Aug 222017
 August 22, 2017

Richard Phillips displays a plaque awarded to him following his commissioning ceremony with Duke’s AROTC program. It was presented to him by Maj. Rachelle Macon, professor of military science, left, and his father, Don.

In his four years at Duke, Richard Phillips found a love for issues of justice and compassion, deepened by his experiences at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Through coursework as part of receiving an Ethics Certificate, traveling to the Arizona/Mexico border for the Institute’s 2016 Alternative Spring Break and interacting with Kenan’s faculty and staff as a research assistant, Phillips gained experience that fed a commitment to a calling of service. That work recently culminated for Phillips when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army after completing Duke’s AROTC program.

“I’m so glad that Kenan and Duke gave me the desire to see perspective in the world and understand people and their truth,” said Phillips, who graduated this summer. “When you’re in the Army, you’re fighting evil, but you can’t paint the other people you might face with easy-to-understand labels. There are people in the world with dreams the same as me, and that is a crucial and harrowing reality to come to terms with.”

Phillips said his involvement in ethics-focused classes fed his interest in eclectic learning and personal experiences that included studying international law, migration and the history of oppression in the United States. It all connected to his core beliefs as a Christian and someone who sees value in trying to understand the stories and ideas of individuals in order to ultimately understand what is right and wrong for all people.

Following research this fall in which he’ll study aspects of migration and displacement in Texas, Phillips plans to attend law school with the end goal of entering into his military service as an Army lawyer.

Learn more about Richard and his story in this Profiles in Purpose.

Aug 152017
 August 15, 2017

In a new report that builds on a publicly-available database of transnational, standard-setting initiatives regulating corporate conduct, research from the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and MSI Integrity suggests voluntary initiatives that connect governments, NGOs, and private companies may not have the institutional elements required to effectively enforce their own standards related to responsible conduct, including respect for human rights.

These multi-stakeholder initiatives, also known as MSIs, aim to improve company or government compliance with a voluntary set of standards for responsible conduct, which can include human rights, environmental, and anti-corruption norms. These standards often outline company or government responsibilities to respect the rights of an identifiable stakeholder group, such as workers, farmers, or communities living in an area affected by business operations.

However, an analysis by the Duke Human Rights Center and MSI Integrity shows that only 14 percent of organizations surveyed for the new database involve any members of the populations they are intended to benefit or protect in their decision-making bodies. Additionally, only half the MSIs involve affected communities in any activities at all. The ramifications of this means that, in the process of attempting to improve corporate conduct, people with the most at stake often end up being the most marginalized.

“Before we conducted this study, many scholars assumed that all these MSIs look good on paper and the real question concerns what they are doing in practice,” said Suzanne Katzenstein, Research Scholar and Project Director at the Duke Human Rights Center. “But even on paper, there’s reason to be troubled.”

Part of the problem, Katzenstein noted, is a lack of transparency. Although 78 percent of MSIs have some form of sanctioning provision to hold members accountable if they don’t live up to standards, it’s difficult to know when the use of sanctions is warranted. This is because one in four MSIs does not require documentation of its evaluations. Of MSIs that do document corporate compliance, 63 percent do not make their evaluations publicly available, making it difficult for external actors to assess if an initiative has used its sanctioning mechanism sufficiently or appropriately.

Although the premise of many MSIs is to facilitate meaningful and relatively equal participation by different types of stakeholders to address a particular issue, 40 percent of MSIs in the database had highly imbalanced representation of stakeholder groups – meaning that one stakeholder group outnumbered any other in the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of two-to-one or greater. In these instances, governments, private companies or NGOs that have more representation in the initiative’s decision-making body may overpower the voices of other groups and guide the initiative’s agenda towards a particular group’s interests. In three MSIs, industry representatives outnumbered other stakeholders on the initiative’s highest decision-making body by a ratio of four-to-one: ICTI Care Process, Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification, and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

“The innovation of MSIs is that they bring together a diverse set of actors to hold companies and sometimes governments accountable,” Katzenstein said. “But when they’re dominated by one kind of stakeholder, outcomes can become skewed. Although both practitioners and academics have pointed to the need to fine-tune MSIs, this research suggests there is a need to re-think more seriously how to engage and improve MSIs.”

Data used in the report was collected by a Kenan service-learning class, Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab, in the spring of 2015 and 2016. The 2015 class worked on piloting the research methodology and the 2016 class implemented the final methodology to collect the data. Students also conducted short case studies on the MSIs they researched.

