Ethics Program Newsletter
Message from the Director
Greetings from Villanova University!
In the last year, there have been some changes in the Ethics Program in terms of personnel, but the spirit and the service has not changed. The program continues to serve the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as well as the Villanova School of Business in offering a course that is part of the core curriculum of both units of the university. We also have welcomed Mechanical Engineering students in the last year who are required to take that same course.
Fall 2012 saw the introduction of a new version of this course. The name of the course changed to “The Good Life: Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems.” The focus changed a bit from the past version and for the better. One of the things those of us noticed about the older version is that we were finishing the semester with students who were prepared to defend their opinions with the “tool box” of principles that we had taught them. However, ethics remained a crisis-based discipline for them, something necessary only when there is a conflict. At Villanova University we strive for a more holistic understanding of the good life, one that is rooted in the way in which we live our lives every day, in crisis and out of crisis. The new course raises more fundamental questions about the good life that we pursue, both individually and collectively, and those questions lead us to think about how we approach the crises and challenges of our day. Students receive the principles they received in the past, but now those principles are part of a larger quest for the good life, rather than tools to be pulled out when a conflict presents itself.
So far our experience has been positive. As with all things, it will take all of us a few semesters to work out the wrinkles of this new version of our signature course. We will do that in dialogue with each other, through faculty development seminars, and the ubiquitous hallway conversations about teaching that permeate our days in the St. Augustine Center.
Wishing you a peaceful and productive year,
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
Director, The Ethics Program
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Villanova University
A New Catherine of Siena Fellow
Mark Doorley, Ph.D., Director, Ethics Program
In August 2012 we welcome Cynthia Nielsen, Ph.D., to campus as our newest Catherine of Siena Fellow in Ethics. We are excited that she has joined our faculty and has already made an impact on the university community through her teaching and research.
Dr. Nielsen’s work is highly interdisciplinary in nature, and her research interests include ethics, social and political philosophy, critical race theory/philosophy of race, and the philosophy and sociology of music. Her forthcoming/recent publications include: Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom (forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan March 2013); “Resistance is Not Futile: Frederick Douglass on Panoptic Plantations and the Un-Making of Docile Bodies and Enslaved Souls,” Philosophy and Literature 35.2 (2011): 251–68; “Unearthing Consonances in Foucault’s Account of Greco-Roman Self-Writing and Christian Technologies of the Self” (forthcoming, Heythrop Journal 2013; online preview); “Resistance Through Re-Narration: Fanon on De-constructing Racialized Subjectivities” (African Identities: Journal of Economics, Culture, and Society 9:4 (Dec. 2011): 363–85. DOI:10.1080/14725843.2011.614410.
Praxis Award in Professional Ethics
Mark Doorley, Ph.D., Director, Ethics Program
The recipient of the sixth annual Praxis Award in Professional Ethics was Andrew Kricun, P.E., executive director of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA). Mr. Kricun was selected for his extraordinary commitment to the health, welfare, and safety of the neighbors of this waste water treatment plant in the Waterfront South community of Camden, N.J.
The Praxis Award highlights and celebrates the contributions of a professional or academic in the field of professional ethics. The award was presented April 11, 2012, at 5 p.m. in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center at Villanova University. Following a reception, Mr. Kricun joined invited guests for a sit down dinner.
The professional engineer has a commitment to hold paramount the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Mr. Kricun exemplifies that commitment in his long-standing and ongoing activities to create a healthy and sustainable environment in the neighborhood in which his waste water treatment plant sits.
Mr. Kricun understands his professional responsibility to include not only attention to the operations of his facility but also to enhancing the environmental health of the entire city of Camden. It is his demonstrated commitment to moral excellence in his profession as an engineer that merited Mr. Kricun this honor.
After arriving at the Camden CCMUA plant as an engineer, Mr. Kricun immediately began working to remedy the unhealthy byproducts of waste water treatment. In July 2011, CCMUA began a new process whereby the waste water effluent is now completely dehydrated. The process has reduced the plant’s odors by 99.9 percent.
