Speak up, Dukes!

Representatives from the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, the Counseling Center, and the University Health Center came together last Friday and spoke to a crowd of about 30 people at a Faculty Flashpoint panel focused on JMU’s sexual assault prevention efforts. The event, sponsored by the Madison Collaborative and organized by the Center for Faculty Innovation, gave students, faculty, and staff members the chance to use the Eight Key Questions as a common framework to discuss what our community can do to fight against the social conditions that contribute to sexual misconduct. I was one of the folks in the audience and I left the Flashpoint feeling inspired; being in a room of fellow Dukes, all united behind a common good, was energizing even in the face of a rather daunting issue.


The discussion was both impassioned and informative—Josh Bacon, Tricia Crocker, and Liz Howley shared details about the services already being offered by their respective offices in addition to sharing their ideas for what our university can work on in the future. They pointed out that the most important thing that members of the JMU community can do to fight this problem is to speak up and speak out. I, like so many others, often feel like I have no power to bring about real change, but all of the panelists encouraged the audience to remember that our voices are one of the best and strongest resources that we have in this battle.


Dukes, we all need to find our voices when it comes to sexual assault prevention. We must find ways to speak out against the violence and the cultural norms that allow this kind of behavior to continue. Whether we join a campus group or submit a dart to The Breeze, everyone needs to keep this conversation going. All of us need to be able to talk about this issue in order to bring about any kind of large scale change to our campus culture. The Madison Collaborative wants us to utilize ethical reasoning in our “personal, professional, and civic lives.” What better place to start than with lending our voices to this cause?

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Flashpoint: Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts at JMU

Sexual assault prevention flashpoint poster

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New Year, New MC Activities

The Madison Collaborative is happy to bring you new events in the new year!

If you need foundational information to help you better understand the Eight Key Questions, the MC will be offering two Core Introduction Workshops, one on February 6 and one on February 19. Please click on the links above for more details about how you can sign up for either workshop.

The MC’s Coffee and Conversation program will also be making a return this semester. If you’ve already started incorporating the 8KQ into your work or if you’re just considering using the framework in some way, this is a great opportunity to share your ideas and to learn more from your colleagues. The discussion series will kick off on January 30 with Dr. Erica Lewis hosting. The next session will be led by Susan Ferguson on February 26. We’ll also be offering additional C&C events in the spring. Check out either link to learn more about that particular C&C meeting, and please consider joining us for robust coffee and discussion.

If you’re interested in using case studies to teach ethical reasoning skills to your students, Dr. Lewis will be leading a workshop on Ethical Reasoning Case Study Design and Pedagogy on January 29. Follow the link to learn more.

To learn more about all of the Madison Collaborative’s upcoming events, please go to our website for more information.

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MC Fellow in the News!

Shelly Laurenzo, the Madison Collaborative’s Student Affairs Fellow, was selected to sit on Waynesboro’s School Board this week. She’ll have plenty of opportunities to use the 8KQ in her new position. Congratulations, Shelly!


Shelly Laurenzo accepting her seat on the board

Photo credit: NBC29 News

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JMU Dukes are on the B.A.L.L.!

Check out the JMU Dukes Building a Lifelong Leader (B.A.L.L.) program supported by The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action!


BALL participants

Student-athletes who participated in the B.A.L.L. program

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All I really need to know I learned before I entered kindergarten…

By Holly McCartney

Martha Nussbaum presented a compelling, and I’m sure some would argue controversial, premise in her November 14th Cohen Center for the Study of Technological Humanism sponsored talk. Entitled Anger and Revolutionary Justice, Nussbaum began her talk with an historical look at anger through the Greek mythological characters of Apollo and Athena as well as Aristotle’s view of anger as “a response to significant damage or a pleasant hope for payback or retaliation.” She also included well known nonviolent protestors (Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela) when answering the question “When is anger good?” As someone who isn’t an expert in Greek mythology or classical philosophy, I thought she presented a credible argument for what she called transitional justice where anger is appropriate in times of great oppression.


