Recent events at Rutgers University have attracted national attention and raised important issues. Two students are accused of playing a mean-spirited prank that may have led to the suicide of another student. While I do not wish to draw conclusions regarding the specific facts that may unfold as the investigation at Rutgers continues, I believe we now have a unique opportunity to reflect on our own core institutional values and personal responsibilities at Temple.
Temple is a richly diverse community within an increasingly interdependent global culture. We also live in an age in which social media and communications technologies enable us to be in nearly constant contact with large numbers of people on an increasingly personal level. The benefits of this environment are immeasurable. We each can learn much more when a multitude of perspectives inform the dialogue of the educational process. But these elements of our modern society also bring challenges. They provide us with the means to commit acts of terrible cruelty that can have serious, and in some cases, tragic consequences.
The introduction to the Student Code of Conduct (Temple Board of Trustees Policies and Procedures Manual, policy number 03.70.12) states that “[i]t is the student’s responsibility to: 1) foster an environment conducive to continued intellectual and educational stimulation within the university free from unlawful harassment by other members of the community; and 2) foster the maintenance of physical and mental health, the safety and welfare of each member of the community; and 3) respect the rights of others.” These principles, upon which the entire code rests, articulate our core values as an academic community.
Harassment, hazing, invasion of privacy and the use Temple technology resources to cause harm to another are just a few examples of activities prohibited under Temple’s policies. It is not enough, however, to simply examine a set of rules to discern what behaviors are allowed versus what are forbidden. Not all things that are legal are moral or right or harmless.
Furthermore, the Student Code of Conduct reminds us that the well being of every member of the Temple community is our collective responsibility. We must stand up for the rights of those who may become targets of abusive treatment and against those who would perpetrate it. If we do not, we are culpable in the results.
I urge you to join me in reaffirming Temple’s core values and in fulfilling our duty to sustain a university environment where all members of our community may be successful and safe. As we have learned from our colleagues at Rutgers, there can be no more important call to action.
Ann Weaver Hart