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Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus

The E Focus Board encourages faculty members seeking a Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus approval for their courses to approach the Board with any questions they have about their proposals. Contact the General Education Office (gened@hawaii.edu) to get in touch with the current chair of the E Focus Board, who can connect you with the board member who is most familiar with your field.

Examples from Successful E Focus Applications

The following examples are drawn from recently approved applications for the E Focus designation from a range of academic disciplines. They correspond to each of the four questions in the E Focus Boardís request for information about your course (listed on the Proposal Form).

1. Attach a course syllabus. The E Focus Hallmarks must be clearly represented in the syllabus.

Note: You may include the statement provided on the proposal form in your syllabus, but the E Focus Board encourages you to adapt this statement to suit the specific content and aims of your course. Providing course objectives that indicate the integration of ethical issues into the learning activities in your course will also strengthen your application.

Animal Science 350E / Food Science and Human Nutrition 350E: Humans, Food, and Animals: Ethics, Issues, and Controversies (Dian Dooley)

The primary objective of this course is to contribute to the development of informed and responsible citizens who are able to think critically and to analyze complicated science-related issues. By learning to apply ethical principles within a cohesive ethical framework, students will become more adept at dealing with moral dilemmas that ask why, should, must, and ought of current scientific controversies.

During this course, the student will:

  1. define ethics, both as a variety of theoretical frameworks and as a personal framework for making decisions about science-related issues
  2. explore a variety of controversial issues at the intersections(s) of two or more of the following: humans, animals, and their foods.
  3. improve her/his oral and written communication skills, both as an individual and as a member of working groups.
  4. develop and practice using ethically- and scientifically-valid frameworks for reaching decisions about controversial science-based issues.
  5. learn about organizations, businesses, government agencies, and individuals in the community which are involved with the causes and the solutions of these issues.

Business 301: Business Ethics (Robert Doktor and Lorenn Walker)

This course is both a Writing Intensive and Ethics hallmark course. It is a comprehensive examination into the major components of social responsibility including economic, legal, political, ethical, and societal issues involving the interaction of business, government and society. It assists students to develop an awareness of the major ethical frameworks and issues that affect business decisions, and encourages a socially responsible consideration of those issues and express of views by discussion and writing.


2. Provide a list of the specific ethical issues that will be studied and the materials and/or readings that relate directly to those ethical issues.

Note: Make sure that you are specific about the ethical issues you will cover in your course. Link the course materials with these issues as explicitly as possible.

Anthropology 408: History and Memory (Geoffrey White)

a. What ethical choices need to be made when representing violence in public histories (museums, textbooks, historic sites)?

Representations of war and violence always tell moral stories, creating heroes, villains, and victims. These scripts are shaped by the machinery of nationalisms. The manner in which they convey the "pain of others" is usually highly structured, creating sympathy for some but not others. What choices, implicit: or explicit are made?

The first reading assignment is Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others. That book's concern with the problem of creating empathy in photographic and cinematic depictions of violence, injury, and death, draws attention to the significance of the media used to represent the past, and their differential effects on audiences. The examples in Sontag's book, drawn from across cultures and through historical epochs will situate the subject of memory in a broad social and historical context, raising questions of Social responsibilities associated with depicting "others" in historical representation.

A major theme relevant to nearly all readings and films is the role of power and politics in determining the kinds of stories that can be told in public spaces, especially spaces that signify collective national histories (Trouillot, Silencing the Past). In considering national sacred sites in Israel (El Haj), guerrilla war in Guatemala (Menchu readings), U.S. memorials to Pearl Harbor (White) and the Vietnam war (Sturken, Maya Lin film), as well as the atomic bombings in both Japan and the U.S., students will be asked to examine the stated purpose of `preserving' historic sites arid memorializing particular people and events. What is the moral basis for public remembering? In official acts of remembering, what is enshrined and what is forgotten? Whose memory is reproduced, with what responsibility in the present and future?

b. The ethics of reconciling personal memory/experience and collective histories.

What is the relationship between personal remembrance (witnessing) and professional historical representation in textbooks, museums, and the like? How does each mode of recollection validate its claims to historical authority? How are these then used to validate some histories and silence others?

