Good or Evil, Lawful or Chaotic: What’s Your School’s Alignment?

“Smiling mp” emoji and “innocent” emoji, stylized and stamped multiple times over a grainy background

Even if you aren’t fully sure what an alignment chart is, if you’ve existed on the internet, you’ve definitely seen one before. Typically a bunch of squares with pictures inside, this (meme format) categorization tool describes the personality traits or values of a given person or object.

We’ve looked at personalities and their tests before, such as the Dark Triad inventory and the MBTI — while we don’t consider the Marriage Pact to be a personality test, even we can’t deny that the occasional personality test provides a fun avenue for introspection (or procrastination).

However, the personality system we’re looking at today has less to do with popular psychology and more to do with some real nerdy shit. Buckle in.

The concepts of good vs. evil and lawful vs. chaotic as they apply to people and fictional characters aren’t exactly new. Such descriptors have been used in narrative development for decades. However, within the context of the two-axis moral/ethical alignment system, most sources attribute the alignment chart’s popularization to Gary Gygax, one of the designers of the popular tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons.

When you create a character in D&D, you make a few choices about their personality pretty early on as it pertains to their moral and ethical beliefs. Are they morally good, evil, or neutral, and are they ethically lawful, chaotic, or again, somewhere in between? This provides the game’s campaign with some structure and prohibits characters (and by extension, the players) from acting too erratically.

On the moral axisgood characters care deeply for others and act in ways that better the world around them, while evil characters seek to fulfill their needs above all else, usually at others’ expense. Morally neutral characters are, well, neutral. They don’t go to the extremes of their evil counterparts but also do not prioritize others over themselves as good characters would.

The ethical axis pertains to what a character believes about rules, society, hierarchies of power, what have you. Lawful characters follow the rules to the very letter of the law and hold respect for the power structures of society. Chaotic characters value spontaneity and freedom above all else, living life by their own rules as opposed to the ones society has decreed. Of course, this axis also has a middle ground — ethically neutral characters do not feel compelled to follow every rule and respect every societal hierarchy, nor do they need to disrupt the status quo for their own sake.

Characters each have one moral value and one ethical value based on the personality and history the player creates for them. There are nine possible combinations of values, which, when presented in a grid, is a very recognizable, easily customizable template.

While the personality categorizing system has its utilitarian roots in D&D, the alignment chart format has since spread to other subcultures and different works of fiction. Characters from any given work of fiction (or nonfiction, if you’re, like, really into that) can be sorted into any position of the alignment chart, which serves to depict their moral and ethical values. The chart can be (and absolutely has been) used to categorize anything and everything, from inanimate objects and food to email signoffs, fonts, and even other memes.

If it looks like it’s got vibes, it can be sorted into an alignment chart.

Okay, moving on.

Students who participate in the Marriage Pact answer a lot of questions. These questions address students’ penchants for everything from altruism, integrity, sociability, traditionalism, conformity to rules, hedonism… you get the picture. So, a lot of Marriage Pact questions measure moral and ethical values.

If colleges could be assigned alignments based on the average Marriage Pact question responses of their students, which would they get?

To begin to answer this question, we gathered questions that we believed best represented all four moral and ethical values (good and evil, lawful and chaotic), working to find three questions per value that would accurately place any given school on both the morality and ethics axis. Some questions we included are:

  • I would be okay if I spent my life doing good for others, but did not receive recognition for it

  • I do whatever it takes to get ahead

  • People in positions of authority are usually right

  • I would go on a spontaneous trip, even if that meant putting off my responsibilities

(As a side note: every campus has its moments, but we don’t really think any school is really evil. We’ve altered the definition of that just slightly to emphasize factors like ambition, assertiveness, and, inversely, interpersonal optimism and empathy.)

With three questions selected for all four moral and ethical values, we recorded each school’s average response to the questions, then averaged the three responses so that each school ended up with one average value measuring their potential penchant for good, evil, lawfulness, and chaoticness. Don’t make me say average again.

The next step was determining which values would be neutral values, as schools would either have a definite (meaning either good/evil or lawful/chaotic) value or a neutral value for each axis. To do so, we found the median of each ethical and moral value’s data range. Every school with a value of or above the range’s median would have a definite value, and every school with a value below the range’s median would have a neutral value.

