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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Symposium Encourages Morality in Higher Ed

    The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next states that58.3% of high school students let someone else copy their work in1969, and 97.5% did so in 1989.

    ‘The ultimate lesson of the 90s is that living life anddeveloping institutions based on the short-term profit goaldoesn’t work in the long run,’ said Norman Edelman,vice president for health sciences, at the 2004 Annual LeadershipSymposium. ‘A moral frame-work is absolutelynecessary.’ Ethical behavior in any profession, Edelman said,is extremely important. ‘Unethical behavior in healthcare,for example, kills people.’

    The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs and theSchool of Social Welfare hosted the event, entitled’Value-Centered Leadership in Higher Education,’ lastweek in the SAC. Leaders in higher education spoke candidly aboutthe issue of morality within college campuses.

    The symposium took the form of a panel discussion, includingStephen Joel Trachtenberg, President of the George WashingtonUniversity, Thomas J. Schwartz, Esq., President of Purchase CollegeState University of New York, and Barbara White, Dean of the Schoolof Social Work, Texas University-Austin.

    ‘As leaders in higher education,’ Schwartz said,’we must imbue our students with values’hellip;to serve in anethical manner.’ According to Schwartz, college presidentshave an obligation to lead and be role models, and it falls uponthe leadership of the institution to encourage ethics andmorality.

    There is a standard of testing when examining moral guidelines,White explained. ‘These values must stand the test oftime,’ she said. ‘If the circumstances changed andpenalized us for having this core value, would we changethem?’ If the answer is yes, White suggests that wereevaluate whether that guideline really is moral.

    Trachtenberg insists that forces outside of an individual canhave an effect on the ethics of that individual, and that is whyhigher education leaders must carefully consider the morality oftheir decisions. What they choose may reflect back in the studentswho see them as figures of authority.

    ‘The Torah, for Jews, is a systematic manual for behavior,and that is what ethics is,’ Trachtenberg said. ‘Butthe problem is that we don’t follow the ethics of ourreligions day after day. We live in a secular society’hellip;soinstitutions can and must play a role in the ethical development ofthe not-so-young.’

    The idea of requiring courses in ethics has been thrown aroundGeorge Washington University. ‘But I am skeptical. Studentslearn of ethics from authority and other students aroundthem,’ Trachtenberg insisted.

    Some students at Stony Brook disagree with Trachtenberg’sgeneralization. ‘I’ve actually taken a medical ethicscourse here at Stony Brook,’ said Thomas Caggiano, a seniorwho plans to attend medical school in the fall semester. ‘Thecourse really offered some insight that I wouldn’t normallybe able to find on my own.’

    Even so, administrators and higher education leaders have thedistinct responsibility to make their decisions reflect the moraland ethical responsibilities that they would have the studentsfollow. ‘After all, 95 percent of the decisions you make canbe done by an intelligent high school sophomore,’ White said.’But it’s that five percent that you get paidfor.’

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