For those students who find themselves tormented with certain decisions they cannot seem to make or who are interested in the role ethics plays in many aspects of college life, there is the Center for Ethics and Values. Not among the better-known establishments on campus, the center seeks to promote the use of ethics in day-to-day decision-making and exchanges with students and faculty.
“The center serves mainly to examine and present discussion of different values and ethical issues,” said Dr. James Kellenberger, the current director of the center and a philosophy professor.
The Center for Ethics and Values has a two-fold objective that works with students personally and sponsors events open to the campus as well as the rest of the local community that explore moral and ethical questions.
“In the past we have sponsored dialogues, panels and lectures on issues ranging from the right to die to the question of moral relativity, which looks into whether morality is an objective absolute or if it is relative to certain societies and individuals,” Kellenberger said.
Oscar Marti, assistant professor of Chicano/a studies and former director of the center, contends that the center provides services to students looking for guidance in dilemmas that involve the use of ethical judgment.
“Oftentimes there are students who come in with problems involving certain ethics, for example not knowing what to do when they saw something illegal happen,” Marti said.
“While this is not by any means considered counseling, we can help steer them towards possible solutions.”
The Center for Ethics and Values is housed at the College of Humanities and was established 10 years ago to address issues regarding affirmative action.
The center has in the past addressed and continues to address a vast scope of topics and issues. Four years ago, the organization put on a conference with campus faculty members as well as professors from other colleges and universities about bioethics, and stem cell research was one of the issues that were addressed.
There was also another conference with death and euthanasia being the main issue on the agenda. According to Marti, it served as an indispensable resource to people with dying family members who wanted facts, resources and references.
As faculty members and their teachings have a major impact on students, the center incorporates the faculty in many of their endeavors.
“Oftentimes, we will sponsor discussions surrounding ethics of research, primarily anthropological, that delve into ethical limits, rights of privacy, and autonomy of research subjects and the like,” Marti said.
The purpose of the Round Table discussions (as they are referred to) is to get together a number of faculty who teach courses that may deal directly or indirectly with issues of an ethical nature. These discussions seek to share a variety of approaches and ideas about teaching methods, resources and ethical problems.
“It is very useful to have a forum for academics from various disciplines to discuss how ethical issues arise in their fields,” Kellenberger said.
All of these activities are funded primarily from outside donations as well as some funding from the college dean, Marti said.
A value often overlooked is aesthetic values, which the center also espoused with a wine tasting event.
“The center is in the process of planning an event scheduled for March of 2007 which will sponsor two discussion sessions on religion and violence,” Kellenberger said.
While housed under the College of Humanities, the Center for Ethics and Values has no set physical structure, but rather runs on the efforts of the faculty and has managed to successfully endure with that alone.