Department of Philosophy

The Ethics Table

Ethics Table 1

The Ethics Table is a key initiative of the Beamer-Schneider Professorship in Ethics. It is a metaphor that has many institutional forms. Starting in Spring semester 2013, it will take three. In all these forms, “ethics” is meant broadly in the original sense as ethos, a way of life, and so includes politics as well as more private matters.

Brown bag lunches

Spring 2015 Schedule and Dates
Location: The Cleveland Room or Meeting Room A-Thwing Center

  • January 21st: What do we want to discuss this semester? Also: free speech, community, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre
  • February 4th: Democratization and the Corporate University
  • February 21st: Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • March 4th: The Ethics of Debt and the Indebted Sex
  • March 18th: The Ethics of Debt, II
  • April 1st: The Corporation
  • April 8th: Michael Rakowitz
  • April 22nd: Open Discussion and Socializing

The main Ethics Table expression is a bi-weekly brown-bag lunch open to any member of the campus community, students especially, and to members of the wider community outside the campus if they so desire. The lunches will be BYO (bring your own) food, with coffee and some dessert provided. Here are some tips and comfortable ground rules for the ethics discussion. In Spring 2015, the lunches meet every other Wednesday at 11:30 AM, in The Cleveland Room or Meeting Room A in Thwing Center. Please keep an eye out for the Daily announcements on Tuesdays.

The lunches are meant primarily to encourage free-form discussion of ethical issues relevant or of interest to campus members of any kind (students, faculty, staff, administration, …). They are meant to widen our community ethos and enrich our reflective and critical understanding of our university as an environment for ethical learning. In the brown-bag lunches, we will occasionally depart from informal, free-form discussion in one of several ways.

  • We may hold a listening circle driven by students (e.g., leaders of campus organizations or interested students) in which students articulate to those present what the genuine ethical issues are facing them today and how they would like to see them taken up reflectively by the campus community.
  • We may have a guest discussant who leads a discussion on an ethical issue of genuine public interest.
  • We may discuss a short reading in ethics.

To be put on a contact list for these lunches or if you have topics you would like to see discussed, please email The lunches are supported also by the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence.

Ethics Table Fellows

The Ethics Table Fellows is a group of 8 selected students, staff, and faculty who applied for the fellowship in the Spring of 2013. Across the 2013-2014 year, they are meeting together monthly, reading and discussing ethical theory, working on individual projects, and preparing for an open symposium in June 2014. Fellows are given some research money and a stipend or other appropriate form of compensation at year’s end for their work. Learn more about the current fellows. The next round of fellows will be in 2015-16.
The call for applicants will be in mid to late April 2015, due by May 31st. For more information, please contact .

Mischelle Brown

Mischelle Brown, staff member in Housing and Residence Life & graduate student, Positive Organizational Development, the Weatherhead School

My project is an opportunity for CWRU students, staff, faculty and greater community neighbors to explore together their idea(s) of “ethics” by way of “place”. By introducing play, imagination and storytelling in an experiential learning style, we will:

  • Understand “place”
  • Observe how the human animal experiences “place”
  • Discuss what “ethics” means
  • Examine how these experiences in “place” inform an idea of “ethics”
  • Reflect on whether or not interacting with each other in “place” affects “ethics.”

A primary purpose of my project is to co-create, in a diverse community, a set of parameters or guidelines that considers both the environment and the human when making ethical decisions.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became an Ethics Table Fellow to explore how the environment could be incorporated into understanding what ethics means.

What does “ethics” mean to you? Knowing who and where I am, what matters most, how to live well, how we live well together.


Susan Schick Case

Susan Schick Case, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management

My project is a SAGES seminar called “Ethics for the Real World: Creating Your Ethical Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life.” Its purpose is to address individual character development as a foundation for leadership integrity and moral courage. The developed code will draw on deeply held values from religious or spiritual teachings, upbringing, and/or culture as students become mindful of their inner voice. What does ‘right’ behavior require? The experience will equip them with a practice that fosters more ethical behavior in the University and in their future workplace. Alongside the class, I will conduct ongoing research to determine the role of such a course on character development.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I wanted to be part of a community of people where I could explore how to help students develop moral courage, give voice to their values, identify what is right, and want to do the right thing.

What does “ethics” mean to you? Three values frame my view of ethics. All link to behavior. The first involves pursuing kindness, exerting oneself ethically on behalf of others with care and compassion, recognizing the infinite value in every life. The second involves “doing justice” to both shape and repair the world, including speaking up and giving voice to others. The third focuses on healing and transforming the world in a morally just way, taking responsibility to do the right thing and to empower my choices to make a difference.


