In an effort to encourage discussion of ethical matters among students and faculty, the Mendoza College of Business launched its 13th annual Ethics Week Monday, focusing this year on the issue of abortion.
This year marks the first time that the week’s events are related to a single theme — an idea that was born out of the controversy surrounding the decision to invite President Barack Obama as the Commencement speaker for 2009, event organizer Ken Milani, a professor of accounting, said.
“What happened in May was confrontation,” Milani said. “Then eventually reasonable voices started talking and agreed to disagree respectfully. We wanted to keep the conversation going.”
Milani said Ethics Week began as a way to honor Notre Dame management professor John Houck, a strong advocate for business ethics education. Houck died in 1996.
“A number of people involved in ethics at Notre Dame got together to determine what could be done,” Milani said. “The first Ethics Week was held two years later.”
The series takes place in February each year, a conscious decision by the organizers.
“We do ethics here 24/7, but we specifically schedule around Valentine’s Day because it’s a time when you’re expressing your love very explicitly,” Milani said. “It’s a time of sincerity, of meaning.”
The speakers for this year’s events include University President Fr. John Jenkins, local Bishop Kevin Rhoades and director of the Women’s Care Center in Mishawaka Bobby Williams. Past speakers have included Digger Phelps, Chris Zorich and University President Emeritus Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy.
Notre Dame is often listed as one of the world’s top universities in the area of business ethics, a tradition that Malani said stems from the very beginning of the University’s history.
“Our first dean was Cardinal O’Hara,” he said. “Ethics is in our DNA.”
For students and faculty who may not have had exposure to ethics in their education, Ethics Week serves as a way to facilitate discussion for both the present and future, as well as inside and outside the classroom, he said.
“It’s a chance to hear a dialogue on a very controversial topic,” Malani said. “[University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh] has said that Notre Dame is where the Church does it’s thinking. I agree with that.”
Rhoades, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, was the first speaker in the series. His lecture titled “Ethics, Morality and Religion: Their Impact on the Abortion Issue,” took place Monday in the Giovanini Commons of the Mendoza building. Jenkins will speak today at 12:30 p.m. in the Giovanini Commons on “The Ethics of Leadership,” and Williams will speak on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., also in the Commons.