Robert Maynard Hutchins, who became President of the University of Chicago at 30 and served for 16 years, added six more years as Chancellor. I am not going to make this a regular feature, but here is the quote of the week. This statement made me feel better.

“A university is a community of scholars. It is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda. A university is a community of scholars.”

The University and its Foundational Principles of free expression were shaped by Hutchins. This is stated on the University page on Hutchins.

Hutchins was a strong advocate of academic freedom, and as always refused to compromise his principles. Faced with charges in 1935 by drugstore magnate Charles Walgreen that his niece had been indoctrinated with communist ideas at the University, Hutchins stood behind his faculty and their right to teach and believe as they wished, insisting that communism could not withstand the scrutiny of public analysis and debate. He later became friends with Walgreen and convinced him to fund a series of lectures on democracy. When the University faced charges of aiding and abetting communism again in 1949, Hutchins steadfastly refused to capitulate to red-baiters who attacked faculty members.

The Kalven Report established the principle that, with rare exceptions, The University of Chicago and its units were not allowed to make political, ideological statements. Sometimes this policy has been at odds with activists. Pressure was put on the University to dis invest in corporations that did business in Sudan. It didn't speak on either issue. Kalven says that political statements are not the responsibility of the university. The University can't do that for them.

The quote at the top reminded me of when I was younger. The statement below was written with Hutchins's words in mind when I read the Kalven report.

“A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.”
How many universities see themselves as lobbies, political parties, reform schools, and agencies of propaganda? I’d say a large fraction, for political statements and social-justice manifestos proliferate on college websites. And of course you know how universities behave as kindergartens: just look at the recent follies of The Evergreen State University, Yale University, or Oberlin College. Will we even recognize the university as a community of scholars in fifty years, or will it abjure its academic mission in favor of an ideological one?

That's right.

Just after he took the reins as President, there was a picture of Hutchins. His first address is worth a read.

Photography by Angelica King, University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-05032, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library