Finally, each school received its moral and ethical value, depending on which of the two values per axis was greater. A little convoluted, but let’s walk through it. For example:

On the morality axis, UVM has a 4.74 average value for good and a 3.51 average value for evil. Assigning them with the greater value places UVM firmly with the good alignment.

On the ethics axis, UVM has an average lawful value of 3.42. This value falls below the median of the lawful value’s data range, so this would be a neutral value. UVM also has a 3.94 average chaotic value. Assigning them with the greater value per axis cements UVM as a chaotic good school.

You get the picture. A few hours’ worth of data science later and every school we visited during the fall of 2021 has an alignment consisting of a moral and ethical value.

Let’s talk about what they mean, shall we?

Lawful Good

Dutiful and altruistic in equal measure, lawful goods are unshakable in their beliefs and desire to be upstanding citizens. Always doing what’s considered right by society’s standards, you live by the book and expect that others do, as well. You always do your part to contribute, believing that a functional, law-abiding society is a fundamentally good one.

Notre Dame, Gettysburg, Xavier, William & Mary, and Stonehill labeled as “lawful good schools.”

Lawful good schools—Gettysburg, Notre Dame, Stonehill, William and Mary, and Xavier.

Chaotic Good

You’re not exactly one for the expectations of society. Chaotic goods dislike arbitrary rules, preferring to err on the side of spontaneity as they value their and others’ freedom and happiness above all else. You believe in the goodness of others and do whatever you can to help because you feel it is right, consequences from hierarchical systems of authority be damned.

Middlebury, UVM, Lehigh, Bowdoin, Kansas, Fordham, and Middlebury labeled as “chaotic good schools.”

Chaotic good schools—Bowdoin, Fordham, Kansas, Lehigh, Middlebury, and UVM.

Neutral Good

Neither compelled to follow every rule and subscribe to societal beliefs nor are you motivated to disrupt and rebel for rebellion’s sake, you find your place firmly in the middle of the ethical axis. Neutral goods do not go to the same extremes as their more definite peers — they feel comfortable following and breaking rules all the same if either is done for what they believe to be a justifiable reason and will create the greatest amount of good.

Bowling Green, Michigan, and Ohio State labeled as “neutral good schools.”

Neutral good schools — Bowling Green, Michigan, and Ohio State.

Lawful Neutral

Organized, objective, and rule-bound, your world is black and white. The decisions lawful neutrals make can be explained by their obligation to a given law, code, or creed, and are highlighted by their strong sense of duty. Rarely one to let emotions or morality stand in the way of order, you find purpose and meaning in structure.

Case Western and UChicago labeled as “lawful neutral schools.”

Lawful neutral schools—Case Western and UChicago.

Chaotic Neutral

Ah, chaotic neutral — a personal favorite. Individualists at heart, you do not feel beholden to laws or regulations, and instead, focus on finding opportunities for personal satisfaction and freedom all around you. Frequently acting on whims and indulgences, chaotic neutrals prioritize their independence and free will first and foremost, addressing their own wellbeing before concerning themselves with the needs of others.

Amherst, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Stanford, Columbia, Colgate, and UVA labeled as “chaotic neutral schools.”

Chaotic neutral schools—Amherst, Colgate, Columbia, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Stanford, and UVA.

True Neutral

Not every alignment is as clear-cut as the rest. Some schools did not receive a definite lawful/chaotic or good/evil value and instead were neutral on both the ethical and moral axis.

True neutrals don’t find themselves with a predetermined or rigid stance on anything, ethically or morally. What is good or evil to someone may be the opposite for someone else—rules that serve one group might oppress another. Instead of pursuing an obligation to society, complete freedom, or the wellbeing of others, true neutrals focus more on a total commitment to oneself. True neutrals are incredibly pragmatic and serving of their own agenda, consistently doing what is best for themselves at any given moment.

UCLA, Johns Hopkins, UPenn, and Carelton labeled as “true neutral schools.”

True neutral schools—Carleton, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and UPenn.

Interestingly enough, the final data did not produce any schools with a greater evil value on the morality axis. In fact, even the highest evil values were still markedly lower than the lowest good values. This may be because students at these schools are much more altruistic than they are ambitious or uncompassionate, or perhaps because feigning humility and interpersonal optimism in order to blend in with other “good” schools has been a part of their evil plan to take over the world all along.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with your school’s alignment? Got any suggestions for some chaotic evil schools you think we should visit this upcoming school year? DM us on Instagram or Twitter, @marriagepact.