At Santa Clara University undergraduates must take at least one course in ethics before they graduate. While most of these courses are taught in the philosophy department, many are taught in other departments. For example, I teach one in the psychology department.
We have always lived in an “ethically challenged” world but with a 24-hour news cycle, video cameras everywhere, and Internet access we hear about (and see) the very worst in human behavior more now than ever before.
A solid foundational course in ethics is essential. We have always lived in an “ethically challenged” world but with a 24-hour news cycle, video cameras everywhere, and Internet access we hear about (and see) the very worst in human behavior more now than ever before. For example, many people act in ways that serve their own interests with little regard for others. Furthermore, many of our business, civic, religious, and other leaders are so often mired in scandal that demonstrates their lack of quality ethical decision making. There are so many examples that the news is filled with such stories on a daily basis.
We are doing something that is critical. We are making sure that our students take ethics, and we provide messages in subtle and not so subtle ways that ethics do in fact matter…and matter a lot! We frequently say that we want our students to become future leaders who embrace our 3 C values of competence, conscience, and compassion. That second C, conscience, is about finding ways to engage in ethical decision making that is thoughtful, reflective, and hopefully results in doing the right thing.
One of my favorite SCU stories about ethics involves one of our distinguished graduates, Randy Winn. After graduating from Santa Clara, Randy spent 13 years as a professional baseball player. During one critical late season game, Randy was playing for the San Francisco Giants against the San Diego Padres. The nationally televised game was the featured game of the week. The winner of the three-game series would win the division and advance to the playoffs, while the losing team would see their season end.
“Randy wouldn’t do that, he’s a Santa Clara guy.”
Late in a close and tense game, Randy slid into third base and the ball popped out of the third baseman’s glove, rendering Randy safe. The television announcers speculated that Randy may have done something to help the ball out of the Padres’ third baseman’s glove. One announcer dismissed the possibility that Randy would try to get the third baseman to drop the ball, confidently stating: “Randy wouldn’t do that, he’s a Santa Clara guy.” The fellow announcers agreed and they moved on to another topic. The message was clear: as a graduate of a quality Jesuit university, Randy is assumed to be a person of integrity and ethics. He wouldn’t cheat.
Who wouldn’t want college graduates and perhaps future colleagues, employees, and employers to be people who take ethics seriously? It seems obvious that a focus on ethics should be critical in higher education. I wonder why so many other universities haven’t gotten the memo.