Office of the Provost

PROVOST COMMUNICATIONS

Our Community of Learning

[Email to U-M campus community]
Sept 7, 2018

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

I am pleased to welcome you as the academic year begins. The excitement across campus reflects the wonderful opportunities that the university offers to all of us as part of this community. We have come together from around the world, bringing rich and varied experiences to share with each other.

As the year begins, it is an appropriate moment to reflect on the principles that underlie the learning we do together. Foremost among them is our commitment to freedom of thought. This is key to the creation of new knowledge that is the work of universities.

Freedom of thought is a demanding ideal. It requires being open to uncomfortable ideas, welcoming perspectives that are new or different from our own, listening carefully to others, thinking critically, and grounding our positions and arguments in evidence.

It is our good fortune to be part of a community founded on this ideal and designed to support this challenging work. In classrooms, labs, lectures, performances, and Diag conversations, we examine ideas, assessing the thinking and the facts behind them, then reflecting, re-evaluating our own thoughts, and posing new ideas for discussion. Our commitment to each other is to listen, think, and act with respect, recognizing that each of us has something to contribute and that we all have much to learn.

We also recognize that this process of debate and discussion is key to the progress of society. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of the American belief in the "indefinite perfectibility" of human society. This belief and the commitment to freedom of thought that underlies it have enabled our society to make progress toward justice and equality.

As we begin this academic year, we recognize that there are many challenges facing the world. Together, as a community of learners, we can contribute to their resolution.

Sincerely,

Martin A. Philbert
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Toxicology