(For the Director's Spring 2008 Report for the Center for Ethics, click here.)

Seminars, Programs, and Projects

Conversations on Teaching
(co-sponsored with the Center for Teaching)

September 23rd and November 12th

We live in a time in which people offer a variety of different kinds of evidence to support claims that shape our lives. In many cases, evidence that some people hold to be credible, others dismiss. Some opinions and experiences are treated as authoritative in spite of insufficient supporting evidence. The Center for Teaching and the Center for Ethics worked together in engaging faculty in a series of conversations on what counts as evidence and sound argumentation in various disciplines and on the consequences of conflicting means of supporting claims. They also explored the ways educators deal with issues of evidence that have different and sometimes contradictory sources, highlighting our responsibilities to impart to students the importance of providing claims with evidentiary support.

Tuesday, September 23
Conversations on Evidence-Based Teaching: Teaching and Evidence
12:30 - 1:45p.m. at the Center for Teaching (1114 19th Avenue South)
Jeffrey Schall, Ingram Professor of Neuroscience
Mitchell Seligson, Centennial Professor of Political Science
Arleen Tuchman, Professor of History and Director, Center for Medicine, Health and Society Moderator: Patricia Armstrong, Assistant Director, CFT

In this session, panelists and other participants discussed what constitutes evidence in a variety of fields of inquiry. Panelists opened the session by addressing the following questions: How do you approach students whose beliefs are directly challenged by some of the evidence in the field? What kind of assignments do you give to students to help them develop their understanding of the nature and use of evidence? What do you consider to be some of the most controversial evidence that our fields are producing? Following a short presentation by each panelist, the conversation was opened up to others in attendance.

Wednesday, November 12
Conversations on Evidence-Based Teaching: Teaching Critical Inquiry

12:30 - 1:45p.m. at the Center for Teaching (1114 19th Avenue South)
Ellen Armour, Carpenter Associate Professor of Theology and Associate Professor of Philosophy Houston Baker, Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English
Leonard Folgarait, Professor of History of Art
Moderator: Charles Scott, Director, Center for Ethics and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy

As a follow-up to the conversation on teaching evidence, this session invited faculty and participants in different disciplines to consider different approaches to teaching critical inquiry and evidence-based interpretation and how these approaches enable students to make defensible disciplinary claims. Panelists discussed the following questions: What are the major characteristics of a defensible claim in your discipline? How do you prepare students to address conflicting claims? How do students learn to distinguish between substantiated and unsubstantiated claims? Following a short presentation by each panelist, the conversation was opened up to those in attendance.


Global Feminisms Collaborative Conference
Human Rights without Freedom

October 23, 2008 (location TBD)

This meeting's purpose was to share important theoretical work being done by scholars who are thinking about people who do not have freedom. Disability, imprisonment, immigration, and survival of sexual trauma can function to undermine freedom and to cut one off from the systems intended to protect basic freedoms for most of the population. Whether this unfreedom is permanent or temporary, it is a concern for human rights. From analytic and critical perspectives, capability or freedom has been argued as foundational to the human condition and a basis for human rights. Explored in this meeting were the similarities and differences in causes of unfreedoms and the implications of these for our theorization of human rights and freedom.

The conference included four papers:
Maria Grahn-Farley, "Agency for Whom?"
James Bohman, "Living without Freedom: Cosmopolitan Republicanism and the Rule of Law" Michael Stein, "Disability Inclusive Development"
Miguel Cruz and Brooke Ackerly, "Human Rights as if People Mattered"

Invitations were also extended to a range of scholars expert in human rights, feminist theory, and theories of freedom.

For more information, visit the Global Feminisms Collaborative website.


Energy, Sustainability, and the Environment
A series of films and discussions about energy, sustainability, and the environment. Co-sponsored with The Commons and the School of Engineering. Click here for more information.


Center for the Study of Religion and Culture on Religion and Politics

The Center has supported (and its faculty participated in) an ongoing project with the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture on Religion and Politics. See the CSRC website for details.


Justice Studies Project

Monica Casper led an extensive survey of Justice Studies programs in universities in the United States as well as a survey of resources at Vanderbilt for justice studies. The project is now engaging Vanderbilt faculty members and students in a continuing workshop that addresses theoretical and empirical issues in the study of justice and is oriented by the goal of bringing together the exceptional resources and interests on this topic at Vanderbilt into a coherent program of study.


Global Justice Public Lecture Series

In Spring of 2008 the Center for Ethics co-sponsored a public lecture series on global justice. The speakers included: Alison Jaggar (University of Colorado, Boulder), Kok-Chor Tan (University of Pennsylvania), David Reidy (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), James Bohman (St. Louis University), and Mathias Risse (Harvard). Click here for a complete schedule.


Angela Davis Visiting Scholar: Theories of Slavery Seminar

In April of ’08, Professor Angela Davis was a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt. She gave an intensive, three-week seminar on the topic of Theories of Slavery and a public lecture on April 4. (Bio).


Considering Animals: A Retreat at Dyer Observatory

April 27-May 2, 2008

Facilitated by David Wood

A small group of Vanderbilt faculty spent a week exploring the ethical, legal, political, religious, scientific and other connections that we humans have with nonhumans, and the prospects for their expansion and transformation.


May Faculty Seminar entitled: “Technology, Commonweal, and the Transformation of Humanity.”

Technological advances over the coming decades – pharmaceutical, bioelectronic, and genetic – promise to transform people in ways that could destabilize or even rupture the common endowments that define us as human. This seminar brought together a diverse group of scholars from many disciplines with the purpose of studying and discuss the implications of technologically modified people for society and for the very notion of humanity. 

