Pledges of responsibility have been around since before the Hippocratic Oath, but the "Pledge of Environmental and Social Responsibility," pioneered by students at Humboldt State University, contains the seeds for a potentially powerful shift in the way educated people use their acquired abilities.
In 1987, after a hurried 2-month campaign, the Pledge was included as part of HSU’s graduation ceremony. While not a requirement, the Pledge was made available on the stage for all graduates to sign or take home after receiving their diplomas. In 1988 the HSU Student Government voted to integrate the Pledge into all future graduation ceremonies, and eight other universities have since followed suit, with 50 more expressing interest in developing a similar program.
This Pledge is one of a burgeoning number of similar oaths and pledges being created by scientists, mathematicians, physicians and others to foster greater awareness of the impact of work and study choices on global problems. Such public declarations of personal intent can reach far beyond the individual in their impact. Said one HSU Pledge signer, "When I get my first teaching job … I’ll have it on the wall of my classroom."
The Graduation Pledge Alliance is promoting the Pledge to other universities. Write them at P.O. Box 4439, Arcata, CA 95521.