Visit the MSI Database to see the full report. MSIs in the database engage with over 50 national governments and regulate over 9,000 companies – including Fortune Global 500 businesses with combined annual revenues of more than $5.4 trillion dollars.

Aug 042017
 August 4, 2017

This fall, Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics will host a new faculty member: Sarah Bloom Raskin, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Raskin, who will act as a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke, comes to Kenan after serving at the Treasury from March 2014 to January 2017. In addition to research related to markets, regulation and public leadership, Raskin will offer guest lectures, advise students and participate in public events.

“We’re thrilled to to have Sarah working with Rethinking Regulation to provide a unique perspective on policies that shape markets in the U.S. and around the world,” said Suzanne Shanahan, the Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Among her priorities as second-in-command at the Treasury, Raskin emphasized solutions to enhance Americans’ shared prosperity, the resilience of financial infrastructures and consumer safeguards in the financial marketplace.

Jonathan B. Wiener, co-director of Kenan’s Rethinking Regulation, noted the breadth of expertise Raskin will bring to the program as it explores a variety of areas in research and practice.

“We are eagerly looking forward to working together with Sarah on questions on which she has extraordinary insight, such as how financial regulation can promote resilience to shocks, how financial regulatory systems can learn and adapt to change, and how conflict and cooperation can be managed among multiple regulatory agencies and oversight bodies,” said Wiener, who also serves as Perkins Professor of Law, Public Policy and Environmental Policy at Duke.

For more information about Raskin’s career and her appointment, which also includes the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law School, see this story on Duke Today.

Aug 022017
 August 2, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has selected 15 Duke graduate students as its 2017-2018 Graduate Fellows.

This year’s group of students represent six different schools/faculties and seven departments from across Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. They bring a vast array of methodological tools and experiences – from biblical and literary scholarship to economic and psychological analysis. As Fellows at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, each shares a common interest in understanding how the world works, and will explore ways in which it can be reformed and improved.

As part of their fellowship with Kenan, the group will meet for seminars and workshops in the fall and spring semesters to share dissertation research and provide each other with fresh interdisciplinary feedback. These seminars are organized and facilitated by Wayne Norman, Mike & Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics, and Amber Diaz, Research Scholar at the Institute. The seminars often feature visiting speakers drawn from the current Fellows’ suggestions.

This year’s collection of graduate students and dissertation topics include:

  • Sarah Jean Barton, Divinity – intellectual disability, theological anthropology, and baptismal practices within diverse faith communities.
  • Eladio Bobadilla, History – immigrant rights movements from 1954 to 2004.
  • Hannah Bondurant, Philosophy – how others inform/transform one’s sense of self and identity.
  • Emma Davenport, English – contract in Victorian literature.
  • Joshua Doyle, Sociology – influence of cultural embeddedness on environmental attitudes.
  • Jae Yun Kim, Management and Organizations, Fuqua – justifying functions of self-help ideology.
  • Anyi Ma, Management and Organizations, Fuqua – conceptualization of agency for gender and leadership.
  • Emily Pechar, Environmental Policy – how identity salience can generate bipartisan support for climate change policies.
  • Christine Ryan, Law – feminist human rights-based approach to abortion law and politics.
  • Bailey Sanders, Political Science – gender stereotypes and regulation of assisted reproduction technologies.
  • Valerie Soon, Philosophy – social norms and practices that create and perpetuate social injustice.
  • Jacob Soule, Literature – contemporary fiction and urban crisis.
  • Jan P. Vogler, Political Science – emergence of public bureaucracies and the emergence of modern administrative organizations.
  • Laurel Wheeler, Economics – local labor demand shock and how land tenure affects economic development.
  • Xiaolu Zang, Public Policy – property rights upon divorce and intra-household allocation of resources from divorce reform in China.

Fellows receive a stipend of $3,000 that supplements their current funding.

Jul 312017
 July 31, 2017

In newly published research in the July 2017 issue of Child Care in Practice, student Louden Richason uses interviews and insight gained through the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeEngage: Dublin program to analyze child protection services for refugees in Ireland.

Richason, who traveled with Kenan to Dublin in 2016 for field research and internship opportunities with TUSLA Family and Child Agency for Separated Children Seeking Asylum, performed extensive interviews with social workers, children and reviewed existing work. “The experience sparked my passion for working with refugees and interest in humanitarian governance and refugee law and policy,” said Richason, a rising junior.

Richason’s paper adds to a limited amount of research focused on best practices for separated children in international settings and finds that Ireland’s example of child services maximizes continuity and support since responding to unhealthy and threatening living arrangements for separated children in the early 2000s.

