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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.

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  •  Kirk O. Hanson Presents on Ethics and Legislation

    Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 11:15 AM

    The National Ethics and Leadership Summit was held October 9-11 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The event was co-presented by The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and The State Legislative Leaders Foundation, which educates political leaders on critical issues of the day through university-based educational programs. Ethics Center Executive Director Kirk Hanson presented on ethics and legislators as outlined below. We are pleased to share the summary points and highlights of his talk, which emphasize the need for core values, codes of conduct, commitment to ethical standards and assessments, recognition of conflicts of interest and ethical risks, and related ethical frameworks.

    The Role of the Legislative Leader in Shaping the Ethical Culture of the Legislative Body

    In addition to the unavoidable ethical challenges facing any member of a legislative body, we focused yesterday on several dilemmas which the leader would face.  Now it is time to focus on the responsibility of the legislative leader to create and sustain an ethical culture within the legislative body. When we discuss the obligation of chief executives in corporate or nonprofit organizations to create and sustain an ethical culture, we focus on nine key tasks.  These apply equally to the legislative leader who is trying to create an ethical culture in his or her chamber or caucus.

    1. The legislative leader must have and articulate a set of core values which inspire the whole organization.  For a Speaker or President-ProTem, these might include the value of serving the whole people of the State, of doing the public's business free of personal interest, and of creating a cooperative spirit rather than a highly partisan environment.

    2. Some fundamental obligations must be embodied in law or a code of conduct for the body.  Some may even be standards written for how the caucus will operate.  Obviously disclosure of economic interests and other possible conflicts of interest need to be addressed.  There may be bans on concurrent service on other commissions or corporate/nonprofit boards which create problematic conflicts of interest, or clear standards for recusal when conflicts are encountered.

    3. The most important task of the legislative leader is to demonstrate commitment to ethical standards by his or her own behavior.  Personal example is more powerful than any words or code in creating a real culture of ethics.

    4. The leader must create voluntary and even mandatory training in the ethical obligations of all members of the legislature.  The existence of training programs is itself a signal of the topic's importance, but the content of such training helps new and old members understand the complexities of the unavoidable dilemmas legislators face.

    5. The leader must establish systems which support the values and ethical norms of the body.  These may include a robust disclosure process, clear procedures for acknowledging a conflict of interest and recusing oneself, and specific triggers and procedures for ethics investigations.

    6. The leader must identify and alert others to "ethical risks" that arise due to changes in the environment, changes in the legislative process,  or changes in the topics addressed by the legislature.  Among these risks today are changes in campaign finance.

    7. The leader must assure that all members have a place to go to get good ethics advice.  Many situations are complex and require expert help.  This protects the individual member and the reputation of the whole body.

    8. The leader should create a method for addressing the toughest ethical dilemmas faced in the legislature.  There are going to be, both in the legislative body and in the caucus, difficult ethical choices that can harm the personal interests of individual members or parties.  The leader must have a method for dealing with such cases, to insure that they are addressed openly and not buried.

    9. The leader must insure that there is a vigorous compliance process.  Too often, leaders are seen as looking the other way when complaints are brought against old friends or members of the leader's party.  There must be both vigorous ongoing auditing of key ethical norms and quick resolution of ethics complaints.

  •  Of Apps and Heroes

    Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 12:57 PM
    Scott Labarge with Nicholas and Helen Bass

     A lively discussion about the need for modern day models of heroism marked "Ethics After Dark," a reception for Center alumni and friends that was part of SCU's recent Grand Reunion celebration.  Scott LaBarge, associate professor of classics and philosophy, engaged the audience in a consideration of heroes and whether they have to be perfect to be valid role models.

    The Center also introduced a group of alums to its Ethical Decision Making app, a step-by-step guide to considering a decision through lenses such as fairness, utility, and rights.

  •  How the Hobby Lobby Decision Undermines Women's Rights and Threatens Religious Freedom

    Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 9:00 AM

    Leslie Griffin, Boyd Professor of Law, University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Law, and a national expert on the intersection of religion, women’s rights, and law, leads this discussion. The “Hobby Lobby” decision by the United States Supreme Court is often referred to as a victory for religious freedom and a defeat for women’s rights. To Professor Griffin, this view is deeply wrong. The decision was certainly a defeat for women’s rights, but was also anything but a victory for religious freedom; instead, it poses a threat to religious freedom. Professor Griffin is a former faculty member of the SCU School of Law. Join us for this lively and informative discussion!

