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Associate Professor Tapped to Lead Institute for Ethics in Public Life

Dr. Jonathan Slater, SUNY Plattsburgh associate professor of journalism and public relations, has been named director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life.

Slater takes up the reins in the fall from Dr. Thomas Moran, former provost and vice president for academic affairs, SUNY distinguished service professor and current institute director, who will be retiring this summer after 44 years with SUNY Plattsburgh.

The Institute for Ethics in Public Life provides fellowships to faculty for release time from two courses and a private office in the suite of offices in Hawkins Hall. During the residency, fellows spend their time developing ways to integrate ethics and civic responsibility into their teaching.

Developed Public Relations Program

Slater joined the faculty in 1998, soon after which he developed the public relations program in the Department of Communications. Later, he helped merge the program into the Department of Journalism and Public Relations, where he serves as department chair. He has taught a wide variety of courses in public relations and communication, helped create and advised SUNY Plattsburgh’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, and serves as an ex-officio member of the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards.

In addition to serving as chair of journalism and public relations, Slater also serves as director of the Jewish studies program, coordinating the Jewish studies minor and the Rabin Fellowship in Jewish Studies, which encourages full-time faculty to develop curriculum for the minor. He leads the college’s annual Days of Remembrance Holocaust commemoration and oversees the Douglas R. Skopp Creative Competition on the Theme of the Holocaust, among many other roles in Jewish studies. He will maintain his responsibilities in journalism and public relations and Jewish studies.

A former fellow with the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, he teaches the law and ethics course for the journalism and public relations program.

Interest in Communication Ethics

“My interest in communication ethics led me to the institute in the first place,” Slater said. “My time at the institute served as the catalyst for my deeper inquiry into ethics. This allowed me to develop two courses in public relations that emphasize and focus on ethics.”

Additionally, since his 2005 institute fellowship, Slater has delivered a number of talks and has written about ethics in general and professional ethics in particular.

“I also regularly co-lead ethics master classes around the country for public relations students and new practitioners,” he said.

Crediting the founder of the institute, Slater said he acknowledged whomever took the position would have big shoes to fill as Moran prepares for retirement.

“Tom singlehandedly brought the ethics institute into being and has nurtured it all these years,” he said. “More than 80 faculty fellows have, in one semester or another, called the institute their intellectual home — and many of us still do. The challenge, of course, will be providing continuity to what Tom successfully has grown, yet at the same time seeking ways to build upon the institute’s success by reaching out to a greater number of campus and community constituents. This will mean enlarging the avenues through which the institute can put its expertise and resources to work for the benefit of students and community members who have already seen SUNY Plattsburgh as a hub of intellectual, cultural and social activity — providing essential services and offerings.”

‘Committed to the Work of the Institute’

“Jonathan Slater is an excellent person to head the institute,” Moran said. “He is a deep thinker who has been actively committed to the work of the institute for a decade. He has a wide-ranging academic background in exploring both cultural values and public policy. And he is the kind, thoughtful and respectful person who others will want to work with.”

While he wears many hats, Slater said his taking on the directorship of the institute isn’t a matter of “needing additional responsibility,” but rather “more a case of what the campus needs,” he said.

“I truly believe that we are at a point in our campus’s history where our individual needs clearly are outweighed by the needs of our institution,” Slater said. “Collective, we will succeed if we all step up — not just to do more or work harder — but to put our experience and expertise to work at thinking our way through the problems we face in order to assure our survival as an institution and then to help it flourish in the future.” 

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