Kricun is involved in various environmentally sustainable initiatives in the city of Camden. He has been instrumental in pushing for the creation of multiple rain water gardens that can reduce pressure on the city’s aging sewer system in times of heavy rain and reduce the flooding of sewage due to that heavy rain. In addition, Mr. Kricun was a founder of the Waterfront South Environmental Network that monitors the polluting industries in this low-income neighborhood.
Beyond the environment, Mr. Kricun also served on Camden’s public safety committee, helping the city to obtain funding for its Eyes in the Sky program, placing security cameras at key points around the city. He is now working with the city on the current lighting problem, as streetlights are being vandalized for their copper wiring. Additionally, Kricun has committed the CCMUA to restoring the lights in the Waterfront South neighborhood and is assisting the city in finding sponsors for other neighborhoods.
Recipients of the award have accomplished one or more of the following achievements:
· Excellence in fulfilling and embodying the ethical ideals of a profession
· Excellence in connecting professional work to a broader understanding of the common good
· Excellence in promoting and embodying ethical integrity in a professional field
· Excellence with respect to research in the field of professional ethics
· Excellence in terms of influence on the field of professional ethics through writing, teaching, consulting and/or professional leadership
The recipient of the 2013 Praxis Award is Ms. Jennifer Staple-Clark, founder and CEO of Unite for Sight, a nonprofit that seeks to supply sustainable eye care to the poorest people around the world. The Praxis ceremony is on April 4, 2013.
The Ethics Lecture
Mark A. Wilson, Ph.D.
On October 4, 2012, Professor William F. May visited Villanova University as the invited speaker for the inaugural Ethics Lecture, an annual public lecture featuring a leading scholar in the field of philosophical and religious ethics. In the morning, Professor May met privately with Villanova faculty members from across the colleges to discuss the vocation of the professional academic and the virtues and responsibilities thereof. In the afternoon, Professor May presented the Ethics Lecture, entitled “The Bearing of Religion on Fears and Appetites in American Politics.” In this evocative talk, Professor May explored the ways in which Christian covenantal narratives both set the terms for and provide resources to critique our current political debates.
William F. May is a senior fellow at the Institute of Practical Ethics and Public Life at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. from Yale and taught for many years at Southern Methodist University, where he was the founding director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. A former president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics, he has written several books on medical and political ethics. He also served on the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002–2004. His visit to Villanova University was made possible by the William T. Dunn, ’55, Ethics Program Endowment Fund.
Ethics for Lunch 2012
Selin Gursozlu, Ph.D., Catherine of Siena Fellow
The Ethics Program continued to offer the Ethics for Lunch series in 2012. Papers on ethics from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives were presented. Faculty and students from various programs and schools such as ethics, philosophy, law, business, and liberal studies attended the discussions.
The Ethics for Lunch series began on February 1st with Dr. Peter Wicks of the Ethics Program. Dr. Wicks’ paper was entitled “Theorizing Evil,” and his presentation was followed by Dr. Mark Wilson’s commentary. The Associate Director of the Ethics Program, Dr. Brett Wilmot, led the second presentation of 2012 on February 29. Dr. Wilmot’s paper, “Uneasy Bedfellows? Natural Law Eudaimonism, Catholic Social Thought, and the Problem of Human Rights,” was followed by Dr. Bill Werpehowski’s response.
On March 12, Dr. Michelle Dempsey of Villanova Law School presented a paper entitled “How Consent Works.” Her paper provided a good venue for an exchange of ideas as participants pondered on the concepts of consent in morality and consent in law. Dr. Dempsey’s paper examined conduct that is deemed victimless based on the fact that the harmed person has consented to it.
The final presentation of spring 2012 was on April 18 by Dr. Steven Napier of the Philosophy Department. His paper was entitled “Challenging Research on Human Subjects: Justice and Uncompensated Harms.” Father James McCartney provided a commentary on Dr. Napier’s paper.
On September 18, Dr. Scott Newbert of the Villanova Business School presented “Achieving Moral Capitalism through Entrepreneurial Justice.” His paper was very encouraging for those who want to do business “right.” He argued that the entrepreneurial context is aligned with John Rawls’ original position. Dr. Ronald Hill offered a very refreshing commentary.
