Effort to Safeguard University Independence Expands

    Daniel J. West, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Health Administration and Human Resources Department, represented The University of Scranton at its signing of the Magna Charta Universitatum Observatory.
    December 12, 2018

    The University of Scranton joined the Magna Charta Universitatum Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights, an alliance of more than 800 universities worldwide committed to serve as guardians for the fundamental values of independence, academic freedom and integrity.

    Universities from 85 countries have signed the statement of fundamental values outlined in the Magna Charta Universitatum, which was first ratified in 1988 by rectors of European universities who assembled at University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in continuous operation. The fundamental principles agreed upon include the recognition of the autonomy of a university and the role it plays “at the heart of societies,” as it produces, examines appraises and hands down culture by research and teaching.” The document attests that in order for universities to fulfill its purpose, “research and teaching must be morally and intellectually independent of all political and economic power.”

     “Joining the observatory expresses the inherent mission of Scranton as a Jesuit university, fully committed to seeking truth and providing our students with a global perspective in their discipline and in their understanding of the diverse needs confronted by the people of the world today,” said Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., president of The University of Scranton.

    The observatory “gathers information, expresses opinions and prepares documents relating to the respect for, and the protection of, the fundamental values and rights” of universities.

    In order to accomplish these goals, universities joining the alliance commit to preserve freedom in research and teaching, as well as to ensure student academic freedom of their students, among other principles. Universities, especially those in Europe, also commit to the mutual exchange of information to advance knowledge.

     “The Observatory Magna Charta Universitatum will further open doors for collaboration with new institutions and further enhance the international collaborations already in place,” said Jeff Gingerich, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, who noted the University has already established a number of international partnerships as part of its strategic plan.

    By 2020 the Observatory plans to be the leading global organization to support fundamental values for higher education. The organization hosts international conferences and workshops and support publications to promote these values, and plans to increase signatories to the Universitatum to 1,000 by 2020.

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