Toward a culture of ethics

Nearly 200 scholars and educational leaders from more than 30 colleges and universities convened on campus last week for the national conference “Toward a Culture of University Ethics.”

The researchers and veteran higher education administrators explored ethical issues that arise on campuses, assessed the role of university culture, and discussed new ways to improve policies and practices that affect students, faculty, staff, and leadership, according to the event's organizer, Canisius Professor of Theology James F. Keenan, S.J., who also directs the University's Jesuit Institute.

“Before we ever articulate a professional code of conduct for each community within the university, I think we need to develop a culture of awareness among faculty, staff, administrators and students, that for a university to flourish, it needs to recognize the integral, constitutive roll of ethics in the formation of a flourishing community,” Fr. Keenan said in remarks to open the conference.

James Keenan, S.J. with conference speaker Taylor Branch, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences sophomores Carly Sullivan and Evey Satterfield in conversation with conference organizer James Keenan, S.J., and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch.

Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences sophomores Carly Sullivan (far left) and Evey Satterfield in conversation with conference organizer James Keenan, S.J., and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch (far right). (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

The conference was designed to “kick off a national conversation on the topic of university ethics,” said Fr. Keenan, author of the book University Ethics: How Colleges Can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics, noting that attendees includedan extraordinary group of national leaders."

Speakers included Pulitzer Prize-winning author and National Humanities Medal recipient Taylor Branch, whose remarks were presented by BC's Lowell Humanities Series. Renowned for his landmark trilogy of the Civil Rights era America in the King Years, Branch also wrote “The Shame of College Sports,” an influential 2011 cover story for The Atlantic.  

Former Brown University and Smith College president Ruth Simmons delivered the keynote address on “Race, Gender, and Ethics at the University."

As part of a panel focused on leadership, former Wheelock College President Jackie Jenkins-Scott, the first woman of color to hold that post, said the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions is tied to their underrepresentation within faculty ranks.
 
“Why does the progress of women in the enlightened community of academia remain so painfully slow?” Jenkins-Scott said. “Gender stereotypes about women leaders and their potential remain intact. Because there are fewer women leaders, younger women -- unlike younger men -- lack role models and mentors to guide them. Women are often overlooked or excluded.”
 
The uneven playing field, she said, raises a host of ethical issues that must be addressed by the entire academic community.
 
“Women continuing in lower status is not a women’s problem to solve, but a centuries-old ethical issue that like an anchor in sand holds everyone back,” Jenkins-Scott said. “It is a problem that needs a collaborative effort. Care enough to look seriously at politics and practices that are inequitable. Looking at the men in the room, join women in pushing for change… Compensate women who have been excluded by creating opportunities for them to learn and grow, and support leadership training.”

Among other participants were:

  • Tim Balliett, university ethics officer, Pennsylvania State University;
  • Matthew Carnes, S.J., associate professor of government and member of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, Georgetown University;
  • Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed;
  • Chronicle of Higher Education Senior Editor Goldie Blumenstyk;
  • Margaret McKenna, former president of Lesley University and Suffolk University, and
  • Loyola University Maryland President Brian Linnane, S.J., among others.

Lynch School of Education Augustus Long Professor Janet Helms participated in a panel addressing diversity.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Jesuit Institute, Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Institute for the Liberal Arts, and Lowell Humanities Series.

–University Communications