On October 4, the Ethics Program hosted William May, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Practical Ethics and Public Life at the University of Virginia and Cary M. Maguire Professor of Ethics Emeritus, Southern Methodist University, led an Ethics for Lunch session before giving a public talk in the afternoon. Our discussion was based on his paper "Professors: Credentialed for What?"
On October 31, we discussed Dr. Peter Wicks’ paper "Saints, Heroes, and Ethical Theory.” Dr. Wicks pointed out the neglect of moral saints within moral philosophy and argued that the lives of moral saints can be an important source of ethical insight.
The final presentation of 2012 was on November 29 by Dr. Cynthia Nielsen of the Ethics Program. In her paper “Augustine and Foucault: A Critical, But Mutually Beneficial Dialogue,” Dr. Nielson focused on the dissatisfactions of the contemporary Foucauldian and the contemporary Augustinian. She suggested that the contemporary Foucauldian might overcome some dissatisfaction by considering an Augustinian conception of the self as relational and by adopting a thicker anthropology.
We are grateful for the excellent presentations and the many members of the Villanova community who contributed to the wonderful conversations.
Books/ Chapters of Books/ Articles of Interest
Here is a list of books, chapters of books and/or articles that the Ethics Program faculty found worthwhile this past year.
Michael Young. The Rise of the Meritocracy. Originally published in 1958, but reissued by Transaction in 1994.
Brian Christian. The Most Human Human. Doubleday, 2011.
Jaron Lanier. You Are Not a Gadget. Vintage, 2011.
Matthew Crawford. Shop Class as Soulcraft. Penguin, 2009.
Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2010 (esp. chapter 4, “The Cruel Hand”).
James P. Bailey. Rethinking Poverty: Income, Assets, and the Catholic Social Justice Tradition. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010 (esp. chapter 4, “Asset Discrimination”).
Ingrid Monson. Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Joshua Page. “Eliminating the Enemy: The Import of Denying Prisoners Access to Higher Education in Clinton’s America.” Punishment & Society 6 (2004): 357–378.
Loïc Wacquant. “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.” New Left Review 13 (2002): 41–60.
Loïc Wacquant. “Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh.”Punishment & Society 3 (2001): 95–134.
Loïc Wacquant. “Designing Urban Seclusion in the Twenty-First Century.”Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal 43 (2010): 164–175.
Loïc Wacquant. “Ordering Insecurity: Social Polarization and the Punitive Upsurge.” Radical Philosophy Review 11 (2008): 9–27.
Villanova Ethics Debate Team
Mark A. Wilson, Ph.D.
On March 1, 2012, the Villanova University Ethics Debate Team competed in the Intercollegiate National Ethics Bowl Competition in Cincinnati, Ohio. This competition, held annually in conjunction with the meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, brings the top 32 teams from universities across the country to compete in a winner-take-all format. Despite a very strong showing, Villanova University missed advancing to the championship rounds. After a decisive victory over West Virginia University in its opening match, Villanova suffered narrow losses to the University of British Columbia and the 2010 National Championship University of Alabama–Birmingham. Both matches involved split decisions by the judges and very small margins of defeat. Whitworth University won the national competition, defeating Clemson University in the finals.
Congratulations to Villanova’s 2011–2012 team on an outstanding season! The members of the 2011–12 Villanova Ethics Debate Team were Kevin Ryan (senior, Philosophy), Christin Sagui (junior, Biochemistry), Katherine Sencion (junior, Chemistry), Dean Nickles (junior, History), Andrew Speen (junior, Economics), and Brendan Burke (sophomore, English). Kevin Ryan has since graduated and has matriculated to the esteemed University of Edinburgh where he is pursuing a MSc degree in the philosophy of mind.