The best part of her talk, in my opinion, was when she answered a question from the audience, which referred to action we can take to prevent the use of anger toward a need or desire for retaliation or payback. I had to smile as she referenced her most recent research work and the importance of the early years, birth through five—something recent brain research supports and child development theorists have been saying for a long time now. How interesting it is from my perspective as an early childhood educator that Nussbaum took this approach. Start early and build a strong foundation. Separate the deed from the doer, teach and model respect, slow down and think before taking action, channel anger toward a positive outcome—all underlying tenants in teaching young children and guiding their behavior as well as fundamental to the Madison Collaborative’s Eight Key Questions.


With the recent grand jury decision handed down in Ferguson, Missouri there are many ways anger and its impact could be discussed in terms of Nussbaum’s recent lecture and the Eight Key Questions.  Did you attend the Nussbaum lecture and have a different opinion or take away?

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Martha Nussbaum Lecture on Nov. 14


Martha Nussbaum

It’s not often that JMU brings one of Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 intellectuals in the world to campus. While many people might not fully appreciate how amazing it is to have received the Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2002, the Barnard College Medal of Distinction in 2003, the Radcliffe Alumnae Recognition Award in 2007, and the Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in 2010, Larry Burton and Ralph Cohen of the Cohen Center for the Study of Technological Humanism recognized that those accomplishments and the person who received them is exactly the kind of speaker that JMU should be trying to attract. Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Law School and Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. She is also an Associate in the Classics Department, the Divinity School, and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. Just by looking at her obligations at her home institution, you can see that she’s a woman of varied intellectual interests who also happens to be extremely busy.

She’s not too busy, though, to make plans to come to Harrisonburg twice this fall. “Injustice and the Dubious Value of Anger” was originally scheduled for September as the inaugural lecture in the Cohen Center’s Visiting Speakers Series, but Nussbaum had to stay grounded in Chicago after an unfortunate fire closed all of the city’s airports. Undeterred by this terrible accident, she readily agreed to reschedule her speech for this Friday, Nov. 14. In the abstract for her lecture, Nussbaum indicates that she wants to help her audience understand that anger is “fatally flawed from a normative viewpoint — sometimes incoherent and sometimes based on bad values. In either case it is of dubious value in both life and the law.” That will assist us Dukes in grasping why we need to re-think our attitude toward anger and how this new perspective might support revolutionary justice. So many of the brief, everyday moments in our lives are connected to anger in some way—the cranky review left on a website, the heated exclamation uttered when we get cut off in traffic, the passive-aggressive comments we make to our partners. The widespread, casual acceptance of this antagonism is reflective of a larger and more systemic issue affecting our entire society, and that’s something worth addressing. If Nussbaum’s lecture can get us to reconsider the role that anger plays in our lives, it can only be a good thing.

When an academic superstar like Martha Nussbaum is willing to make arrangements not once, but twice, to travel to our corner of the Shenandoah Valley, it says a lot about the kind of woman and scholar she is. The subject matter for her lecture says even more, and that subject has the potential to have a profound effect on our campus culture. With everything that she’s done to get here, we ought to do our best to make her feel welcome and to critically engage with the ideas she will propose. Nussbaum is one of the top minds working in the world today and for one afternoon, JMU will get to benefit from her wisdom and insight. “Injustice and the Dubious Value of Anger” will take place this Friday, Nov. 14 from 4:00 to 5:30 in the Health and Human Services building, room 2301.

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Leadership and the 8KQ

Election season in the United States is a truly polarizing time of year. Whether your candidate wins or loses (or even bothers to run at all), it’s hard to remain untouched during this period of electoral turmoil. The charged rhetoric, the vitriolic advertisements looping non-stop on TV, the flurry of unwanted campaign postcards filling up your mailbox…this ephemera, intended to drum up support for one contender or another, seems frustratingly ever present. The intention behind our system of government, that periodic elections will spur a renewal of representation and leadership so as to ensure that each governing body actually does speak for its constituents, gets a bit lost in all of this promotion and contrived chaos.

In spite of the unpleasant means and methods to which political campaigns must resort these days, those who are selected to lead are held to a high standard. They are asked to be eloquent defenders of shared values, skilled architects of policy and procedure, elegant negotiators of inter-party communication, and much more. In all of those roles, active ethical reasoning is expected, if not required, by citizens. These responsibilities necessitate in-depth and complex decision making, and the expectation is that those decisions will be firmly grounded by ethical contemplation. When political scandals erupt, it’s typically when that trust has been broken by a shift from ethical and logical consideration to ill-advised rationalizations.

Thankfully, most of us here at JMU have avoided such machinations by being frank and open in our dealings with one another. Our campus community prizes integrity, and we hope to see it demonstrated by every member of the Madison family. No hateful TV commercials, underhanded attacks, annoying robo-calls, or poorly reasoned justifications for this university! We have many opportunities to act as leaders and demonstrate our shared honorable values; if you’re a part of JMU, you’re charged to “be the change.” That edict sets the tone for the entire Madison Experience, and it sets us up to be proactive member-leaders of our community. The implication is that we’re to work together, and that honesty and a cooperative spirit will guide our governing choices.

One way to reaffirm this ethos is to connect with the Eight Key Questions and refine our ethical reasoning skills. Chime in, Dukes—what are you doing to integrate the Eight Key Questions into your leadership work? Whether it’s a part of your office procedures, an activity that you’re doing with your student-led group, or something else that’s entirely different, we want to know what you’re doing to make the 8KQ a part of your day-to-day life here at Madison. How are you contributing to JMU’s culture of ethical reasoning, and how is this commitment helping you to lead?

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Teal Pumpkins for Halloween

Halloween is here again—jack-’o-lanterns are being carved. Little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Princess Elsas are practicing their best trick-or-treat choruses. Scary movies are being watched (and eyes are being hidden during the really terrifying scenes). Candy and snacks of all kinds are being stockpiled. Everything is almost ready for the little ghouls and goblins to run amok through our neighborhoods, but these preparations bring lingering concern for some.

Halloween should be a fun and festive time for those who celebrate it, particularly for its younger participants. Children who join in the holiday should only have to worry about certain things—having a great costume, wielding a bag big enough to tote their tasty treats, and maybe getting frightened by the creepy fun of the season. These things are easy to take for granted but for many families, it’s not so simple. Instead of just having to double check the kids’ candy stash for unwrapped goodies or rationing out the haul to prevent sugar overload, some parents and caregivers have to confiscate the entire bag or not take their children out at all due to their kids’ food allergies or dietary restrictions, thus depriving their sons and daughters of what should be an enjoyable night for the whole family. Some folks might be wondering what the big deal is—can’t safety-concerned family members just be thorough in their perusal of this year’s sweets? Shouldn’t an older child be able to read the label and know which foods are forbidden? In some households, yes, it might be that easy but for many, it’s not.

For children with multiple and/or severe food allergies, those allergens can eliminate an entire sack of sugary goodness, making the entire evening’s trick or treating a huge waste. For some kids, an allergic reaction just means an upset stomach; for others, the reaction might involve life-threatening anaphylactic shock or other severe bodily responses. There might be enough time at each house to stop and ask about the ingredients in question, but many people who are on door duty don’t have the time, energy, or nutritional knowledge to adequately address the concerns of caregivers. Unless candy providers have an encyclopedic knowledge of the ingredients going into their confections, they might not even realize that what they’re passing out could be dangerous to these sensitive children. This reasoning holds true for children who are just learning about the terminology associated with their medical conditions—they might know they can’t eat wheat bread or drink milk that comes from a cow, but things become less certain when they read the words “gluten” or “lactose” on a candy wrapper.

All of these dietary variables make adequate safeguards hard to find, but a non-profit called Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has created the Teal Pumpkin Project as a way to combat this problem. By situating a teal-painted pumpkin on the front stoop (teal being the color for food allergy awareness), a homeowner is able to signal to incoming trick-or-treaters that they can expect to find non-food treats—think glow sticks or monster finger puppets—available at that particular house. While intended to help those with food allergies, this gesture could also be useful for families whose diets are restricted in other ways—perhaps for religious reasons or by lifestyle choices. All the same though, passing out stickers instead of Snickers could have a huge impact on trick-or-treaters.

