As expressed in our university mission statement, Elon University “embraces its founders’ vision of an academic community that transforms mind, body, and spirit and encourages freedom of thought and liberty of conscience” with a commitment to “foster respect for human differences.” The University encourages open, ongoing intellectual engagement and debate through mutually respectful interactions that preserve the openness of public dialogue, animate the academic freedom central to the enterprise of higher education, appreciate human dignity and difference, and reflect the shared tenets of honor codes that guide good practice across colleges and universities. An environment that encourages diverse views and the free exchange of ideas is vital to the Elon University mission and, indeed, the aims of higher learning.
Elon’s mission highlights both freedom of expression and inclusion as cornerstones of a dynamic academic community, and as necessary for holistic student development in a student- and learning-centered educational environment. The exchange of ideas and the safety and well-being of the Elon community are both essential elements of a rich intellectual community.
Nurturing both freedom of expression and inclusion, Elon is committed to creating and sustaining a strong campus community, wherein each member critically examines multiple ideas and perspectives about the issues that matter most to our campus, community, and world. We foster a campus community that embraces an exchange of ideas, with thoughtful discussion, ongoing dialogue, and respectful debate that is both robust and free from harassment.
The marketplace of ideas works best when multiple voices speak and are heard, when serious ideas are taken seriously, and when impassioned responses are coupled with reason. This can be difficult and nuanced, for free speech is not without consequence and may include the condemnation of ideas or social isolation due to the expression of ideas that others view as damaging. The advancement of knowledge arises out of a crucible of difference, wherein risk and challenge are essential.
While embracing an open exchange of ideas, we also acknowledge and expect all within our community to act in ways that acknowledge that words have impact, and that impact is differential and contextual, influenced by societal structures, life experiences, backgrounds, and identities. We abhor and rebuke speech that disenfranchises, denigrates, and dehumanizes. Targeted harassment, threats, and speech that creates a hostile learning environment have no place at Elon.
There are inherent responsibilities that accompany membership in an academic community committed to the advancement of knowledge and open inquiry. These responsibilities include acknowledging the impact of one’s speech, listening openly to understand the perspectives of others, affording respect and dignity to all, contending with challenging and discomfiting ideas, being thorough in one’s own inquiries, and actively engaging when speech threatens to harm others. These values are inscribed in the pillars of Elon’s honor code: honesty, integrity, responsibility, and respect. By assuming and acting on these responsibilities, each and all of us participate in sustaining the values of the academy and creating a healthy academic community reflective of dissenting views supportive of personal transformation.
Difficult conversations challenge members of our community to be logical in our arguments, capable of respectfully seeing things from others’ perspectives, careful about what we say and how we say it, committed to the advancement of knowledge and understanding, open to change in one’s own views and actions, and resilient in the face of adversity. The learning that takes place through a robust exchange of ideas and the skills of democracy that are sharpened through such exchanges are essential to our future success, individually and collectively.