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Past 2012-13 Events: Reimagine Responsibility

  • Past Spring 2013 Events


  • Levan Annual Distinguished Lecture: Martha Nussbaum

    Thursday, April 11, Doheny Memorial Library 
    "The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear"
    Professor Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Law School and Philosophy Department of the University of Chicago. She also holds associate appointments in classics, divinity, and political science. Her recent publications include Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010), Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (2011), The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (2012) and Philosophical Interventions: Book Reviews 1986-2011 (2012). She is currently writing Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, which will be published by Harvard in 2013. 
  • "The Ethical Dimensions of Medical Discovery: Lessons from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," A Lecture by Rebecca Skloot

    A Visions and Voices Series: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative  
    Thursday, April 4, Mayer Auditorium 
    Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose work has been widely anthologized. Her debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times best seller. The book tells the story of a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 and left behind an inexplicably immortal line of cells known as HeLa. Harvested without her knowledge or consent, Henrietta Lack’s cells contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses, in vitro fertilization and our understanding of the impact of space travel on human cells. The story is also about her children, who were later used in research without their consent and who have never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells, though the cells have helped biotech companies make millions of dollars. Part detective story, part scientific odyssey and part family saga, Immortal Life raises fascinating questions about race, class and bioethics in America.

    Organizers: Pamela Schaff (Pediatrics and Keck Educational Affairs), Erin Quinn (Family Medicine) and Lyn Boyd-Judson (Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics). Co-sponsors: Keck School of Medicine’s Program in Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics; the USC Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics; Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics.


  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversation on Practical Ethics: Are We Responsible for Government Gridlock?

    Wednesday, March 13, Ground Zero Café 

    A majority of Americans today report dissatisfaction, even disgust, with Congress, largely because of its perceived inability to pass what all acknowledge to be needed legislation. Yet we are part of the electorate responsible for the composition of our dysfunctional Congress. If we elect representatives on their promise that they will not compromise on the issues we care about, and our opponents do as well, who is responsible for the ensuing paralysis of our government?

    Is it ethical to vote solely on the basis of our personal interests and our particular ethical or religious values—even as it threatens gridlock in a pluralistic society like ours? Or does morality require us to vote on the basis of our society’s common interest in functioning government in common matters, recognizing that others in our free society will disagree with our personal and particular values, and that ours may lose out?



    Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife 


    Nicholas Weller, Assistant Professor, Political Science, USC Dornsife 
    John Matsusaka, Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs Professor, Finance and Business Economics, USC Marshall
    Eric Kula, PhD in Political Science, USC Dornsife
    Alida Liberman, PhD in Philosophy, Levan Institute Graduate Ethics Fellow, USC Dornsife 
  • Levan Ethics Essay Contest

    The Ethics Essay Contest aims to recognize the best-written work on ethics by USC undergraduates across the curriculum. The contest will award a cash prize to an overall winner and runner-up. 

    Winning essays will be submitted for publication by USC's literary journal, Scribe, a publication showcasing the finest works penned by USC students. For more information you can visit

    Overall Winner: 
    Marissa Roy, "The UN's 8 Millenium Development Goals and the Legal Status of Distributive Justive" 

    Personal Ethics:
    Paige Sorrentino, "Dante's Inferno — Canto 12.5" 
    Professional Ethics:
    Uriel Kim, "No More Pointing Fingers: Science and Regulation Needed for Fingerprinting's Future" 
    Social Justice: 
    Candice Tardif, "Allergic Inmates: Unheard and Unsafe" 
    Global Ethics: 
    Francesca Bessey, "Free to Die: The Sexist Paradox of Women's Suicide Terror" 


  • Information Session: Malala/Myself- Life Stories of Women, an International Narrative Project

    Thursday, March 7, VKC 329
    Program CoDirectors Carol Muske-Dukes, Professor of English, USC Dornsife, and Lyn Boyd-Judson, Director of the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics 


    MALALA/MYSELF is an outreach program that will focus on interviews with young women all over the world resulting in book and video documentation of the stories of young (often “silenced”)  lives. 
    Join English/creative writing professor and former California poet laureate Carol Muske-Dukes, along with the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, for a 2013 MALALA/MYSELF brain-storming session. We will discuss how to build the program and initiate procedures. Discussions will also address funding -- small stipends may be available to participating students studying overseas. A half-day interview and narrative training session with the Levan Institute, the Shoah Foundation Institute and faculty members will be mandatory for future participants.

    Click here for more information on the program. 

  • Levan/Carnegie Global Ethics Network Event- Roundtable: "Rethinking the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)"

    Wednesday, February 27, THH 201 

    Co-Sponsors: Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Jewish World Watch
    The rise of human rights has transformed the way we think about the ethics of international relations.  In the past decade, the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect has successfully entrenched a conditional understanding of state sovereignty that makes human rights the touchstone of sovereign rights. While there have been genuine advances, the current theory and practice of humanitarian intervention is at an unstable resting point in its development. How are ethical, philosophical, political and policy considerations impacted by developments in this doctrine? Join us for an interdisciplinary discussion.

