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At the Center

Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

  •  Is Biological Evolution Compatible With a Moral Conscience?

    Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 2:00 PM
    Francisco Ayala will speak on Biological Evolution and Moral Conscience

    November 7, 5:00 pm Learning Commons and Library, St. Clare Room

    Can we still retain a notion of moral conscience in the face of the findings and claims of evolutionary biology? What does "conscience" mean  in light of a number of crucial theoretical and practical challenges of the present day, particularly as they intersect with Catholic thought? Francisco Ayala, professor of biological sciences, ecology, and evolutionary biology, UC Irvine, presents. He is a former Dominican priest, ordained in 1960, but left the priesthood that same year. After graduating from the University of Salamanca, he moved to the US in 1961 to study for a PhD at Columbia University. There, he studied for his doctorate under Theodosius Dobzhansky, graduating in 1964. He became a US citizen in 1971.

    Ayala is known for his research on population and evolutionary genetics, and has been called the "Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology." His discoveries have opened up new approaches to the prevention and treatment of diseases that affect hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide, including demonstrating the reproduction of Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, is mostly the product of cloning, and that only a few clones account for most of this widespread, mostly untreatable South American disease that affects 16 million to 18 million people. He has been publicly critical of U.S. restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, an organization that has lobbied Congress to lift federal restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research. In 2001, Ayala was awarded the National Medal of Science.

    We are fortunate to present this program in part through the generosity of the Project on Conscience in Roman Catholic Thought, funded by Phyllis and Mike Shea.

    Co-sponsored by The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and The Commonwealth Club of California, Silicon Valley Chapter.

    Join us online for live tweeting of this event! Follow @mcaenews, #ethicsayala



  •  The Ethics of Online Price Discrimination

    Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 1:40 PM

    October 29, 2013  7 pm Wiegand Room

    In the world of online retail, some businesses are presenting different customers with different prices for the same goods, depending on factors such as the location of the customer, browsing history, etc. Some argue that this is unfair; others argue that it maximizes the efficiency of the whole system. This panel discussion will address the legal, economic, ethical, and technological aspects of the increasingly common practice of differential pricing online.


    • Eric Goldman, a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University and director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University
    • Kirthi Kalyanam, J.C. Penney Research Professor and director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University
    • Ashkan Soltani, independent researcher and affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University.

    Sponsored by The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and The High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.

    Live Tweet With Us! Follow @mcaenews #ethicsprice

  •  Pay Czar Ethics - Disaster Fund Expert Kenneth Feinberg

    Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 3:48 PM

    Join us on Tuesday, October 22, 7 p.m.
    Music and Dance Facility, Recital Hall
    Prominent dispute mediator and attorney Kenneth Feinberg has negotiated settlements in some of the most challenging and emotional crises of our times. Feinberg was dubbed "The Pay Czar" for his hands-on administrative work in the federal bailout assistance program, TARP, and has taken on similar tasks for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund and the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. He is currently working out settlements for the Boston Marathon victims.
    Feinberg has served as Court-Appointed Special Settlement Master in cases including Agent Orange product liability litigation, Asbestos Personal Injury Litigation and DES Cases. Feinberg was also one of three arbitrators who determined the fair market value of the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and was one of two arbitrators who determined the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation. He is a former Lecturer-in-Law at a number of U.S. law schools ad is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
    NEW! There will be a book sale and signing after the event at 8 p.m. for Feinberg's book, "Who Gets What: Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Upheaval." Sale price: $20
    Co-sponsored by The Markkula Center for Ethics and the Commonwealth Club of California, Silicon Valley.
    You're Invited to Tweet!
    Tweet with us on this topic before, during, and after the event at: #ethicsczar. Follow us on Twitter @mcaenews.


  •  Ethics and Marginalized Persons

    Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 8:07 AM

    With a Hackworth Research Grant from the Ethics Center, SCU Philosophy Lecturer Brian Buckley developed a new course, “Ethics and Marginalized Persons,” that addressed the importance of personhood regarding people who are disabled, poor, elderly, or gay. The class included both community-based learning and theory.

    In a reflection on a placement at Julian Street Inn, an organization that works with homeless, mentally ill people, one student showed how experiential and theoretical learning combines to impact action.

    When I go to Starbucks for a drink, the way I treat the cashier sets the example for the person behind me in line. When I cut off another driver on the freeway, it sets the example of acceptable driving behavior. Likewise, when I hold the door for a senior, it sets the example that I value them being there and have the ability to slow down for them. We have talked about re-integration, but that is not an easy task. Gough says, “each of us is a role model” (Gough 113). In light of that, the re-integration process is a mission that everyone can impact. By accepting the elderly, by treating them appropriately but without bias, by giving them respect and dignity, I am setting one small but extremely important example. Hopefully, someone will see my example and copy my behavior. It then needs to become a habit for me, and then for him or her, and as this habit spreads so too will the re-integration. It doesn’t need to be the elderly. If I treat any marginalized person as an equal, it will show. It will set an example. That example will spread. Why? We are all human.

  •  Solitary Confinement

    Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 12:04 PM

    The death this week of Herman Wallace, released after more than 40 years in the Secure Housing Unit of Angola State Prison in Louisiana, highlighted the issue of long-term solitary confinement in the American penal system.  A 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found 81,622 people held in solitary, many for years or even decades.  Reform advocates have called the conditions and length of this form of imprisonment cruel and unusual punishment.

    SCU Professor of Law Ellen Kreitzberg visited the Ethics Center this week for a discussion on solitary confinement and whether it violates the constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.  Kreitzberg created and directs the University's Death Penalty College.

