Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values will close June 2010

The Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values at Washington University will close, effective June 30, 2010. Many of the programs and work on ethics and human values will transition over the next year to the schools and other parts of the University.

The decision comes in the wake of significant shortfalls in funding for the center in the form of major gifts and endowment.

“Washington University and the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values are deeply grateful for the leadership, determination and imagination that Ira Kodner, M.D., the center’s director and the Solon and Bettie Gershman Professor of Surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine, has provided from the inception of the center,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., provost, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. As the center’s director, Kodner led a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort to launch a Palliative Care Program in 2005 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

“His commitment and his insight have been invaluable,” Macias said. “His work has been ably supported by Stuart Yoak, Ph.D., executive officer, and Judy O’Leary, administrative assistant.”

When the center was founded in 2003, its operations were predicated on the creation of a significant endowment to support it as a forum for examining some of the important ethical issues confronting society and humanity and to serve as a resource for studies of human values by faculty, students and the community.

Unfortunately, the requisite major gifts necessary for such an endowment did not materialize, and the prospects for such gifts are not likely to be realized — following a concerted effort to generate support.

Instead, the resources necessary to operate the center were provided as a subsidy by the schools of the University on a temporary basis. As University and school budgets have come to reflect the status of the global economy, it became apparent that without significant permanent, endowed funding, the center will need to transfer its operations to programs located within the schools of the University. For example, the center’s programs in medicine and medical ethics could become part of the School of Medicine.

“While the university regrets the need to discontinue the center as originally conceived, we are confident that programs within the schools of the University will continue to focus on many of the issues that the center was designed to address,” Macias said.

Among the accomplishments the center has achieved include the establishment of an endowed lectureship; support for lectures, workshops and debates; and several faculty and student research projects.

Gifts that have been made to the center will be applied toward maintaining future efforts consistent with the center’s goals and projects.

The University hopes to maintain the center’s momentum in developing dialogue and awareness for important ethics and human values issues through the efforts of school-based programs.

During its six years, the center has organized more than 200 programs with presentations made by more than 300 faculty and guest speakers, and it has awarded grants for ethics research and fellowships to more than 60 faculty and students at Washington University.

In its outreach efforts, the center has interacted with community leaders in such areas as law, medicine, social services, government and religion.