Engaging Ethics Initiative
for Georgetown University Faculty
We take seriously Georgetown’s Jesuit commitment to social justice and education of the whole person, and aim to infuse ethics education across the university. Ethical issues arise in courses across the curriculum, but it can be challenging to integrate ethical discussions into an already crowded syllabus. We have pioneered a partnership model on which our team of philosophers and designers partner with faculty in other disciplines to co-design creative interactive exercises that surface the relevant ethical issues in ways that are fully integrated within the learning goals of the course. As a result of this innovative method we have created a number of tools and activities that are adaptable to different field-specific prompts and case studies.
In Fall 2018, Ethics Lab partnered with Kobbi Nissim’s Data Privacy class, a class in which Masters level students focus on the problem of analyzing data containing sensitive personal information while preserving privacy. The question is motivated by the risks to privacy that come alongside the societal benefits from sharing and analyzing data. Even when carried out by academic researchers, however, finding these vulnerabilities leads to difficult ethical questions. Ethics Lab ran a workshop surfacing the moral issues embedded in these privacy attacks. The students looked at questions of authority and control over data, vulnerabilities to privacy attacks, and the responsibility of a researcher who is considering implementing in practice a privacy attack that has been proven to work in theory. We had students imagine that they had successfully located a breach in the security of Facebook’s ad management platform, which ties sensitive personal information to individuals. What then should they do next? While reporting to the platform could lead to workarounds for the issue rather than a privacy protection overhaul, publishing in an academic journal could move research forward, but also expose their processes and the current vulnerabilities. Students worked in teams to map the normative landscape surrounding the scenario to help determine whose interests should inform what they would do next to act responsibly in this broader context.
School of Foreign Service
“I wish I'd had tools like these to prepare me better for my State Department career and difficult conversations like those with the Taliban.” — Professor Nicole Bibbins Sedaca
The ability to understand the values and motivations of those with whom you disagree is invaluable when dealing with international relations. Increased creativity and empathy to envision are crucial for envisioning new and innovative pathways forward. Ethics Lab has partnered with Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Chair of the Global Politics and Security Concentration in Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program. In Spring 2018, she worked with the Ethics Lab team enhance the curriculum of Ethics & Decision-Making, a required course for all students of the MSFS Global Politics & Security concentration. Ethics lab ran workshop to surface moral issues surrounding the conflict in South Sudan. In Fall 2018, Ethics Lab embedded in her Human Rights Policy Lab course in which groups of students work with real clients such to make policy proposals. For example, one team worked with the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor's Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs' Internet Freedom and Business and Human Rights Team to identify best practices for using AI technologies to promote respect for human rights. We worked with students at an early stage of their project development to map their problem-landscapes to through an ethical lens to help them find ways to forefront the most important ethical issues in the development of their final policy proposal suggestions.
“I had a client who came to work on a cover letter and I could tell that she was quite stressed. I immediately thought of ‘Jessica’ from the mapping exercise and used what we learned [in Ethics Lab] to try to understand some of the negative thoughts/feelings/voices she might be experiencing.” — Chloe, a Writ 298 student
In Fall 2018, David Lipscomb partnered with Ethics Lab to co-design a series of activities for his WRIT 298 class, a required class for tutors in the writing center, to design a series of activities built to have a direct and immediate impact on the way new tutors conducted their tutoring sessions.The Ethics Lab arc of activities was designed to enhance tutors’ moral imagination and empathetic identification with future clients. Early on in the semester experienced senior tutors drafted first-person narratives from the perspective of different kinds of clients commonly encountered, which formed the basis of an empathy mapping activity. New writing tutors participated in the activity and then were immediately able to bring the insights gained into practice in their first consultations as tutors. Later in the semester, the new tutors developed areas of interest in special populations and wrote their own narratives. These narratives formed the basis of a second empathy-mapping activity designed to aid student project proposals to improve specific elements of the writing center program.