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This completely hypothetical question is based on Cornell's founding statement:

"I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

-- Ezra Cornell, 1868

And their core values:

As a university founded to be a place where "...any person can find instruction...," we value diversity and inclusion, and we strive to be a welcoming, caring, and equitable community where students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn, innovate, and work in an environment of respect, and feel empowered to engage in any community conversation.

Read in a vacuum, I think most people will support these sentiments. However, they seem inherently contradictory. If I'm racist/sexist/homophobic etc, can I still find instruction at Cornell? Perhaps more concretely, have they actually expelled a student for racist/sexist/homophobic conduct, and if so, how did they explain their decision?

I've phrased the question to be specific to Cornell, but I'm guessing that most universities (at least those in the West) will also have this kind of ideal, in which case I'm also curious how they deal with the apparent contradiction.

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    What about newborn babies, deceased people, or people currently attending Harvard? And "any study" -- what about internet trolling, basket-weaving, or toilet-flushing? "Read in a vacuum, I think most people will support these sentiments." Sure, because most people understand that they are only the summarized sentiments of a founder, which not alone, but along with many other sentiments, practical considerations, rules, nuance, context, and common sense, can be interpreted in a way that is reasonable to those not living in a vacuum. – small_wayne Feb 28 at 4:22
  • @richard I fail to see the relation. To enroll at any university, one will need to legally be able to study in the country. This isn't a condition imposed by the university, but by the country hosting it. Newborn babies will not have the requisite visa and so will be excluded. Same goes for deceased people. For those currently attending Harvard, it presumably depends on whether the university allows dual enrollment. I suspect it does (hence exchange programs exist), so there's no problem. – Allure Feb 28 at 4:30
  • "Any study" presumably means "any discipline that is taught here" while simultaneously setting the university's mission to teach as many disciplines as possible. Don't see any contradiction there either. – Allure Feb 28 at 4:31
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    Do any enrolment forms have check boxes to indicate if one is racist / sexist / homophobic ? – Solar Mike Feb 28 at 6:06
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    If you were racist/sexist/homophobic, then would you "value diversity and inclusion"? – Joel Reyes Noche Feb 28 at 8:30
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That is an old problem: Absolute freedom cannot exist for everybody, because absolute freedom would include the freedom to limit the freedom of others. So in practice freedom is always limited in some sense to preclude, or at least reduce, the harm to others. That is a trade-off: how much do you hurt the freedom of person A if you forbid her/him to hurt person B, and how much do you hurt person B if you allow person A to hurt her/him. In an ideal world you would hurt neither A or B, but that is a logically impossible outcome, so you need to choose.

In your case you probably would be able to apply, but if your conduct would be considered to limit the freedom of others too much, you would be given the option to stop that behavior or leave. The "too much" in the previous sentence captures the trade-off between how much you hurt others and how much you are hurt by expelling you from the university. Universities tend to take that trade-off very seriously, but there is a breaking point where universities decide that your actions can no longer be tolerated.

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