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SGSI 2024: Ethics & the Academy

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Monday, Sept. 9 – Friday Sept. 13, 9:30 AM - 1 PM

Ethical questions arise in all aspects of campus life. This course will examine some of these perennial questions and the foundational values that underlie them (e.g., justice, merit, equality). We will explore these values by considering current debates on campuses about issues like the societal consequences of research, anti-racist educational practices, university finances, and most broadly, what a justice-promoting university might entail. We will discuss short readings and hear from guest speakers to learn about relevant campus norms and their rationales.


  • Anne Newman, executive director, McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society

Audience & Capacity

Open to incoming PhD students, or students in early stages*, as well as postdoctoral scholars, if space allows. Space is limited to 25.

*MSx Class of 2025 and first-year MBA students are ineligible to participate due to mandatory program requirements.


By participating fully in this course, you will:

  • Candidly reflect on ethical issues that arise in all facets of campus life.
  • Analyze how the values that underlie ethical issues on campus (e.g., equality, justice, fairness, diversity) may be in tension with each other, and with competing ideas about the purpose of a university.
  • Engage in ethical reflection about your roles and commitments within the academic community.
  • Learn about Stanford policies that bear on your experience as researchers, students, and instructors.
  • Cultivate an interdisciplinary and supportive network of peers.


Ethical questions arise in all aspects of campus life, including: What should we expect of members of the campus community given people’s varied roles (e.g., as learners, researchers, mentors, and employees)? What principles and policies should be used to ensure research is conducted in an ethical manner? Who should benefit from university resources? How can classroom practices, and university norms more broadly, be more widely inclusive and advance racial justice? When controversies erupt about these and myriad other issues, what values should guide their resolution? 

Potential answers to these questions involve foundational values like justice, merit, and equality. We will explore these values by considering debates on campuses about issues including: the societal consequences of research, anti-racist educational practices, university finances, and what work is valued in the academy.

This course is designed as a small, discussion-based seminar to enable students to reflect on their own ethical commitments and experiences. We will discuss and debate issues as a whole and in smaller groups, engage with varied short readings (some philosophical, some from popular media outlets; some from campus policies and statements), and hear from guest speakers who can elucidate local policies, norms, and their implications for the campus community and higher education more broadly

Additional Course Expectations

  • Students will complete about 30-60 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.

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