Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Introduction to Ethics
MW 2:00 – 3:15
Don Berkich, Ph.D.
Hours: TR 11:00 - 2:00, and by appointment.
Office#: 3976 (do not leave a message, send email or text to mobile instead)
Mobile#: 361-944-2756 (never after 9:00 p.m., texts much preferred--be sure to identify yourself!)
This is a rigorous introduction to moral normative theory, its application to moral normative analysis, and some of the important moral dilemmas typically encountered in professional life.
Student Learning Outcomes:*
Students taking the course will be expected to:
Demonstrate (on test questions) an understanding of a variety of ethical theories and principles;
Apply those theories and principles to professional ethics issues, in essays, papers, and case study analyses;
Develop their reasoning skills, and demonstrate that development on test questions;
Construct and evaluate ethical arguments in papers and essays.
*A requirement of the University for accreditation purposes only. A result of the contemptible commodification of education and the corporatization of its institutions. Used as the basis for a pre- and post-test in a facile attempt to demonstrate quality in teaching and learning. Fails to reflect any grasp of the distinction between training and education by presupposing that understanding, discovery, and knowledge can be precisely measured, economized, and thereby controlled. An embarrassing academic fad and an affront to the towering intellects whose investigations we have the privilege of pursuing this semester. As proof, please note the vacuity of the above Student Learning Outcomes, which this professor did not author.
Selections from various sources, handouts, and notes will be provided by the professor as needed. Examples include,
Mill, J.S., “Utilitarianism”.
Kant, I., “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals”, Lewis White Beck, trans.
Hobbes, T. “Leviathan”.
Moore, G.E., “Principia Ethica”.
There will be five quizzes and a final examination as noted on the course schedule. Structure and content will be announced in class.
Students should be prepared to contribute to class discussion, conduct case analyses with the class, and be actively engaged in helping others with analysis.
Attendance is mandatory. See below.
Actual (unreported) Grading Formula
There are 1000 points possible as follows:
Quizzes: 150 points each
Final Examination: 250 points
Actual Total Points = sum of the five Quizzes + Final Examination
Actual Course Grade is determined by the following scale:
B 800 - 899
C 700 - 799
D 600 - 699
F 000 - 599
Reported Grading Formula*
Reported Total Points = Actual Total Points – (50 * number of unexcused absences over 2)
MAX := maximum(Actual Total Points)
MIN := minimum(Actual Total Points)
RAN := (MAX - MIN)/3
Reported Course Grade is determined by the following scale of Reported Total Points:
A (MAX-RAN) - MAX
B (MAX-2*RAN) - (MAX-RAN)
C (MAX-3*RAN) - (MAX-2*RAN)
D (MAX-4*RAN) - (MAX-3*RAN)
F less than (MAX-4*RAN)
*An explanation of the difference between 'Actual' and 'Reported' grading formula is probably in order. Our current administration has repeatedly made it clear that the University's first purpose is to graduate students regardless of their actual accomplishments, sacrificing such quaint notions as academic rigor, intellectual challenge, or college achievement in favor of better 'success' metrics. While this is lamentable and will, in the long term, prove self-defeating as graduates inevitably fail to find jobs or secure positions in graduate or professional schools, the Reported Grading Formula simply rescales (this is not a curve!) everyone in the class without any unexcused absences to either a grade of 'A', 'B', or 'C'. Call this the "Potted Plant Policy". A potted plant with perfect attendance--easy to do for a potted plant--would obviously and justly receive a perfect 'F' by the Actual Grading Formula, but a 'C' by the Reported Grading Formula. Thus a 'C' would be recorded on our potted plant's transcript, which could make graduation more colorful, if depressing. In any event, no matter how poorly a student does on these course requirements, he or she is guaranteed at least a 'C' for the course, provided the student has no unexcused absences. To be sure, this sets a low-bar indeed. Let us hope it is low enough to comfort the administration.
The professor assumes that students enrolled in this course are sincere student-scholars. That is, the professor shall treat students with the respect due scholars, and students shall do their best to live up to the standards of scholars. To wit,
Scholars carefully read assignments in advance of class, take notes on their reading, explore specific issues in discussion with fellow scholars, and follow-up class by re-reading portions of the required readings and exploring suggested readings.
Scholars are eager to respectfully, openly, and critically discuss arguments and issues raised by the readings. Scholars are adept at following a line of reasoning wherever it may lead. Most importantly, scholars welcome the insights and criticisms of their peers: A scholar understands that it is possible to entertain a proposition without believing it, just as it is possible to present an argument without personally endorsing the argument. Scholars enjoy vigorous deliberations and are always careful to treat fellow scholars with patience and good humor.
Scholars fully immerse themselves in assignments and never assume that an assignment is only legitimate if it will be covered on a test. Scholars are naturally curious and see every assignment as an opportunity to explore new issues, see old issues in new light, and hone their growing skills.
