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Updated 11:30 AM December 6, 2004
 

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Examining ethics: Task force to define University's role

A presidential task force convened in September is studying how the University and education, in general, can contribute to a broader discussion of ethics in public life. The group is carrying out one of four University initiatives President Mary Sue Coleman first announced in April.

Leaders of the task force met with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) Nov. 29 to give an update on the group's recent activities.

"The University of Michigan is superbly positioned to contribute—theoretically, empirically and practically—to public understanding, discourse and action on emergent crises of ethical behavior in the key institutions of our society," states Coleman's charge to the Ethics in Public Life Task Force. "The University wants to explore the synergies of education and scholarship on the issues of ethics in public life, contributing to and in some cases structuring a broader discourse on these issues."

Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel, and John Chamberlin, professor of political science and public policy, are co-chairs of the task force. They told SACUA members the committee is considering the first part of Coleman's charge:

• What are U-M's key areas of strength regarding its ability to understand and provide reflective leadership on the ethical crises, conundrums and breakdowns in the key institutions of society?

• In what areas does the University make, or have the potential to make, unique contributions to understanding and practice?

• Are there emergent areas of concern in which U-M can have a significant impact?

The charge cites corporate malfeasance, abuse of military prisoners in Iraq, sexual abuse by priests, unethical and corrupt acts by government officials, and an apparent increase in cheating by students and fabrication of scientific evidence by researchers as examples of key institutional failures.

"There have been many publicized instances recently where major institutions have failed us," Krislov said. "The task force is trying to determine if there is a proper role for the University to discuss these issues."

Chamberlin said task force members currently are meeting with deans, directors and department chairs to find out what is happening on campus and what those groups feel the committee should discuss. In March, the task force will present recommendations to Coleman and Provost Paul N. Courant.

Part of the process will include at least one public forum to hear what members of the University community think the role of the University is and what programs might be organized to help in the effort, Krislov said.

"President Coleman feels one of the University's strengths is its breadth; she wants us to champion that with this effort," Krislov said.

Task force members include:

Stanley Berent, SACUA chair and professor of psychology and psychiatry; Bunyan Bryant, professor of natural resources and environment, and urban planning; Tony Collings, lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies; Gary Fenstermacher, professor of education; Tim Fort, associate professor of business ethics and business law; Tom Fricke, professor of anthropology and senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research's Survey Research Center; Allan Gibbard, professor of philosophy; Susan Goold, associate professor of internal medicine and director of the Bioethics Program; Siri Jayaratne, professor of social work; Sharon Kardia, associate professor of epidemiology and co-director of the Life Sciences, Values and Society Program; Ann Lin, associate professor of political science and public policy; Bill Martin, director of intercollegiate athletics; Jason Mironov, Michigan Student Assembly president; Marianne Ryan, doctoral student in the School of Information; Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, professor of history, women's studies and American culture; and Jason Weinstein, a law student.

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