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Ethics & the Academy Course

The Stanford Graduate Summer Institute (SGSI) is a collection of accelerated, week-long courses held two weeks before Autumn Quarter. Learn more

This is a free course open to graduate students (and postdocs, space permitting) through the Stanford Graduate Summer Institute. SGSI courses are interdisciplinary and sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

Who gets admitted to selective universities and why? Who should benefit from university resources? When controversies erupt, what values should guide their resolution? This course addresses enduring ethical questions on campus. By exploring the values (e.g. justice, equality) that underlie campus debates (about free speech, admissions, intellectual property, etc.) participants will gain insight into their role at the university, reflect on the norms that shape their training, and learn to recognize how campus policies reflect inherent institutional values.

Monday, August 31 – Friday, Sept. 4, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. followed by an hour lunch break, and then 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Anne Newman, research director, McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society

Audience & Capacity
Open to all graduate students in any discipline, as well as postdoctoral scholars, if space allows. Space is limited to 18. Course will take place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

By participating fully in this course, you will:

  • Candidly reflect on ethical issues that arise in all facets of campus life.
  • Analyze how values that underlie ethical issues on campus (e.g., equality, justice, fairness, diversity) sit in tension with competing ideas about the purpose of the university.
  • Engage in ethical reflection about students’ roles and commitments as members of the academic community.
  • Learn about Stanford policies and norms that bear on students' experience as researchers, students, and instructors.
  • Cultivate a supportive network through which students can candidly reflect about ethical controversies.

Ethical questions arise in all aspects of campus life.

  • Who gets admitted to selective universities and why?
  • Who should benefit from university resources?
  • What should we expect of members of the campus community given people’s varied roles as learners, researchers, and mentors?
  • When controversies erupt, what values should guide their resolution?
  • Potential answers to these questions involve different views of foundational values like justice, merit, and equality. We will explore these values by considering current debates on campuses about issues like admissions, free speech, openness in research, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. We will discuss short readings and hear from guest speakers who will explain relevant campus policies and their rationales. Participants will gain insight about their roles within the university, learn to recognize and weigh the values at stake in campus policies and norms, and most practically, learn how various issues have been handled at Stanford with implications for teaching, research, and coursework.

Additional Course Expectations
Students will complete about 30 minutes of reading per day outside of class.
Full attendance is expected.

To learn more, visit the SGSI course listing