Emory College students now have a new minor from
which to choose. Following a decision by the College Curriculum
Committee earlier this year, undergraduates may now choose ethics
as a minor, and students may graduate with the minor as early as
Students pursuing a minor in ethics must complete five courses in
the subject, one of them being Introduction to Ethics (PHIL 115
or 115S). The other courses must be chosen from a list of 21 existing
ethics-related courses in anthropology, biology, business, environmental
studies, interdisciplinary studies, journalism, political science,
philosophy, religion or sociology.
A minor in ethics is similar to a minor in violence studies in that
each is multidepartmental and acts a complement to a curriculum
that prepares an undergraduate for graduate professional studies.
“Most every research field or grant-offering institution requires
some sort of ethics training,” said Melissa Snarr, religion
lecturer and director of ethics and servant leadership in the Center
for Ethics. “Trying to build these skills earlier, before
students go to professional schools, is very important.
Creation of the ethics minor is the culmination of a nearly two-year
effort by faculty in the Center for Ethics and other professors
who teach ethics classes. The work began in spring 2001 when Snarr
and Arri Eisen, biology senior lecturer and director of the science
and society program, approached philosophy’s Nicholas Fotion
and Pamela Hall about creating an interdisciplinary ethics minor.
Snarr was told that rather than try to create new classes focused
on ethics, the going would be much easier if the focus was on classes
that already exist but have an ethics-related theme. Snarr then
met with ethics faculty from across the college who offered their
support as well.
“Being just a lecturer, you always hear that it’s difficult
to negotiate politics,” Snarr said. “But everyone was
very open and helpful.” She added that a goal is to add to
the college curriculum courses specific to ethics.
In addition to the 21 classes currently accepted for the ethics
minor, students may petition for other classes to be included in
their course of study. The class must have a significant focus on
ethical issues and contain at least one assignment related to ethical
Since the minor was approved last fall, publicity has been light.
Fotion said just one member of the Class of 2003 is minoring in
ethics, but many more are expected as word gets out across campus.
Other than Emory, just two top-tier research universities offer
interdisciplinary undergraduate programs in ethics. Yale offers
“Ethics, Politics and Economics” as a major, and Stanford
offers “Ethics and Society” as a course concentration.