The 2012–2013 Villanova Ethics Debate Team competed in the Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl competition at Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT) on December 1, 2012. The team returned four members from last year’s highly successful group: Christin Sagui, Dean Nickles, Andrew Speen, and Brendan Burke. This year’s new team member is James McConeghy, a sophomore majoring in Business. In the regional competition, Villanova faced a rigorous set of opening matches that saw them face Manhattan College, Marist College, and the University of Notre Dame–Maryland. Accumulating significant margins of victory, Villanova advanced to the championship rounds, winning decisively in the “holy war” quarterfinal match against St. Joseph’s before falling, by split decision, to SUNY Buffalo in the semifinals. With a 3rd place finish overall, Villanova’s team easily secured a bid to the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Competition, to be held on February 28, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas. Here’s hoping our team can continue to make Villanova proud and bring home a national title!
The Villanova Ethics Debate team is coached by Professor Mark Wilson and sponsored by the Ethics Program.
Assessment Report and the Ethics Program
Brett Wilmot, Ph.D., Associate Director, Ethics Program
As part of Villanova’s commitment to creating a culture of assessment, we in the Ethics Program are continuing to explore different ways to evaluate the work we’re doing with our students. The biggest challenge for us is developing tools and methods for assessing ETH 2050 (The Good Life: Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems). This course serves as a kind of capstone to the foundations courses in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Our primary responsibility as a program in the college is to staff and teach this course. Over 50 sections are offered each year, and we reach hundreds of students every semester. We’ve been working with Villanova’s Office of Planning and Institutional Research (OPIR) to develop strategies, and we’re pursuing a multipronged approach to our assessment of ETH 2050 and the program in general.
In the coming semester, we’re going to focus on assessing ETH 2050 as it’s being taught by our core faculty: the director, assistant director, permanent faculty, and fellows associated with the Ethics Program as a unit in the college. While faculty from our Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, and Humanities Departments (as well as a number of graduate students and adjunct faculty) also staff some of our sections, we thought that a prudent first step in assessing the program would be to focus on the faculty over which we have the most oversight. We’ll be collecting assignments and student writing, and a committee of faculty will evaluate these materials using a rubric that is currently under design based on the stated goals and objectives for the course. Depending on how this process unfolds, the idea will be to follow up this round of assessment with future evaluations of our other faculty, graduate students, and adjuncts using the same or a slightly modified rubric.
In addition to evaluating the assignments and student writing, we also have plans to administer a tool for evaluating whether and how ETH 2050 affects students’ moral judgment. This is the Defining Issues Test (DIT) that was originally developed by Dr. James Rest in 1979, and it represents a sort of neo-Kohlbergian approach to the development of moral judgment. At this time, the test is maintained at the University of Alabama’s Office for the Study of Moral Development. We plan to do a test run of the process with a relatively small number of students in the fall of 2013. If all goes well and if we feel that the information provided by the test is helpful as part of our assessment of ETH 2050, then we will use the test on a statistically significant sample of students in the spring of 2014. The results of this test will then be analyzed by a committee of our faculty in light of our stated goals and objectives for the course to see whether it’s suggestive of ways in which the course and how it is being taught might be modified. We may also attempt to use this test as an assessment tool for our concentrators and minors, too. It could be very interesting to have comparative data for our incoming students both pre– and post–ETH 2050 to compare with where our students end up after completing a concentration or minor in Ethics.
In addition to working on our assessment of ETH 2050, steps are being taken to complete an initial assessment of our Ethics Minor. Our minors are asked to put together an e-portfolio that represents the work they’ve completed across several courses that meet the requirements for the minor. They are also asked to produce a relatively short document that discusses their own sense of how their studies for the minor have affected their ethical perspectives. We are working on a tool that will be used by a committee of faculty to evaluate the materials collected in these e-portfolios in light of our stated goals and objectives for the minor. The goal is to have this step in our assessment program completed over the summer of 2013.
We’re doing our best to make assessment of our program an ongoing activity, and we’re continuing to explore tools and methods that can provide insight to what is actually occurring with our students and that also provide us with suggestions for ways in which we might rethink our goals and objectives and our methods for achieving them. It’s a work in progress!
