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SGSI 2020: Ethics & the Academy

Course Closed

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 will address perennial ethical questions on campus. We will explore the values (e.g. justice, equality, diversity) underlying campus debates (about admissions, free speech, student integrity policies, and intellectual property) Participants will gain insights about their role at the university, learn to recognize values inherent in campus policies, and reflect on norms that shape their training.

Monday, Aug. 31 – Friday, Sept. 4, 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM & 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM


  • 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.


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.

Past participants who took this course said the following about their experience:

Take it! A great opportunity to think about interesting issues [and] meet grad students across the university.” -SGSI 2019 Participant

“Great way to understand the ethics behind the decisions that universities make, with lots of insight into how Stanford works.” -SGSI 2019 Participant

Additional Course Expectations

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

SUNet ID required to log in; all SGSI correspondence sent to your Stanford email account.

Resource Type: 
Course or Workshop
Target Audience: 
All Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Scholars
Time Commitment: 
Learning Experience: