As we embark on a new academic year, I am reminded of the importance of the work that we do – and of the challenges that confront us.
I want to share with our larger community some of the message that I shared on Wednesday at the State of the University gathering for faculty and staff members.
Each year around this time, I reread an essay that was first written in 1998, titled the Glion Declaration, to help universities address the challenges of the new – now current – millennium. Dr. H.T. Rhodes, President Emeritus of Cornell University, is its primary author. I first met Dr. Rhodes as a young administrator nearly 30 years ago and his writings still inspire me.
The declaration draws attention to the value of universities to our communities and to our society. After rereading it this week, during the disturbing events in Charlottesville, I felt a need to share a few of the Declaration’s key ideas and provide some comment on our university’s response.
Here they are again, for those of you who were unable to attend.
Universities are one of the greatest inventions of human aspiration.
“Universities are learning communities, created and supported because of the need for students to learn, the benefit to scholars of intellectual community, and the importance to society of new knowledge, educated leaders, informed citizens, expert professional skills and individual certification. These functions are essential contributions to society.”
And, I might add that universities must exist free of prejudice and self-centeredness.
There is no room for lack of respect or racism or sexism or phobias of any sort on this campus. Look around you. There are lots of people with all sorts of differences and distinctions. And those differences and distinctions – especially on a college campus – are a strength, not a weakness. Those differences and distinctions are to be respected and celebrated, not derided. My point here, and what I want you to know, is that despite the current environment, each of you is valued and every one of you is welcome here.
If you want to read more of the Glion Declaration, I hope you find as much insight in it as I do.
I wish each of you a successful, rewarding semester.