Community Values

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics is a community of students, postdocs, researchers, faculty, and staff dedicated to addressing big questions about the Universe. The Department’s mission is to engage in cutting-edge research, teaching, and mentoring---producing new knowledge through breakthrough discoveries and innovations and preparing students and early-career scientists for productive careers. In carrying out this mission, we hold ourselves to the highest professional and ethical standards of conduct in our research, teaching, mentoring, learning, and interactions.

The University’s policy on civil behavior in a university setting states: “To preserve an environment of spirited and open debate, we should all have the opportunity to contribute to intellectual exchanges and participate fully in the life of the University.1 Further, the core values of the Physical Sciences Division include the call to “create a culture of respect, inclusion, and wellness.2 This statement describes how our Department seeks to enact these aspirations and promote belonging. It is the result of a collaborative process that aimed to define the core values important to our community, which we aspire to maintain and uphold. We aim to act according to these values in every aspect of departmental life, including any interaction occurring between department members or within department spaces, officially or informally. These are not rules to obey or contractual commitments but ideals to strive for. We recognize that there can be complex trade-offs when applying them, and we intend these values to be touchpoints for discussion and guidance. We are committed to:

  • Respect. We aim to treat each other with decency and respect and give others the opportunity to contribute to discussions and intellectual exchanges. We aim to give and receive constructive, supportive feedback and criticism. We aim to treat each other with empathy and kindness and to take each person’s report of their subjective experience seriously. We aim to consider the effects of our words and actions and to take responsibility for their impact.
  • Integrity. We aim to uphold basic principles of honesty in our professional and educational conduct and communications. We aim to follow through on our commitments to each other and take responsibility for our actions.
  • Non-discrimination. In keeping with the University’s policy on non-discrimination3 , we aim to treat people fairly and do not discriminate on the basis of their social position or identity (e.g., race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, age, status as an individual with a disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or other protected classes under the law) or role (e.g., undergraduate, graduate, postdoc, researcher, faculty, or staff). We reject unfair treatment, including but not limited to the denial of opportunities on the basis of these categories.
  • Belonging. We aim to cultivate an environment in which people of all social positions, identities, and roles (as defined above) feel that they belong and are respected.
  • Diversity. We recognize that people with varying backgrounds and group membership can have valuable perspectives that differ from those with other backgrounds and group membership. We aim to seek out and respectfully listen to people with diverse perspectives.
  • Equity. We seek to identify institutional, community, and historical norms and practices within the department that may inhibit full participation of all members of our community. We work to change those norms and policies, and we provide support for overcoming them.
  • Safety. In support of UChicago policies, we aim for a community that is free from harassment and sexual misconduct 4 . We do not condone bullying,5 and we condemn all forms of violence.

Anyone who has concerns about conduct inconsistent with our community values may contact one of the two Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Ombudspersons.

Nothing in this statement of values should be construed as conflicting with UChicago's policies and statements on free expression, protest and dissent, harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct.

  1. Civil Behavior in a University Setting
  2. Physical Sciences Division
  3. Non-discrimination statement
  4.  Harassment and sexual misconduct are defined and addressed by the University of Chicago Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct.
  5. We define bullying as coercive, intimidating or abusive behavior that is targeted at an individual, that appears to be intentionally demeaning or hurtful, and that is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.