    Location: Lucas Hall, Forbes Room

    Live Tweet With Us!
    Follow @scuethics
    event hashtags:  #hobbylobby #ethicsatnoon

  •  Global Ethics and American Law

    Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 3:15 PM

    Professor David Sloss, Santa Clara Law, asks the question: Has American constitutional law been influenced by ideas of law and ethics coming to these shores, so to speak, from abroad? Should it be shaped by such ideas? Of course, many argue against such influence, thinking that the U.S. Constitution is exceptional and neither has nor should be changed to conform to such ideas. Professor Sloss, an expert on international law, will offer a contrary argument and discuss the ways in which international standards of human rights have influenced the constitutional practice of this country.

    Join us for this dynamic and informative Ethics At Noon session.
    Location: Learning Commons and Library Media Room A

    Live Tweet with us! Follow @scuethics on Twitter #globalethics

  •  Ethics After Dark for Markkula Center Friends and Alumni

    Monday, Sep. 22, 2014 3:54 PM

    Join the staff and alumni of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics for wine and hors d'oeuvres, and a chance to reconnect during Santa Clara University's Grand Reunion. Enjoy a mini-lecture on heroism by Scott LaBarge, associate professor of philosophy and classics, and a brief update on the Ethics Center's current work. Professor LaBarge received the Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Award in 2004 in recognition of his accomplishments in the classroom, and was recognized with the Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence at SCU in 2012.

    Tweet about this event before, during, and after, with your SCU friends and colleagues!

    Follow @scuethics   use #ethicsafterdark

  •  Trust Project Haiku Twitter Contest

    Monday, Sep. 22, 2014 3:18 PM

    Fake or fact...what makes news trustworthy? How do you tell journalism from promotional content and public relations? How do you decide you can act on what you’ve seen, heard or read -- because you know it’s accurate, independent, complete and fair? Journalism makes a basic pledge to society: to serve public debate and involvement with a truthful, intelligent and comprehensive account of ideas and events. With fresh, exciting news enterprises and technologies now in play, journalism has a powerful opportunity to engage anew with its foundational principles.

    What is The Trust Project?

    The Trust Project explores how journalism can stand out from the media crowd and inspire trustworthiness, and is an initiative of the Executive Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics at the Ethics Center. The news executives, entrepreneurs, technology and digital media leaders who make up the roundtable share ideas, network and brainstorm solutions to some of journalism’s most pressing problems. We are examining models that suggest how to earn trust, such as Wikipedia and academic publishing. And we’re taking advantage of our location at the heart of Silicon Valley to imagine technology that can bake the evidence of trustworthy reporting –such as accuracy, transparency and inclusion –plainly into news practices, tools and platforms.

    How Do I Enter?

    Follow @journethics. Tweet a haiku by October 10 explaining the factors in a news story or news site that tell you it’s worth your trust, and you may win a $50 prize. A jury of editors will choose the best one.

    What Is a Haiku?

    A haiku poem traditionally is 3 lines, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third, adding up to no more than 17 syllables in all. Typically, the haiku starts with an observation or situation, then ends with a revelation or moment of awareness. For this contest, we will interpret the form loosely! To read some examples of haiku written by traditional masters, see

    Who Can Enter?

    All are welcome to enter. Use slashes to indicate the ends of lines (/) and include #trustworthynews and @journethics to make sure your entry is considered. Reminder: your tweet must be no longer than 140 characters. Multiple entries are fine, but must be posted on separate days. Please tweet from one account only.

    Contact Info and Join our Facebook Group

    For more information, contact Sally Lehrman, senior fellow for Journalism Ethics at the Ethics Center, Attention all those interested in journalism ethics, please join our Facebook Group, "Digital Journalism Ethics Roundtable."