  •  New LinkedIn Group on Startup Ethics

    Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 11:35 AM

    Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma in a startup environment? Or, are you considering a new entrepreneurial business venture? We have a new LinkedIn Group for you! "The Ethical Startup" is an interactive Group launched this fall comprised of entrepreneurs, funders, and their colleagues, dedicated to identifying and developing best practices in entrepreneurship.

    Here's how it works: During this 7-week project, ethical dilemmas will be posted each Monday, with group discussion and a call for comments. Participants are asked to share their knowledge  and/or personal experience with these issues, with top contributors being honored online. After the project, the Ethics Center will use your feedback as the foundation for a definitive guide to startup ethics. Links to the group and each week's discussion will also be shared on The Ethic Center's Facebook and Twitter profiles in order to expand the online community members and outreach.

    Sample weekly topics for discussion include Board, Investor, and Customer Relations, Hiring Your First Employees, Organizing Your Team, Family Considerations, When to Quite and/or Cash In, and more.

    The project leads are Kirk O. Hanson, Executive Director of The Markkula Center, and Patrick Coutermarsh, the Center's first Fellow in Applied Ethics and a recent graduate of Santa Clara University.

  •  Welcome New Student Fellows

    Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 10:37 AM

    Hackworth Fellows

    The Hackworth Fellows are Santa Clara University undergraduates who provide ethics programming for students. They can be reached at 408-554-5319, or by sending an email to The Fellowships are made possible by a gift from Joan and the late Michael Hackworth. Read more...

    Nellie Bohac
    Nellie Bohac'14 is a finance and political science double major. She will be expanding the Center's Global Jesuit Dialog on Business Ethics, involving students from Jesuit schools around the world in online conversation about cases in international business. She's also involved in the University's yearbook, The Redwood.
    Erin Calister
    Erin Calister'14 is a psychology major and avid yogi and poet. She has been doing research on what factors are associated with an increase in compassion among SCU students, and her Hackworth project will also focus on compassion. She is the current non-fiction editor for the Santa Clara Review literary magazine.
    Kori Lennon
    Kori Lennon'14 is a double major in history and women's and gender studies. Her project will focus on ethics in student government. She is public relations vice president for SCU's Associated Student Government.

    * * *

    Honzel Fellow
    The Honzel Fellowship in Health Care Ethics is awarded to an outstanding senior with a passion for ethics as it relates to health care. The Fellow serves as a peer mentor to students in the Center's Health Care Ethics Internship and develops an ethics project with particular relevance to students and alumni.

    Jillian Gerrity
    Jillian Gerrity'14 is a double major in biology and public health. As a Honzel Fellow, she will serve as a peer mentor for the 2013-14 interns in addition to helping the health care ethics team pilot new clinical placements at local hospitals and health care facilities. Outside her fellowship for the Center, she is also working in a Santa Clara biology research lab, which is comparing nationwide data on strains of Neisseria gonorrhea in order to establish more efficient treatment methods and decrease the chance of complete antibiotic resistance.


  •  Solar House Competition

    Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 4:32 PM

    As Santa Clara University competes this week in the 2013 Solar Decathlon, the U.S. Department of Energy's contest to build solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive, the University's team distinguishes itself by the attention it pays to the ethical issues behind creating a sustainable home.

    The ethics analysis was spurred by two Environmental Ethics Fellows from the Ethics Center.  Allie Sibole, now a junior, broke down the ethical issues in the use of all the major materials, from aluminum to steel, chosen by the team to build the house.  She also examined all of the categories used to judge the competition.

    Melissa Giorgi, who graduated in June, focused on the community outreach aspects of the project with a particular focus on how to extend the benefits of solar energy to low income communities.

    The Environmental Ethics Fellowship is made possible by a gift from John and Joan Casey. 

  •  Upcoming Event October 9 - Stem Cells, Cloning, and the Conscience of a Nation

    Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 4:27 PM

    William Hurlbut, a physician and Consulting Professor, Stanford University Neuroscience Institute, explores the ethical issues associated with advancing biomedical technology, the biological basis of moral awareness, and the integration of theology and philosophy of biology. His courses in biomedical ethics in the Program in Human Biology have included: Biology, Technology and Human Life, and Ethical Issues in the Neurosciences. He has worked with NASA on projects in astrobiology, and since 1998 has been a member of the Chemical and Biological Warfare working group at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation.

    Hurlbut has come to national prominence for his advocacy of Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT), a scientific method of obtaining pluripotent stem cells without the creation and destruction of human embryos. He has spoken all over the world on the intrinsic dignity of human life, including the moral value of the human embryo. In mid-2007, he was the guest of the BBC World Service Radio programme, The Interview. In 2009, commentary from Dr. Hurlbut was featured in the futurist documentary "Transcendent Man." In 2010, he was featured in the award winning film, "The Human Experience."

    We are fortunate to present this program in part through the generosity of the Project on Conscience in Roman Catholic Thought, funded by Phyllis and Mike Shea.

    You're Invited to Tweet! Tweet with us on this topic before, during, and after the event at: #ethicscells and/or #conscienceproject. Follow us on Twitter at @mcaenews

    JOIN US OCTOBER 9, 12 pm - 1, Wiegand Room, Arts and Sciences Building

  •  Yes, But Is it the Right Thing to Do?

    Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 4:42 PM

     The Ethics Center is featured in Santa Clara Magazine, SCU's alumni publication, with an article detailing the Center's history and current programs in business ethics, bioethics, government ethics, campus ethics, Internet ethics, and character education.