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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.

  •  The Conscience Project

    Friday, Sep. 27, 2013 1:47 PM

     Monday, Sept. 30, the Center kicks off The Conscience Project, a yearlong series of talks exploring our inner moral core as we confront contemporary challenges in science, technology, religion, education, and business.

    The first speaker in the series will be George Lucas Jr., professor of public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School, on robot morality.  Other presenters include Stanford Professor William Hurlbut on stem cells and cloning, Notre Dame Professor Darcia Narvaez on teaching moral character, and SCU Professor Manuel Velasquez addressing the question, "Can a business have a conscience?"

    We are fortunate to present these speakers in part through the generosity of the "Project on Conscience in Roman Catholic Thought," funded by Phyllis and Mke Shea.  


  •  The American Legal System and Civic Engagement

    Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 6:58 PM

    Subtitled Why We All Should Think Like Lawyers, Kenneth Manaster's recently published book, The American Legal System and Civic Engagement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) argues that "ordinary citizens can form their opinions on public issues more intelligently, confidently, and responsibly if they have some guidance on how to do it."  Manaster, a professor of law at Santa Clara University, uses the traditions of the law to illustrate how to engage in responsible public debate.

    Manaster, a scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, is the holder of the University's Presidential Professorship of Ethics and the Common Good.  Under the auspices of the Ethics Center, Manaster brought together faculty members from multiple disciplines to discuss the project.


  •  Robot Morality Will Explore Machines and Conscience

    Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 3:50 PM

    Can we outsource morality to a robot? This isn't just a question for a sci-fi movie. It's a question that arises from rapid advances in the field of robotics. Engineers, for instance, have tried to program robots to make moral decisions, particularly when the stakes are high. George Lucas, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, will address this topic, particularly as it pertains to the military's increasing reliance on these robots.

    Lucas is Class of 1984 Distinguished Chair in Ethics in the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis), and Professor of Ethics and Public Policy at the Graduate School of Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA). He has taught at Georgetown University, Emory University, Randolph-Macon College, the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and served as Philosophy Department Chairman at the University of Santa Clara in California. He has received research fellowships from the Fulbright Commission and the American Council of Learned Societies, and has served three times (in 1986, 1990, and 2004) as director of National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes for College and University Faculty.

    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 Markkula Center for Applied 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: #ethicsrobot and/or #conscienceproject.
    Find us on Twitter at @mcaenews

  •  Software Engineering Ethics

    Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 2:12 PM

     A new software engineering ethics teaching module from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics has the blogosphere talking about the need for ethics education for engineers.  An article in Pacific Standard, later reposted in Slate, picked up on the work of Center Internet Ethics Director Irina Raicu to develop ethics curricula that can be slipped into courses in engineering.  As she told Pacific Standard, software engineers used to work in big companies where they had checks on the choices they made. 'Now, we’re talking about two guys in hoodies in a garage,' Raicu said. They deploy the code now and fix it later. 'That’s why we need to get them thinking about this early.'"

    The module for software engineers was created by SCU Associate Professor of Philosophy Shannon Vallor with special contributions from Arvind Narayanan, assistant professor of computer science,Princeton University.  Narayanan also raised the issue on the blog Freedom to Tinker, where he asked engineers to submit ethical issues they had confronted in their work.

  •  Journalism Fellow to Work With Ethics Center

    Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 9:50 AM

     Sally Lehrman has been named senior fellow in journalism ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.  Formerly the the Knight Ridder Professor in Journalism and the Public Interest at SCU, Lehrman will continue convening the Executive Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics, which she started in collaboration with the Center in 2008.  Her work has focused on medical and science policy reporting and on diversity in the newsroom.

