Values Working Group

Dear Alumni, Current and former Council Members and Staff,

VALUES WORKING GROUP

The Board has decided to work towards the adoption of a comprehensive statement of values and for the College.  I am responsible for convening a working party to commence this process.  Ultimately such a statement would be adopted by the College Council, but there would be opportunity for input from the whole College community.

I am calling for expressions of interest in participating in the working party.  Participation by correspondence would be welcome.

Some prior relevant work has been done.  An exercise involving consultation involving more than 40 College “stakeholders” including residents, alumni, staff and Council members, amongst other things, produced some findings on values.  The Attachment has a summary of these findings.

The ideas on values this produced form a sound basis for further development. They were more about how College members should conduct themselves toward each other though there was reference to the College’s role in the community at large.  We do need to adopt values that relate to the community, or indeed world, at large as we need a basis to interact with it.  A critical interaction is acceptance of donations.  With no adopted values relevant to this we might accept any donation.  There is no doubt that all of us would reject donations from certain sources and all of us would accept donations from certain other sources, but at present we do not have a basis for deciding where to draw a line.

As important as it is for any values to be adopted to be informed by the thinking of the College community, humans have been thinking about values for quite a few thousand years and it would make no sense not to draw on the results of that.  Much of that thinking has been religiously based and it behoves us as a College founded by religious communities to ensure values we adopt take account of that.  Those religious communities were of course Christian, but we have been always a community welcoming people of all faiths.  Not surprisingly, one finds strong congruency of the values of the three Abrahamic faiths, but all the other major faiths have similar values.  So, it should not be difficult to adopt values appropriate for members of the College of any major faith.

We are a community that includes people of many nations.  We therefore should look to the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the associated covenants (see http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html , http://www.un-documents.net/icescr.htm and http://www.un-documents.net/iccpr.htm ). Though, in spite of its name, there is not universal acceptance, the UDHR and other relevant agreements of the United Nations are probably the best indication of where humanity has got to in terms of agreeing on values.  We should, naturally, also look to any values embodied in the constitution and laws of Australia and to any embodied in the statutes and policies of the ANU. The ANU’s policy on investment, for example, (https://policies.anu.edu.au/ppl/document/ANUP_005802) requires avoidance of social injury and promotion of social benefit and a “significant reduction in the overall carbon intensity of the investment portfolio”.

The following is an attempt to put together some draft statements that are broadly consistent with values to be found in the sources mentioned in the foregoing.  The working group might find these draft statements suitable to start discussions.

  1. Life, peace and security - the sanctity of all human lives and peaceful coexistence and resort to force in the resolution of any conflict only when negotiation cannot succeed and only to minimise loss of life and suffering
  2. Equality - no one has a right superior to any other and no one, within their ability, has a lesser responsibility than any other and democratic government free from corrupting special influence
  3. Dignity, inclusivity, social justice and progress -  the best possible opportunity for all to live lives of dignity in societies that include all, regardless of individual differences, able to realise their full potential and assured as far as possible by nation states and all other relevant organisations of physical and mental health
  4. Fairness and non-exploitation - fair distribution of the world’s resources between communities and within communities and the outlawing of transactions of any kind that are in any way unfair or exploitative
  5. Ecological sustainability and integrity - maintenance of the world’s ecosystems and diversity of living things
  6. Other animals - concern for the wellbeing of non-human sentient animals
  7. Heritage - preservation of places and things of special natural and cultural qualities
  8. Liberty - freedom of association, marriage, culture, philosophy and religion and to choose a way of life provided it is compatible with the forgoing values

Statements such as these might be seen as statements of foundational values.  From these would flow value statements relating more directly to the way the College community conducts itself.  Drafting of these should be based on the findings of the aforementioned consultation (attachment).

For your information, the attachment also provides:

  • the College “objects”
  • the current vision statemet
  • links to value statements of some other colleges
  • how possible donors might be considered against possible values

 I look forward to hearing from any member of the College community interested in participating in this work.

Kind Regards

Robin Brown

College Council Secretary

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