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University Guiding Principles (Completed)

Project Family


As a great public university system, we are accountable to many different individuals and communities – on our campuses, throughout Illinois and around the world. This accountability includes making clear where we stand on issues that affect our academic enterprise, our students, our faculty and staff, and our campus culture.

The sheer size and breadth of our activities as a system, as well as the distinctive identities of our three universities, may seem to limit success for such an endeavor. But there are core tenets we share that, in fact, unite us. These tenets need to be clearly articulated in a thoughtful, collaborative manner.

In July 2017, and again in July 2019, we convened more than 100 people, including trustees, students, faculty, staff, top leaders of our universities, and system officers for robust discussions on issues facing our system. Our approaches to these topics are interrelated and undeniably essential to our operations and our future. Following substantive discussions, working groups took what they learned from those conversations and drafted broad-based Guiding Principles on the topics. Dozens more – faculty, students, trustees, and staff – reviewed these drafts and provided valuable input.

The principles are rooted in current practices and provide touchstones to guide our future, not detailed policies to address every possible scenario we might face. They also are living documents that will be adjusted as needed to accommodate change, or to incorporate new issues involving other core values that guide us.

We can be proud of what this inclusive process says about the strength and cohesiveness of the University of Illinois System. And we should be proud of what the results say about the seriousness with which we fulfill our responsibilities to our students, to our campus communities, and to the people we serve more broadly.

While they reflect contemporary concerns, these principles are very much in keeping with the original – and fundamental – ideals of the land-grant institution: advancing society through education and knowledge and contributing to the public good.

Tim Killeen

The Guiding Princples are:

Freedom of Speech on Campus

Globalization and Immigration

Civic Engagement

Excellence with Integrity

Fostering Healthy Relationships Across the Campuses

Financial and Environmental Sustainability


Financial and Environmental Sustainability

Financial sustainability is concerned with fiscal resilience and foresight, whereas environmental sustainability encompasses our buildings, our infrastructure, our land, our utilities, and our climate. But the two are interdependent, calling upon our ingenuity and commitment as stewards. It is our responsibility to go beyond short-term planning and decision making, ensuring that we manage the resources entrusted to us with a strong focus on future generations in mind.

  • We will be innovative, adaptable, inclusive and reliant on evidence in all decision making, assessing both the fiscal and the environmental implications and outcomes of what we do.
  • We will keep educational costs affordable and prepare our graduates for successful professional and career outcomes, so that our three universities are always competitive and viable choices for students and families in the state of Illinois.
  • We will strive to stay at the forefront of curricular innovation, seeking and developing the most effective platforms, degree programs, and experiential learning opportunities for our students, as well as relevant, life-long educational engagement for adult workers.
  • We will make the most of the U of I System’s wide-ranging and ever-evolving talents, encouraging collaborations among disciplines to produce not just breakthroughs, but sustainable environmental and economic improvements to the human condition.

Jane Addams wrote, “Nothing can be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort which might have saved the world.” Our sustainability legacy will reflect the effort we put into it. By acting mindfully, we will leave our universities, our state, and our world better than we found it.

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Project Team

  • Project Leader:

    Tim Killeen


  • Approved November 8, 2019
    Approved by President Tim Killeen