The Latin words veritas, justitia, and libertas, which frame the seal of Freie Universität Berlin, stand for the values that have defined the academic ethos of Freie Universität ever since it was first founded, in December 1948.
Veritas – truth – is the highest aim of the research and teaching activities pursued at Freie Universität. In the modern sense, this focus on truth means outlining a clear interest in new findings and insight for the university’s academic activities, protecting those activities from the risk of arbitrariness, and observing the standards of good academic practice. It is in the quest for truth that academia finds the core of its intellectual self-image, its methodological sustainability, and its internal drive and dynamism.
Justitia – justice – refers to the university’s alignment to a generally acknowledged canon of values led by personal commitment and social responsibility. The term also stands in no small measure for an academic education that is open to young people from all over the world – regardless of social status, sex, national origin, religion, creed, or ethnicity.
Libertas – freedom – is the basic prerequisite for research and teaching activities to be successful. Only if academia determines its own goals and responsibilities, independently of external influences – whether from the state, the church, the business sector, or the wider society – can it meet its standards of achieving new knowledge with social consciousness.
As important as each of the university’s three guiding principles is on its own, the interaction between them is also fundamental. Truth without freedom becomes rigid dogma; justice without truth, an empty norm; and freedom without justice, a game with nothing at stake. Only where truth, justice, and freedom come together as values to form a greater whole is there space for intellectual commonality and open discourse in an unrestricted interchange of ideas.
Freie Universität believes its role is to provide exactly that kind of space for ideas and its guiding principles to resonate – a place that brings together innovations, researchers and students, concepts and ideas.
The responsibility that arises from the three guiding principles enshrined in our seal is a living commitment. That’s why now, in the 21st century, Freie Universität still remains true to the impulse behind its founding, taking that idea as guidance for its future development.