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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

University Ethics: How Colleges Can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life


James Keenan, S.J.
Boston College

Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: St. Mary's Hall, Room 128

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Abstract: Stories about ethical issues at universities make headlines every day. Students, professors and administrators face countless ethical trials: sexual violence, racial conflict, the treatment of adjuncts and cheating, just to name a few examples. And yet, very few resources exist to assist universities in developing an ethical culture. This talk draws on Jim Keenan’s recently published book, University Ethics, which addresses this challenge and studies different facets of university life—including athletics, gender and faculty accountability. The book highlights the ethical hotspots, explains why they occur and proposes best practices. 

Professional ethics are a key component of training for numerous other fields, such as business management, medicine, law and journalism, but there is no prescribed course of study for the academy. Professors and administrators are not trained in standards for evaluating papers, colleagues, boundaries or contracts. University Ethics not only examines the ethical problems that colleges face one by one but proposes creating an integrated culture of ethics university-wide that fosters the institution’s mission and community.


James F. Keenan, S.J., is the Canisius Chair, director of the Jesuit Institute and director of the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. His research interests include university ethics, fundamental moral theology, history of ethological ethics, Church leadership ethics, as well as the works of Thomas Aquinas, among others. He has edited or written 18 books and published over 300 essays, articles, and reviews in over twenty-five international journals. He has been a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at The University of Edinburgh, the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, and the Instituto Trentino di Cultura. Keenan is the founder of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) and chaired the First International Cross-cultural Conference for Catholic Theological Ethicists in Padua, Italy. Following that experience, he hosted another international conference of theological ethicists in Trento, Italy. Today CTEWC is a live network of over 1000 Catholic ethicists ( His most recent book is University Ethics: How Colleges Can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). He is presently writing another book, A Brief History of Catholic Ethics (Paulist Press). A Jesuit priest since 1982, he received a licentiate and a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. 

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In the News

According to an article recently published by the New York Times, a new online service allows college students to anonymously record details of sexual assaults and report them later. In recent new book, University Ethics: How Colleges Can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics, James Keenan, S.J. describes how colleges can address issues such as sexual assault, cheating, and drug abuse, among others, on their campuses. Keenan will speak at a luncheon at the Boisi Center next semester on February 2, 2016.