Spring virtual book clubs examine ethical questions

Contact: Sandra Borden

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—What are the responsibilities of political parties and citizens in making democracy work? Who profits from political violence? Should medical care be rationed during a pandemic? How do we understand the deep hierarchical system underlining who has power and who does not in every society? These topics will be discussed during a series of virtual book clubs hosted by Western Michigan University's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society beginning Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Participants will purchase and read four books and join virtual discussions on Webex. Fill out this form to register. After registering, participants will receive details about meetings and instructions for joining the discussions. The first 10 people to sign up for each book club receive a free copy of the book mail to them, courtesy of the series partner, Humanities for Everybody.

  • "Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself" (2018) by Frances McCall Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro, discussion led by Norman W. Hawker, professor of finance and commercial law, from 4 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Feb. 9, 16 and 23. The book questions the conventional wisdom of decentralizing politics, arguing that the way to restore confidence in democracies is to strengthen political parties. Using his experience working for numerous partisan and non-partisan political campaigns and organizations since 1976, Hawker discusses the responsibilities of political parties and citizens in making democracy work.
  • "End of Policing" (2018) by Alex S. Vitale, discussion led by William Santiago-Valles, associate professor emeritus of Africana Studies, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. Vitale, professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, argues that reforms focused on accountability and training will not succeed in ending police violence. Rather, alternatives to policing itself, such as restorative justice, are needed.
  • "Lock-In" (2015) by John Scalzi, discussion led by Tyler Gibb, co-chief of the program in medical ethics, humanities and law at WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, March 2, 16 and 30. In this dystopian medical science fiction/police procedural/murder mystery, a pandemic sweeps through the globe with mild effects except for the unlucky few: a syndrome in which they are fully conscious but cannot move or speak. This book raises questions about rationing medical care, discrimination in public spaces and other timely ethical themes.
  • "Caste" (2020) by Isabel Wilkerson, discussion led by Kathy Purnell, staff attorney for Justice for Our Neighbors and part-time instructor in the WMU School of Public Affairs and Administration, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, April 7, 14 and 21. The book raises questions about the political and personal destructiveness of categories that unjustly pit us against each other. Wilkerson describes the pillars of this system and how they manifest in different times and places, including the United States, India and Nazi Germany.

Students are able to earn WMU Signature credit for any book club for which they attend all scheduled meetings of said book. To learn more, visit the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society website.

About the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society

In August 1985, the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society was created after WMU faculty across the curriculum met to discuss their common interests in studying and teaching ethics. Each academic year, the center sponsors a number of public presentations addressing a wide range of ethical issues.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.