At the Center
Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 3:14 PM
Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, discussed the effect of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case on the 2012 elections, especially at the state and local level, at a recent presentation to the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable.
Ravel stressed the importance of transparency in the process. Disclosure, she argued, allows voters to understand where the money comes from so that they can assess the validity of campaign claims. "We have to have enough disclosure so people know what they need to know about the candidates," she said.
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 2:00 PM
While the state of Washington allows government officials to accept free travel and events, the amount and nature of travel by the state's attorney general are raising eyebrows. "Rob McKenna has accepted $184,000 worth of free travel and events since becoming attorney general in January 2005," according to the Seattle Times. Several trips were paid for by conservative political groups.
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented for the Times: "When you take an oath of office, you vow to put the public interest first....Political trips or trips paid for by a political party or to rub elbows to advance a political career are inappropriate," she said. "There's a fine line between being an officeholder and being a candidate. You are supposed to be doing the public's job."
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 10:55 AM
Twenty states have laws against making false campaign statements, but if Ohio is a typical example, the law is not stringently enforced. "In the last decade, the commission has not referred a single case involving a false statement to a county prosecutor," according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Interviewed for the article, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, talked about the effect of unchecked lying on the political process: "The problem is that this leads to an eroding of people's confidence in government. People throw up their hands and say, 'I don't believe any of them,' and it decreases voter registration and turnout."
Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 4:02 PM
In a dialog today on California's Proposition 34, which would abolish capital punishment in the state, Ellen Kreitzberg, professor of law, and Lawrence Nelson, associate professor of philosophy, debated the merits of the ballot initiative. [Listen to the podcast
Kreitzberg is the director of the Death Penalty College at SCU, a summer training course for lawyers assigned to represent defendants in capital cases. She outlined the economic argument against capital punishment, citing a report from the Legislative Analyst that estimated savings to the state from abolishing the death penalty at $1.3 million.
She also said that if the initiative does not pass, California will immediately begin building a new death row facility at a cost of $550 million. Finally, she pointed to a report from Arthur Alarcon, senior judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who is not opposed in principle to capital punishment. Alarcon writes, "Our research has revealed that $4 billion of state and federal taxpayer money has been expended administering the death penalty in California since 1978, with a cost in 2009 of approximately $184 million above what taxpayers would have spent without the death penalty…"
Kreitzberg said one could believe in the death penalty in the abstract but still feel that it is not worth the cost because there is no evidence that it makes us safer. Forty five percent of homicides and 55 percent of rapes in the state go unsolved. Resources saved by abolishing the death penalty could be focused on improving these statistics.
Nelson argued, however, that there is no long-term guarantee that monies saved through the initiative would go into law enforcement. Generally, Nelson urged that cost not be the main basis on which the death penalty is evaluated, a point on which Kreitzberg agreed.
Nelson focused on the question, Can the death penalty be defended ethically? Kreitzberg's answer was no. First, she argued that recent exonerations show the death penalty will inevitably be imposed on someone innocent, to which Nelson responded that no one executed in California has ever been shown to be innocent.
He pointed out that many people convicted of capital crimes are despicable; 90 of the 720 men currently on death row tortured their victims before killing them. "Some murderers richly deserve to be taken off the face of the earth," he said.
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 3:58 PM
If you were to show the virtue of compassion using only your body, what would that look like? Mary Zieber, an SCU senior and Hackworth Fellow at the Ethics Center, explored that question with a group of students, faculty, and staff today. Using guided improvisation, the group "embodied" sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Zieber is a theater major whose fellowship concentrates on ethics and the arts.
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 4:12 PM
An "End the Death Penalty Initiative" will appear on the November ballot in California. What are the ethical issues voters should consider when they decide how to vote on this issue?
Ellen Kreitzburg, professor of law and director of the Death Penalty College at SCU will dialog with Lawrence Nelson, attorney and associate professor in the SCU Department of Philosophy, Oct. 29, noon - 1, in the Wiegand Center, Arts and Sciences Building. The event is free and open to the public.
Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 12:34 PM
Center Campus Ethics Director David DeCosse explores how understandings of conscience within the writings of the great 19th century English theologian John Henry Newman may be relevant to contemporary debates around Catholic conscience and freedom, Oct. 24, 4 p.m., in the Learning Commons.
Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 5:06 PM
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States Carol Keehan, S.J., will discuss ethical issues facing Catholic health care providers at a talk Oct. 17, 7 p.m., in the St. Clare Room of the Santa Clara University Learning Commons.
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 4:10 PM
With flu season almost upon us, the Ethics Center offers a timely resource: Ethical Issues in Dealing with Influenza. The material, including cases, commentaries, and practical tools, addresses both pandemic and seasonal outbreaks. Topics covered include vaccine rationing, quarantine, and triage.
Photo by Jason Rogers [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:27 PM
In a panel discussion that focused on the presidential election after the first debate, Kirk O. Hanson, Center executive director, analyzed the ethical issues that arise in a high pressure campaign. He was joined by Terry Christensen, Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University, and Barbara Marshman, Editorial Pages Editor, San Jose Mercury News. John Zipperer, Vice President of Media and Editorial, The Commonwealth Club, the program sponsor, was the moderator.