Ethics in 2020 and beyond

A message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Coordination), Professor Hayden Ramsay:

Ethics is an academic discipline, a subbranch of philosophy and theology. But it’s also something each of us thinks and talks about in handling everyday life, social issues and work matters.

For example, no discussion of the pandemic can avoid ethics questions for more than five minutes: What gives them the right to do that? Why do we have an obligation to help the sick in other countries? How can we get through this anxiety? How do we explain this step to the kids or the parents in nursing homes? What choices am I to make given I have lost wages, confidence, my job?

This is the stuff of daily ethics. The discipline of ethics can help us with these questions. But I’m aware it can also seem remote – a bit like the relation of parliamentary debates to our personal politics, or the ATO to our personal budgeting.

Ethics Hub

Since ACU's Strategic Plan 2020-23: Impact through Empathy proposed ethics as one of our three focus areas, we have worked on developing an Ethics Strategy, central to which was the launch of the Ethics Hub. The idea of the Ethics Hub is that ethics stories, debates, resources and news can be gathered in one place, showcasing what we do and in time, I hope, expanding what we do.

I wanted to tell you about some of the work around the Hub at the moment.

Masterclass on Any Catholic University
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ex Corde Ecclesiae – the document by which the Church asks all the bishops of the world to set out the requirements for Catholic universities in their dioceses – I recorded a Masterclass of 12 videos, considering what Ex Corde Ecclesiae might mean for key work areas of a Catholic university. I added 12 short articles, also on the Hub, to help generate discussion around our most significant internal document and what it means for our work.

Catholic education, culture and society
Professor John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy of Education, who joined us in July and is situated within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy but due to the pandemic also situated in the UK, is an international public intellectual, particularly active in debates around ethics and religion. John is working closely with colleagues in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Catholic Education Melbourne on an important Catholic educational, cultural and societal project. He is also contributing regular seminars, lectures and ethics resources to the Hub.

Core Curriculum
Our Core Curriculum is a gem we will not give up. We are taking advantage of pandemic-enforced measures to upgrade the digital offering of the Core. At the same time, we are looking at the ethics content of the Core – personal, social and professional – so as to increase interest and relevance for students and extend their choice over what they will study.

Seminars and public events
Our program of ethics seminars and debates in 2020 was wiped out by the virus. We decided not to transfer most of this online but to use the time to concentrate on other pieces of ethics infrastructure until we can gather together safely again. Seminars will take off again in 2021.

Ethics Finder
Our major development this year is the Ethics Finder, which will be launched early in 2021. It will give the university and the community a major online resource in Catholic ethics and related topics and the debates Catholic ethics gives rise to in the world today.

I very much hope the team at DVC Coordination has thought of something for everyone in the field of ethics, and I do promise that 2021 will see a great deal of new ethics activity at ACU.

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