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In this effort, the Institute collaborates with departments, professional schools and programs across the university to bring students and faculty together with authors and artists, philosophers and practitioners, and the ethical voices of our time.

Ethical Issue of the Month: 

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response in an ordinary, non-meditative state


Featured in USC Dornsife News: Humanitarian Spring

USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics’ Lyn Boyd-Judson leads seven undergraduates to the University of Oxford for a five-day workshop on human rights and humanitarian action. More



VISION & VOICES: "The Amygdala and the Stethoscope: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine" - A Lecture by Danielle Ofri

Monday, September 22, 2014, Mayer Auditorium, USC Health Sciences Campus | 11:30 AM

USC Students, Staff and Faculty: To RSVP, click here.
General Public: To RSVP, click here.

Book signing and reception to follow.
Admission is free. Reservations requested.

As part of the Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics Series, which engages core health issues in society today, we will present an afternoon with essayist and physician Danielle Ofri. Renowned for her use of dramatic stories, Ofri will explore how emotions permeate clinical decisions and provoke physicians, despite their commitment to the scientific method, to act in ways that are not nearly as rational and evidence-based as they may think.

Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, has her clinical home at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the country. She writes about medicine and the patient-physician relationship for the New York Times and is the founder and editor in chief of the Bellevue Literary Review, the first literary journal to arise from a medical setting. Ofri is the recipient of the John P. McGovern Award from the American Medical Writers Association for “preeminent contributions to medical communication." More

Organized by Pamela Schaff (Pediatrics and Family Medicine), Alexander Capron (Law and Medicine), and Lyn Boyd-Judson (Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics).

Co-sponsored 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  Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics.

SPIRIT OF THE LAW: Hon. Bernard J. Kamins, Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret)

September 23, 2014, Gould School of Law Room 2 | 12:30 PM | Lunch Provided


Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Kamins served 22 years on the bench and served as a public defender prior to being appointed a judge. After graduating from USC Law School in 1968, Kamins became a Deputy Public Defender and served as deputy in charge for the LA Juvenile Hall Court. He then was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by George Deukmejian in 1985 and was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court the following year. Kamins spent all but one year of his judicial career presiding over criminal cases and briefly presided over the widely publicized Rodney King beating case in 1991. From 2000 to 2007, Kamins ran Drug Court for the entire western portion of LA County. Though formally retired, Kamins currently serves as a judge at the Van Nuys Courthouse in the assigned judge program and is working on creating a prostitution diversion program for the local court. Kamins holds a B.A. in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara and a J.D. from the University of Southern California. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Pepperdine University’s law school.

Spirit of the Law features legal professionals discussing how they find meaning, purpose, and identity in the law.


September 29, 2014, THH 201 | 5 PM


Co-sponsored by the Levan Institute Undergraduate Fellows and Thematic Option

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion that tries to get at the virtue of courage. Why might it be important for us to determine the limits of courage? When is an act courageous; when might the same act instead be cowardly or reckless? Can someone act with courage without understanding what courage is? What is the relationship between the virtue of courage and other virtues like wisdom, justice, and reverence? How might we best be courageous in our daily lives? All who are interested in participating are welcome. The discussion will be guided by students from Thematic Option and Levan Institute Fellows and will be moderated by James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics.

What Matters to Me and Why with Sherman Jackson

October 1, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | 12 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Named one of the 500 most influencial Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, Professor Sherman Jackson speaks about what is important to him in this second program of the series. Sherman Jackson holds the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and is a Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC.  His research interests focus on issues of race, immigration, liberalism, democracy, religion in the modern world, pluralism, and constitutionalism.

What Matters to Me and Why is a program that encourages reflection about values, beliefs and motivations. It aims to help students and others better understand the lives and inspirations of those who shape the University.

ZYGO Series—HOBBY LOBBY: The Ethics of Healthcare between Corporation, Church and State

October 3, 2014, DML 241 | 12:30 PM | Lunch Provided


Co-sponsored by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study

In September 2012, Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, filed a lawsuit against the United States over a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which mandated that health insurance provided by employers must include access to emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby stated that this provision violated their religious beliefs, and argued that they were protected by the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court eventually ruled in their favor. This panel will seek to discuss the various ethical issues associated with the intersection of religion and health care, and the implications of this ruling. Is it ethical for a corporation to determine the exact services included in government- mandated health insurance for religious reasons? Furthermore, did this PPACA provision prevent Hobby Lobby from freely exercising religion, for which the RFRA was initially enacted?

