On 20 April, I delivered my 100th day address as the Vice Chancellor of UPM. It was an opportunity to share with the university community important agendas and initiatives aimed at propelling UPM to greater levels of excellence. These agendas and initiatives include strengthening talent and leadership, forefronting agriculture while celebrating multiple disciplines, spearheading efforts for a sustainable green campus, instilling a culture of volunteerism, addressing economic challenges, attending to the welfare of the university community and developing the image of UPM as a garden of knowledge and thought.
Realising these agendas and initiatives is no easy task. Indeed, it requires high levels of commitment and determination. More importantly, these efforts must be founded on the right values and a work culture that emphasises quality, meticulousness, perfection and excellence.
In the Islamic faith, those values are encapsulated in the term Ihsan. In general terms, Ihsan encompasses every act or undertaking that is good and executed correctly, skilfully, efficiently and effectively, with the purpose of achieving perfection, superior quality and excellence.
The concept of ihsan is distinctive in that it goes beyond the mere fulfilment of work requirements. It involves one’s conscious engagement with the Creator and the awareness that the Creator expects us to practise Ihsan. It is this awareness that will lead to a culture of work practice which stresses quality, perfection and excellence.
I believe that ihsan needs to be prioritised as a value in the work culture of UPM and made the pillar upon which excellence in the university is built, even more so as this value is congruent with professionalism and the pursuit of perfection in work practice. This emphasis on ihsan calls for the rejection of a ‘let’s just get it done’ attitude that leads to shoddiness and mediocrity in a university.
An understanding and appreciation of ihsan will serve as a ‘self-guard’ that motivates us to execute our duties with integrity and steers us away from callous and unethical practices. It must be remembered that the violation of integrity extends beyond issues of power and position; it applies not only to the abuse of power and deviant practices but also encompasses neglect of duty and wastage of resources. Thus, it should be heeded not only by those in higher administrative positions but by everyone who is entrusted with a responsibility, regardless of rank.
In the context of a university, academic integrity is crucial. It is what ensures that academicians carry out their teaching, research and community service tasks responsibly and with trustworthiness.
Academic integrity is closely related to academicians’ core values such as commitment to truth, pursuit of excellence, respect for diversity in expertise, and the sharing of knowledge in the interests of society. In other words, academicians are scholars who lead society, uphold truth and academic freedom, and act as public intellectuals who share knowledge with the academic community and society at large.
Academic integrity is a major factor in determining the intellectual standing of an academician within the academic community and the university’s reputation of excellence.
In the wider context of the university community, integrity also involves appreciating and protecting the interests of the university and its clients, upholding the good name of the institution and placing its interests above one’s own. Observance of this aspect of integrity is important for preventing conflicts of interest that can threaten the image of the university as a respected institution of learning.
Integrity is tied to ethical and moral principles embodied in workplace regulations, as well as socio-cultural values. University staff must adhere to institutional regulations while respecting the rules of the society outside. Integrity includes the need to decline gifts and favours from suppliers, vendors or similar parties with vested interests. Such refusals are necessary to avoid malpractices and unethical behaviour that could damage the image and reputation of the university.
The emphasis on integrity shows the importance of internalising and practising ihsan. The awareness that comes with ihsan should be the pillar upon which the university creates and sustains a work culture and environment conducive to the self-motivated observance of integrity and commitment to quality, and thence the achievement of excellence. It is through ihsan that we can shape a university community which truly understands and carries out its responsibilities faithfully.
I see the commitment to making ihsan a part of the UPM culture as the right step to take. This move will re-shape thinking and strengthen the resolve of the UPM community as we strive to bring UPM forward. I am confident that instilling ihsan as a way of life and work within the university will facilitate our efforts to make UPM an outstanding institution of knowledge and learning.
Artikel ini telah diterbitkan oleh akhbar New Straits Times pada 24 April 2016
Prof. Datin Paduka Dr. Aini Ideris
Corporate Strategy and Communications Office
Office of the Vice Chancellor
Level 3, Bangunan Canselori Putra
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM, Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan