Principles for a Just Community

The University at Albany, State University of New York, is an academic community dedicated to the ideals of justice. A university is above all a place where intellectual life is central and where faculty, staff, and students strive together for excellence in the pursuit of knowledge. It is a particular kind of community with special purposes. Moreover, this academic community, if it is to support our broader ideals, must also be just.

There is no definitive theory of justice. The differences in these theories are to be respected. However, among all democratic theories of justice, the principles of equality and liberty are basic. These principles are no less central to a free university.

In a just community, the dignity of the individual and respect for diversity are fundamental. Members of a just community are committed to raising awareness of common ground and to the principles of respect, integrity, innovation, openness, justice and responsibility.

Equality is a necessary part of any university that claims to be a democratic institution. Distinctions based on irrelevant differences are ruled out. Ascriptive characteristics including but not limited to race, religion, gender, class, disability, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, or disability determine neither the value of individuals nor the legitimacy of their views. Only the merit of the individual as a participant in the life of the academic community is worthy of consideration. Bigotry in any form is antithetical to the University’s ideals on intellectual, political, and moral grounds and must be challenged and rejected.

Liberty is an equally precious academic principle because the free expression of ideas is the central part of university life. To sustain the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and understanding, the University must allow the free expression of ideas. Protecting speech in all its forms, however, does not mean condoning all ideas or actions. The University sets high standards for itself and denounces the violation of these standards in unequivocal terms. Harassment and other behavior that intrudes upon the rights of others are unacceptable and subject to action under the guidelines of the institution.
There is no guarantee that the principles of justice, once stated, are realized. The University must constantly remind itself that its mission and ethos must evolve within the context of justice. A just community is always on guard against injustice, always struggling to move closer to the ideals of justice, always asserting its dedication to justice. The assertion of justice takes place in every part of the community: in the classroom, the lecture hall, the library, the residence hall, wherever members of the University come together. It is the responsibility of all faculty, staff, and students to keep the ideals of justice uppermost in the minds of the members of the University so that they may be achieved. Adopted by the University at Albany, State University of New York, May 7, 1990; revised April 3, 2001 – University Senate.