The College of Wooster community assumes the honesty, integrity, and responsibility of its students in all areas of academic and social life. Those to be considered members of The College of Wooster community include students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustees.
The Wooster Ethic
“I hereby join this community with a commitment to the Wooster Ethic, upholding academic and personal integrity and a culture of honesty and trust in all my academic endeavors, social interactions, and official business with the College. I will submit only my own original work and respect others and their property. I will not support by my actions or inactions the dishonest acts of others.”
The Civility Statement
“We pledge to stand united against hate by creating and contributing to safe learning environments in our community. We respect and value the commonalities and differences among us – celebrating the uniqueness of each individual and recognizing it takes all people to make a college community.”
Strong Community Relationships
The College values its relationship with the community beyond the campus. It is expected that the conduct of all College of Wooster students, on campus or off, will be consistent with the educational purposes of the institution and in no way will interfere with the functioning of the community. It is expected that students will be guided by a mutual concern for neighbors’ integrity, property, and need to live in an environment conducive to the fulfillment of their individual lifestyles.
Statement on Freedom of Expression and Inquiry**
We, the members of the College of Wooster Community, are dedicated to the college’s mission to “…prepare (each and every one of its) students to become leaders of character and influence in an interdependent global community.” The College of Wooster exists with the express purpose of educating its students in the liberal arts tradition. This means, among other things, providing and sustaining the best possible structured, intentional educative experience that will play an optimal role in the intellectual and moral development of all of those who undertake that experience. As we are dedicated to this mission, we are thus dedicated to the conditions requisite for its success including both the value of freedom of expression and inquiry and the value of an inclusive and equitable environment in which all members of the community are full and equal participants granting mutual respect to one another.
The Value of Freedom of Expression and Inquiry
The robust protection of freedom of expression and inquiry is justified precisely because of its central importance to our mission. An inextricable part of the pursuit of knowledge, which is at the heart of this mission, involves people actively challenging beliefs in search of justification sufficient to make viable knowledge claims. But this means that we are, each and every one of us, perpetually asked to confront the possibility of being wrong-even regarding deeply held, foundational commitments. Consequently, we recognize no right to intellectual safety or, in other words, to being insulated either from challenges to our own views or from the call to consider those views held by others with whom we disagree. We expect all members of our community to act in good faith, as coequal participants in the process of learning and growing. This does not, however, mean that anyone has a reasonable expectation that their ideas and opinions ought go unchallenged or ought not be met with any critical reply. Moreover, freedom of expression is not absolute. The college may prohibit illegal forms of expression, expression that defames specific individuals or unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, and any expression that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment.
The Value of Inclusivity and Equitable Treatment of All Members of the Community and, Indeed, of all Persons
Through the public statement of our mission, our core values and our graduate qualities, The College of Wooster makes a promise to all prospective and incoming students and employees that they will be welcome and respected here. Further, because the College is explicitly and uncompromisingly committed to core values including social and intellectual responsibility as well as diversity and inclusivity, it binds itself to promoting these values by maintaining an environment in which they are maximally realized. Responsibility for the maintenance of this environment, however, falls to all members of the College of Wooster community and enjoins standing up for and defending the institution’s core values, perhaps especially in cases where they are being challenged from within. We recognize that speech does things as well as expresses content and ideas. In some instances, what is said or expressed undermines the very mission of the College.
For example, attacks-through speech or other forms of expression-on the dignity of members of our community undermine equity and inclusivity and compromise the educational prospects of the targeted individuals or groups. The demand to have all persons’ dignity recognized and respected is not a demand for intellectual safety but, rather, is a demand for dignitary safety, understood as one’s “sense of being an equal member of the community and of being invited to contribute to a discussion as a valued participant.”1 We do recognize, in the context of our community, a right to dignitary safety and hence recognize the corresponding duty we have to each other to not cause dignitary harm.
Institutions such as The College of Wooster would hardly be needed if it were the case that all persons already knew all that is needed to know and acted fully justly all the time. Hence, in the student and broader campus community population, we recognize both the need and possibility for intellectual and moral growth. Consequently, we should be not be surprised to encounter occasional unjust behavior amongst our community members. When we do, we commit to affirming this as justification for our existence and to responding in ways that are constructive, educative and aimed at mission success.
**Accepted by the College of Wooster Board of Trustees, June 2019