Haverford’s enduring commitment to a values-centered liberal education rooted in Quaker principles and practice sets the College apart from other institutions. We believe in providing for our students an education that emphasizes the examination of ethical decision-making processes and choices. Moreover, our students contribute meaningfully to the pursuit of ethical engagement in much of what they do on campus through their engagement with the Honor Code and through the distinctively high level of student agency and involvement in decision-making. In our view, this commitment is the essential component of a Haverford education that encourages students to lead “lives that speak.”
As we consider the future of liberal arts education, we recognize the extraordinary value of explicitly preparing our students for the ethical challenges that society must confront. The ethical commitment we seek to instill in our students rests on the development of an individual’s capacity to use knowledge, discernment, empathy, humility, and courage in order to make judgments about difficult problems for which there are no pre-existing answers. We do not seek to claim for Haverford special moral or ethical authority; rather we believe that what should continue to make our community distinctive is our common commitment to exploration of these issues, whether in our academic pursuits, extracurricular life, or in the workplace.
The working group on Ethical Engagement & Leadership has been exploring ways to support and expand enterprises at Haverford that foster ethical engagement and leadership in students and that provide opportunities for teaching and scholarship to reflect these interests. Our goal is not simply to invest further in the existing commitment to ethical engagement at Haverford, but to raise the profile of this dimension of our identity and push forward our commitment into new territory. Looking forward, this group recommends that we:
- Build programs and create activity on campus around issues of ethical engagement. This could include speaker series, conferences, symposia, residencies, seminars, etc. The formality of this could range from ad hoc events to the creation of an entity that organizes a collective and ongoing effort.
- Establish externally Haverford’s identity and reputation as a place committed to leadership development and ethical engagement. We believe we should be asserting our commitment to ethical engagement beyond Haverford’s boundaries, and show leadership in our commitment to this endeavor. Again, specific possibilities are wide ranging:
- Creation of a summer institute that brings college students from around the country or world to campus for a short-term program;
- Programs for the professions on ethical decision-making and leadership;
- Establishment of an award, recognizing ethical engagement in leadership.
- Create more formal trajectories and pathways for students to pursue ethical engagement and decision-making. This could take several forms, and further discussion should consider the merits of various approaches (curricular, co-curricular, extracurricular, and blended pathways). Serious consideration should be given to formalizing and certifying student development in this area; at the same time, caution should be exercised to avoid systems that reflect nothing more than a “punch list” of activities. Any formalized trajectory should reflect a purposeful developmental experience, akin to major or distribution requirements, and should reflect the importance of collaborative experiences, faculty mentorship, and student agency. Ideas and approaches might include:
- Placing even greater emphasis on Ethical Leadership within the Peace, Justice and Human Rights concentration; this could include building and expanding the PJHR concentration to allow its focus on ethical leadership to reach more students (see 1.A. Constellation 2).
- A formal certification program for students, articulating and acknowledging various pathways students might take in the formal development of ethical decision-‐making, leadership, and problem solving. This would draw heavily on work and activities already happening at the College, but could also suggest new opportunities and experiences.
- Alignment with and/or expansion of the work already being done by the Rufus Jones Leadership Institute (see 2.A.3.).
- Enhanced opportunities to engage the ethical dimensions of environmental responsibility and sustainability (see 1.B.4. and 5.F.).
- Provide greater support for faculty creativity and initiative for ideas and activity that engage with ethical issues within and beyond their discipline.
- Conduct a closer examination and inventory of the existing activity at Haverford that promotes and serves ethical engagement, with the purpose of holding up what we are already doing and revealing ways we might further develop such activity. A bird’s-eye view of what is already happening at Haverford will allow for better institutional support of these activities, and may reveal ways to coalesce such activity around more focused themes and desired outcomes.