Great universities are gathering places of wonder and discovery. We come to University to discover what we wish to do with our lives. Thus, we study and teach the sciences, humanities, the arts, business, and the social sciences, hoping to acquire the tools we need to work and fashion a place of significance and meaning in the world. The most challenging discovery, however, and ultimately the most important, is the discovery of the self, or who we wish to be. Part of that discovery of self is the acquisition of what is often called moral literacy, the capacity to identify ethical issues in the world around us; the ability to reason morally about those issues, and the courage to use our imaginations to make difficult ethical decisions. These capacities are first taught to us by our families, religions, and schools, but the process of learning them, particularly with some sophistication, continues throughout our lifetimes, most especially in a University and then a professional setting. The newly created LSU Ethics Institute hopes to take its place in that learning, by bringing faculty and students at LSU together in a conversation about moral literacy, by teaching ethics across the disciplines, and by stimulating meaningful research on ethical discourse.
As it advances into its first programmatic ventures, the Ethics Institute is holding an interdisciplinary teaching workshop this summer, in which a variety of approaches to the teaching of ethics will be explored. In the not too distant future, the LSU General Education requirements will include a set of proficiencies, one of which will be “ethical reasoning.” We hope to encourage disciplines to embrace this proficiency and we expect to assist those who do by hosting summer teaching workshops across and within the various University disciplines. Soon thereafter, we hope to extend the teaching of ethics, accompanied by service learning, beyond the LSU campus to the public and private K-12 teaching communities in Baton Rouge and beyond.
We are also beginning what we shall call our Inspire program, which will recognize students (with $1000 scholarships) who have engaged in exemplary ethical conduct and/or who are engaging in ethics research in their programs of study, perhaps as Honors students, or paired with faculty to study and write about moral literacy and development. We will sponsor a yearly lecture series and continuing campus colloquia on the ethical challenges that face us: on subjects such as privacy and social media; artificial intelligence and ethical conduct; truth and democracy; intercollegiate athletics; or responsible behavior in our University experiences, to name just a few possibilities. We have just begun the first of what we hope will be many research initiatives, groups of faculty, at LSU and elsewhere, who come together and work on collaborative inquiry and who will be supported in this research by the Ethics Institute. The first initiative, the Moral Theory Project, will be headed by Dr. Deborah Goldgaber of the Philosophy Department. She will bring together philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, and comparative literature faculty to engage in research projects about moral development, empathy, and moral theory. Finally, the University has pledged to support the hiring of a full-time director of the Ethics Institute, with appropriate administrative staff and offices. The search for this individual will begin this fall and be directed by the LSU Philosophy Department. This will give the Institute a permanence and a presence that will ensure its future in the search for ethical self-discovery.
Our aspirations are high. Indeed, as our mission statement makes clear, with the involvement and support of the LSU community and with the generosity of private donors: “We aim to transform the study of ethics by supporting faculty and student research, to engage students and faculty across the university in broad conversations about ethics with industry and the Baton Rouge community, and to inspire our students and the public to practice and promote ethical leadership throughout their daily lives.”
Cecil L. Eubanks, Alumni Professor
Director, LSU Ethics Institute