Higher education addresses global ethical challenges

A new initiative in higher education was launched last week as the leaders of six American…

Georgia (Sep 23, 2005) — Higher education addresses global ethical challenges

Frances Weyand


Contact: Frances Weyand‚ Director of University Relations‚ 770−423−6203 or fweyand@kennesaw.edu

A new initiative in higher education was launched last week as the leaders of six American universities gathered at England’s Oxford University for a four−day conclave on the responsibilities of higher education in addressing the global ethical challenges of the 21st century.

“We have witnessed in the past decade ethical failures in all walks of life: business‚ sports‚ government and even religion‚” said Dr. Betty L. Siegel‚ president of Kennesaw State University (KSU) and chair of the conclave. “As leaders in higher education‚ we have admitted with some chagrin that many‚ if not most‚ of the persons involved in society’s scandals have been products of our universities and colleges.”

The Oxford Conclave on Global Ethics and the Changing University Presidency was conducted by KSU’s RTM Institute for Leadership‚ Ethics & Character. It marked the beginning of an ongoing collaboration of the participating universities‚ with plans to involve many other institutions in coming months. Held at Oxford’s historic Balliol College‚ the gathering included delegations from KSU; University of Alaska‚ Anchorage; City University of New York‚ Staten Island; University of North Dakota; Utah Valley State University; and University of West Georgia.

The delegates—university presidents and members of their leadership teams—studied global trends and considered their implications for higher education. These included trends in population growth‚ resource management‚ technological change‚ knowledge development‚ economic integration‚ conflict patterns and institutional governance. Discussions focusing on ethical leadership were led by distinguished thinkers including Dr. Lawrence Carter‚ dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College; Frances Hesselbein‚ chairman of the board of governors of the Leader to Leader Institute; Dr. Howard Gardner‚ the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Sir Timothy Lankester‚ president of Corpus Christi College‚ Oxford University. Mr. John Hume‚ 1998 Nobel Peace Prize laureate‚ was unable to attend due to illness; in recognition of his inspiration of the conclave‚ the meeting and future programs were dedicated to him.

The Oxford program was facilitated by Dr. Judith Stillion‚ executive director of the RTM Institute‚ and Dr. John C. Knapp‚ president of the Southern Institute for Business & Professional Ethics and professor of ethical leadership at KSU. In an exploration of higher education’s role in today’s global society‚ the university leaders focused on the need to produce a generation of ethical leaders capable of functioning effectively in an increasingly complex world.

An important outcome of the conclave was a draft Statement of Beliefs and Responsibilities based on a “strong imperative for global ethical leadership” and the obligation of higher education to collaborate with other sectors of society in pursuit of a “dynamic plan for a more promising future.” The statement calls for university leaders to work to increase access to quality education; emphasize research relevant to the challenges facing a global society; broaden their commitment to service in society; actively model ethical leadership and civil discourse; and further the time−honored role of higher education in pursuing truth and meaning. It also calls for strengthened commitments to interdisciplinary exploration of global problems and the development of students’ capacities for ethical leadership‚ moral reasoning‚ conflict resolution and the discovery of individual purpose. The statement will be presented at the fall meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities with an invitation to others to endorse it.

Siegel said the conclave was held at Oxford‚ in part‚ because of the university’s historical significance. “Oxford represents much of higher education’s heritage‚ including some of the nobler ideals of the university and its purpose. As we look to the future‚ it is helpful to remember our roots.”

A series of activities will be held over the next year‚ culminating in summer 2006 with a larger conclave at Oxford involving a larger number of American institutions.


The RTM Institute for Leadership‚ Ethics & Character‚ sponsor of the conference‚ is the cornerstone of Kennesaw State efforts to establish a consistent focus on ethical leadership and global understanding throughout its curriculum‚ student development activities and community services. Founded four years ago‚ the institute provides faculty training‚ programs for community leaders‚ conferences for scholars and many other services to support the university in this commitment. One of RTM’s best−known programs‚ developed at the request of the governor of Georgia‚ involves ethics orientation sessions for hundreds of state government officials.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu