Academic Community

April 25, 2012

Stumbling about on the web looking for some information, I came across this webpage that contains a mission statement for the School of Theology at Boston University and also contains a set of Community Principles.

The statement of Community Principles is worth reading in full, but the principles covered are Love, Justice, Safety, Rights, Responsibilities and Respect.  The statement ends with this concluding paragraph:

These principles, as approved by the Faculty of the Boston University School of Theology, are not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive, but they at least provide a common denominator of civil discourse, along with mutual love and respect, that will govern our words and behavior in the School community. These are the principles we believe should govern our collective work as a professional/graduate faculty within a large, private urban research university.

It’s a lovely, useful statement: that was my first reaction.  We do expect academic institutions to be “communities,” and to function as communities they need shared commitment to certain principles.  How nice to have them articulated along with the mission statement.

But my section reaction was a recoil: there’s not a word in these principles about truth-seeking.  For a community to be an “academic” community there has to be a shared commitment to truth-seeking.  How could they have forgotten that? Did they just take that principle for granted? Or do they have a difficult time agreeing on that one?

Yes, the statement says it is not exhaustive, but I don’t think you can leave a commitment to truth-seeking unsaid.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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