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Three New Fellows Begin Semester at SUNY Plattsburgh Ethics Institute

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ The Institute for Ethics in Public Life at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh welcomed three new fellows this semester: Dr. Robert Cabin, assistant professor of biological sciences; Dr. Lonnie Fairchild, associate professor of computer science; and Dr. Jonathan Slater, assistant professor of communication.

Dr. Fairchild, Dr. Slater and Dr. Cabin The fellows are spending a semester in-residence at the institute in Hawkins Hall developing techniques to introduce the issue of ethics into their disciplines and their teaching.

Dr. Thomas Moran, founding director of the institute, said that during the semester, Plattsburgh State faculty members who are chosen as fellows do extensive reading and scholarly projects on ethics and how it relates to their discipline.

"The institute gives the fellows the opportunity to become much more sophisticated in these (ethics) issues. They develop ways to incorporate ethics into their classes in a more complex and comprehensive way," said Moran.

The fellows meet every Wednesday in the institute located in Hawkins Hall. They are joined by Moran as well as other faculty members including Dr. Beth Dixon, associate professor of philosophy, and Dr. Douglas Skopp, distinguished teaching professor of history.

While a fellow at the institute, Cabin's overarching goal is to obtain a solid general working knowledge of ethics and civic responsibility so he can more effectively address these kinds of bioethical issues in his research and teaching.

"Although we live in a world increasingly driven by science and technology, we scientists tend to be woefully unprepared to address such questions as, 'Should we pursue this branch of knowledge or particular technology?'" said Cabin. "For example, we can easily move genes between unrelated species and then release these genetically engineered organisms into the environment, but do the benefits of doing this outweigh the costs?"

Cabin is enjoying his time as a fellow at the institute.

"I feel honored to be a part of such a learned and stimulating institution," he said. "Our discussions so far have been heated and passionate, yet also exceptionally collegial and respectful. I have already learned a tremendous amount that is directly relevant to my professional and personal interests."

Fairchild's goal as a fellow at the institute is to develop more effective ways of including social and ethical issues involving computer technology in the introductory computing courses that she teaches.

"I am concerned that in the current versions of my courses important issues are treated either too superficially or not at all," said Fairchild.

As a fellow, she wants to learn more of the different ways of thinking about individual and community responsibility as well as appropriate pedagogy.

"The institute, with the opportunities it provides for discussion with and guidance from other faculty, is an ideal environment for such a project," she said. "So far, it has been a wonderful experience. I feel as if I learn from every discussion. Hearing the perspectives of faculty in other disciplines is invaluable."

While a fellow at the institute, Slater is examining the role of mass media in corporate behavior and decision-making.

"I wanted time to explore what I saw as an ethical dilemma in a discipline in which I both work and teach," said Slater. "I felt that the standard public relations curriculum, especially case analysis, was not providing enough critical dissection of the ethical environment that the media themselves have generated."

Slater has also enjoyed his time so far as a fellow in the institute.

"The institute is one of Plattsburgh State's gems. Tom Moran has created an intellectual testing ground for faculty interested in transforming not only their own thinking, but the thinking of their students," said Slater. "Our dialogues are tremendously productive and touch on issues that affect faculty, students and all citizens of the modern world."

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