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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Media Mentions

A selection of articles, op-eds, TV segments, and other media featuring Center staff.


desk with laptop computer mouse, pen, ruler, camera and drinking glass

Facebook Advertisers Boycott, Demand Changes

As part of a campaign called Stop Hate for Profit, more than 600 companies say they won’t advertise on Facebook and its sister firm, Instagram, in July, generating a lot of discussion around how to manage Facebook.

Hire ethicists to help with decision-making and give them power in the organization, says Don Heider, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. 

“I don't think there's any one core set of values,” he said. “I wish there was. And I wish it was some sense of trying to help the common good or trying to protect human rights or something that really helped them be a guiding principle for the company.” 

Don Heider, executive director, quoted on Voice of America.

 Will Francis/Unsplash

drawing of United States with the words We the People

Can Americans Live up to the Promise of America?

“To me, that is the moral heart, the moral promise, and the moral standard by which we should judge ourselves,” DeCosse said. “I would say that a lot of people and a lot of countries do not affirm that all persons are created equal, so we rightfully stand out in that regard. But if we are going to be truly moral, we have a responsibility to live up to those words.”

David DeCosse, director of Religious and Catholic Ethics and Campus Ethics Programs, quoted in Deseret News.

Walgreens COVID-19 testing site in Texas, April 2020

What are Stores Doing When Employees get COVID-19?

Anita Varma, assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics and Social Sector Ethics, discusses the ethical obligations retailers have to disclose known cases of COVID-19 to their customers out of duty to keep both employees and customers safe.

Anita Varma, assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics and Social Sector Ethics, quoted in The Dallas Morning News.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Five big coronavirus concerns for the 2020 NFL season: Guiding principles for navigating COVID-19

Don Heider, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, said that NFL owners should have an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about that risk. The return of football would undoubtedly boost the common good, but at what cost?

"They should think in advance about what the acceptable thresholds will be," Heider said. "Is the value that resuming football brings worth the risk? How many lives would you be willing to give up to have football games on Sunday? It's a tough question they should know the answer to before this starts. The people making those decisions have a serious financial stake in it. We all know that. But it becomes a very difficult question, because the safety thing seems almost insurmountable [to negate all risk]."

"From an ethical standpoint," Heider said, "the system is not a level playing field. You could see young players particularly vulnerable, and maybe considered expendable, because it's not like they have $20 million in the bank already. It will be fascinating to see how that is dealt with in football.

Don Heider, executive director, quoted on ESPN

Dave Adamson/Unsplash

Black Lives Matter Protesters

Q&A With Anita Varma About Journalism That Builds Solidarity

In this Q&A, Humanitarian News Research Network interviews Dr. Anita Varma, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, on how a solidarity approach applies to protest coverage & pandemic coverage. Varma argues that journalism generating solidarity (as opposed to merely empathy) is the most appropriate when reporting about crises and social injustice.

"I argue that solidarity should be the priority for journalists. The downside of an empathy approach is that social psychology has shown for decades that people have a finite capacity to empathize. Once they’ve spent this capacity, they often become exhausted, disillusioned, and may begin to blame the victim to find a way to reconcile distressing representations with a need to emotionally regulate. This is worrisome when it comes to coverage of marginalized communities, since victim-blaming can quickly worsen matters. With a solidarity approach, journalism is better positioned to present prospects for change grounded in lived experiences, and there’s no evidence that solidarity fatigues audiences the way empathy does."


Anita Varma, assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics and Social Sector Ethics, interviewed by Humanitarian News Research Network.

Korantin Grall/Unsplash

newborn being weighed on scale

Albuquerque Hospital’s Secret Policy Separated Native American Newborns From Their Mothers

Ethicists also worried about the lingering effects of a policy based on ZIP codes. It could deter Native Americans from seeking hospital obstetric care, said Ann Mongoven, associate director of health care ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California.

“There’s a real concern that this policy could discourage people who absolutely should have hospital births,” she said.

Ann Mongoven, associate director of Healthcare Ethics, featured in New Mexico In Depth.

San Francisco restaurant owner sits in empty business

Lives or Livelihoods? Bay Area Seeks Balance in Reopening Economy

“The decision is more nuanced than that draconian, black-or-white choice,” said Joan Harrington, director of Social Sector Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. “We have more information, more data, so a slower, gradual reopening is a possibility.”

“The all-or-nothing approach of ‘We are completely open or we are still closed’ with no creative thought on how to make it work is just untenable and will lead to continuing polarization and politicization of the issue,” Harrington said.

Joan Harrington, director of Social Sector Ethics, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

young person holding hand of elderly person

Cherishing our Elderly and COVID Rationing

In this editorial published on Bioethics.Net, Associate Director of Healthcare Ethics Ann Mongoven argues that we should cherish our elderly by flattening the epidemic curve, not by refusing to consider age as a relevant ethical factor in allocating scarce intensive-care resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Matthias Zomer/Pexels

stopwatches vials containing medicine, syringe, and needle

Transparency Is Central Ethical Concern During COVID-19 Pandemic

“The response to SARS was a public health success, stamping out the illness with rigorous infection control,” she reports. Although medically successful, the response to SARS spotlighted ethical concerns over a lack of transparency regarding necessary physical restrictions and inevitable rationing. “Perhaps most damaging was the loss of public trust,” McLean laments.

“An ethical response to COVID-19 demands our better selves, relying on hard data, telling the truth with conviction, and rebuilding trust,” she underscores.

Margaret R. McLeanPh.D., associate director and director of Bioethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics  interviewed by Relias Media.

Views from the upper Deck of a Los Angels Lakers Game in early December.

Mnuchin Rips Lakers, Fumes Over Public Companies Receiving Coronavirus Loans

The first round of PPP loans were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, not on a determination of which businesses might need them most, noted Joan Harrington, director of social sector ethics at Santa Clara (Calif.) University.

“Shouldn’t organizations consider the common good when making the decision about whether to apply for limited funds?” Harrington wrote in a blog post.

“Under the Paycheck Protection Program, applicants were provided with little guidance on who should apply other than the need to ‘support ongoing operations.’ Based on this language, many organizations legally qualified for loans,” she wrote, adding: “But in this unprecedented crisis, it is clear that the government will be unable to provide enough funds to address all of the need. This is the time that small businesses, both for profit and nonprofit, should be considering whether they can survive without government funds so that there will be enough for the neediest.”

Joan Harrington, director of Social Sector Ethics, quoted in Compliance Week.

Tim Hart/Unsplash