Project: The Good University: Excellence and Ethics in the Pursuit of Inquiry

Position: PI

Description: As access to higher education expands, tuitions rise, and student activism gains visibility and media attention, public concern over the aims of colleges and universities is also increasing. Institutions are being called to advance what often appear to be conflicting goals: to provide safe spaces for all students and to protect freedom of expression; to build more inclusive communities of students, faculty, and staff and to prioritize the pursuit of inquiry above all else. Demands for inclusion have been particularly contentious, with critics arguing that inclusivity threatens the quality of inquiry. This project takes a social virtue epistemological approach to exploring the aims of higher education institutions and to justifying inclusion. I begin with the assumption that one central aim of higher education institutions is to engage in inquiry in order to advance knowledge and understanding. I, then, ask: How is the aim of pursuing inquiry understood both philosophically and practically by four-year colleges and universities? Given the intellectual aims of the university, as well as the social embeddedness of the pursuit of these aims, are particular virtues vital both for epistemic success and epistemic justice? How should institutions embody these virtues in their structures, policies, and practices? I aim to defend a robust conception of epistemic inclusion (and associated virtues) that has implications not only for who has access to the epistemic goods produced by colleges and universities, but also for policies and programs that impact campus climate and institutional structures that support epistemic justice.

This project is funded through a research grant from the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin.