Donald Hall, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has wanted to create a Center for Ethics since he arrived to campus seven years ago. In his final semester at Lehigh, his goal has come to fruition.
The newly established Center for Ethics launched this spring and is housed in the CAS. On March 27, it invited Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and 2016 presidential candidate, to deliver the Inaugural Peter S. Hagerman ’16 lecture in ethics.
“I think (ethics) is the timeliest topic we have in the world right now,” Hall said.
He said ethics encompasses almost every discipline imaginable, ranging from the sciences to the media.
Professor Robin Dillon, the inaugural director of the center, said Hall was instrumental in securing funding for the center and making its creation possible.
Hall said the center is funded by the class of 1961 and CAS. The class of 1961 decided to sponsor a speaker series on ethics and received a large estate from Peter Hagerman, ’61, who passed in 2016.
Dillon said she has been working toward a center for ethics for years, so she is thrilled to see the center emerge.
She said the mission of the center is three-fold, with educational, research and public-facing dimensions. It aims to become a leader in public education on ethical issues.
The center’s steering committee includes 10 members, most of whom are professors from different arts disciplines.
Steering committee member Monica Miller, an associate professor of religion & Africana studies, said she is excited to see what will be possible under Dillon’s leadership. Miller said the center is an incredible clearing house for the university.
“It’s important and refreshing to have a space where we can challenge assumptions,” Miller said.
The center already has a full program of lectures and discussions scheduled for this semester, focused on sexual harassment in the work place. Dillon said this topic seemed especially relevant with the #MeToo movement trending in the media.
“The truth is there’s a lot that needs to be done because there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and it’s the role of the university” Dillon said.
Although it is housed in CAS, the Center for Ethics is a university center, which means it will serve the entire university population by joining individuals from across the campus community.
Dillon said her team is in the process of bringing members of the other three colleges on board for the interdisciplinary center.
Dillon hopes that in the future ethics will become a minor for undergraduates or a certificate program for graduate students. She said there will be time for further planning during the next academic year.
Hall and Dillon also hope to get the center involved in the local Bethlehem community, which Hall thinks would be eager for workshops and discussions. Both said they want to look into engaging with the local business community as well.
The philosophy department hosts the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium, a day-long event in which students present research projects examining ethics in their respective interests. Hall said although there hasn’t been much student involvement in the center yet, this symposium will provide a student base.
Dillon said the committee wants to involve students as soon as possible, both educationally and directly in the center’s work. She hopes to increase the number and reach of ethics courses available to undergraduate and graduate students.
Depending on how they define ethics, Miller said people will view the center differently. The center is an educational service and a place where conversations on difficult topics will occur.
Dillon said she wants students to develop the intellectual tools necessary to address perennial questions and pressing ethical challenges.
“I want to make sure every student leaves Lehigh with a knowledge of ethical decision making,” Hall said.