In the first week two short films will be shown that illustrate the importance of both art and politics in shaping `collective memory'. Rea Tajiri's remarkable film History and Memory about recovering lost family memory of W WII internment beautifully links issues of personal and family memory with national histories. Tajiri's film will be contrasted with an official U.S. wartime film justifying the internment.

In subsequent weeks, each of several case studies will raise this question. These include readings on Rigoberta Menchu's contested autobiography and depictions of violence in war torn Guatemala; as well as consideration of the place of "survivor' memory involved in various facets of W WII: interment, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, and the atomic bombings of Japan.

c. Balancing justice and reconciliation.

What are the ethics of remembering unresolved conflicts'? Is there a responsibility to feel or do something in response to perceived injustice? How do different media engage with these responsibilities?

The formation of "truth commissions" is a product of our age, a reflection of mass, even genocidal violence and the need to develop mechanisms that address lethal communal conflict's. What are the ethical implications of remembering and "witnessing" in these situations? How do we often seek to balance the need for justice for past offenses with the need for reconciliation in the present. What is the significance of acts of "apology" and how do they address the ethics of remembering versus forgetting past injustices

d. Tensions between Ďartí and history.

What are the responsibilities of artists, writers, and filmmakers who depict the past for purposes of aesthetics or entertainment to produce "accurate" history? What are the ethics of working in different media and genres of representation, particularly uses of art to make active interventions aimed at creating certain kinds of feeling or emotional reaction to events of the past? How do the responsibilities of the artist in representing past events compare to those of the historian and scholar?

The weeks that focus on illustrated stories about the Holocaust (Spiegelman) and, atomic bombings of Japan (Nakazawa) as well as our consideration of photography and film (Rosenstone), will examine these questions of artistic work in comparison to more scholarly analysis. What are the choices regarding responsibility to the subjects of history when work aims for emotional impact as opposed to critical analysis?

e. Ethics of commodifying the past.

Perhaps the most common context for representing the past is in contexts of entertainment and tourism. For the purposes of global tourism, the past is "another county" -a place to visit marked off as an exotic object of desire that may be consumed through the acquisition of photos and souvenirs that connect the visitor to other times and places.

At the end of the course, several case studies taken up in readings and film entail efforts to commercialize places and spaces associated with significant events. Pearl Harbor (Wallace, White) and the World Trade Center (Heller) will be discussed in ways that address the moral dimensions of commodifying memory. If commodification is one of the only ways that memory can be reproduced through the creation and promotion of historic sites, books, films, etc., what are the choices between tourism development of the past and more in depth, contextualized representations?

f. Ethics of social science.

How do historians, anthropologists, and scholars who conceit themselves with representing the past balance their responsibility to individuals and communities who share their stories with responsibility to wider (scholarly) communities to bring a critical and analytic perspective to historical debate? What ethical choices need to be made when these come in conflict?

These questions will be raised throughout the class by calling attention to the conventions of scholarship and authorship that position the writer or filmmaker in particular relationships to the people and events they represent. In particular, the final assignment in which students will be asked to examine closely a film or historic site

Ethical issues should be described in sentence format (e.g. rather than just: "medical ethics", how about: "ethical issues associated with organ transplantation; such as how should we distribute the organs that are currently available the sickest, to the one waiting longest, to the highest bidder') And, how can the supply be increased?"). For each ethical issue covered, list which materials and/or readings will be used (e.g. titles, authors, section titles, etc.) and clearly explain the ethical choices inherent therein. Provide an estimate of the percentage of course content this material represents.


Botany 440: Introductory Ethnobotany (Will McClatchey)

What is the basis of ethical behavior: What are ethics, morals, values, etc.? How are these developed / learned in our culture and other cultures? Are there universal ethical positions? Is science "beyond" ethics? How do each of us develop and evolve core values?

Post colonial impacts of the colonial era: Why are resources distributed unevenly across nations, cultures, regions? Is science and particularly ethnobotany a continuing form of colonization? How should ethnobotany research be oriented to address issues lingering issues of colonial actions.

