ERIC Number: ED179160
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Mar-9
Reference Count: 0
Reflections on the Ethical Responsibilities of the University in Society: An Open Letter to the Harvard Community.
Bok, Derek C.
A discussion of Harvard University's ethical responsibilities by the college's president considers the reasons why universities have traditionally been reluctant to take formal positions on ethical and political issues arising in the outside world. These reasons include a belief that such positions will establish an orthodoxy that may inhibit intellectual freedom; a realization that universities cannot exert economic leverage to affect disputes beyond the campus without inviting outside pressure to influence academic policies; and a concern over the impropriety of diverting universitV resources away from the academic purposes for which they were entrusted. Universities are designed to achieve particular purposes; their special mission is the discovery and transmission of knowledge. Their institutional goal is not to reform society in specific ways. At the very least, individuals in the university will be offended by the creation of official doctrines that conflict with their personal convictions. Society respects the freedom of academic institutions only because it assumes that they will devote themselves to the academic pursuits for which that freedom was extended. Any loss of university funds can impair the academic enterprise, and ethical choice may involve the course of action that does least harm to legitimate human interests and important social goals involved in the university's mission. (SW)
Descriptors: Academic Freedom, College Administration, College Role, Conflict, Educational Finance, Higher Education, Institutional Autonomy, Moral Values, Political Influences, Presidents, Private Colleges, Public Relations, School Business Relationship, School Community Relationship, Self Determination, Social Attitudes, Standards
Harvard University, Massachusetts Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Harvard Univ., Cambridge. Office of the President.
Identifiers: Harvard University MA
Note: For related documents, see HE 011 985-988; Supplement to the Harvard University "Gazette," March 9, 1979