Choosing to paint or not paint a decorative gourd is a pretty small decision in the grand scheme of things. It’s just as small as the call to purchase a bag of blowing bubbles instead of some M&M’s. Many might think that an ethical reasoning strategy like the 8KQ should be reserved for the tougher situations, the choices that will have major effects on many people, but the determination to break out the paint supplies or not is one that will touch lots of little people, many of whom are keenly aware of their dietary difference and reminded of it on a daily basis. After thinking about those children and applying the 8KQ, will you be painting a pumpkin teal in order to pass out tiny toys this Halloween?

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“Resolved: Ethics Cannot Be Taught” …

…a public debate sponsored by the Madison Collaborative and JMU’s Debate Team drew a capacity crowd of approximately 180 to Miller Hall Wednesday night. Debate Team members Samantha Perez and Nathan Buchholz argued the affirmative contending that not only is the teaching of ethics ineffective, in a perverse way, it is counter-productive, producing better cheaters who more eloquently rationalize and justify their unethical decisions. The negative, contending that ethics should and can be taught, was set forth by Rachel Keith and Jacob Bosley. Keith and Bosley emphasized the contemporary crisis in ethics and, while conceding that improvement in ethics pedagogy is needed, they asserted that it is possible and, further, that abandoning the effort to teach ethics would exacerbate the problems.

Professor David McGraw moderated the session with craft and finesse, eliciting clear and substantive questions from those in the audience and adding his final commentary on the ethics of teaching ethics. According to McGraw ethics instruction should involve activities focusing on how to reason ethically, providing a strategic framework for ethical considerations, not lecturing on either what to do or what to think.
McGraw noted that clarifying different conceptions of what it means to teach ethics is essential to the debate.

In the affirmative, Perez and Buchholz characterized typical ethics instruction as settled ethical decisions being “crammed down the throats” of students who operate with fixed ethical dispositions. Because students’ ethical dispositions are emotion-based and fixed by previous experience, and appropriate ethical decisions are not a matter of empirical demonstration, the affirmative asserted there is no motivation for students to study ethics. When forced to learn ethics using “cherry picked” case studies, students subvert the process and develop more effective strategies for rationalizing their existing values and behaviors. The negative emphasized a conception of teaching ethics best characterized as providing an ethical reasoning framework and skillset, like that in the Madison Collaborative Eight Key Question framework. Implicitly agreeing with the rejection of the “force feeding” view of ethics instruction, Keith and Bosley highlighted the potential for ethical transformation via effective instructional techniques such as authentic case studies and open discussion about vexing problems.

Both sides called upon research. The case against teaching ethics relied heavily on a two-semester study that showed the inclusion of ethical reasoning in instruction actually decreased scores on an ethics assessment. To this was added multiple instances of bad ethical decisions being made by persons who had presumably been educated in ethics. In addition, external constraints on ethical behavior such as the law or recalcitrant administrations of business schools, hospitals, and business itself were pointed to as reasons to avoid teaching ethics. The case for teaching ethics relied upon other research investigations which demonstrated effectiveness in teaching ethical reasoning and the promise of making a positive difference in actual decision making. The many instances of bad “devilish” decisions were attributed to either ineffective ethics instruction or none at all. Calls from judges and medical leaders for more instruction in ethics provided support for the negative case.

Kudos go to JMU debate team members Perez, Buchholz, Keith and Bosley for a lively educational debate introducing those in attendance to the controversies raging over teaching ethics in institutions of higher education. Each debater represented their assigned position well. JMU’s debate team, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Davis, garners national recognition for their many accomplishments. Through public debates such as this the university community benefits from the team’s talents.
By vote of the audience the argument in the negative, namely that ethics can and should be taught, won the day. But everyone in attendance was a winner. We ran a rich and robust intellectual sprint through one of the more controversial topics in higher education today — can ethics be taught? We agreed that ethics can be taught. The challenge is to do it well.

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