The Center's Big Q project, an online dialog on ethics for undergraduates, is gearing up for Homelessness Awareness Week Jan. 28 with a new case study asking for student comments on how they might deal with a campus panhandler. The best student comment will win a $100 Amazon gift card.
Cynthia Mertens, SCU professor of law, and Laura Nichols, SCU associate professor of sociology, have been involved for the last years with a national effort to understand and better address the experience of undocumented students at Jesuit universities. On Jan. 15, noon, in the Arts & Sciences Building, they will report on their findings -- with the assistance of Kristin Heyer, Bernard J. Hanley Professor of Religious Studies, who has written extensively on Catholic social ethics and immigration.
The Arizona Republic recently ran a series of articles on discretionary funds, "pools of money, often taken from a city’s general fund, that [are] set aside for an individual council member to use at his or her discretion. It’s a common practice among city councils around the country." These funds are not closely monitored, and they may go for items that individual members might want but the full council might not approve.
The Republic analyzed expenditures from discretionary funds and raised the question, In tough economic times, when cities are cutting basic services, does it still make sense to allow this discretionary spending? Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded,
We’ve reduced police forces. We’ve reduced the hours at the library. So we cannot afford to waste one dime on expenses that are not legitimate and that do not advance the work elected officials are charged to do on behalf of the public.”
There are still some spots left in the Massive Open Online Course being offered beginning Feb. 25 by Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson, Business Ethics for the Real World. Three hundred and forty four people have already registered, and the course is limited to 500.
The first four-week module defines ethics and explains a 10-step process for making ethical decisions. Hanson outlines the concept of "unavoidable ethical dilemmas," that is, ethical problems that can be predicted based on the obligations people incur from their roles in the company, be they managers, executives, marketers, accountants, and so forth.
The Santa Clara County Finance Agency has determined that Board President George Shirakawa Jr. has been imprudent in his use of public funds. According to the San Jose Mercury News:
Since taking office in 2009, Shirakawa used his county credit card for 174 meals at local restaurants, later reporting he had lost most of the required itemized receipts. He also billed taxpayers for out-of-state casinos, golf fees and rental car upgrades -- in some cases reimbursing the costs months later, only after being questioned.
Shirakawa also allowed his staff to use county monies to make donation to his favorite charitable causes. In an interview with the Mercury News, Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson commented:
It's clearly improper for public officials to use public monies for charitable causes.... The channeling of public monies by a single public official outside the appropriation process becomes a backdoor way of funding the charities that either are the favorite of a public official, or are useful to the public official in their election efforts.
With the advent of bounty awards for whistleblowers offered under the The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, some employees are now motivated to go outside their companies to blow the whistle on corporate wrong-doing.
Henry "Hank" Shea, professor of law at St. Thomas University and former federal prosecutor, argues that this provision can serve as a wake-up call for companies in this video conversation with Ethics Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson. Shea recommends that managers ask, "Are we doing everything possible to have our people come to us first?" Organizations, Shea says, should welcome the type of person who asks, "Why are we doing it this way? Is this the fairest way to serve our customers?"
All of the Ethics Center's materials on government ethics have now been sorted into a new system of categories that makes it easier for visitors to our Web site to find articles, videos, and podcasts on these areas:
In the wake of the recent contentious election, it's time for both sides to search for common ground. So Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics, will argue at a program Dec. 13, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m., at the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel, sponsored by Catholic Professionals.