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Teaching Ethics

Volume 21, Issue 2, Fall 2021
The Ethics of Ethics Centers

Table of Contents

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Displaying: 1-11 of 11 documents

1. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Christopher Meyers The Ethics of Ethics Centers: Editor’s Note
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2. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Michael S. Pritchard, Sandra L. Borden In Support of a “Generalist” Orientation for an Ethics Center
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Western Michigan University’s Center for the Study of Ethics in Society has always had a “generalist” approach—that is to say, an interdisciplinary orientation toward studying a broad range of ethical issues. This article explains how the center’s “generalist” orientation developed and why it is desirable for promoting public reflection about ethical issues. It focuses on these dimensions: (a) valuing an across-the-curriculum approach to promote understanding of complex ethical issues; (b) adopting a broad, rather than narrow focus, when it comes to ethics; (c) committing to practical ethics, which bridges theory and practice to shed light on issues of practical relevance to all; and (d) decentering philosophy as the arbiter for what counts as “doing ethics.” The article ends with a look at challenges concerning stable funding and administrative support for a center that does not fit neatly into a single academic unit or specialty and shares some lessons learned.
3. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Cordula Brand, Thomas Potthast The Mission before the Mission: Toward an Ethics of Ethics Centers
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The goal of this article is to offer a three-step approach for a systematic discussion on the procedures, roles, and responsibilities of ethics centers. First, we identify three levels of responsibility: scientific, organizational/institutional, societal/global. Second, we propose that justice (as outlined in the concept of Sustainable Development), contextual pluralism, and a process orientation serve as normative foundations for developing ethics centers’ mission. Third, we outline and emphasize the crucial role that teaching plays in the work of ethics centers, as well as in other academic (and non-academic) institutions. As an overarching perspective, we suggest two complementary kinds of approaches for the role of ethics especially in scientific research: i) ethics becoming a constitutional part of any research (and teaching) project. ii) specific in-depth interdisciplinary projects with ethics being the research (and teaching) topic.
4. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Joseph Spino On the Structure of the Virtuous Ethics Center
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When evaluating the success of an ethics center, one can look to the center’s level of engagement and achievement with affiliated institutions and communities. Such criteria are appropriate. What can be overlooked, however, is the internal structure and processes that help constitute the ethics center itself. In short, it is not merely the results an ethics center may claim that should be of interest for evaluating institutional health and longevity, but the very character of the organization itself. Using criteria offered in support of corporate agency and character, I argue that ethics centers can possess organizational agency and a “character” of their own. While not the same sense of character we associate with human beings, the “character” (and “virtue”) I describe is still a meaningful and identifiable feature that can and ought to be developed within the structure of ethics centers.
5. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Aine Donovan Strategic Leadership as a Tool for Growth, Mission Alignment and Long-term Stability
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This article provides guidance and rationales for managing transitions within ethics centers as directors and staff are hired. The structures that reinforce the mission and ensures that the center continues to provide benefit to the community requires delicate strategizing among campus and community constituencies. The principles and practices that serve as a best-practices management approach are articulated within this article.
6. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Donna Riley, Justin Hess, Brent Jesiek Decentering an Engineering Ethics Center
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In this article we reflect on ethical issues arising amid our efforts over the past four years to set up a university-level engineering ethics center to facilitate faculty, staff, and student collaborations across disciplines. In this account we place considerable emphasis on relations with campus administration, including conflicts arising over the interests of potential donors and research sponsors; state and national political contexts; turf (specifically the balance of ownership over vision-setting and action between faculty and administrators); and the scope and role of ethics in a STEM-focused public land grant university. We also discuss challenges we faced in communication, both across disciplines in a large university setting, and with administrators inclined to conflate professional ethics with other topics such as technology ethics or public policy concerns. We share discussions we have had among ourselves around what types of alternative structures might facilitate our mission; and how such alternatives might help us resist replication of the kinds of problematic power dynamics we are already witnessing and navigating. It is our hope that our participation in this conversation provides an opportunity for us to learn from others, share what we have learned thus far, and come to a position of greater clarity regarding our intentions and priorities. Most of all we seek moral imagination to identify creative paths forward for a broad set of stakeholders to more deeply encounter professional ethics in discovery, learning, and engagement.
7. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Nate Olson, Kallee McCullough Demonstrating Ethical Leadership in a Virtual World: Accessibility, Community, and Identity
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, ethics centers were forced to reimagine program delivery. In a tumultuous time with rampant social isolation, the need for ethics education and dialogue was also critical. The authors, members of the directorship team of the Kegley Institute of Ethics (KIE), discuss how KIE met these challenges through organizing over fifty online events during the pandemic, including webinars, pedagogy workshops, ethics bowls, intercollegiate student conversations, colloquia, film viewings, and podcasts. The article describes both the opportunities and challenges that different types of virtual events present and argues that innovation in online programming can help ethics centers show ethical leadership in their communities. As one example, we discuss how online events can both enhance and hinder accessibility for participants. We also describe how online programming presents both barriers and opportunities for community building and can prompt ethics centers to reflect on their identities and missions.
8. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Jonathan Beever Conceptual Stewardship and Ethics Centers: The Case of Integrity
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In this essay I propose that ethics centers should take leadership roles in clarifying uses of normatively thick and complex concepts. Using the concept of integrity as an example, I build a case for increased focus on thick concepts at work in ethics. Integrity is a special case, given its conceptual complexity and the diversity of contexts in which it is utilized. I argue that failure to focus on conceptual clarification leaves the door open to misuse or manipulation of ethical concepts and to contextual siloing, each of which limits the work that ethics and ethics centers can do in support of institutional cultures. Ethics centers stand, or—as I make clear—should stand, as conceptual stewards for articulation of the importance of such concepts in balancing external ethics visibility and personal ethics engagement.
9. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Lisa S. Parker Ethics Centers’ Conflicts of Interest and the Failure of Disclosure to Remedy this Endemic Problem
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Individual and institutional conflicts of interest arise with increasing frequency and negative sequelae as universities and their principals, as well as individual faculty members, engage in research (and other activities) with support from profit/not-for-profit entities. This essay examines how institutional and individual conflicts of interest (COI) arise for ethics centers and their faculty/staff, respectively. It defines COI, endorses a reasonable person standard for determining when COI exist, and considers problems that arise when disclosure of COI is embraced as a remedy for them. It argues that transparency and disclosure are generally inadequate measures to address COI, especially those of ethics centers. It concludes by sketching other measures that may be ingredients in attempts to avoid, manage, or mitigate the COI of ethics centers and their faculty/staff.
10. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Michael Burroughs On Ethics Institute Activism
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Social injustice and calls to activism take many forms, whether in environmental, medical, legal, political, or educational realms. In this article, I consider the role of activism in ethics institute initiatives. First, as a case study, I discuss an activist initiative for police reform led, in part, by the Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University, Bakersfield. Specifically, I outline the formation of the Bakersfield Police Department—Community Collaborative (BPD-CC), created to review regional and national police policy and training recommendations and to solicit and formalize community-sourced recommendations for policing reform and building trust and greater partnership between the BPD and community. Second, I discuss outcomes and implications of this project and consider its significance for understanding activist roles available to the community engaged ethics institute more generally. In this discussion, I explore practical dimensions and ethical implications of activist approaches in the work of an ethics institute.
11. Teaching Ethics: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2
Michael A. DeWilde A Business Ethics Center Rethinks Its Role
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This paper explores some of the reasons why we, as a business ethics center housed at a state university, are transitioning from being a largely neutral platform on business ethics topics to becoming an advocate for specific perspectives. Comprising the topics of interest are issues such as climate change, capitalism, and certain medical and public health controversies. Presented here are four main reasons behind this move: pluralistic arguments, moral “switching,” existential crises, and combating disinformation. Two examples regarding capitalism and vaccine mandates are used to demonstrate advocacy in practice.