Provost should audit ethics class


While I realize that the Wildcat has been inundated with letters regarding the proposed closure of the journalism department, I feel inclined to address an issue that I have not seen addressed in reference to this matter. It has to do with one class in particular, Journalism 439, Ethics and the News Media. The instructor is Jacqueline Sharkey.

I cannot help but sigh hopelessly when I realize that the very issues that are raised in this class are issues of which Provost Paul Sypherd is either unaware or chooses to ignore. While the class deals with ethics and moral decision-making by the news media, its content can most certainly be applied universally. Through our course of study we have focused primarily on two important points: What is referred to as the "minimum conception of morality," and the characterstics that comprise a "conscientious moral agent."

According to James Rachels, the author of The Elements of Moral Philosophy (the text used in J439), morality is the "effort to quide one's conduct by reason, that is to do what there are the best reasons for doing, while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be affected by one's conduct."

Rachels continues his discussion by describing the characteristics that comprise a conscientous moral agent. A conscientious moral agent: 1) is concerned impartially with the interests of everyone affected by his conduct, 2) carefully gathers and examines facts and implications before making a decision, 3) accepts principles of conduct only after close scrutiny of their fairness and logic, 4) is willing to listen to reason, even if that means their previous convictions may need to be revised, and 5) is willing to act upon the results of this deliberation.

It seems the provost has ignored many of these steps of ethical decision making. Ironically, Sypherd, by saying he did not consider student input in his decision, has demonstrated that he is lacking knowledge in an area that is addressed by the very department he has proposed to do away with. So I challenge the Provost to enroll in and attend Journalism 439. I will even give him my textbooks and notes to help him out so that he can at least learn how to make informed ethical decisions. Perhaps then he will realize that this department and Jacqueline Sharkey are two important assests that this university cannot afford to lose.

Brian Deal

Spanish Literature senior

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