Peter Coney: Universities as sanctuaries, preserves

Peter Coney, a distinguished University of Arizona professor, now deceased, understood what was required of a university to nurture growth and discovery. He articulated it persuasively:

“I have always felt as I pass from the turmoil of urban streets through the gates and onto the campus of an institution of higher learning, anywhere in the world, a sense of relief and comfort, solemnity and freedom. The feeling is not unlike that when one enters a national park, for this is what colleges and universities are — they are sanctuaries, preserves — of civilization. They are the only institution in the course of human endeavor whose sole purpose and mission is to know the course, content, and directions of civilization, to understand, preserve protect, and transmit these findings, and to seek further advances and new insights into the truth of ourselves and the world…[The] environment should…assure exposure to all the necessary skills and the best ideas and conceptual frameworks of the time, and provide stimulation from an active, well-read thoughtful, positive, innovative, and open faculty, all in an atmosphere of freedom and tolerance. Like libraries that have to have all the books to make sure they have the one somebody needs, we have to have the freedom at universities to tolerate and encourage all sorts of individual diversity, both in faculty and students, so that we can be sure that the best mind gets the exposure to the best cognitive resource which might enable that one-in-a-million new idea that can change the course of a discipline, or civilization.”

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