Where faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduates from every part of our USC community are encouraged to talk about the ethical questions of the day. Free lunch and open dialogue.
Coffeehouse Program Director Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Political Science
Wednesday, April 9, Noon
Wednesday, March 12, NoonThere has lately been increasing discussion in the United States about economic inequality, as the gap between rich and poor has grown and upward mobility has declined. With decreased funding for social support programs and increasing costs of higher education, some fear that the American Dream has become out of reach. One particular locus of debate concerns not welfare policy, but wage policy. When a full time wage worker cannot support herself above the poverty line, still less her family, while corporate executives receive salaries higher by a factor of thousands than other workers at the same firm, it is natural to ask: Is there such a thing as too low a wage for work, too high a wage, or too great a differential in wages? Should we legislate a higher minimum wage, or cap executive salaries? Or would doing so infringe liberty, or prove counterproductive, making the worst off worse off still?Rhacel Parrenas, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies and Chair of Sociology, USC Dornsife
September 26, 2012
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?
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
April 27, 2011
Should professors disclose their personal and professional opinions in class? What does it mean to expect professors to teach all views equally? Should they state which views they find most compelling?
March 30, 2011
Historical conflict and more recent nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea have fueled long-standing moral and political concerns in the US about these two adversarial nations.
As the boom of Generation Yers -- those born in the 1980s and after -- begin to act in international politics, what can we expect and/or hope to see?
Most Y-ers around the globe are facing increased inter-connectivity with the web, migration, and communication systems, while at the same time facing increased stakes for global resources, increased arms build-ups, and fall outs from years of conflict. Will old conflicts and ideologies continue to dominate international dialogue or can we expect something different?
Guest Moderator: Lyn Boyd-Judson, director of Levan Institute
Hannah Garry, Director of International Human Rights Clinic, Gould School of Law
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, Iranian-American researcher, writer and political commentator
Victoria Gu, Executive Director, International Student Assembly, USC Undergraduate Student Government and Program Board (double-major in Communication and Political Science)
Heba Abdelgader, Director of Alumni Relations, International Relations Undergraduate Association (International Relations Global Business major)
February 23, 2011
Douglas Thomas, Associate Professor, Annenberg School for Communication and author of “Hacker Culture”Douglas Becker, Assistant Professor (Teaching) of International Relations and President of International Studies Association- West
November 17, 2010
As robotic and Artificial Intelligence technologies that aim to imitate human beings continue to improve, we face the possibility that our creations may someday claim for themselves some of the rights and protections we take to be universal to man. Less likely, but also possible, is that if contact with aliens is made, they could also make this demand of us. What, if anything, would justify giving moral rights and protections to robots and extraterrestrials?
Guest Moderator: Richard Fliegel, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in USC College
Paul Rosenbloom, Ph.D., Viterbi School of Engineering
Andre Bormanis, Screenwriter/ Star Trek scientific advisor
Michael H. Shapiro, J.D., USC Gould School of Law
Katharine Marder, Inquisitive Undergraduate
October 20, 2010
September 22, 2010
Winning the fight for justice requires that you change the minds of those who disagree with you — or at least of the undecided. When the debate is passionate and increasingly divisive — Muslim mosques, gay marriage, abortion — what are the proper rules of engagement? How can you be true to yourself and your most strongly held beliefs, while respecting those who vehemently disagree with you? Where legal lines may provide protection, they may not promote conversation or meaningful dialogue. Beyond drawing a bright legal line between free speech and hate speech, are there other ethical limits to how you can publicly express your opinion?
Where do we draw the line between speaking our mind and expressing hate?
Guest Moderator: Lyn Boyd-Judson, director of Levan Institute
Varun Soni, J.D., USC Dean of Religious Life
Cynthia A. Merrill, Ph.D., J.D., Attorney, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Robert Link, J.D., Chair of Communications Committee, ACLU of SC, Pasadena Chapter
Mir Amaan Ali, Internal Vice President, USC Muslim Student Union and Inquisitive Undergrad
April 30, 2010
"Dead men tell no tales," so why should it matter how we treat them? What's wrong with partying on their graves, violating the terms of their wills, or speaking ill of them? What could be the basis of any moral obligations in the treatment of those no longer living among us?
Lynn Swartz Dodd, Lecturer, Religion, USC Dornsife; Curator, USC Archaeology Research Center; Director, Tell al-Judiadah Publication Project; Co-Director, Kenan Tepe Excavations (Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project), Research Associate, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA
Dallas Willard, Professor of Philosophy, USC Dornsife
Ben Rolnik, Inquisitive Undergraduate, Philosophy
March 26, 2010
We all know that parents have to take care of their children. But does there come a time when we have to start taking care of our parents? What if it costs us serious time and serious money? What if they fight us and tell us to go away and leave them alone? Should we respect their autonomy as we watch them deteriorate, or should we force them to do what we think best for them? How should we parent our parents?