    Steven Lamy, Vice-Dean and Professor of International Relations, USC Dornsife 

    David Rodin, Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Carnegie Global Ethics Fellow; Edwin Smith, Leon Benwell Professor of Law, International Relations and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law; Lynn Ta, Human Rights lawyer, experience in Cambodia; Naama Haviv, Jewish World Watch, experience in Congo and Darfur; Rebecca Wertman, Undergraduate, School of International Relations, USC Dornsife
  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversation on Practical Ethics- Messenger or Menace: Can Media Still Act Responsibly?

    Wednesday, February 20, Ground Zero Café 
    In the not-too-distant past, there was a fairly clear line separating journalists from mere consumers of media. With the recent proliferation of media outlets, magnified by the rise of consumer-generated and disseminated “news,” the distinction between reporter and consumer has been blurred, if not entirely obliterated. We are all members of the media. Should we embrace a perfectly free “marketplace of ideas” totally unconstrained by moral values of honesty, fairness and concern for the welfare of others? Or is an entirely new ethical standard needed?
    Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife 
    Geneva Overholser, Director and Professor, School of Journalism, USC Annenberg 
    Tom Hollihan, Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg 
    Shlomo Sher, Philosophy, USC Dornsife 
  • Digital Media, Learning and Empathy: A Conversation Between Howard Gardner and Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

    Monday, February 11, Doheny Memorial Library 240 
    Presenting Sponsor: Shoah Foundation Institute 
    Co-sponsors: Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC Center for Excellence in Teaching 
    World-renowned intellectual Howard Gardner will join USC's Mary Helen Immordino-Yang in conversation on literacy, learning and emotions in the digital age. Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Immordino-Yang is an assistant professor of education at USC Rossier School of Education, an assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program faculty at the University of Southern California.
  • Film Screening: 5 Broken Cameras

    Monday, February 4, Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112 
    Levan Cinema of Substance Series 
    Cosponsor: USC School of Cinematic Arts 
    Directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
    Written by Guy Davidi
    An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, Cameras  was shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son. The footage was later given to his Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. The filmmakers’ collaboration, structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”
     “[A] rigorous and moving work of art.” — A. O. Scott, New York Times
    2012 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection and winner, World Cinema Directing Award


  • Teaching Ethics Program (TEP) Spring

    Tuesday, January 22, THH 214
    Wednesday, January 23, THH 214 
    The Teaching Ethics Program is a meaningful and engaging service-learning opportunity for USC undergraduates. In its third year, TEP is exclusively a teaching experience that places USC teams in high school social science classes to team-teach four class sessions.  The first two “core lessons” establish three ethical perspectives where students must apply competing ethical principles to different moral dilemmas.  Then the team can pick among the TEP collection of lessons to plan the last two sessions. The idea is to provide an ethics framework that high school students can take with them as a tool for more critical decision-making.  A TEP team member must attend a two-hour training, meet with an advisor to explain interactive teaching strategies, and write a web-board report for each session about how students responded.

    TEP course credit is available in PHIL 140g, PHIL 340 and PHIL 437 for Spring 2013. With all other courses, you must check with your professor if you would like to participate for credit.

  • Past Fall 2012 Events


  • Performing Wisdom: Oedipus Tyrannus, A Performance Workshop

    Tuesday, December 11, Zumberge Hall 352 
    Program Director James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics, USC Dornsife 
    Student Workshops in Self-Examination and Self-Fashioning 
    First produced around 429 BCE at the City Dionysia in Athens, Sophocles' much-celebrated Oedipus Tyrannus tells the story of a man who unwittingly commits unspeakable crimes and searches for the culprit. Participants of Greek Tragic Poets (GR345) lead a performance workshop on the play's themes of responsibility and the virtues of self-possessions and reverence in daily life. 
  • California Regional Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl

    The USC Ethics Bowl team, sponsored by the Levan Institute, competed December 1 at UC Santa Cruz against a dozen other teams in the California Regional Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. 
    USC Ethics Bowl coach: Alexander Kaplan, 2L, USC Gould School of Law
    USC Ethics Bowl team members: Katherine Kelsh, English Literature and Economics, USC Dornsife; Maxwell Reynolds, Mechanical Engineering, USC Viterbi School of Engineering; Marisa Tsai, International Relations and French, USC Dornsife; Steve Zhou, Biomedical Engineering and Philosophy, USC Viterbi School of Engineering 
  • Film Screening: The Interrupters

    Friday, November 30, USC Norris Cinema Theatre  
    A film by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz
    An evening with director Steve James and two Chicago members of Ceasefire, Eddie Bocanegra and Ameena Matthews 
    Organizers: USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, and Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative 
    Winner of over a dozen awards including Best Documentary, 2012 Independent Spirit Awards and voted top documentary of 2011 by National Critics Polls 

    The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three "violence interrupters" who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. The film, from acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. The Interrupters follows Ameena, Cobe and Eddie as they go about their work, and while doing so reveals their own inspired journeys of hope and redemption. The film's titular subjects work for the innovative organization CeaseFire. It was founded by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: Go after the most infected and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the Violence Interrupter program created by Tio Hardiman. The Interrupters- who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories- intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence. 

