In a diverse community, differing points of view are welcome. Protecting the scope of open discourse and the courageous exploration of ideas has always been, and continues to be, an important part of the Hotchkiss culture.
In order to foster an environment in which varying ideas and points of view can be openly shared, we work to incorporate a set of tenets put forth by the University of Chicago called The Principles of Open Discourse (“Chicago Principles”). These principles advocate for free, robust, and uninhibited debate among members of learning communities. Administrations at 55 college-level institutions across the U.S. have endorsed the principles.
Importantly, the Chicago Principles were written for adult students at the university level, while Hotchkiss is a community of adolescents. Therefore, the Principles must be applied in a way that encourages open discourse while ensuring a civil and respectful atmosphere that protects the well-being of students.
In September of 2019, Head of School Craig Bradley led a delegation of students and faculty members to the University of Chicago’s “Conference on Freedom of Expression and Open Discourse in High School.” Hotchkiss was among 12 independent schools—and the only boarding school—invited to participate. A key element of the conference was investigating how the Chicago Principles can be safely and effectively used within a secondary school.
Upon returning to campus, participants began working with students to articulate the importance of the principles to an academic community. Hotchkiss’s collaboration on this work with the University of Chicago is ongoing.
“Productive and informed questioning involves challenging assumptions, arguments, and conclusions. It calls for multiple and diverse perspectives and listening to the views of others. It requires understanding the power and limitations of arguments. More fundamentally, the process of questioning demands an ability to rethink one’s own assumptions, often the most difficult task of all.”
“Essential to this process is an environment that promotes free expression and the open exchange of ideas, ensuring that difficult questions are asked, and that diverse and challenging perspectives are considered. This underscores the importance of diversity among students, faculty and visitors—diversity of background, belief, and experience.””
–Robert Zimmer, former President of the University of Chicago
At Hotchkiss, we work to create an environment in which debate is free, every voice is heard, and the safety and dignity of every student are respected.