By Prof. Jane Annette L. Belarmino, Vice President for Development
(Delivered during the 19th Accounting Teachers Conference in Naga City.)
Our University president, Ben S. Malayang III, constantly reminds us that a a competent person absent of a good character is a dangerous person. One absent of faith finds himself in the wrong direction. He has stressed that more than improving value, we need to be building virtue in our students; skills must be accompanied with trustworthiness.
To do that, we at the College of Business Administration, are working to integrate ethics founded on the Christian faith in our entire subject. As much as possible, they are interwoven into our lessons, and not taught as a separate topic.
Stories from the Bible are so rich with illustrations of ethical issues, and provide guidance on how to address them. It contains examples on stewardship, independence, integrity, and of course, leadership, among so many others. We discuss the stories like we would a textbook case, dissecting them from all angles. In fact, the Bible is used as a principal reference in teaching Good Governance and Social Responsibility.
For example, stewardship is a key concept in business and accounting. Understanding stewardship is so vital, that first year students need to understand this early on. Psalms 104 reminds us that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord, and not to humankind. Leaders are stewards, not owners to do as they please. We teach our students, as well as remind ourselves, that we manage what He has placed under our care based on His values and vision.
The book of Ezekiel describes that awesome responsibility of a watchman. The watchman is given the responsibility of warning the people of impending disaster. If the watchman fails to do so, God will hold the watchman accountable for what was lost. We impress upon our students that we are like watchmen, ensuring that financial statements are prepared in accordance with the standards, watching over the interests of the investing public, creditors, and other stakeholders of the firm.
Luke Chapter 19 tells of the Parable of the Ten Minas. In the narrative, leaders are portrayed as brokers of resources. It tells the story of a king, who gave three servants 10 minas each to spend, save or invest, as each saw fit. When the king returned from his journey, he asked for an accounting from each man on how he managed his resources. To the servant who managed the resources well, he said “Well done, good and faithful servant”, gave him a reward and gave the good servant even more resources to look after. To the one who failed to make the minas grow, the king said, “You wicked servant,” and even the little that he had was taken away from him. Imagine that, being called “wicked” for doing nothing.
On the attitude of independence, we have the story of the 12 spies sent by Moses to survey the Promised Land. All 12 spies were leaders of their tribes; they received the same promise, and the same opportunities. The ten said “no” to entering the Promised Land. They misunderstood their objective; they succumbed to the threats of self-interest and intimidation. Because of their bad report, fear spread like a plague over the whole nation. And as a consequence, an entire generation wandered and died in the desert for 40 years. Only Joshua and Caleb saw the same situation in the light of their faith and trust in God so they were able to enter into the land.
When we teach about integrity, we tell the story of Joseph. Joseph was imprisoned because of his strong convictions. He refused the temporary pleasures of sin, when he rejected the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. In the end, God rewarded him for his faithfulness and integrity, giving him all the power in Egypt. This power he used to save his people from famine.
When we teach Leadership principles, we compare and contrast David and Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Uriah chose to obey, he chose humility instead of exercising personal rights, and he refused intimacy with his wife while his fellow soldiers were still at war, sacrificing their lives.
In contrast, David saw Bathsheba, and took what did not belong to him even if he already had many wives. And to cover up his sin, he sent her husband Uriah to his death. In those days, nobody dared question the king. David was at his worst. However, when David was rebuked by the prophet Nathan, he did not deny what he did, nor did he justify his actions. Instead, in humility and contrition, he admitted his sin and suffered its consequences, the death of his son with Bathsheba. The story of the life of David is my favorite. It is so full of illustrations of the character of a leader, with the rewards and consequences of a life lived in obedience and faithfulness to God.
Yes, we do teach the Code of Ethics for CPAs in our Auditing Theory class. But by the time our students reach their senior year, their personal convictions and characters have already been formed. Our students may get a perfect score in a written exam on ethics having absorbed all the principles in their heads. But if those are not translated into a life well lived, and work well done in accordance with the teachings of the Christian Faith, then the high grades lack real value.
Our goal at Silliman is to provide an environment where deep personal convictions anchored on the Christian faith are allowed to grow, be nurtured and become mature. The discussion of ethics must permeate the entire learning process, and not just be another item for consideration.
For ethics to endure, they must be rooted in deep personal convictions anchored on the Christian Faith. Only then can our ethics withstand the pressures of the expectations of society, peers, clients, people in the workplace, our professional lives even our personal lives, our families. Ethics that result from spiritual convictions are unchanging, because we use a standard that rises above personal preferences and reasons of convenience.
We can only teach effectively and share with our students, what we ourselves have. And here lies the challenge that is posed to every teacher desiring to raise up excellent students. We therefore need to purposely decide for ourselves, to build up our own personal faith and convictions so we can make a positive impact in the destinies of others. When all is said and done, may our Lord call us by name, and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”