Due to a raft of recent research and the professor's own experience, no scholar will use a screen (laptop, tablet, cellphone, reader, or what have you) in class absent some specific requirement or special need discussed with the professor in advance.
Scholars are very careful to give proper credit and maintain the highest standards of scholarly conduct. Scholars who fail to meet their responsibilities let themselves down, the professor, and, most importantly, their peers. In an effort to protect this community they will be prosecuted by the professor to the fullest extent allowable by university guidelines.
Scholars always attend class barring serious injury, illness, or disaster. Scholars view class-time as rare and valuable for the thought it evokes and the opportunities it presents. Scholars arrive early for class and never leave class early without obtaining prior approval from the professor. Scholars who miss class are responsible for obtaining class-notes, doing the readings, and fully answering any exam questions derived from class discussion. Make-up reading quizzes will be provided upon request, although the question asked may not be the question chosen in class.
A Further Remark on Attendance
Over the past several semesters, the professor has gradually come to realize that he was mistaken in the above assumption regarding sincere student-scholars. In particular, the preceding policy on attendance was somehow eagerly read as oblique justification for not attending class. Since semester grades and missed classes are strongly inversely proportional—the more a student misses class, the worse they end up doing—the following attendance policy will instead be adopted for this class:
Attendance is mandatory. Students are permitted at most two absences during the session for any reason whatsoever without penalty. Any unexcused absence (as per university policy) beyond two incurs a 50 point excessive absence penalty. Please note that missing roll call at the beginning of class counts as an absence; plan accordingly. No, I am not happy about this change of policy.
This syllabus is authoritative and tentative. That is, the syllabus as it appears on this page in its most recent form supersedes any other version with which it conflicts. At the same time, any change to the syllabus will be made here and announced in class. Further, no change will be made which would be detrimental to the student's grade. The professor and the students are only responsible for the syllabus as it appears in its entirety here, including particularly the schedule on the course home page, which should be considered part of this syllabus.
Any student missing a due date must provide a documented, acceptable reason according to university guidelines. Students with a proper excuse for missing a due date will be given a reasonable extension.
Subject to professor discretion, students without a proper excuse for missing a due date will lose 20 points per day after the due date.
Required University Note to Students with Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please call or visit Disability Services at (361) 825-5816 in Corpus Christi Hall 116. If you are a returning veteran and are experiencing cognitive and/or physical access issues in the classroom or on campus, please contact the Disability Services office for assistance at (361) 825-5816.
Required University Note on Dropping a Class:* I hope that you never find it necessary to drop this or any other class. However, events can sometimes occur that make dropping a course necessary or wise. Please consult with your academic advisor, the Financial Aid Office, and me, before you decide to drop this course. Should dropping the course be the best course of action, you must initiate the process to drop the course by going to the Student Services Center and filling out a course drop form. Just stopping attendance and participation WILL NOT automatically result in your being dropped from the class. April 6th, 2018 is the last day to drop a class with an automatic grade of “W” this term.
*Please note that the professor whose course this is did not write this note, despite its having been written in the first-person. Whoever it was meant well, no doubt.
Required College of Liberal Arts Note on Academic Advising: The College of Liberal Arts requires that students meet with an Academic Advisor as soon as they are ready to declare a major. Degree plans are prepared in the CLA Academic Advising Center. The University uses an online Degree Audit system. Any amendment must be approved by the Department Chair and the Office of the Dean. All courses and requirements specified in the final degree plan audit must be completed before a degree will be granted. The CLA Academic Advising Office is located in Driftwood #203. For more information, please call 361-825-3466.
Required College of Liberal Arts Note on the Grade Appeal Process: As stated in University Procedure 13.02.99.C2.01, Student Grade Appeal Procedures, a student who believes that he or she has not been held to appropriate academic standards as outlined in the class syllabus, equitable evaluation procedures, or appropriate grading, may appeal the final grade given in the course. The burden of proof is upon the student to demonstrate the appropriateness of the appeal. A student with a complaint about a grade is encouraged to first discuss the matter with the instructor. For complete details, including the responsibilities of the parties involved in the process and the number of days allowed for completing the steps in the process, see University Procedure 13.02.99.C2.03, Student Grade Appeals. These documents are accessible online at: https://academicaffairs.tamucc.edu/rules_procedures/index.html. For assistance and/or guidance in the grade appeal process, students may contact the Dean’s office in the college in which the course is taught or the Office of the Provost. For complete details on the process of submitting a formal grade appeal, please visit the College of Liberal Arts website, https://cla.tamucc.edu/about/student-resources.html. For assistance and/or guidance in the grade appeal process, students may contact the Associate Dean’s Office.
By accepting this syllabus the student indicates that the syllabus has been read, all requirements are understood, and all policies are acknowledged.