What are the ethical codes of ethnobotanists: What are the specific codes for each organization? How are these similar or different? When searching on the Internet, do the ethical codes of other organizations have similar or different standards? Why?

How do ethical codes bear on field research: Can different kinds of research methods be more or less "ethical"? Can different methods be more or less likely to stir up trouble? What are common ethical dilemmas from field research? How can researchers avoid causing ethical dilemmas for other people and themselves?

How are cultural perceptions of plants interrelated with ethics, values and morals? Do all people see plants as simply materials to use? Are all plant materials of equal importance or value? How do differing perceptions of what plants are impact how they are treated and considered?

Conflicts between modern science and traditional knowledge: Are there conflicting views between some forms of science and some forms of traditional knowledge? If so, then how can these conflicts be characterized? How can ethnobotanists work in more than one paradigm?

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): What are intellectual property rights and how are they created? What kinds of problems emerge in ethnobotanical research that relate to IPR? Is IPR the same in all cultures? Who owns biodiversity and why?

Plant Medicines: What are some major debates and crises about the uses of plants as medicines, poisons, ritual, and recreational substances? How are laws shaped by our perceptions and uses of plants and how are our interactions with plants shaped by laws? What are the major controversies In bioprospecting? Why do people have differing perspectives on commercialization of medicinal plants?

Ritual roles of plants: What are ritual roles of plants in your life? How do ritual uses of plants affect the ways in which people are willing or able to interact with specific plants? Can ritual uses of plants impact the environment, negatively or positively?

Loss of Biological and Cultural Diversity: Does it matter that these are being lost? If yes, then why?


Business 301: Business Ethics (David Bechtold, Robert Doktor, and Lorenn Walker)

This course is both a Writing Intensive and Ethics hallmark course. It is a comprehensive examination into the major components of social responsibility including economic, legal, political, ethical and societal issues involving the interaction of business, government and society. It assists students to develop an awareness of the major ethical frameworks and issues that affect business decisions, and encourages a socially responsible consideration of those issues and expression of views by discussion and writing.

Specific ethical issues

a. Ethical dilemmas that allow students to consider who they would respond to ethical issues in the work place. (60 minutes).

b. Leader ethical responsibilities to stakeholders. (Enron, Worldcom and Adelphia case reviews from text). (60 minutes).

c. John Rigas response to charges of unethical behavior (USA Today interview). (2C minutes).

d. The ethical responsibilities of auditors (Arthur Anderson case review from text). (20 minutes).

e. Insider trading and leader ethical responsibilities to outside stakeholders (IMClone case review from text). (20 minutes).

f. The effects of a perceived breech of ethics (Dow Corning case review from text). (20 minutes.

g. The impact: of special interest groups on government policy (Colt/gun control case review from text). (20 minutes).

h. Discrimination in the workplace (Wal Mart and Women in Wall Street case reviews from the text). (20 minutes).

i. Whistleblowing, its effects and how it is perceived (Sharron Watkins case review from the text). (20 minutes),

j. The effect of culture and globalization on ethical behavior (Sweatshop case review from the text and Motorola cases on ethical dilemmas across cultures and countries). (120 minutes).

k. Using local and national newspaper stories actual business practices will be discussed by students to determine if there were any breach of ethics. (80 minutes).


Civil and Environmental Engineering 490: Senior Design Project (Roger Babcock)

Ethical issues are encountered in each of the several areas where CEE graduates find employment including private consulting practice, private construction contracting, and public sector engineering design and management. Recognition of ethical issues and proper ethical behavior is required when CEEs analyze and design civil works, specify equipment and products, and manage construction contracts. Civil engineers have a code of ethics which must be followed or revocation of professional license can result. For engineers, the concepts of professional ethics, licensure, professional business practices, contracting, etc. are all interrelated, extremely important and fall into the broad area of contemporary ethical issues.

