Santa Clara University

Ethics Center Blog
Bookmark and Share

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.

  •  College Confessions

    Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 4:51 PM

     The big question on The Big Q this week: What do you think of college confessions sites?  Websites where undergrads share secrets--theirs and others'--have proliferated recently, and the Ethics Center's Big Q project on everyday ethical dilemmas for undergraduates offer's a brief case study encouraging students to talk about their reaction to this phenomenon.   Best comment by an undergrad wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.



  •  The Right to Be Forgotten

    Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2013 11:00 AM

    "Total interconnectedness," very cheap data storage, and powerful search technologies come together to create a new set of ethical questions. Do we have a right to access and correct the data in our profiles? Do we have a right to be "forgotten" by the Internet? In this brief video, part of the Center's series, "Internet Ethics: Views From Silicon Valley," co-founder Owen Tripp asks us to consider the impact of the Internet's long memory on those among us who are most vulnerable.

    Evan Selinger--Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology--responds to Tripp's comments.  Visit the vlog to join the conversation.

  •  Privacy Tradeoffs Online

    Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 2:39 PM

    New technologies often bring both benefits and unintended consequences. The same is true of laws aimed at new technologies. In this brief clip from the Ethics Center's new video series, Internet Ethics: Views From Silicon Valley, NetApp's Executive Chairman Dan Warmenhoven discusses the development of GPS-tracking technology and the ethical issues associated with the aggregation of GPS data into large databases. He then argues that data protection efforts can go too far, leaving us with inefficient outcomes. How do we strike the right balance between benefits and harms?

    Patrick Lin, associate professor of philosophy at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo responds.  Visit the vlog to join the conversation


  •  Internet Ethics: The View From Silicon Valley

    Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 1:00 PM

     Silicon Valley pioneers and thought leaders discuss key ethical issues in the online world in a new video series from the Center's Internet Ethics Program.  Over the course of ten weeks, founders of such companies as Apple, Adobe, and, as well as CEOs of Symantec and Seagate will be among the people offering their assessment of the ethical challenges represented by the Web.

    The first video in the series is an introduction by Santa Clara University Associate Professor of Philosophy Shannon Vallor, who is currently working on a book called 21st Century Virtue: Toward an Ethical Framework for Living Well with Emerging Technologies.  Vallor argues that the people who devise Internet tools and services should think not only about meeting the user's immediate desires and needs, but also about doing that in a way that promotes a good life. 

    You can subscribe to the series either by RSS or by email here.  

  •  Good Enough for Government Work?

    Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 11:29 AM


    Arguing that only the highest quality is "good enough for government work," Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler questioned whether a report that borrowed heavily from Wikipedia met the minimum standards for a contract issued by Orange County, Calif., to Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman.  Brandman, who was to produce a report on whether the county clerk should open a new office in western Orange County, got the assignment under no-bid contract granted by his mentor, former Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly.

    Nadler told the Voice of OC:

    The county has to figure this out. They have to justify putting out the contract awarding the contract in the first place, and they have to come up with a justification for selecting this person in the first place.  What does a $24,000 contract look like, and what are the qualifications for the people who get these? Because if it doesn't require a lot more than this, I think there are a lot of people who are going to be asking for contracts.

  •  National Standards for Catholic Schools

    Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 2:00 PM

     Lorraine Ozar, founding director of the Loyola University Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, met today with local Catholic school educators about the first National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, developed by her center in collaboration with the Roche Center for Catholic Education (Boston College) and the National Catholic Educational Association. This landmark document offers critical school effectiveness standards to more than 7,000 schools across the country. 

    The Ethics Center's Character Education Program offers curriculum, which integrates ethics and the language arts, tied to these national standards.  Ozar is a 35-year veteran in the field of education as both a teacher and administrator.  She was the recipient of the 2010 F. Sadlier Dinger Award for distinguished leadership and outstanding contributions to Catholic education, and the 2011 NCEA C. Albert Koob award, which recognizes individuals who have greatly impacted the national standard of Catholic education.  

