Knowledge in the Service of Whose Society? The Ethics and Social Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions within the Realms of Civic Engagement and Labor Policies
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In this thesis I explore the ways in which social responsibility and ethics are defined within institutions of higher education. I question whether the ethics that universities portray through their civic engagement endeavors correlate with the ethics displayed by their labor policies. My field site is located at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. My method for collecting data involved interviewing students, faculty, general employees, and administrators from the campus. I draw on Karl Marx’s theories of labor division and capitalism to examine the social framework of labor at Duke. Furthermore, I analyze the ethical environment of Duke through the lens of Emile Durkheim and critique the presumed collective consciousness of the university. Through my research, I discovered that while the university deploys students into the world with the hopes of eradicating social injustices, it perpetuates these injustices within its walls. Despite their idealism, universities are not immune to issues of race, class, status and gender. Duke University is a business. As such, profit, public image, and self-sustainability often sway its moral compass. Yet, a critique of the university’s ethics is complicated. First, the term “ethical” is merely empty rhetoric. Second, universities are not just self-profiting institutions of privilege but they can also serve as a positive resource for society.
Institutions of Higher Education
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