  •  Ethical Dimensions of the Vatican Synod on the Family

    Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014 3:00 PM

    Starting October 5, Catholic bishops from around the world will meet at the Vatican to scrutinize the Church’s pastoral approach to families. Pope Francis stirred up the Church when he called for the Synod to take place. Our panel will help us understand the energy behind what is happening in Rome and where this all might lead. Key ethical questions to be discussed include marriage, conscience, and natural law morality. Key theological issues will include God’s mercy; the relationship of pope and bishops; and the admittance to communion of divorced and remarried Catholics.

    A panel discussion by Santa Clara University faculty Paul Crowley, SJ, Lisa Fullam, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University,
    and Sally Vance-Trembath.

     Join us to Live Tweet this event! Follow @scuethics #synod

  •  What Is Compassion?

    Tuesday, Sep. 9, 2014 11:51 AM

    William Prior, professor emeritus, Santa Clara University Philosophy Department, explores Compassion. While many of us use the term "compassion," we often don't share an understanding of what it fully means. Prior will discuss the more precise meaning of "compassion" as it's understood in the Western philosophical tradition. His research and teaching interests include ancient philosophy, ethical theory, the history of skepticism, and the philosophy of Wittgenstein. His publications include Unity and Development in Plato's Metaphysics (Open Court, 1985), Virtue and Knowledge (Routledge, 1991) and numerous articles. He has edited Socrates: Critical Assessments (Routledge, 1996, 4 v.) He is working on a book on the problem of the historical Socrates.

    Event and Live tweeting on Twitter: #compassion

  •  Business Ethics MOOCS Launch August 18

    Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 2:12 PM

    On August 18th, the Ethics Center is relaunching two free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to the public. Already, over 3,000 executives, professors and students have enrolled, and we invite you to join them. The MOOCs are hosted on the platform and are taught by Kirk O. Hanson, longtime professor of business ethics at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Santa Clara University.
    Registration is now open


    Explores the nature of ethics, its role in a business career, and how to make practical ethical decisions.

    Examines how managers and executives can create and sustain an ethical culture.

    3 Hours of Business Ethics Training Each Week for 4 Weeks:
    Each course is organized to take no more than 2-3 hours per week, and the course is designed to be completed in 4 weeks. You can take the courses anytime during the period they are open.

    Online Activities on Business Ethics:
    Each week you will have 2 or 3 short lectures to watch. Afterwards, you will have 3 related activities: a case discussion on a real business scenario, a short exercise, and a quiz. The final project for each course is an ethical analysis, and peer reviews of other students' analyses.

    New! Incentives for Course Finishers

    • Letter of Completion: Letter of completion from the Ethics Center
    • Badge: Official "badge" to highlight your success, for display on websites, socia media, LinkedIn Profiles, etc.
    • VIP LinkedIn Group: A special invitate to join our closed MOOC Alumni Group on LinkedIn, featuring networking opportunities, discussions, and more.
    • Opportunity to participate in our SMAP (social media ambassadors program). If you're on Twitter, first Follow the Ethics Center (@mcaenews), and tweet about the course as you go through it, using the hashtag #MarkkulaMOOC. The most frequent tweeter by November 7 will win a $50 Amazon gift card. 
      Stay tuned for more details!

    Contact Patrick Coutermarsh at for questions or further information.



  •  2014 Hackworth Fellows in Engineering Ethics

    Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 2:58 PM

    The incoming Hackworth Engineering Ethics Fellows will develop case studies on engineering ethics based on the experience of Santa Clara University alumni in the engineering field. Their work will be a similar model to the business ethics case studies here. The fellowships are made possible by a gift from Joan and late Michael Hackworth.

    Clare Bartlett

    Clare Bartlett is a bioengineering major from Centennial, CO. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, concerts, and Irish Dancing.

    Nabilah Deen

    Nabilah Deen is a Civil Engineering Senior from Santa Clara. She lived in the city for most of her life. Nabilah participates in several engineering clubs, and she enjoys writing, reading, and modular origami.

    Jocelyn Tan

    Jocelyn Tan, from San Jose, California, studies Electrical Engineering. In her spare time, she loves to sing, dance and play the piano. She also loves to laugh and meet new friends.