Year-End Message

To:       The Caltech Community
From:   Thomas F. Rosenbaum
            President and Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics

Date:   December 7, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

As the new year approaches, it is a time to celebrate the special ways that our students, faculty, and staff contribute to knowledge and to society by doing what we do best: challenging the accepted wisdom, rigorously analyzing problems, and devising innovative solutions. It is also a propitious time to reflect on our values as an intellectual community in the context of the national conversation about diversity, inclusion, and freedom of expression.

Creating a diverse community dedicated to research and education is both a fundamental value and strategy for the Institute. We only will succeed in the extraordinarily competitive world of higher education by being the destination of choice for the world's most original and creative scholars. This involves celebrating diversity of perspectives and people, and creating an environment where individuals can thrive as fully valued and contributing members of the Caltech community. Professor Cindy Weinstein, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, describes a coordinated suite of activities toward this end here.

Together, we are an Institute committed to the creation of knowledge across the spectrum of disciplines, firm in our belief that a culture of intense inquiry and informed argument generates lasting ideas. We are proud to be a place where ideas are judged on their own merits, not on the status or background of the speaker. Free exchange leads to innovation and the growth of knowledge. This exchange, embedded in civil discourse, is central to the Institute's function and to our identity as scholars.

Although these principles may be relatively easy to articulate, their implementation in real situations can be complex. The limits are clear. At one end, members of the Subscribe Share Past Issues Translate community cannot be allowed to shout down speakers with unpopular or even offensive views. The remedy lies in reasoned argument and the sway of superior ideas. At the other end, it is impermissible to propagate symbols of hate. This vitiates the worth of the individual and violates the honor code. The Institute's core value of open inquiry reaches its full expression when each and every member of our community can contribute as a distinct individual, free of stereotypes, to our shared pursuit of knowledge.

It is the regions between these limits where it can be difficult to find our equilibrium. We depend in such circumstances on our ability to engage with each other openly, recognizing the spectrum of opinions held by our colleagues, but grounded in our shared values and our dedication to excellence in all endeavors. I wish to all of us for 2016 a year of enlightening argument, the patience to listen as well as to challenge, and the satisfaction of close community. Thank you for all that you do for Caltech.