Because children seeking refuge in foreign countries often end up marginalized and isolated, Richason noted that his paper has potential to spur additional research for other countries as refugee numbers continue to climb globally. The United Nations Refugee Agency counts 22.5 million refugees around the world, over half of whom are under 18 years old. In Ireland specifically, 585 separated children sought asylum between 2010 and 2015, with 518 under 18.

“Given that the number of separated children has been on the rise in Europe since 2010, it is especially important to find sustainable solutions for these children to ensure they can grow up in stable, nurturing environments,” Richason writes in his findings.

From June to August 2016, Richason collected information through observation, interviews and research as part of his stay in Dublin during Kenan’s DukeEngage program. In his paper, he identified 10 areas of analysis that impact an asylum-seeking child’s experience and the approach of Ireland’s Social Work Team for Separated Children Seeking Asylum:

  • Meeting immediate needs during intake
  • Inclusive needs assessment to determine future course of action
  • Family reunification and challenges in DNA testing
  • Age assessments
  • Beginning the asylum process
  • Guiding children after placement in supported, foster or residential living situations
  • Providing an outlet for concerns from the child
  • Aftercare and community support
  • Resource allocation
  • Discretion among social workers

“It’s my hope that the paper can contribute to a more coordinated, equitable response to the refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere,” Richason said. “Separated children seeking asylum are an incredibly vulnerable group and deserve a safe, nurturing environment to grow and develop.”

Click here to for an abstract and access to Richason’s paper, “Social work for separated children seeking asylum in the Republic of Ireland: setting the standard for child-centred care and protection.”

Jul 292017
 July 29, 2017

In a new profile on the Duke Global Health Institute website, former Kenan Institute for Ethics student Leena El-Sadek ’15 is highlighted for her work combining justice and global health, partially inspired by her time in programs at Kenan.

El-Sadek is an alumna of Kenan’s DukeImmerse: Uprooted/Rerouted, the Institute’s co-founded Supporting Women’s Action program, and is a former Bass Connections team member, in which she studied how the resettlement process affects the mental health and well-being of refugees.

“We used life story interviews to understand the effects of forced displacement on health outcomes,” El-Sadek said. “Each country incorporated refugees in their society in a unique way, and I found it fascinating how the differences among the country’s policies and laws could result in completely different experiences.”

El-Sadek now works as a research analyst at RTI International in the Drug, Violence, and Delinquency Prevention program.

Read the full profile here.

Jul 272017
 July 27, 2017

Two rising Duke seniors who were founding members of the Kenan Refugee Project recently presented research to a network of academics and practitioners in Greece as part of the inaugural interdisciplinary conference, Building Bridges in a Complex World.

Maha Ahmed and Maura Smyles worked for three years researching global displacement and interacting with Syrian and Iraqi refugees with findings reported in their paper, “Temporal Experiences as a Force of Oppression: A Case Study of Syrian and Iraqi Refugees in Jordan.” The conference, they said, acted as a culmination of data collected with the help of the Kenan Institute and programs like the Refugee Project and DukeImmerse. The Institute also provided assistance for Ahmed and Smyles to travel to the conference.

“We had the incredible opportunity to not only share our own work, but also learn from and network with many scholars and activists from around the world,” said Ahmed, who has helped grow the Kenan Refugee Project, a community-based research and advocacy effort. “Learning about their incredible work on social justice and human rights issues was both intellectually stimulating and incredibly inspiring for us as first time conference-goers.”

At Building Bridges, Ahmed and Smyles spoke to attendees about findings from their paper, which included 81 interviews between 2014 and 2016 with refugees living in Amman, Jordan. Each interview subject described a typical day, and responses were recorded and coded for references to the passing of time. Ahmed and Smyles found that refugees awaiting resettlement perceived time to be a source of oppression that creates a sense of powerlessness over their daily reality and imagined future.

“We illustrate that the indeterminacy of the resettlement process, which is entirely at the discretion of humanitarian organizations, is oppressive and contributes to an unequal power dynamic between each individual refugee and the humanitarian institution,” they write in the paper.

Ahmed and Smyles noted that their findings add to other financial and cultural capital imbalances between refugees and organizations meant to help them, concluding that policy reforms are needed to reduce the negative impact forced displacement has on the lives of refugees.

Jul 182017
 July 18, 2017

The depth and reach of Duke’s focus to interdisciplinary education has grown tremendously in recent years, and in a new story from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Kenan Institute for Ethics is highlighted as a core component of bringing that to reality.