  •  New Faith Formation Curriculum

    Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 1:16 PM
    The moment has come in the Mass for the readings.  You look down the row as the reader begins a passage from Malachi or Thessalonians or Luke.  Are the children listening raptly to the word of God? More likely they are squirming in the pew, poking a younger sibling, whispering, or daydreaming.  The biblical language and concepts have left them behind.
    But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Steve Johnson, director of character education at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, says these ancient texts can speak very directly to kids—with the help of the Center’s new faith formation program, Build. Plant. Grow. 
    The curriculum pairs the Sunday readings with a classic children’s book and uses both to highlight a virtue that anyone can practice.
    Build. Plant. Grow. takes its title from a passage in Jeremiah:
    Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce...multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.
    According to Johnson, the curriculum “is a faith formation program for people of any age who build, plant, and grow the word in their lives. It’s especially for use in schools and parishes as children break open the word each week.”  The online curriculum provides weekly lesson plans that suggest how people can, as Johnson puts it, “live our daily lives as Christians at our best.” 
    An illustration:  The lesson plan for the third Sunday in September looks at the value of compassion in Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss and a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, which includes the story of the good shepherd who goes in search of one lost sheep.  Participants—both young and old—are encouraged to care for every each individual regardless of their status—as Horton puts it, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” The curriculum then asks how caring and compassion can be put into action by, for example, providing items for distribution to the needy at the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
    Anthony Mancuso, S.J., chaplain at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., wrote many of the lesson plans for Build. Plant. Grow.  “I took the readings for each Sunday and pulled out a connection between them, often a word related to a virtue, such as justice or courage,” he said.  Mancuso tied that idea to a children’s book dealing with the same theme, which “allows the ethics to come alive for a younger mind.”  The lesson plans also offer hands-on activities, with different approaches sensitive to the different ways children learn.  Another section, called “What can I do today?” asks children to take concrete actions based on the virtue they’re learning about.  Finally, the lesson concludes with a prayer.

    Build. Plant. Grow. is intended for use by Catholic school and parish religion teachers and by parents who want to engage young people in the Gospel message in a way that is relevant and vital. 

  •  Father Thomas Reese, SJ, Portrays Compellingly Simple Pope

    Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 11:40 AM

    Father Thomas Reese, SJ, Markkula Center Visiting Scholar and Senior Analyst, National Catholic Reporter, provided humor, inspiration, and savvy commentary on "all things Pope Francis" during the September 12th Ethics at Noon session, entertaining and informing the lunchtime crowd of 80 attendants.

    What's in a name? Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, love of the poor and of Creation, and as a celebrant of peace and interreligious understanding. Indeed his first actions are best defined as "simple:" paying his hotel bill, refusing to live in the papal apartments, driving a Ford instead of a Mercedes, and washing the feet of prisoners. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he cooked his own meals and took the bus over limousines. We can almost refer to him as the "cold call Pope," who is not afraid to make his own phone calls and request a direct connection to "he Jesuit switchboard."

    And yet, Reese's excellent grasp of the Pope's positions reveal complexity behind the simplicity, and a real ability for both Reese and the Pope, to call it like they see it. For example, the Pope's pastoral priorities conjure a church of the heart, that serves as both reconciler and conduit for justice, charity, and love. His priorities for Bishops include increased involvement of women in the church, a rediscovery of "mercy," and a proactive and entrepreneurial mindset.

    Following are additional key soundbytes and questions from the presentation:

    • We are a church of symbols, and this is how we communicate
    • On sexual abuse: zero tolerance
    • Celibacy: "it's a matter of discipline, not faith. It can change."
    • The Appointment of Bishops: they should be close to the people, as well as gentle, patient, as merciful.
      No princes. "Shepherds should smell like their sheep."
    • Denying Communion: One can deny communio to a sinner, "but it's very difficult to check such things."
    • The Church: Are we still capable of warming hearts? "I prefer a church that makes mistakes because it is doing something, to one that sickens because it remains shut in."
    • On The Vatican and Change: Don't make curia officials bishops or cardinals; call for separation of legislative, executive, and judicial power; Vatican needs to become a modern bureaucracy.