  •  Catholic School Standards and Character Education

    Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 12:41 PM
    What makes a school Catholic?  Part of the goal behind the creation of National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools was to clarify that issue, according to Lorraine Ozar, who chaired the Catholic School National Standards Task Force.
    Ozar, director of the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University, Chicago, spoke today at a meeting of Catholic school educators from the San Jose and Oakland dioceses, sponsored by the SCU Department of Education with help from the Ethics Center.  The Center has developed a character education curriculum keyed to the new Catholic school standards.
    Ozar described the standards as a GPS to help build and sustain excellent Catholic schools.  The standards lay out where to go and various ways to get there, but they still require the intelligence of educators and their knowledge of context in order to arrive at the desired destination.
    Included in the standards are defining characteristics of Catholic schools.  They are:
                Centered  in the Person of Jesus Christ
                Contributing to the Evangelizing Mission of the Church
                Distinguished by Excellence
                Committed to Education the Whole Child
                Steeped in a Catholic Worldview
                Sustained by Gospel Witness
                Shaped by Communion and Community
                Accessible to All Students
                Established by the Expressed Authority of the Bishop
    The standards themselves lay out what makes an excellent Catholic school.  These standards are matched with Benchmarks, which describe what a school that meets the standards might look like.
    One standard related particularly to ethics states, “An excellent Catholic school provides opportunities for…action in service of social justice.”  One of the benchmarks of that standard is “Every student participates in Christian service programs to promote the lived reality of action in service of social justice.” 
  •  Picking Up the Slack

    Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 1:00 PM

     Group projects present a classic ethical dilemma for college students, when one member of the team does not pull his or her weight.  In this case from The Big Q, a senior is asked to evaluate the work of a Friend whose contributions are either sloppy or unfinished.

    The Big Q is an online dialog on everyday ethical issues for undergraduates.  The best student comment on the case wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

  •  Two Classes of Common Stock: Qui Bono?

    Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 2:20 PM

    In light of the IPO's and subsequent performances of Facebook, Groupon, Zynga, etc., there has been renewed discussion in the Silicon Valley of whether having two classes of common stock, which places control of the Board in the hands of the founders and not the investors, benefits the investors or just entrenches management.

    The Silicon Valley Directors' Exchange offers a panel on the question March 21.   Moderating will be Ethics Center Executive-in-Residence James Balassone.  Panelists are Andy Shapiro, founder and CEO of Lawndale Capital Management; Katie Martin, senior partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati specializing in corporate and securities law; and Janice Hester Amey, a portfolio manager at CalSTRS in its corporate governance group.  

  •  Do Honor Codes Work?

    Friday, Mar. 8, 2013 2:41 PM
    Gary Pavela, director of academic integrity at Syracuse University, had a simple answer to the question, Do honor codes promote greater academic integrity on college campuses.  Yes.
    At a talk today sponsored by the Ethics Center, Pavela shared his experiences developing the first "modified honor code" at the University of Maryland in 1991.  As background, Pavela described traditional honor codes at schools like the University of Virginia and the service academies, where the punishment for any violation is expulsion.  Students must sign an honor pledge, and they are obligated to report their classmates if they see cheating.
    According to Pavela, traditional codes have a clear affect on cheating, even though "the PR is sometimes better than the reality."  For example, honor courts at traditional honor code schools may be reluctant to convict students who are referred to them because they have only one choice of sanction--expulsion.  Also, he reported, "students don't turn each other in."
    Pavela and the group of students he worked with at Maryland wondered if they could get the same effect by adopting the elements of traditional codes that actually worked.  The Maryland code included:
    §     Student leadership
    §     Serious penalties but not automatic expulsion
    §     Education
    These elements work together in a modified code.  For example, if a student is caught cheating, he or she receives an XF in the class.  This grade is coded on the transcript, "failure due to academic dishonesty."  The student cannot change the F grade, but he or she can get the X removed by taking an academic integrity seminar.
    The modified code developed at Maryland and later adopted at many other schools does have an impact on the ethical culture of the school, Pavela said.  He cited the work of Donald McCabe, who has been studying academic integrity since 1990.  McCabe found there was less cheating at modified honor code schools than at schools with no code at all, although there was more cheating than at traditional honor code schools.
    Pavela stressed that honor codes can be a source of pride for students, and that schools that adopt them begin to see results in two to three years.

    Pavela's talk was part of a multi-year effort at Santa Clara University to develop an honor code system.