In the special report, Breaking Down Barriers Across Disciplines, the higher ed news outlet cites support provided by Kenan in 2010 for Edward J. Balleisen’s then-new Rethinking Regulation program, which shifted how faculty could connect on campus.

The Rethinking Regulation Project, now under the leadership of Lori Bennear and Jonathan Wiener, has since supported a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses, research opportunities, a forthcoming book, Policy Shock and more.

“This could never have happened without the structure of the Institute,” Balleisen told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Just assuming that any idea worth exploring is going to happen on its own is actually unrealistic.”

Read more about interdisciplinary education in this story.

Jul 102017
 July 10, 2017

The Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making (MADLAB) program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics has a part in three recently published studies analyzing aspects of empathy, conformity and mind control.

Led by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, research has been published in the journals Social Influence, Cognition and Nature Human Behavior. Sinnott-Armstrong is a co-author for all three studies.

“Morality is an extremely complex topic, so you can’t look at it from just one perspective,” Sinnott-Armstrong said. “The goal of MADLAB is to look at morality and ethics from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives, which is illustrated by this recent collection of studies.”

In addition to providing new insight and research in areas of ethics, morality and science, the work of Sinnott-Armstrong and others will also help lead to philosophical papers about how these findings are relevant to broader ethical issues.

Shaping Moral Judgments Online

Included in Social Influence, Sinnott-Armstrong was part of a team to publish the study “Moral conformity in online interactions: rational justifications increase influence of peer opinions on moral judgments,” which shows how social media can shape moral judgments, noting that rational arguments can be more effective at eliciting conformity than emotional ones. Sinnott-Armstrong worked with Scott Huettel, Duke’s Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor, Duke associate in research Vlad Chituc, and Duke students Meagan Kelly and Lawrence Ngo.

The two-part study first analyzed the use of impersonal statistics such as anonymous “likes” on news stories, which showed that participants would conform to moral attitudes of others when presented with statistical information about how others respond. A second study used carefully phrased descriptions that positioned an action in a positive or negative light through emotional and rational arguments. Both cases showed how a person’s point of view might change through subtle manipulation of online interactions.

“Though it is reasonable to predict that the influence we have on each other’s opinions would be greatly diminished in this detached world,” the authors wrote, “it appears that the power of social influence is retained.”

Implicit Morality

Led by former MADLAB member Daryl Cameron, now director of the Empathy and Moral Psychology Laboratory and an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State University, “Implicit moral evaluations: A multinomial modeling approach” shares insight on how new tests and mathematical models can help capture and quantify implicit moral and empathetic judgments. Research was funded by an incubator award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and findings were published in Cognition.

Sinnott-Armstrong, who helped design studies and edit findings for publication, said greater understanding of human selfishness and lack of concern for others can assist in explaining how to better teach morality. As part of the study, a test was created in which two words were quickly shown in succession – a mixture of morally wrong terms, like “stealing,” and neutral, such as “whistling.” Researchers found a morally wrong phrase that precedes a neutral one can impact a person’s interpretation of the neutral word.

“It shows part of what limits people from being too selfish, harmful, and destructive,” Sinnott-Armstrong explained. “There might be some people who act selfishly because they lack empathy, and others who act selfishly because they lack morality. Understanding the sources of those behaviors can help us figure out how to prevent or treat extreme selfishness.”

Ethics of Mind Control

Sinnott-Armstrong is among an interdisciplinary group of researchers from Duke, the University of Pennsylvania and American University that are calling for new safeguards to guide treatments and protect patients during interventions for mental illnesses and neurological disorders.

In a perspective article published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, “Mind control as a guide for the mind” argues that these interventions should now be thought of as a form of “mind control.” As such, neuroscientists, clinicians and bioethicists should begin looking toward the engineering discipline of control theory as a way to better understand the relationship between brain physiology and mental states. The work began as discussions at Duke’s Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy, co-directed by Sinnott-Armstrong and Felipe De Brigard, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

“We need to think hard about the ensuing ethical issues regarding autonomy, privacy, equality, and enhancement,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

Read more about the research in this story.

Jul 072017
 July 7, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics is accepting applications for its annual Graduate Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year. Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at Duke.

The ideal applicant will be entering the 3rd, 4th or 5th year of their program. The Fellowship comes with a stipend of $3,000 that can supplement all other forms of funding they receive. Fellows are expected to attend a dozen or so special seminars, often involving visiting speakers, during the fall and spring semesters.

Click here for more information about the Graduate Fellowship at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and for a link to the application form. Download and complete the application form, and e-mail it to by noon on July 10.