Discussion Guide: Five Key Virtues of Student Government


Virtues are attitudes, dispositions, or character traits that enable us to act and to “be” in ways that develop our potential. Virtues are developed through learning and practice, and become good habits. Philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas thought a good person had 4 key virtues: justice, prudence, self-control, and courage. The following exercise invites student government leadership to identify five key virtues.


1. What are the ideals and goals of your organization (Possibly reflected in a Code of Ethics, Mission Statement, or Vision Statement)? What virtues, or good habits, can your members cultivate to achieve those ideals?

2. What are the virtues espoused by your student government? Are any virtues particularly salient to your organization right now? Are there any virtues that you find difficult to practice? Are there virtues that are easy to practice?

3. How do you incorporate these virtues into the daily proceedings of student government? Do members of the organization identify with these virtues and make an effort to embody them?

  • If not, what do you think can be done to make your virtues more relevant?
  • Are there any programs, activities, or policies that could be implemented to prioritize virtues?

4. Do particular branches or positions embody specific virtues?

  • Are some virtues more important to certain branches or positions than others?
  • What 5 virtues do you consider most important for your position?

5. Are the virtues of your organization explicitly outlined in a Code of Ethics, or are they implied in other documents?

  • If they are not explicitly stated, do you think they should be? How could your organization benefit from having an explicit ethics code?
  • If your virtues are explicitly stated, how is the document kept relevant? Do you reflect on it?

6. What are the virtues and values espoused by your university?

  • How do these ideals influence the priorities or functioning of your student government?
  • Do the virtues of your organization complement or conflict with those of the university?

7. If you could only choose five virtues to describe an ideal student government leader, what would they be? Justice?

As an aid to your examination:

  • Are these the same virtues currently prioritized by your student government?
  • Do any of your choices overlap with other virtues?
  • Can some virtues be included under the umbrella of other virtues?
  • How do these virtues help you achieve the goals and ideals of your student government?
  • How do you prioritize the exercise of different virtues in student government? Why are your top choices more important that other virtues?

Download this discussion in a Word Document:Discussion Guide: Five Key Virtues of Student Government

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