Education and Ethics

BY KELLY HAND

19aTwo articles in the new January-February 2016 issue of Academe urge faculty to consider their ethical obligations within and beyond their academic communities.

In her article, “Liberal Arts in the Modern University,” Lorna Fitzsimmons discusses the liberal arts as an antidote for social change and fragmentation. Offering the example of identity theft as a crime symptomatic of greed “corroding the fiber of social relationships,” she asserts that the liberal arts play an essential role in nurturing our sense of humanity and cross-cultural understanding. Furthermore, they are a necessary counterbalance as we develop new technologies—including genetic engineering, cloning, implants, and artificial intelligence—and confront their ethical implications. Warning against the “current erosion of standards within liberal arts curricula,” Fitzsimmons writes that “The professoriate is responsible for making certain that the meaning of a university degree is not stolen.”

In his online only article, “Bad Logic or Bad Faith?,” Alberto Hernandez-Lemus argues that faculty members’ passive participation in a corrupt financial system undermines whatever commitment to ethics they profess. Retirement plans such as TIAA-CREF and university endowments both depend upon stock market investments in corporations that profit from war and perpetuate the ever-widening gap between CEOs and ordinary workers. Using four forms of subjectivity developed by contemporary political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Hernandez-Lemus concludes that investment in the market system puts academics in the position of acting in bad faith. He calls on faculty to challenge how their retirement funds and their institutions’ endowments are invested and to demand divestment from objectionable industries.

Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.

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