Moderator: Varun Awasthi, ZYGO Student Director

Varun Soni, Dean, USC Office of Religious Life
Hilary Schor, University Professor, English, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Law

The ZYGO Series is organized by USC students in health and medicine who seek dialogue with USC faculty across disciplines in order to increase the integration of ethical themes into their curriculum.

zygo / ˈzʌɪgəʊ, ˈzɪgəʊ / pref. relating to union or joining

Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics—COLLEGE ATHLETICS: Play or Work?

October 8, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | Noon | Lunch Provided


College sports can be big business, generating enormous revenues for schools and salaries for coaches, while their athletes receive just scholarship, room and board.  Currently, pending lawsuits seek to remove caps on player compensation and to allow players to share in profits from the use of their likenesses.  Debate is growing over whether college athletes should unionize as employees.  What is a level playing field for college sports?

Moderated by Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Political Science

Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics encourage faculty, staff, and students from every part of our USC community to talk about the ethical questions of the day.



The Levan Fellows serve as ambassadors for the institute and work closely with Dr. Lyn Boyd-Judson, director of the Levan Institute, on designing and implementing mission-related projects. The program provides an interdisciplinary cohort-based experience that offers students the opportunity to integrate their academic interests with Dornsife programming and events.

For more information, click here

Carnegie Council International Student Photography Contest, 2014: Fairness and Its Opposite


Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs announces its second annual International Student Photography Contest. The contest is part of Ethics for a Connected World, a three-year global education project in celebration of the 2014 Carnegie Council Centennial.

In a world with huge gulfs of wealth and power, how do we ensure that everybody has access to opportunity? Carnegie Council believes that part of the answer lies in fairness—the means by which a society balances the rights and responsibilities of its citizens, toward each other and toward the state.

The contest will be conducted on Carnegie Council's Global Ethics Network, a social media platform for exploring the role of ethics in international relations. Check out last year's winners on the theme of Living with Differences and click here for details on how to participate.

PHOTO TOPIC: Fairness and Its Opposite

CONTEST DEADLINE: October 31, 2014

Levan Campus Grant Program


Grants are available to students, faculty, and staff across the College who need funds for activities that coincide with the Levan Institute's mission. Student groups and student-focused projects are given a strong first priority, as are collaborative efforts across departments and schools. More


GIVE & TAKE NARRATIVES: Information Session

September 17, THH 215 | 3:30 PM

The Give&Take Narratives is a film narratives project on the ethics of volunteering. The Give&Take Narratives project provides students the opportunity to use film as a tool to reflect upon their own perceptions, encounters, and ethical dilemmas in their domestic and overseas alternative break trips. If you are interested in exploring narrative research, filming your own Alternative Break or other volunteer trip, or editing documentary footage submitted by students, please join us for this meeting. RSVP here.

LEVAN-OXFORD WORKSHOP: The Ethics of Human Rights and Development in the Twenty-First Century City

September 7-14, 2014 | New York City, NY

In partnership with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Yale University, Quinnipiac University, and the UN Development Program, the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics will run an intensive workshop in human rights and development. The academic component of the seminar will involve morning and afternoon sessions dedicated to a critical analysis of the field of development ethics, including: basic needs; capabilities and human development approaches; participatory planning and community action; deliberation and agency; the role of law, institutions and social movements; and global public health initiatives.

For more information, click here

What Matters to Me and Why with Jeremy Kagan

September 3, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | 12 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Jeremy Kagan is a Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts and the founder of the Change Making Media Lab at USC.  An Emmy award winning director, writer and producer of feature films and television, he has been on the National Board of the Directors Guild of America and is Chairperson of its Special Projects Committee, which provides cultural and educational programs for its 15000 membeers.

What Matters to Me and Why is a program that encourages reflection about values, beliefs and motivations. It aims to help students and others better understand the lives and inspirations of those who shape the University.


Fall 2014 Training Sessions

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, THH 212 | 7-9 PM
Thursday, September 4, 2014, THH 108 | 4-6 PM

The Teaching Ethics Program (TEP) trains undergraduate volunteers each year to introduce competing ethical perspectives and lead ethics case study discussions in neighborhood high schools. Undergraduate students can participate in TEP as volunteers or for course credit (if enrolled in a participating TEP affiliated course).  Attend a 2-hour training session and join a team of three USC students to teach a series of four class sessions over four weeks.

For more information, click here