High School Ethics Bowl Event
Mark Doorley, Ph.D., Director, Ethics Program
On December 1, 2012, the Ethics Program and Villanova University hosted the first annual Philadelphia Regional High School Ethics Bowl. There is a growing number of high school ethics bowl teams around the country; over the last several years, they’ve participated in regional events, quite under the radar. Two years ago, Roberta Israeloff of the Squire Foundation began the process that has resulted in the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill becoming the national organizer for high school ethics bowl competitions. Stephen Esser, the executive director of The Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium, contacted the chair of the Philosophy Department at Villanova, Professor John Carvalho, who forwarded Steve’s email to me. After several conversations between Steve, Roberta, and me, I agreed the Ethics Program and Villanova University would be the host for the first Philadelphia regional competition. The winner of this competition would receive an invitation to the National High School Ethics Bowl to be held at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in April 2013.
I began the organizational effort by reaching out to high schools in the area that sponsored mock trial, forensics, the Model United Nations, and other similar activities. I thought having four schools participate would be a great accomplishment. To our pleasant surprise, nine schools participated from three different states. Three of the schools brought two teams. The schools that participated include Camden Catholic HS, Moorestown Friends HS, Padua Academy, Cherry Hill East HS, Radnor HS, Central HS, Wilmington Friends HS, Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS, and Conestoga HS. There were four other high schools interested, but they were unable to compete this year. They have expressed interest in future competitions.
To help students at these high schools prepare, Villanova hosted a coaches’ training session in June 2012, which had wonderful attendance. This session was facilitated by Dr. Mark Wilson and me. It was recorded and made available to all the teams for future reference. In September 2012, Dr. Brett Wilmot Dr. Wilson, and I prepared a video in which we demonstrated how to go about analyzing a case. Each of us offered our thoughts on a particular case from those to be used in the December competition. This proved to be the most valuable tool for the teams, per their post-event evaluations.
I also had to recruit judges and moderators for the sessions. With the help of Stephen Esser, 18 judges were recruited from Villanova faculty. Professionals from around the Delaware Valley rounded out our numbers. The moderators came from the ranks of Villanova students, both graduate and undergraduate. The responses from the judges when asked about their experience were overwhelmingly positive. The student moderators also enjoyed their time.
The event took place in both Bartley Hall and Driscoll Hall. The day began early, at 7:30AM, with a breakfast generously provided by the Office of Admissions. At that same time, I provided the judges and moderators last minute directions. After a plenary session in Driscoll Hall Auditorium, the teams, judges, and moderators found their six different sites in Bartley Hall to begin the competition. There were three rounds in the morning in these six rooms, with teams moving from room to room. During each round, two cases were discussed by the competing teams. The teams had received the cases three months before the competition, so all teams were prepared to talk about the cases. What they didn’t have in their preparation was the question they were asked about the case, which I had prepared for use during the competition.
The judges are asked to evaluate the teams based on the following criteria: clear and systematic presentation, avoidance of irrelevant issues, clear and thorough identification of key moral issues, and awareness of alternative analyses including those that would loom large for someone disagreeing with the team’s analysis. For each case, the judges had an opportunity to question a team, to dig deeper into a team’s argument, or to seek clarification.
At the end of the three morning rounds, the top four teams were invited to participate in the semifinal round. The winners of the semifinal rounds moved on to Driscoll Hall for the final round of competition. The finalists were Radnor HS and Cherry Hill East HS, with Radnor HS winning the match. Trophies were awarded to the winners and the runners up. All students received a certificate of participation, and all coaches, judges, and moderators received a Villanova mug in appreciation for their time.
Each team paid a registration fee of $85. Of that, $35 helped to defray the costs of Villanova’s event, and the other $50 was sent to the Parr Center to help offset the national competition costs. In addition to the support of the Office of Admissions, Villanova’s Dining Services provided a reduced price for lunch at their dining halls. We also had an anonymous donor whose generosity supported this initiative, as well as the support of the William T. Dunn, ’55, Ethics Program Endowment Fund.
Mary Quilter, the administrative assistant of the Ethics Program, as well as our work study students (Justin Salvador, Ashley Martinez, and Arively Escobar) were key people in making sure that this event went as smoothly and successfully as it did.
Villanova can be proud to have hosted a wonderfully successful event. The second annual Greater Philadelphia Region High School Ethics Bowl is tentatively scheduled for November 30, 2013.