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“Justice and Higher Education”

March 26 & April 2, 2010

Philosophy Colloquium

  • Harry Brighouse
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • “Justice in Higher Education is Your Problem: Administrators, Faculty, and Students as Agents of Change”
  • March 26, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
  • 109 Imholte


The most selective 150 colleges and universities in the United States play a major role in allocating people to desireable positions in our society. Unfortunately, our society is characterised by unjust inequalities, and inhabitants of desireable positions are beneficiaries of those inequalities. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that success in access to and completion of college is highly influenced by background inequalities. So, should we abolish college? Harry Brighouse argues that we should not abolish college, but that we should rethink its purposes, and rethink the status order within colleges, so that we prepare students better to make vital contributions to our society, especially in serving those people who never, directly, benefit from going to college themselves. He argues that the right rethinking of college purposes will require faculty and administrators to pay more attention to teaching and learning, and that much of what we should do would actually benefit college students in deep ways.

Professor Brighouse will also lead a seminar from 10:30-12:00 (Imholte 101). We will discuss his paper (with Adam Swift, Univeristy of Oxford): “Putting Educational Equality in its Place” (Education Finance and Policy, 2008). All are welcome.

  • Randall Curren
  • University of Rochester
  • “Sustainability and Higher Eduction”
  • April 2, 2010, 3:30 PM
  • 109 Imholte


International declarations, such as the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century (1998) and United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development(2005), have called upon universities to provide the research, teaching, and leadership needed to chart a sustainable trajectory for human existence and raise living standards for those most in need. The response from universities has been lackluster, and philosophical work on the ethics of higher education has only begun to acknowledge this is a matter of significant ethical concern. This lecture will address the nature of academic integrity and argue that it pertains not only to an institution's direct dealings with students and other primary stakeholders, but also to the import of the institution's work for the wider public – the public's interest in not only truth but justice, not only now but in the future. The responsibilities of university communities to rising and future generations commend some refocusing of resources toward sustainability and the cross-disciplinary research and teaching it will require.

Professor Curren will also lead a seminar on “What is Education For?” from 10:30-12:00 (Imholte 101). Attendees are encouraged to read his forthcoming paper on Aristotle's Philosophy of Education in the Oxford Review of Education. This article is available on e-reserve at Briggs Library. All are welcome.