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University receives large grant

The University will soon launch a campus-wide ethics program, thanks to a $250,000 planning grant from the William R. Kenan Charitable Trust.

President Nan Keohane announced the receipt of the grant and laid out the nature of the interdisciplinary Kenan Program in Ethics at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday. The program also will extend beyond the campus.

"The program is designed to make it more likely that students and faculty members at Duke will think about ethics [and] to hone our ability to do ethical reasoning, as we do with quantitative reasoning or appreciation for art and music," Keohane said. She and Provost Emeritus Thomas Langford, a professor in the Divinity School, will lead the development of the ethics program and currently are searching for a director.

"In the coming year, we will seek to define the character of the Kenan Program in Ethics and to identify its leadership," Keohane said in her report to the board.

Frank Kenan, trustee of the Kenan Charitable Trust, said he felt that an ethics program at the University was greatly needed.

"Ethics is one of the most important subjects [one] can study today," Kenan said, adding that the new program will serve to broaden the curriculum.

Bruce Payne, a lecturer in the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy who often teaches classes concerned with ethics, said he was very pleased about the creation of the ethics program.

"The ethical dimensions of a broad variety of subjects ought to be more present in our classes--in history, in literature, in policy, in issues about science and economics," Payne said.

Keohane said she envisions several initiatives for the program's first year. Among these are a major lecture class on ethics, new or redesigned courses in several schools, a campus seminar for interested faculty, and support for community service projects. She emphasized that the Kenan Program in Ethics will be highly interdisciplinary, increasing the number of courses that touch on ethical issues across the institution.

"It does not mean teaching any particular kind of ethical philosophy or belief, but instead raising the visibility of moral questions and teaching people to take them seriously and develop sensitivity to ethical ideas and problems," she said.

Getting the campus community involved in the development of the program is a priority for Thomas McCollough, associate professor of religion, who also teaches a class on ethics. "It'll be a stimulus for ideas," McCollough said. "It'll encourage us to think big about what must be done campus-wide. My main interest is that the students themselves come up with as many promising ideas as possible."

In addition, Keohane said the program will have a strong community outreach component by including community service or case-study projects that reach out to regions outside the University.

Students, who will be affected by the program, said they also placed a great importance on issues of ethics.

"No matter what field we are studying in, moral questions need to always take a place of importance," said Trinity senior Eric Greitens, who is a Program II major in ethics. "I think a program in ethics will help students think about the role of ethics and ethical questions in their studies and their lives."

Given the University's commitment to forcing people to think about questions of value and educating the "whole person," Keohane said the new ethics program is an important step.

"[It] can permeate the life of the University, so that ethics will not only be something we teach in schools across the campus, but also a more prominent part of our lived experience," she said to the board. "We see the development of wisdom about the meaning and application of ethics in contemporary culture as a major responsibility for Duke, with our historical commitment to education of the spirit as well as the mind and body."

The William R. Kenan Charitable Trust is a non-profit foundation based in Chapel Hill that awards grants to various projects.

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