The specific ethical issues that are studied can be grouped into three different areas: 1) professional practice 2) personal conduct, and 3) business activities. Professional practice issues include being objective, direct and truthful in reports, statements and testimony in order to protect public health, safety and the environment. Engineers are taught the importance of being objective and accurate and not being overruled by subjective judgments. Engineers must only practice in areas where qualified by education and experience and cannot misrepresent their qualifications. Personal conduct issues include acceptance and offering of gifts and gratuities, harassment, safeguarding confidential information, avoiding conflicts of interest and incompatible employment, and. use of company property. Business ethics issues include conflicts of interest, intellectual property contracting issues, whistle blowing laws, rumors, lobbying, etc. For many of these issues, there are choices between being honest, truthful, reliable, fair, dignified, accurate, correct, genuine, impartial, or objective versus being fraudulent, dishonest, unfair, subjective, improprieties, biased, discriminatory, or profiteering.

A broad range of course materials is utilized as shown on page 8 of the syllabus. The course textbook has a chapter on ethics which is assigned reading with problem assignment. The "E" content of the course is estimated to be 30%.


English 420: Literature and Cultural Studies: Representations of Vietnam (Mark Heberle)

Students will use Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars, a standard text on this subject, together with critiques of Walzer and updated essays on the Iraq War in his later book Arguing About War. Issues to be addressed include the distinction between jus ad bellum (what conditions justify going to war?) and jus in bello (what actions in war are legally and/or morally justifiable and which are not). Other issues raised by just war theory and by the circumstances of the Vietnam war include defining, distinguishing, and justifying guerrilla warfare, on the one hand, and terrorism, on the other, Much of our discussion will involve analyzing places in the films and texts that we are reading in which moral issues such as these are highlighted students will be directed to uncover how such issues get raised, what judgments result, and whether or not and why such discussion is adequate, impartial, or directly engaged. Since the written texts fictional and non-fictional locate such issues in the traumatic experience of individual soldiers, students will need to closely observe whether and holy ethical engagement or disengagement affects the man or woman confined in an enterprise that under normal circumstances would be both immoral and illegal. Similarly, we will examine the relationship between ideological, political, and nationalistic justifications for war and such personal experience in all the works to what extent does the political leader, the commander, or the citizen share a common ethical perspective with the combatant or civilian on the ground?

3. Describe the methodology to be employed to develop studentsí ability to analyze and deliberate upon contemporary ethical issues (e.g. an ethical decision making framework; see www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision).

Note: Describe in detail the learning activities that will provide students with conceptual approaches to ethical thinking and engage them in ethical deliberation on the issues your course is treating. Indicate the foundational concepts and frameworks for analysis you provide to students in order to guide them in their ethical decision-making.

Animal Sciences 350E / Food Science and Human Nutrition 350E: Humans, Food, and Animals: Ethics, Issues, and Controversies (Dian Dooley)

Students will gain information on ethical principles and ethical decision-making by reading material on ethics, such as the various articles on the Markkula site and by reacting to them in their weekly journals.

Students will acquire and hone the tools for responsible deliberation and ethical judgment practicing and being critiqued by peers and instructor in discussions. Students will be require to defend either side of an ethical issue (or one of several), based on an appropriate rubric and set of facts. . .and their interpretation.

If available, guest presentations/discussions by ethicists will be incorporated into the course material. In addition, there will be one or more field trips: e.q. homeless shelter, abattoir, Humane Society, Vegetarian Society meeting, supermarket, zoo, GMO research facility, etc.

Botany 440: Introductory Ethnobotany (Will McClatchey)

About half of the discussion sessions are led by students and the other half by the instructor. The specifics vary from year to year depending on student preference for topics. As ethical issues are brought up, either intentionally or unintentionally, students are asked to consider their personal beliefs and behavioral choices as well as facts that might support or go against their beliefs. Often, the students hold roughly the same position so they are challenged to come up with alternative positions and to defend those as if they believed them to be viable. The students are encouraged to distinguish between their feelings and ethical positions, recognizing that these are often confused. They are also encouraged to distinguish between what they think is scientifically and culturally correct and what is ethical. Since this course focuses heavily upon the perceptions of people across a wide range of cultures, these are important issues to tease apart. The easiest way to do this has proven to be working back and forth between students examining their own culture and beliefs, and those of other cultures. In the process they sometimes identify cultural universals that may or may not be ethics. With each issue discussed, students are expected to try to see the issue from the perspective of different kinds of individuals involved. It is not easy. Some students never seem to learn how to do this while others do it quite naturally.