    Formerly the editor of America magazine, Reese is the author of a trilogy examining Catholic Church organization and politics on the local, national, and international levels: Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church (Harper & Row, 1989), A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Sheed & Ward , 1992), and Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Harvard University Press, 1997). Reese is a frequent commentator for national news outlets such as NPR, and major news networks.

    MORE: Listen to the podcast here.



  •  Sports Law and Ethics Symposium

    Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 3:00 PM
    Jim Thompson

     Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson introduced Jim Thompson, founder and chief executive of the Positive Coaching Alliance, at today's Sports Law and Ethics Symposium.  Thompson will be giving a featured presentation on "What We Can Learn From What Happened at Rutgers," where Head Coach of the men's basketball team Mike Rice was fired for mentally and physically abusing players.

    Thompson is the first recipient of the ETHOS Award for contributions to the positive role of sport in American life, sponsored by SCU's Institute of Sports Law and Ethics. Hanson sits on the Institute Board and co-chairs the ETHOS Award Committee. 

  •  The Center Welcome James O'Toole

    Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 3:55 PM


    The Center is pleased to welcome James O'Toole, as senior fellow in business ethics. O'Toole will work with the Center's Business and Organizational Ethics Partnership and on projects related to leadership. Previously he was the Daniels Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business. While at the University of Southern California's business school for two decades, he held the University Associates' Chair of Management, served as Executive Director of the Leadership Institute, and was editor of New Management magazine. From 1994-97 O'Toole was Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute, and later, Mortimer J. Adler Senior Fellow at the Institute. He also has served as Chair of the Booz/Allen/Hamilton Strategic Leadership Center.

    Among O'Toole's sixteen books, Vanguard Management was named "one of the best business and economics books of 1985" by the editors of Business Week. His latest book is Good Business (editor, with Don Mayer, 2010). He currently writes a bi-weekly blog for Strategy+Business magazine.

    O'Toole received his doctorate in Social Anthropology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

  •  Nonprofits and Ethics Panel Aligns Mission, Morals, and Money

    Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 10:36 AM

    "Since they accept charitable gifts, nonprofits are increasingly in the spotlight and face greater scrutiny and accountability then ever before," agreed the presenters during the "Ethical Dilemmas and Nonprofits" panel held on August 20, and sponsored by The Markkula Ethics Center, AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals-Silicon Valley), and Focus Bank.

    Moderator Ervie Smith, representing Focus Business Bank, led panelists through a lively and informative series of ethical questions and scenarios commonly facing nonprofit communities, well received by the audience of 80 association leaders. Featured panelists were: Brian Adams, Bellarmine College Prep Christian Service Program; Judith Kleinberg, Knight Foundation; and Peter Hero, The Hero Group.

    One of the ethical scenarios involved the issue of "giving for a gift," a real life case study in which  a parent alumnus offers a donation to a school in return for his child's admission. "Any strings attached to a gift is a major red flag. In this scenario, simply do not accept the gift."

    Another scenario involved "interpretive" staff trips and expenses. For example, your job requires matching expense reports with receipts, and you find that while some staff were cautious and thrifty spenders, others took cabs, enjoyed room service, and helped themselves to the allure of the hotel "mini bar. "

    "First, there must be clear and  ironclad rules regarding business travel expenses detailed in the employee handbook, so that there is one standard for all staff," the panelists commented. "Second, confront those who did the gratuitous spending, offer them opportunity to explain, but make them accountable. They need to know there will be consequences to this behavior."

    Other highlights included:

    • Examples of ethical issues include: conflicts of interest, plagiarism, invasion of privacy, bias, and deceit or lack of transparency
    • Donors want nonprofits to succeed, and organizations should be transparent if they're facing financial stresses that challenge a grant's purpose
    • If a nonprofit is dishonest or fails to be transparent, its reputation is jeopardized
    • There is great importance in the donor-institution's all about relationships
    • Fundraising staff need to understand the mission of the organization and ultimately protect the brand