Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Building a Center of Distinction

This fall, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics celebrated its 10th anniversary and marked the occasion by completing a strategic plan for the next five years. By 2001, according to the plan, the Center's programs will be nationally recognized models for integrating ethics into campus learning environments and for addressing key ethical issues facing Silicon Valley and beyond.

"Nothing is more characteristic of our era than accelerating changes, which continually raise new ethical issues," the plan begins. "For example, medical advances have forced us to address the issues of patients' rights and the right to die. The growth of large organizations has led us to inquire into the rights of workers and the impact of corporate culture on the lives of employees.... Whether we are involved in business, medicine, law, teaching, the military, engineering, counseling, journalism, or any other profession, we face ethical questions every day."

To determine how best to assist people in addressing these questions, the steering committee that sets overall policy for the Center, "began a yearlong process of reflection on what we were doing well and how we might expand on our strengths," said Thomas Shanks, S.J., Center director. Out of those discussions, the Center identified three specific areas where it is well-positioned to offer significant contributions: technology, health care, and international human rights and immigration.

While many centers focus solely on business ethics or biomedical ethics, the Markkula Center has chosen a different approach: "We want to be flexible enough to be able to address emerging social, public-policy, and corporate issues," Shanks explained.

In addition, the plan commits the Center to refining its theoretical model for ethical decision making, or, as Shanks describes it, "the methodology that is common to all our disparate activities."

Human Rights and Immigration
Shanks is especially excited about the new program in immigration and human rights, which began this fall, when Karen Musalo, a lawyer with extensive experience in this field, became director of the Center's International Human Rights and Migration Project.

According to Musalo, a major purpose of the project will be to foster dialogue on the subject. "In our society, immigration has become an especially divisive issue," she said. "It's important for us to help people come together and to bring ethical considerations and compassion back into the discussion."

One component of the project will be an interdisciplinary program and educational modules in international human rights. These will be complemented by externship opportunities for students and reciprocal visits by human rights scholars, faculty, and students from other institutions. (A story about a faculty trip to Guatemala also appears in this issue.

Health-Care Ethics
To further undergraduate opportunities to explore ethics and the health sciences, the Center will collaborate with the University's Pre-med/Health Sciences Program to offer a set of activities for students this fall.

In the larger community, the Center is already involved in the Applied Ethics Center at San Jose's O'Connor Hospital, a joint venture established in 1994 that provides guidance for health-care practitioners and patients. Margaret McLean directs the O'Connor Applied Ethics Center and serves as director of programs in health-care ethics at the Markkula Center. She noted the centers will co-sponsor a community forum on organ and tissue donation this spring.

On April 12, the Markkula Center will collaborate with O'Connor, the Santa Clara County Medical Association, and SCU's Executive Development Center to offer a conference on managed care. Besides looking at the effectiveness of HMOs in providing quality care, the conference will address the ethical implications. Topics to be covered include how to respect the rights and dignity of all stakeholders, how to ensure fairness, and how to work together to promote the common good of the local community.

High Technology
The Center's location in Silicon Valley also makes it a logical place for programs on ethics and technology, according to Director of Core Programs Claire Andre, who was integrally involved in drafting the Center's strategic plan. "Our location and the expertise of our faculty and staff provide a unique opportunity for the University to influence the development and examine the impact of information technologies and biotechnology," she said.

For three years, the Center has worked intensively with San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation to incorporate ethical considerations into its exhibits, both at its current location and in planning for its new site, due to open in 1998. In addition, the Center is co-sponsoring annual conferences on ethics and technology along with Loyola University of Chicago and a Jesuit university on the East Coast. The second, planned for this spring, will take place at Loyola.

In the meantime, the Center is making full use of high technology on its Web site, The Ethics Connection ( SCU students, with faculty guidance, have built and are maintaining this site, which features articles from Issues in Ethics, a Center calendar, cases and responses, transcripts of Ethics at Noon presentations, and links to other ethics-related sites.

Inside and Outside the Classroom
Of equal importance with these programs in the community are elements of the strategic plan that incorporate ethics into curricular and co-curricular programs at SCU. Center staff has always worked with faculty in many disciplines to integrate ethical issues into their undergraduate classes. Programs are also being developed for graduate students, such as a course in engineering ethics, inaugurated last spring.

This fall, a new course — open to undergraduates, graduate students, and members of the larger community — will discuss the ethical dimension of the propositions on the November ballot in California and some of the issues in the presidential election. Sessions are planned on the California Civil Rights Initiative, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, raising the minimum wage, and other topics.

"We're also looking at ways to make ethics part of co-curricular activities so that students keep bumping up against the same ideas both inside and outside the classroom," Shanks explained. "Our goal is to graduate students with the brains to make a difference and the hearts to want to do so."

A University-Wide Process
The Center's strategic plan emerged in response to a request from the University, which was itself engaged in strategic planning. Part of the larger University effort was the creation of "centers of distinction." According to Academic Vice President Steven Privett, S.J.: "There are two aspects to the concept: One is horizontal, in that centers of distinction engage faculty and students from every academic area of the University in programs that enhance learning, scholarship, and public service; the other is vertical because if the centers do their jobs well, they will raise that piece of the University to a new level of distinction and recognition."

The Markkula Center was identified as a potential center of distinction and invited to develop a plan to carry out these goals. The Center's proposal, said Shanks, "supports people not only in learning to make good ethical decisions but also in making an overall commitment to living as ethical individuals, helping to create ethical workplaces and homes, and contributing to building an ethical society." The Center hopes these programs can serve as models that might be reproduced by other universities in other regions.

The Markkula Center's strategic plan is posted on The Ethics Connection.