In the past the outline found on www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision was not used for decision making but after examining this, it will be employed in the future as it is more clear and concise.

It is difficult to determine how many hours of the course are spent discussing ethical issues. This is one of the major themes of the course, only exceeded in content by 1) discussion of patterns of human interactions with plants, and 2) discussions of specific biological or cultural impacts of what humans do with plants. Clearly, much more than 8 hours of the 45 hours of the course are devoted to ethical issues.


Civil and Environmental Engineering 490: Senior Design Project (Roger Babcock)

The ethical decision making framework described by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics is utilized in this course (www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision). The course textbook describes a similar 9 step process which is also discussed. Classroom lectures, videos, ethics case studies group discussions and role playing, reading of case studies and written discussions thereof, and a guest speaker are some of the tools used in this class (see page 8 of syllabus). Approximately 9 hours of classroom hours are devoted to "E".

After lectures, reading and classroom roll playing exercises are completed, the students are assigned ethics case studies to evaluate, discuss in groups and then write up responses to specific questions. In a follow up classroom session, each group grades all the other group papers and then the whole class discusses each case. The students also have to submit a written critique on the ethics presentation by a professional engineer speaker.

4. For renewals, please describe which teaching strategies were most effective, how you assessed the studentís competence in discussion of and decision making about contemporary ethical issues, and any planned improvements in strategy or assessment.

Note: If you are renewing an E-Focus course, let the Board know what specific aspects of your course were most successful, and indicate what you plan to change based on your experience teaching the course. Describe your techniques for assessing studentsí ethical decision making.

Civil and Environmental Engineering 490: Senior Design Project (Roger Babcock)

I employ a wide variety of strategies in this course in order to provide multiple opportunities for each student to "get it". Assessment is done by a combination of grading writing assignments and an end of semester evaluation of each student team by the instructor using a scorecard developed for ABET accreditation (see page 12 of attachment). I do not plan anything different.

English 420: Literature and Cultural Studies: Representations of Vietnam (Mark Heberle)

In the previous incarnation of this course, the requirement for once a week discussion of ethical rather than literary or cultural issues (or comments by me to introduce works) worked well and will be continued this time. Since I am on a Monday schedule, I expect to reserve every Friday for open discussion directed to one or more previously announced ethical questions or problems related to the readings or viewing, which will insure that at least 33% of class time will be devoted to ethical issues. I did not use electronic discussion last time, but this will provide additional opportunity for discussion of just war issues, as well as a cumulative writing assignment in which students will rethink, reflect upon, and revise their initial electronic posts.

The research paper worked well last time to encourage and require students to read outside of the literary texts and incorporate ethical discussion in their longer paper. The comparative paper last time was largely a literary analysis, but it can also accommodate comparative discussion of a moral problem or issue shared by both writer (or films). I will be eliminating the required extracurricular reading report this time, because there is enough reading without an additional, unsupervised exercise (although I may allow limited extra credit for such an assignment). Student work was assessed (graded) according to criteria that I always employ in my writing intensive courses, which take into account both quantity and quality of work.

The major change with this version of the course is eliminating trauma and trauma theory as a required focus of the course (with extensive readings), although it will of course feature in any discussion of combat writers like Caputo, O'Brien, Bruce Weigl, and most of the other poetry (as well as Emily Mann's testimony play), particularly the issue; of moral traumatization. But I am requiring more reading in and more discussion of Just and Unjust Wars this time, which will serve as a comprehensive text for considering ethical and moral issues. I am also eliminating two of the films that were shown last time and limiting viewings to The Green Berets and Go Tell the Spartans, both of which focus more directly on moral and legal issues that will reappear less transparently in the more complex written that we will be reading and discussing later in tile semester. Because of its obvious relevance to the focus of this course, near the end of the semester we will also discuss the war in Vietnam in relation to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and thus discussion will provide an opportunity to apply just war theory, problems, and issues to another context in which they are relevant and timely.

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updated 1/16/08; report errors to gened@hawaii.edu