Center for Values and Social Policy
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The Center for Values and Social Policy was founded in early 1980. In 1981-82, an NEH Pilot Grant to fund curriculum development gave it the financial boost that it needed. It has been serving the University and the broader state and national community ever since. Faculty active in the creation of the Center included Jerry Martin, who headed the effort, Leonard Boonin, Arthur Millman, David Perry, and Dale Jamieson. Jim Nickel was hired as the first Director of the Center in 1982 and served until 1988. Subsequent Directors have been Dale Jamieson (1988-91), Leonard Boonin (1991-93), and Ann Davis (1993-95). For a period during the late nineties and early zeds, the administrative functions of the Center were decentralized and Center programs were run by faculty and graduate students, including David Boonin, Claudia Mills, Luc Bovens, Alan Carter, Abigail Gosselin, and Sara Goering. In the spring of 2006, affiliated faculty reinstated a Director position. Since that time, Benjamin Hale and Alastair Norcross have filled the director's shoes, in turns. Ajume Wingo is the Center's current director.


According to Philosophy Department by-laws, the Center was established as “an agency of the Department, empowered to raise and expend funds in pursuit of its objectives.” These objectives, so far as originally written, were to “conduct research, hold conferences, and enter into relationships with other agencies, public and private, in furtherance of our knowledge of values and social policy, and to develop and implement graduate and undergraduate programs and curricula in Values and Social Policy.” For over 25 years, the Center for Values and Social Policy has pursued this mission.


The Center has always had at its core four to eight faculty members from the Philosophy Department and a dozen or more graduate students who are strongly committed to the Center and its activities. This close relationship with the Philosophy Department is somewhat unique among ethics Centers, and for this reason the Center stands apart from many of the other outstanding ethics Centers that now pepper the academic landscape.


The Center has sponsored many different activities over the quarter century of its existence. It has developed new curricula, sponsored lectures, convened panel discussions, coordinated presentations of dissertation research, organized conferences, scheduled brown bag discussions, and even hosted weekly coffee hours for Philosophy graduate students and faculty. These activities have not only increased the visibility of the Department and the University, they have also afforded graduate students opportunities to interact with scholars from other universities and to develop their social and academic skills.


Curricula: The Center played a large role in developing departmental curricula in practical ethics and philosophy and policy. At the graduate level a number of distinctive courses have been offered, in addition to the more traditional theoretical courses in ethics and political philosophy. These include:

  • 5210 Philosophy and Social Policy
  • 5230 Bioethics and Public Policy
  • 5240 Seminar in Environmental Philosophy
  • 5290 Topics in Values and Social Policy (including Alison Jaggar’s Seminar in Feminist Theory)


At the undergraduate level the following distinctive courses are available, in addition to traditional courses in ethics and political philosophy:

  • 1200 Philosophy and Society
  • 2220 Nature of Law
  • 2230 Law and Morality
  • 2290 Philosophy and Women
  • 3110 Feminist Practical Ethics
  • 3190 War and Morality
  • 3260 International Human Rights
  • 4260/5260 Philosophy of Law


Lectures: Some papers presented by CU faculty include Michael Tooley, “Voluntary Euthanasia: Active and Passive”; Luc Bovens, “A Video Production on Moral Philosophy”; Simone Chambers (from Political Science), “Moral Development and the Defense of Modernity”; Ann Davis and Jim Nickel, “The Right to Die Initiative in Oregon”; and Alison Jaggar, “Sex Equality, Distributive Justice, and Affirmative Action.” This research has appeared in later books and articles.


Panels and Conferences: The Center has also sponsored conferences and programs on subjects of popular interest, and has played a large role in organizing the Philosophy Department’s annual Morris Colloquium in Social Philosophy.


Publications: Other means of outreach to the public and to other scholars have been provided by a Center newsletter “From the Center,” and working papers. In the Fall of 2006, the Center became the home to the online journal Ethics in Film, and efforts are in progress to expand the publications


Fellows: During the first seven or eight years of its existence, the Center had an active program of visiting Fellows. There were generally faculty from other colleges and universities who were here on sabbatical.


Extra-University Outreach: Center faculty and graduate students have engaged in a variety of community outreach activities such as serving on the Boulder Community Hospital Ethics Committee, participating in activities of the Rocky Mountain Peace Center, speaking at area churches, and giving radio and newspaper interviews. Above this the Center sponsored efforts to introduce concepts in philosophy to the senior and youth communities outside of the University. The programs PEPCO (Philosophy Elder Program of Colorado), POPCO (Philosophy Outreach Program of Colorado), and SPICO (Summer Philosophy Institute of Colorado) were initiated to serve this purpose.


Intra-University Outreach: Outreach to other parts of the University community has also been a function of the Center. One of the more successful efforts in this area was the establishment of a Graduate Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy Certificate Program. Professor Dale Jamieson played a central role in the development of this program, and supported it through teaching, especially by offering the “Seminar in Environmental Philosophy” and by helping to teach the capstone seminar. The Certificate Program combined the offerings of a wide range of departments and colleges to make an environmental specialization available to graduate students in a number of departments.


David Boonin

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