The University as an Intellectual Community

Princeton is, first and foremost, an intellectual community. Every college or university is an environment rich in intellectual, technological, and information resources where students and faculty members come together to pursue their academic interests. All of us are here to learn from each other and to teach each other, both in our individual quests to mature as thinkers, scholars, and researchers, and in our collective effort to advance and refine the body of human knowledge. All of us benefit from the free exchange of ideas, theories, solutions, and interpretations. We test our own thoughts informally among friends or in class, or more formally in papers and exams; we profit by analyzing and evaluating the ideas of our classmates, friends, advisers, and teachers.

Trust is the central ethic of such an intellectual community, in several respects. You should be able to trust that your ideas, no matter how new or unusual, will be respected and not ridiculed; to trust that your ideas will be seriously considered and evaluated; and to trust that you can express your own ideas without fear that someone else will take credit for them. Moreover, others need to be able to trust that your words, data, and ideas are your own. The right to intellectual ownership of original academic work is as important to the life of a university as the right to own personal possessions.

Our intellectual community is much greater than the current population of Princeton students, faculty, and staff. Such an intellectual community transcends both time and space to embrace all contributors to human knowledge. We may find their theories in textbooks, or their words in books of poetry, or their thoughts in library volumes or journals, or their data on the web. Through the work they’ve produced in times past or are producing now across the globe, they share with us their intellectual efforts, trusting that we’ll respect their rights of intellectual ownership. As we at the University strive to build on their work, all of us—from first-year student to full professor—are obligated by the ethic of intellectual honesty to credit that work to its originator.