no longer newsworthy.

In today's society, individuals are not even willing to accept blame when they do something wrong. Current society has lost the art of apology. Frequently, when a person does apologize, they manage to place the blame on someone else. For example, "I'm sorry that you were upset," or "I'm sorry but my boss was giving me a hard time."

More often, however, apologies never materialize. People seem much more fond of excuses. When Al Gore was accused of soliciting campaign funds using government resources, he claimed "there was no controlling legal body." He did not apologize. He did not claim to have acted within the law. He invented a brand new defense -- there's no one to get me in trouble, so it's not a problem. This is an extreme of the ancient "no one caught me, so it's okay."

The Aggie Code of Honor is a good start. If only students stick to it. The key to encouraging others to maintain ethical standards is "not tolerating" unscrupulous acts. Politely let people know when you feel they have done something unacceptable. Encourage better morals by example. Perhaps if someone notices that a friend doesn't steal towels from hotel rooms, he or she will begin to wonder if such theft is a bad idea. Sometimes a person needs to be reminded that something is not "right" just because it's socially acceptable.

Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.