Shawn Herz, M.S.G. L.M.F.T. Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, Director of Program Development for the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center
Merril Silverstein, Ph.D., Professor of Gerontology and Sociology, USC Dornsife
Jack Peace, Inquisitive Undergrad, Pre-Med
February 26, 2010
(SEE LESSON PLAN)
Our society often complains that teenagers waste their time with idle senseless distractions. We like to see teenagers push themselves, strive to achieve great things, and take risks. And we turn those who are the youngest ever to accomplish anything of significance into celebrities. But taking risks can mean putting oneself in dangerous situations – particularly in extreme sports and natural expeditions. How dangerous is too dangerous? What principles should guide us when determining when should we allow minors to put themselves in dangerous situations?
Donna Spuijt-Metz, Keck School of Medicine
Jillian Schlesinger, Independent filmmaker and television writer-producer
Laura Small, Inquisitive Student, Anthropology and Whitewater Rafting Guide
November 20, 2009
For those who find themselves at the top of the corporate executive ladder it’s become both accepted and expected to receive a salary based on very favorable terms that can bear little resemblance to those offered other employees. While this is perfectly legal, is it moral? Must executive compensation depend on the standard metrics of performance, merit, or contribution? Is there anything wrong with paying an executive a salary that dwarves that of those at the bottom of the corporate latter? And what about payment incentive structures that lead to risky behavior that could lead (as it has in the past) to economic disaster? When is it not okay to pay in a particular way?
Ed Lawler, USC Marshall School of Business
Nina Walton, USC Gould School of Law
Victoria Chernova, Inquisitive Student, Business and International Relations
October 30, 2009
We live in a world today where our food choices are almost limitless. So much so, that there is a television network devoted entirely to food. But as our food-options multiply, so do the methods of killing, raising, transporting, preparing, and engineering food for our consumption. How can we indulge in the vast array of food options open to us but still ensure that our choices are morally responsible ones? What we choose to eat may help perpetuate the cruel or unjust treatment of animals, utilize resources that have a profound impact on others around the world, and negatively impact the environment in a myriad of ways. Is it possible to eat with a clear conscience?
Edwin McCann, Professor of Philosopy
John Strauss, Professor of Economics
Kory DeClark, Inquisitive Graduate Student, Philosophy, USC Dornsife
September 25, 2009
It may be legal in the United States for medical insurance companies to deny healthcare coverage in certain situations, but is it ethical? Is access to healthcare coverage a basic human right? And if we expect our employers and/or our government to provide coverage, do we have a responsibility to take care of our own bodies and keep them as healthy as possible? How much of the burden is ours and how much can we justifiably place on others? At the end of the day, do we have a moral right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness?
Alexander Capron, Professor of Law and Medicine, Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy, and Ethics, USC Gould School of Law
Pamela B. Schaff, M.D., Assistant Dean for Curriculum; Director of the Program in Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics; Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Family Medicine, USC Keck School of Medicine
Stephen Finlay, Associate Professor of Philosophy, USC College
Jennifer auf der Springe, Inquisitive Student, Health and Humanities major, USC Dornsife
April 24, 2009
Are you obligated to consider future generations of human beings? Are you responsible to people you've never met on the other side of the globe? It is so easy now to harm people without knowing we are doing it. What you eat, what you buy, what you drive profoundly affects the life prospects of other people. How do we behave ethically in such an interconnected world?
Gary Watson, Provost Professor of Philosophy and Law, USC College
Carl F. Cranor, Professor of Philosophy, UC Riverside
Francesco Denakar, Inquisitive Undergraduate and senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering
When you Google for information, are you supporting Chinese political censorship? Do global information gatekeepers like Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google have a responsibility to protect and promote human rights overseas? Aren't they businesses after all? And if you want them to stop blocking democracy sites for the Chinese government, what can you do—boycott? Come on, how could we live without Google? Does morality require that much of us?
Steve Lamy, Vice Dean of USC College, Professor of International Relations
Scott Voelz, Attorney at Law, O’Melveny & Myers, LLPlp (Partner)
Chelsea Mason, Co-Managing Editor of US-China Today, Business Ethics Representatives, USC Marshall School of Business
February 27, 2009
Desperately need some money? Sell yourself. Blood, sperm, eggs: Why not a kidney? It's yours after all! Shouldn't you have the right to sell your organs? In the US alone, more than 77,000 people are on the waiting list for kidney transplants. Many of them will die because the organ they need is not available. Shouldn't they have the right to purchase these organs from those willing to part with them for monetary compensation? Or is there something fundamentally immoral about treating our body parts as a commodities to be bought and sold? Would a market in body organs result in the unfair exploitation of poor people who have little else to sell? Or could we devise an international legal system that precludes exploitation?
Guest Moderator: Dallas Willard, Professor of Philosophy, USC College
Michael Shapiro, Dorothy W. Nelson Professor of Law, USC Law School
Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC College
Christina Yen, Health and Humanities major, Pre-Med, USC College