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Annual ethics symposium to focus on challenges facing cities

The 16th annual Fall Ethics Symposium, organized by Sac State's Center for Practical and Professional Ethics, will focus on the challenges facing cities like Sacramento.

Cities including Sacramento face myriad challenges – from affordable housing and gentrification, to racial, social, and economic inequality – often with seemingly no solutions.

Sacramento State over two weeks will bring together experts from a range of disciplines to examine these issues during the 16th annual Fall Ethics Symposium, sponsored by the University’s Center for Practical and Professional Ethics.

Kyle Swan, an associate professor of Philosophy and director of the center, hopes this year’s event, “Ethics and the City,” can influence public debate on these issues by providing nonpartisan resources to help community members make informed judgments.

“People already care about these issues. They’re in the news every day,” Swan said. “I overhear people complaining about housing costs and a growing homeless population, but they don’t always have a good handle on how we’ve found ourselves with these problems.

“They care about the right things, but have a false or incomplete understanding of what will help.”

Swan said the center’s main goal in putting together each year’s symposium is to select a topic of broad interest and pressing concern, which speakers then attempt to clarify with ethical analysis.

Cities fit the bill perfectly, he said.

“Cities clearly have the potential to be powerful engines of well-being,” he said. “They certainly have been in the past. But they face many problems, which are making it harder for people to cash in on this potential equitably.”

The symposium, which will be held entirely on Zoom, kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 29, when Ryan Muldoon, an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Buffalo, will talk about how cities have the potential to generate what he calls “inclusive freedom.”

Eric van Holm, research data analyst at the California Department of Justice, will talk Tuesday, Oct. 5, about the “wicked roots” of the process of neighborhood gentrification, and Seton Hall University Assistant Professor of Economics Paola Suarez will discuss the participation of women in the “gig” economy Thursday, Oct. 7.

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, consultant Jesus Hernandez will discuss how city planning has been an impediment to racial, social and economic equity. The symposium concludes Wednesday, Oct. 13, with Rob Wassmer, Sacramento State Public Policy and Administration chair, diagnosing the roots of California’s housing affordability crisis.

One of the event’s strengths, Swan said, is that it draws experts from a wide variety of fields.

“Applying ethics can be very difficult,” he said. “It’s not as simple as pulling some uncontroversial moral principle out of the philosopher’s toolkit and making it a policy that will get everyone to act in the appropriate way.

“Our speakers come from different disciplines, but they also occupy different perspectives.”

More information and registration for any of the sessions can be found on the Center for Practical and Professional Ethics web page.

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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