John Frye

John Frye, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Bioethics

My primary project this year is the design of an undergraduate course that examines ethical considerations surrounding the end of life. Modern death and dying have been medicalized, and there is need for greater reflection on and awareness of the complexities of the moral issues surrounding choices faced at such times. By teaching different forms of ethical analysis and exploring different cases that have arisen and shaped modern practices, such a course will help students encounter the importance of ethics in their lives and especially at its crucial moments. Case Western Reserve presents a unique environment for such a course, with the intersection of SAGES courses, pre-health students, bioethics resources, and the University Hospitals. As a secondary project, I have assisted other teachers integrate ethical theories and reflection within their own classes throughout the 2013-2014 year, including writing a primer that provides a succinct introduction to ethical analysis.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I truly enjoy teaching, and was on the look out for a way to unite my unique interests and knowledge with Case Western Reserve University’s undergraduate education. The Ethics Table seemed a great way to build such a connection and provide a service to the campus community.

What does “ethics” mean to you? Ethics are the ways we individuals value our lives, our actions, and each other –including the actualization thereof. Each person has a unique approach based on their intuitions, backgrounds, relationships, and personality, but underlying it all is a search for right over wrong, an attempt to find and live the good life.


Demma Iammarino

Denna Iammarino, full-time lecturer, Department of English and SAGES

I am exploring the practice of ethical interpretation, paying attention to how its methods can be integrated into courses across the university, SAGES particularly. Working from the premise that ethics can be a cultivated, sustained practice of perception, I hope to develop a series of lesson plans and exercises that train students to build upon their initial responses to texts (i.e. case studies, literature, social situations, cultural institutions, and so on). My questions mix self-reflection with textual questioning. My goal is to integrate an ethical dimension of inquiry into the classroom—a dimension that treats ethics and ethical interpretation not solely as problem-solving techniques, but as lenses that can be used to perceive and understand the self, the world, and the relationship between the two.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became a Fellow so I can explore the reaches of ethics, culturally, pedagogically. Our roundtable provides an invaluable opportunity to engage in such questions as: How do we, as individuals, gain knowledge? How does such knowledge shape our environment? How can ethics shape and influence this acquisition and creation?

What does “ethics” mean to you? Ethics is a way for an individual to evaluate and understand herself and her surroundings. It fosters engagement with her social and natural environment while transforming herself through changing her perceptions.


Ray Kelly

Ray Kelly, Integrated Graduate Studies, Departments of Psychology and Bioethics, active in Greek Life & a captain of Case Western Reserve University’s Baseball team

I want to make a space for students interested in the health sciences to talk about their shadowing or clinical related experiences. These experiences could be shadowing a physician, volunteering in an Emergency Department, or even a book a student read about being a doctor. This space would allow for learning through reflection and help students to realize whether or not this is a field they want to be a part of. It would help students to see the ethical issues that are key in the health sciences, whether in clinical care or research. There is not a space now for students in this area to reflect on clinical experiences, and I believe this will help students see the ethical issues as well as determine if medicine is the field they want to pursue.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became an Ethics Table Fellow through my bioethics coursework because I took a course on Kantian ethics and enjoyed it immensely. I wanted to continue my education in ethics through practice, and this opportunity gives the practice of doing ethics while learning about both theoretical and applied issues.

What does “ethics” mean to you? Ethics to me is a framework I use to determine whether an action or decision is right. My framework is always changing through my experiences with family, friends, coursework, spirituality, and general life experiences. The key for me is to keep love (agápē) in mind when making decisions.


Dan Lacks

Dan Lacks, C. Benson Branch Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, CWRU

My project will incorporate ethics into CWRU engineering courses.

A. Through collaboration with a philosopher in the Ethics Table, I will develop teaching materials that describe how to systematically analyze engineering issues within the major philosophical theories of ethics – i.e., the consequentialist, deontological and virtue theories.  Students will find current engineering issues with ethical questions (e.g., from newspapers or conversations with engineers), and learn how to analyze these issues in terms of these philosophical frameworks.  The courses will range from first-year SAGES courses to senior design courses to graduate engineering entrepreneurship courses.

B. Through collaboration with a community leader/environmental ethicist in the Ethics Table, I am including an Urban Farm project in the chemical engineering senior design course I teach in Spring 2014. This project will involve a team of 5 chemical engineering students, who will work with the property owner and provide technical support for an urban farm being planned on a site where there had been abandoned houses on 84th St in Cleveland.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became an Ethics Table Fellow in order to develop some expertise that would allow me to include ethics in the courses I teach.

What does “ethics” mean to you? For me, ethics means doing the right thing.  The challenge occurs when there are conflicting duties and it is not clear what the ‘right thing’ is.


Jason Walsh

Jason Walsh, Third-year undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences, Departments of Philosophy and Computer Science

My project focuses on the question: “how should we as individuals think about our own responsibility in relation to social injustice?” As individuals, we are not responsible for social and historical processes that have created what Iris Marion Young calls “structural injustice” along lines of class, race, gender, etc. However, some of us benefit and others are disadvantaged by these structural injustices. What is an ethical response to this situation? More specifically, I am interested in looking at this question in terms of the university (ours and in general) and education. What structural injustices allow some people access to education and deny it to others? What structural injustices do varying levels of access to education reproduce? What responsibility and capacity does the university as an institution have to alter these processes

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became interested as a way to continue thinking about problems I struggled with in a philosophy course, Kant & The Banality of Evil. The Ethics Table has given me an environment where I have been able to read, think, and discuss in a less-structured manner than a semester-long course.

