We have committed to developing a new policy for inclusion in the Student Handbook that specifically addresses racial hate speech and misconduct; the school’s unequivocal condemnation of such behavior; how we will educate our students about these fundamental community expectations; and the process we will use for investigating and eradicating such behavior from our community.
One of the issues that has afflicted educational institutions in recent years is the mistaken belief that principles of intellectual freedom and respect for the feelings of others are somehow in conflict. At St. Albans, there is a genuine effort to see these principles as part of a larger unity, bound together by the conviction that love of knowledge and love for others are sacred obligations that rest on the same moral and spiritual foundation. At St. Albans, we aspire to live in the grace of these two forms of love.
As an academic community grounded in the liberal arts tradition, we believe that the free and vigorous exchange of ideas promotes the intellectual and personal growth of our students and prepares them for life in a complex, diverse society where citizens often disagree on matters of fundamental importance. As a moral community grounded in the spiritual principle that all humans are entitled to equal dignity and respect, we believe that discussion and disagreement must always take place within a context that affirms the humanity of every person in our school family.
We welcome speech that advances learning and enlarges our perspectives on complex issues. But there is no place in our school community for speech that demeans or marginalizes individuals based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other category. “Freedom of speech” is not a sanctuary for those who weaponize language to hurt and intimidate others. For freedom of speech to serve its intended goals—of advancing learning, deepening understanding, and helping us thoughtfully navigate the disagreements that are inevitable in a complex democracy—it must rest on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. Freedom in this deeper sense is not a condition that spontaneously comes into being. It requires work. It is a collective achievement made possible by our commitment to educating young men in the thoughtful, discerning, and responsible use of freedom. Hate speech erodes the foundations of a true learning community. Only when all members of our school family feel a sense of value and belonging can meaningful discourse—and meaningful disagreement—occur.
We will soon be translating these principles into a formal written policy and look forward to sharing it with the community in the near future.