Columbia Launches a Reinvestment in Its Values and Mission

The goal is to foster a community where debates are rooted in academic rigor and civil discourse through work that includes professional development, resources, and other activities.

December 20, 2023

Columbia University has announced a series of efforts designed to reinvest in its values and foster a community where debates and disagreements are rooted in academic rigor and civil discourse. These efforts include convenings, dialogues, professional development activities, and enhanced reporting resources.

In a letter to the University community, President Minouche Shafik and Interim Provost Dennis Mitchell wrote, “This institution is an extraordinary place, where the best minds, for 269 years, have devoted themselves to research, teaching, learning, and global engagement with extraordinary expertise, determination, and compassion. This is a call to rededicate ourselves to that vital work, and to move ahead, with courage and conviction, to build a community where all of us can learn, work, and thrive."

Columbia benefits immeasurably from the talents, perspectives, and experiences of its exceptionally diverse members, as well as its location in one of the richest and most varied global cities in the world. As President Shafik said in a video message addressed to all Columbians, “Because we are a global, diverse, and engaged university, everything that happens in the world spills over onto our campus. This is one of our great strengths, but it can also be a source of conflict and tension.”

People walking around on Columbia's campus, against the backdrop of the statue of Alma Mater

Recent events have laid bare the University’s need to reinvest, expansively, in work that promotes mutual respect alongside free speech, to ensure that all members of the Columbia community feel safe, seen, welcome, and heard. Everyone’s collective rights to learn, work, and live together, free from bigotry, intimidation, and harassment should be protected.

As President Shafik and Interim Provost Mitchell wrote in their community letter, “We want everyone to be able to engage with differing perspectives and to navigate the discomfort that comes with that. Our differences should be a source of strength, a critical part of what makes university communities like ours excel as incubators of knowledge and innovation.”

Demonstrating unity across the University, deans of Columbia’s faculties and 17 schools signed a powerful joint statement in support of the recommitment. “As academic leaders, we pledge to foster ways to think about, discuss, and debate these critical issues, taking full advantage of our deep expertise and intellectual energy,” the deans wrote. “We are affirming here our own commitment to nurturing a truly compassionate intellectual community, and to critical and constructive debate.” 

For more information about the range of initiatives, please read the announcement and visit the Values in Action website.