URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois System released a set of guiding principles today that lay out its position on three pressing academic and campus culture issues currently facing higher education across the country, President Tim Killeen announced.
The concise statements, developed through extensive collaborations over the last five months with key stakeholders, address free speech on campus, globalization and immigration, and civic engagement. They were posted today on the U of I System’s website and shared with faculty, staff and students at its three universities through an email.
Killeen said the statements respond to those current and frequently controversial national issues by reaffirming core values that have carried the system from its founding to its place as a global pioneer in education and discovery.
“These guiding principles will help ensure that our universities continue to foster an inclusive, welcoming campus climate that promotes an open exchange of divergent ideas and develops new generations of leaders,” he said.
Killeen said the statements align with current practices and, by design, are not intended as a comprehensive view that addresses every possible scenario that could arise on campuses from these complex issues. Instead, he said, they codify the broad principles that have guided the system’s success in the past, providing a solid foundation that will inform its actions in the future.
He also said the statements are “living documents” that can be adapted as needed to address change, or to incorporate new, pressing issues involving other principles that guide the U of I System’s missions of education, research, public engagement and economic development.
Work to develop the statements began at a July retreat hosted by the U of I Board of Trustees that focused on three timely issues in higher education – free speech on campus, immigration and globalization, and civic engagement.
More than 100 people participated in the daylong retreat, which brought national experts on those subjects together with trustees, faculty, staff, students and leadership from the three universities and system offices.
Afterward, Killeen appointed working groups to distill the ideas that surfaced during the retreat and then draft statements, which were later finalized through input from students, faculty, chancellors and other stakeholders. From start to finish, he said, more than 200 people across the system were involved in the process.
Here are excerpts from the statements:
- Freedom of speech on campus. The statement reaffirms the system’s “unyielding allegiance” to free speech and the power that “even controversial, contentious, and unpopular speech” holds to create active and informed citizens. But academic excellence also requires an environment of mutual respect, and the system will “vigorously and even-handedly protect … against conduct that falls outside the First Amendment” to ensure a safe and robust exchange of viewpoints, the statement says.
- Globalization and immigration. The statement recommits to welcoming, diverse campus cultures that reflect the increasing globalization that now exists for today’s students, alumni, faculty and staff. “Formal and informal engagement with the broader world – in traditional or virtual classrooms … in residence halls, even in a line for coffee – brings energy, distinction, and a sense of common purpose to all the work we do," the statement says.
- Civic engagement. The statement commits to build on a long legacy of producing well-rounded, civic-minded graduates whose collective talents serve the needs of progress and the public good. “Just as our faculty and staff bridge spaces between disciplines to produce scholarship with societal value, we aim to produce graduates with the skills, values, and experiences to be truly engaged in their communities," the statement says.
The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 83,000 students, nearly 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards nearly 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.