    Levan Cinema of Substance Series
  • Tragic Ethics: What to Do When Gods Set Bad Examples, with Paul Woodruff

    Wednesday, November 28, Doheny Memorial Library 240 
    Organized by USC Center for Excellence in Teaching, USC Classics Department, and USC Office of Religious Life 
    How should we live in light of the fact that we are vulnerable to misery and death, and that we cannot rely on gods to do right by us? Paul Woodruff develops the concept of "tragic ethics" in order to answer this question. The philosophy of Plato repudiates Greek tragic poetry as supporting beliefs in impulsive and shameless gods, and in doing so turns away from virtues like compassion, reverence and good judgement, which often show favorably in tragic poetry. 
    Paul Woodruff is a philosopher and dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He is one of America's foremost interpreters of Plato, Thucydides and other Greek thinkers from the ancient world. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War. 
  • Global Justice (II): Ethics and Practices of Responsibility

    November 19-20, University of Paris 8 
    Co-sponsors: USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC Center for International Studies, USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the Carnegie Council Global Ethics Network 
    This two-day workship conference will discuss topics of common interest around continuing questions of global justice raised by our first collaborative conference in April 2011 at USC. We aim to move beyond describing problems and toward developing themes of responsibility in creating justice and remedying justice. 
  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversation on Practical Ethics: My Body Made Me Do It!

    Wednesday, October 24, Ground Zero Café
    Sadness is a medical condition. Addiction is a medical condition. Shyness is a medical condition. Lack of concentration, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, hyperactivity- it's as if to lead a successful life, we must first get a medical diagnosis, locate causal factors in toxins and chemical imbalance. Rather than problems to be medicated, are these conditions simply personality features that can be improved by personal effort? What remains of personal responsibility?

    Moderator: Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife 


    Erin Quinn, Co-Director, Primary Care Community Medicine Program, USC Keck School of Medicine

    Michael Shapiro, Dorothy W. Nelson Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law
    Joshua Crabill, Levan Graduate Ethics Fellow, Philosophy, USC Dornsife 
    Sydney Thayer, Biomedical Engineering, Viterbi School of Enginering, Bacc/MD program, USC Dornsife 
  • A Lecture by Shannon Brownlee: Too Much Medicine? How Overtreatment, Unnecessary Care and Economic Incentives Imperil the U.S. Health Care System

    Shannon Brownlee Lecture
    A Visions and Voices Series 
    Thursday, September 27, 4pm 
    Mayer Auditorium, Health Sciences Campus 
    Organized by Pamela Schaff (Pediatrics and Keck Educational Affairs), Erin Quinn (Family Medicine) and Lyn Boyd-Judson (Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics). Cosponsored by the Keck School of Medicine's Program in Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics, the USC Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics, and the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics. 

    Student lunch with Shannon Brownlee
    Thursday, September 27, Noon-1:30pm 
    University Club, University Park Campus 
    Shannon Brownlee is the acting director of the New America Foundation's Health Policy Program in Washington, D.C., and is an instructor at the Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Dartmouth Medical School. A nationally known writer and essayist, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including 
    The AtlanticBMJ, the New York Times MagazineThe New RepublicSlateTimeWashington Monthly and the Washington Post. Her book Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer exposes wasteful flaws in our health care system and was named the best economics book of the year by New York Times economics correspondent David Leonhardt.  
  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversation on Practical Ethics: Reimagine Citizenship

    Wednesday, September 26, Ground Zero Café 
    From facing down riot police to tweeting, our ways of protesting have evolved from the Vietnam era to the present. The sixties saw sit-ins and the burning of draft cards, in the eighties we had economic boycotts of apartheid-era South Africa, while the recent Arab Spring protesters took it to the street with Twitter and other social media. And then there's WikiLeaks, flash mobs and the Occupy movement. Voting seems almost passé. Are the demands of active citizenship changing? Or, in this post-Citizens United era, have all but superwealthy citizens become irrelevant to the political process? 

    Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife 

    Niels W. Frenzen, Clinical Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law
    Ralph Wedgewood, Professor of Philosophy, USC Dornsife
    Ron Osborne, Bannerman Fellow, Politics and International Relations, USC Dornsife
    Scott Lepisto, Ph.D. student, Classics, USC Dornsife
    Michel Martinez, Ph.D. student, Political Science, USC Dornsife 
    Read About the Coffeehouse Event Featured on the Front Page of USC's Daily Trojan:
    Click Here
  • Teaching Ethics Program (TEP) Fall

    Training Sessions: Tuesday, September 18  & Wednesday, September 19, Taper Hall, Room 102
    The Teaching Ethics Program (TEP) trains teams of talented USC undergraduates to introduce competing ethical perspectives and ethics case studies in area high schools. It's based on the innovative and successful USC Dornsife service-learning model developed by the Center for Active Learning in International Studies (CALIS). Interested students are encouraged to attend a training session. 
  • Click the links below to see 2012-2013 speakers from our series: