Moral formation, whether acknowledged or not, is intrinsic to education and, in particular, education for particular vocations. Law and medicine rightly inculcate in their students the standards of their craft. Training people for the ministry also involves a moral training that often has not been made explicit. Several well-publicized occurrences of misconduct by church leaders have made clear that, especially in the moral climate of our time, we need to be intentional about the formation of character in Divinity School education.
Developed over a six-year period of conversation, the Conduct Covenant represents a revision of the Divinity School's Honor Code. The Covenant adopted is brief, followed by a section of interpretation/exposition and one on “Covenant Keeping.” The interpretation/exposition section is designed to foster conversations about the significance of the Covenant itself, recognizing that this will be an ongoing process for the whole community.
One might ask: “Should there be a Conduct Covenant at Duke Divinity School at all?” In our judgment, we owe it to ourselves, to the churches, and to the wider world to maintain moral matters as integral to theological study and its connections to Christian life. The Divinity School's central activity is preparing men and women for Christian ministry. Such preparation inherently involves moral judgments, both in terms of the shaping of communities and the shaping of our own character as particular people. Over the years the School has wrestled with whether there should be a covenant at all - as well as what should go into a covenant were one to be adopted. I believe it is the Divinity School's intention, and commitment, to use such a Covenant to open up conversations over time in ways that will help cultivate wise judgment. And I am heartened by the many students and faculty who are receiving this Covenant warmly and in the spirit in which it was written and adopted.
Will reasonable people disagree about the wisdom of having a Covenant at all, as well as about particular judgments on various issues? Undoubtedly so. Have we developed a perfect Covenant? Undoubtedly not. Even so, we believe that the best response is not to abandon the conversations, but to deepen and extend them over the years in the most life-giving ways possible for the whole community and in service to God.
There has been some recent publicity that involves misunderstanding and misreadings of the Covenant.
We invite you to read for yourself:
The Duke Community Standard
Duke University is a community of scholars and learners, committed to the principles of honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and respect for others. Students share with faculty and staff the responsibility for promoting a climate of integrity. As citizens of this community, students are expected to adhere to these fundamental values at all times, in both their academic and non-academic endeavors.
To uphold the Duke Community Standard:
- I will not lie, cheat, or steal in my academic endeavors;
- I will conduct myself honorably in all my endeavors; and
- I will act if the Standard is compromised.