Home » Part III University Principles and Policies » Chapter 1: A Statement of Principles

Chapter 1: A Statement of Principles

Section A
Academic Freedom and Responsibility

“Academic freedom” in the traditional sense refers to the University’s continuing policy of maintaining conditions of free inquiry, thought, and discussion for every member of the faculty in professional activities of research, teaching, public speaking, and publication. These conditions are regarded as necessary rights accruing to appointment on the faculty. Faculty members have the correlative obligation to speak and write with accuracy, with due respect for the opinions of others, and with proper care to specify that they speak on the authority of their own work and reputation, not as special pleaders for any social group or as purporting to represent the University. Such rights and obligations presuppose that faculty members adequately perform other academic duties and that they do not accept pecuniary return for activities outside of the University without a proper understanding with University authorities.

Some persons broaden the meaning of academic freedom beyond individual rights and duties to include faculty participation in determination of University policy. At Vanderbilt, the faculties of the College of Arts and Science, the Graduate School, and the professional schools (the Executive Faculty in the School of Medicine) determine the requirements and recommend all candidates for degrees. Through their collegial bodies and their elected representatives in the Faculty Senate, the faculties are free at any time to examine, debate, and make recommendations concerning any educational policy, program, or practice of the University.

“Academic responsibility” means adherence to the following values and standards of conduct (adapted from the Beach Report on Issues of Conscience and Academic Freedom, 1960):

Vanderbilt University is a community of men and women devoted to the search for truth. A self-governing institution, it professes freedom from both internal and external interference which hinders accomplishment of that purpose. It is an institution that transcends, as much as it challenges and accepts, the customs and values of society. It has its own standards of excellence and responsibility that do not always conform to those of the persons and groups who support it. The University is also part of the civic community in which it exists. Its members, both faculty and students, are entitled to exercise the rights of citizens and are subject to the responsibilities of citizens. A member of the Vanderbilt community gives thoughtful consideration to the image of the University reflected in his or her public behavior.

Members of the Vanderbilt community share a due regard and respect for law. In the event that one of its members is in jeopardy before the law, either for the sake of conscience or for the purpose of testing the validity of particular provisions of law through deliberate violation, the University will not seek to protect him or her from due process of law. Regardless of the action of the courts, however, the University reserves the right to determine whether a faculty member is fit to retain membership in the academic community, and maintains its own procedures for taking action upon, hearing, and deciding complaints against one of its members.

Section B
Students at Vanderbilt: A Statement of Principles

The community of Vanderbilt University is united by the goals of inquiry and education. Faculty, administration, and students are partners in an enterprise aimed at the enhancement of knowledge and the growth of the individual. All members of this community have both rights and responsibilities and are expected to observe rules required to maintain the humane order of the University. Each member must respect the rights of others and make responsible contributions to the common life.

The University, in turn, dedicates itself to the support and encouragement of a collegial community. Its dealings with students will be governed, within the limits of its resources, by the principles articulated below. It will take special care that its rules and regulations, through which these principles are implemented, shall adequately reflect and be in accordance with them.

Open Communication
The University is committed to the promotion of collegial relationships among students, faculty, and administration through the creation and maintenance of open channels of communication. The University will publish and disseminate in a timely manner its policies, procedures, and regulations concerning students, including those stating academic requirements and standards of student conduct, as well as any other information that is deemed to be important for the protection of all members of the University community.

Open Inquiry
The University is committed to providing opportunities for the free and open exchange of ideas both inside and outside the classroom. It will safeguard the undisturbed, orderly expression of diverse views and opinions as well as the opportunity for their careful examination.

The University is committed to the consideration of views expressed by students on matters of student concern, both in support of existing policies and proposals for change. It encourages student involvement in governance at the department, school, college, and University levels. To facilitate that involvement, the University will maintain appropriate processes within which students can communicate their views by formal and informal means, and can, directly or through their representatives, actively contribute to decisions affecting the University community. All involved are expected to participate in these processes in a responsible and thoughtful manner.

Academic Offerings
The University is committed to the provision of resources of high quality for aiding students in the pursuit of their academic and intellectual development, including both varied and complementary curricular offerings, a qualified faculty, and accessible, well-equipped facilities.

Formal Instruction
The University is committed to the pursuit of excellence in the education of its students, whether in the classroom, in the laboratory, or in practical experience. It will strive to create the opportunity for open inquiry, discussion, and challenge of ideas, and to assure students reasonable access to the faculty for continuation of this process outside of class meetings. Instructors will ensure that the objectives of their courses, their expectations for performance, and their methods of evaluation are explained to students. Academic evaluation will be based on fair and relevant standards. Students will be given an opportunity to evaluate the performance of the faculty as teachers and to have those evaluations considered.

Academic Integrity
The University is committed to academic honesty and to the effective and just implementation of a system designed to preserve and protect it.

The University is committed to making support and guidance available for its students as they make academic, career, and personal choices and seek to understand themselves and those with whom they live and work.

Fair Procedures
The University is committed to providing students with the opportunity to present complaints about the action of any member of the University community. It will provide fair and appropriate procedures, including the opportunity for appeal, for addressing and resolving complaints. These procedures will be administered in a nonadversarial spirit of openness, fairness, cooperation, and mutual respect among the participants.

Extracurricular Activities
The University is committed to the support and stimulation of the learning experience beyond the boundaries of formal instruction. It will provide opportunities through special personnel, facilities, programs, and services for students to associate with one another on an informal basis for participation in nonacademic activities, including the opportunity to form and join campus organizations.

The University is committed to the protection of its members from unreasonable intrusions into their individual privacy. It will also provide considerate, and where appropriate, confidential management of their academic, health, disciplinary, financial, and personal records.

Health and Safety
The University is committed to the physical and mental well-being of its members. Accordingly, it will strive to provide a secure campus, safe facilities, and responsible regulations designed to protect the health and safety of all.

The University is committed not to discriminate on the basis of unlawful criteria in its policies, practices, programs, and activities.

A goal of Vanderbilt University is to foster an open and diverse society where the rights of all members of the community are respected. The free expression of views in orderly ways is encouraged, but personal vilification of individuals has no place at Vanderbilt. Discouragement of personal vilification includes education and assistance in understanding the differing cultures represented at Vanderbilt, peer disapproval of inconsiderate behavior, and provisions of the Student Handbook regulating abusive or harassing conduct.


The University recognizes that occasions may arise when the amendment of these principles will be necessary. The process of developing, approving, and implementing amendments shall include participation by students, faculty members, and administrators.