The questions this seminar explored were inherently multidisciplinary in nature, bringing together the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, as well as medicine, law, engineering, and public policy.  The goals in this seminar were to stimulate interest in these issues that will carry over in some form into your teaching and/or research, to compare relevant knowledge from different areas of research, and to bring a broad variety of perspectives into direct contact with each other.  Participants need not commit to pursuing these issues further, but should be open to the possibility of doing so. For a more detailed syllabus of these session, click here.


Pedagogy of the Difficult: Exploring the Hard Stuff
Sponsored by the Center for Ethics, Mark Schoenfield, director
May 12-16th

Sometimes it’s the material, sometimes it’s the students and sometimes it’s you; usually, it’s a combination. In this five-day seminar, we explored conflicts of meaning and value that make teaching difficult and ways to transform those difficulties into learning opportunities. Material and class-room situations can be ethically and conceptually difficult. They can raise sensitive issues, they can impinge on the identity, well-being, and sense of safety of students; they can bring out the best and worst of both students and teachers. In this seminar we explored these issues from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Participants worked on developing materials for their own particular courses, thinking more widely about their professional lives, and considering the kind of classroom space they want to create for students.


Teaching Texts: The Hard Stuff of Reading
Sponsored by the Center for Ethics; Mark Schoenfield, director 
May 19-23rd

This seminar used texts from a variety of disciplines to explore the ethics and pedagogy of reading within the context of our classes. “Ethics,” in this context, refers to the ways in which reading and teaching texts involves addressing questions of power, equity, representation, identity and integrity both within the classroom and in the wider culture. Topics included the theories of representation, connections and disjunctions between language and “facts,” intertextuality, “close-reading,” and textuality as a process of analysis.  Participants designed a sequence for teaching a longer text for their own classes, as well as considering the various potentials of different kinds of texts for their classrooms.


Ethics and Economics Workshop

Led by Forrest Perry and Carrie Hanlin. The group met four times and focused on issues that are ethical and economic: the nature of capital and profit-making, the nature of work under capitalism, and alternatives to capitalism. Participants came from a variety of disciplines and schools at Vanderbilt.


Teaching in a Digital Age: How Should Technologies Shape Our Learning Space and Pedagogical Practices?
(a Conversation on Teaching workshop)
Part of the Technology, Values and Teaching Series

Tuesday, February 13th

12:30PM - 2:00PM, Alumni Hall 205, Lunch Provided

Facilitators: Jeff Johnston, Assistant Director, CFT; Charles Scott, Director, Center for Ethics
Panelists: Patricia Armstrong, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching; Jay Clayton, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English; Matt Hall, Assistant Vice Chancellor for ITS

According to a recent YouTube video, a student today will read 2300 web pages and 1281 Facebook profiles this year, and 8 books. She will write 42 pages for class assignments this semester, and over 500 pages of email. Having grown up immersed in technologies such as the Internet, iPods, PDAs, and cell phones, most of today’s undergraduates are “digital natives” and so enter our classrooms with different experiences, expectations and learning styles than previous generations of students.

This workshop explored some of the challenges and opportunities provided by technology and the students who use it. Many of today’s web technologies can be powerful tools for creating effective, engaging learning environments, yet some argue that the use of such technologies in the classroom is problematic in various ways. For example, handling different levels of technological expertise or different access to technological devices on the part of different students may be challenging, as may a faculty member’s own skill and comfort level with various technologies. To what extent are faculty responsible for learning about and using these new technologies, and to what extent should they (or should they not) coax students away from technology for certain purposes, such as increasing their attention spans, introducing different modes of learning, or just simply reading pages from a book?


The Mediated Classroom: Ways That Computer and Other Technologies Are Transforming the Space of Communication and Relationships
(a Conversation on Teaching workshop)

April 1st, 2008
Part of the Technologies, Values and Teaching Series
Center for Ethics
Facilitators: Charles Scott, Director, Center for Ethics; Susan Schoenbohm, Program Coordinator, Center for Ethics
Panelists: Jonathan Gilligan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences; John Sloop, Associate Dean, College of Arts & Science and Professor, Department of Communication Studies
12:15PM - 1:30PM, Alumni Hall 205, Lunch Provided

New computer technologies are profoundly changing the ways in which we communicate and relate to one another.  Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, and virtual worlds such as Second Life enable us to create communal spaces and connect with like-minded individuals a world away.  Yet we also may risk losing certain dimensions of communication and community if fewer of our exchanges are actually face to face.  How can we make the most of these synchronous and asynchronous technologies and still maintain a true community of scholars?  What are the implications of these changes on our classroom teaching?


Workshops on Careers in the Non-Profit Sector

This four-part series of workshops, co-sponsored with the Writing Studio, explored several important kinds of writing that non-profit agencies employ. The first workshop (February 5, 2008) featured the speakers for the subsequent workshops and focused on general points about writing for various types of non-profit organizations. The second workshop (March 12, 2008) featured Brian Gillespie (the American Cancer Society's State Director of Communications and Marketing) and focused on techniques for altering generic message templates to communicate with an area audience. The third workshop (March 12, 2008) featured Scott King (Nashville Literary Council) and focused on developing techniques for deciding what is most important to communicate and how to communicate it in a small amount of space. The fourth and final workshop (March 25, 2008) featured Marlee Olson (Thistle Farms/Magdelen House) and worked on incorporating stories into marketing messages.


Business Ethics Study Group

The Center convened a research and curriculum development group on Business Ethics, led by Bart Victor, Cal Turner Professor of Moral Leadership at Owen Graduate School of Management. A course on business ethics was offered in the Philosophy Department in Spring '08.


Curriculum Development

Corporate Social Responsibility

In the Spring of ’08 and in conjunction with the Peabody School of Education, the Center sponsored a course entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility,” taught by Matthew Grimes and Woody Lucas.