The foreword is not a part of the document that follows. It supplies, however, a necessary perspective for interpreting the document, originally named Academic Freedom for Students at Michigan State University.
Student rights and responsibilities at Michigan State University must be understood against the social and historical background of the University itself.
When, more than 150 years ago, the people of Michigan established this institution on the land-grant principle, they framed a new conception of the role of the university in American life. A land-grant university is a trusteeship of intellect in the service of society. It gathers society’s creative and critical powers and uses them to advance the common good and to solve fundamental problems.
That is the special character that has caused the land-grant university to become one of the great transforming agencies of the American scene. When it honors its commission, it acts not for the sake of the academic community, but for the sake of society beyond the academy. All members of the academic community — trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students — enact a trust of which society beyond the University is the proper beneficiary.
The real significance of this document, as we believe, is not that students have acquired rights, but that they have explicitly been made party to our social trust. The responsibility which lies upon the trustees, the administration, and the faculty continues. They remain guardians of the University, charged with preserving in it the genius of scholarship and the conditions of inquiry which society has entrusted to their care.