Dear Members of the University Community:
At the half-way point of my first year at the UW, there are still daily revelations of how great this University is and what that greatness is built upon. The more I look inside the campus, the more I see extraordinary, energized students and faculty applying their talents to expand and share human knowledge. The more I venture outside, the more I find alumni, donors, legislators, and private citizens who treasure the contributions the UW makes to their lives and to the good of the world.
As part of my discovery, I am increasingly impressed to see that the remarkable drive, inquisitiveness, and ambition of our faculty, staff, and students are tempered by a deep, pervasive respect for the rules and societal standards that define the right way to conduct our work. Such steadfast adherence to ethical principles is far from universal, nor can we take it for granted. Indeed, the news of the past year left us with far too many examples of the lasting harm done by malicious and careless individuals, whose acts were sometimes extended by the inaction of those who might have spoken up or intervened. For that matter, our protracted economic slump is rooted in a widespread, unchecked disregard for responsible financial practices. We have seen prominent public officials caught behaving unethically and recklessly. Persons entrusted with academic, administrative, and athletic responsibilities at institutions of higher education have been found to have actively betrayed that trust — or to have stood by passively allowing the destructive behavior to continue.
In contrast, it is clear to me that the University of Washington’s century and a half of success has been built on a strong foundation of integrity. When problems have been discovered, they have been dealt with promptly and appropriately, as one would hope. Overall, the UW has nurtured a culture of responsible conduct, which has sustained our perennial success in attracting scholars and administrators who share a visceral inclination to act honorably. This institutional legacy is certainly one of the reasons I am proud to be among you.
Having inherited such values, one of our duties is to periodically renew our commitment to maintain these high expectations of ourselves and of one another. To that end, I hope you will join me in resolving to make 2012 another year of hard work in the service of education, research, and public service, carried out with the highest standards of integrity. This is the one certain path to continued pride in our individual and collective accomplishments.
Best wishes for a New Year filled with discovery and prosperity.
Michael K. Young