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Pledge created atmosphere for social responsibility

To the Editor:

In the spring of 1987, students at Humboldt State University in California, backed by the unanimous endorsement of the HSU Faculty Senate, introduced the distribution of an optional pledge at their commencement ceremony. The pledge, though innovative in appearance, embodied age-old ideals -- that one must maintain a sense of commitment to the world in which he lives, that one must think and act responsibly. The idea of the pledge spread quickly. Students around the country worked to have the pledge distributed at their graduations. A referendum at Stanford University won the support of almost 2 out of every 3 students, and Stanford President Donald Kennedy, in his commencement address, encouraged graduates to sign the pledge.

This March 15 a referendum on the pledge will appear on our undergraduate student ballot. The question asks for student support of the distribution at Commencement of the pledge, which would read, "I pledge to investigate thoroughly and weigh the social and environmental consequences of any professional activity that I may undertake." The wording of the pledge allows each person signing it to make his own decisions, requiring only that one contemplate the outcome of his actions. Moreover, taking the pledge is fully optional. Nobody will monitor who has signed and who has not signed the pledge. And the pledge is personal. In signing, one makes a pledge not to his school, his profession, or his country, but to himself.

The distribution of the pledge is more than just a hollow gesture. With every person who signs the pledge rests the potential to improve the world in which we live. In addition, simply having the pledge helps to foster an atmosphere in which individuals consider and discuss social and environmental issues, whether or not all choose to sign it.

Distributing the pledge at Commencement is an important, though small, step towards addressing the problems we face as humanists and as scientists, as engineers and as leaders.

Ajay Advani '91->