Emancipative Values

Finding our place in a divided society
The role of universities in society has become increasingly complex. Where once they were respected holders of knowledge and expertise, the relationship is no longer clear. We have seen this recently in Minnesota, where differences in beliefs can even result in hostility to the institution, which is sometimes viewed as subverting students rather than educating them. In order to find our way forward in this divided society, we need to ensure that we are clear about our mission and the historical background of the roles and functions of the University—all of which inform our decision-making.
We are a land-grant university, founded to better the lives of the citizens of the state. As a public institution, our responsibility is also to create a space of neutral viewpoint. In this space, all beliefs are welcome, examined, and evaluated, however imperfectly. We remain a space of discovery, where curiosity is the driving force behind understanding—a higher kind of knowledge than we have had before.
To do this, no one viewpoint is allowed to dominate and exclude the others. This aligns closely with the American ideal of democracy, where all votes are equal, where everyone has a vote, and everyone has the right to participate in the democracy. As in a democracy, it is important to prevent our work from being swayed by single political or financial interest above those of the entire set of people whom we serve.
Additionally, we have a higher responsibility to service. Society depends on the university being a repository of expertise and information. It also depends on the university interacting with outside influences to maximize the understanding of our world. We are expected to rise above our personal interests and to support emancipative values that empower all people. These can be summarized as equality (for gender, race, belief systems, etc.), autonomy (allowing people to make their own decisions), and right to fair representation and participation in the political process.
This is part of our long view of service to the future, not just a reaction to a single event. This is the pattern and ethos that we have inherited. We will serve, and people after us will serve. We serve our community. We obey the laws of our country. We respect the democratic process. We remain apolitical, although we value people who take part in politics, viewing it as an instrument for the public good. We also conform to accreditation—the guidelines produced by a national body of experts, professional norms, ethics, and laws. These guidelines form the reference structure of our work—and we comply with them so that we can award degrees that will be accepted nation and worldwide.
As we move forward in this complex world and divided state, we must retain a philosophical center that is consistent and balanced. Our decisions should, and will, proceed from this foundation.

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Dean of the Medical School

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