What does “ethics” mean to you? I take “ethics” to be broadly construed. A person’s ethics should inform her decision making, how she treats and interacts with others, what she sets as reasonable goals, etc. At the same time, I think Aristotle is basically right to argue that ethical theory cannot have the rigor and clarity of other areas of inquiry. No ethics will ever be a complete decision procedure that tells us exactly what to do in any context.


Lesley Whitaker

Lesley Whitaker, M.S. Candidate, Physics Entrepreneurship, Department of Physics

My project examines the history of American national crimes and the best remedies for their effect upon society today. Specifically in the realm of slavery and discrimination against black Americans, the goal of this project aims to create a medium that will encourage collective understanding, responsibility and steps forward available for the Case Western Reserve University community.

This project was inspired by the efforts made by Germany after the Second World War to atone for the crimes of the Nazi government. Although the effectiveness or worth of these efforts is subjective, in my opinion America has comparatively done little to face the crimes of its past, which is a problem I hope to remedy.

Why did you become an Ethics Table Fellow? I became an Ethics Table Fellow because it is the perfect outlet to focus my curiosity about the nature of collective guilt and morality. The Beamer-Schneider Lecture by Susan Neiman inspired me.

What does “ethics” mean to you? Ethics encompasses the thought processes behind –and the behavior stemming from- moral judgment and its complexities.


Autonomous Ethics Table activities

Finally, members of the 2011-12 Ethics Table may continue, from time to time, to organize events around ethics, such as pot-luck dinners, talks, or film nights. To be aware of these activities as well as to participate in on-line discussion of ethics, email and consider joining the listserv “ethicstable.”


History of the Ethics Table

In the mid-1990s, Bob Lawry from the School of Law convened a summer ethics institute that allowed Case Western Reserve University faculty to explore incorporating ethics into their classes. In 2011-12, supported by the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust, the Beamer-Schneider Professorship renewed the institute in a different, evolving form–and opened the Table to staff, administration and to graduate students who in direct ways through their programs foster the ethical learning environment of Case Western Reserve University.


In its new form, the Ethics Table’s first pulse was during the year 2011-2012. The group met daily for a week in August 2011 to explore the idea of a university ethos. Readings included D.H. Winnicott’s Playing and Reality; Dan Scheinfeld’s et al., We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings; Martha Nussbaum’s Creating Capabilities; Alice Munro’s Runaway, and the Share the Vision common reading for the year, Justice by Michael Sandel.

Ethics Table

The group then met monthly around town — to get out of school, gain perspective and to support local businesses. We ate at the Squirevue Vallee Farm with Spice of Life farm to table catering, at Le Petit Triangle in Ohio City, Club Isabella in University Circle, Prosperity Social Club in Tremont, the Alumni House where we skyped in philosophical counselor Lauren Tillinghast, Empress Taytu in East Cleveland, Café Anatolia in Cleveland Heights, and at the Greenhouse Tavern downtown.

At each of these meetings, two members of the group presented on ethics from their perspective in the university, and a special guest gave a presentation. The special guests this year were Anthony Jack (Cognitive Science), Shannon French (The Inamori Center), Chin-Tai Kim (Philosophy), Laura Hengehold (Philosophy), Lauren Tillinghast (NYU extension branch and private practice), Rhonda Williams (Social Justice Institute), Piers Turner (Ohio State University, Ethics Center), and Dean Moyar (Johns Hopkins University, Philosophy).

Finally, the group convened for a two day retreat in May 2012, with The Montessori School of Cleveland and Roger Saillant (Fowler Center) as special guests at the Inamori Center and at the Manor House of Squirevue Vallee Farm. The group reflected on its future and on the prospect of future developing our university’s ethos. Members of the group also chose to read Simon Blackburn’s Being Good, which was given to all members of the group for their reference.

Ethics Table participants

Members of the Ethics Table 2011-2012

  • Elizabeth Banks, Director, Center for Civic Engagement and Learning
  • Nicole Deming, Assistant Professor of Bioethics, Director of Medical Education, Co-Director, Bioethics Master’s Program
  • Sarah Gridley, Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing
  • Mary Holmes, SAGES instructor and local foods entrepreneur
  • Megan Jewell, Director, The University Writing Center
  • Kenneth Johnson, Graduate student, Affiliate of the Inamori Center
  • Kathryn Mercer, Professor of Legal Writing, the Law School
  • Mark Pedretti, Lecturer, the Department of English
  • Adam Perzynski, SAGES instructor and medical sociologist at MetroHealth
  • Rolfe Petschek, Professor of Physics
  • Drew Poppleton, Assistant Director for Experiential Learning, the Career Center
  • Suzanne Rivera, Associate Vice President for Research and the Department of Bioethics
  • Rachel Sternberg, Associate Professor of Classics
  • Tracy Wilson-Holden, Director of Research Education
  • Jeffery Wolkowitz, Dean of Undergraduate Studies
  • Peter Yang, Associate Professor of German

Ethics Table