Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Friday, May 24, 2019 — Houston, TX 88°

Editorial: News of CRISPR babies highlights need for better ethics curriculum

By Thresher Editorial Staff     11/28/18 11:10am

Rice’s connection to the world’s first genetically altered babies is alarming. Not only was a former Rice graduate student leading the research, but an active Rice faculty member has academic and financial stakes in the project. Rice released a statement that the work is inconsistent with the ethical norms of the university. But the troubling truth is that while Rice students are introduced to the honor code during Orientation Week, most will go their entire undergraduate experience without a crash course, let alone a comprehensive one, in ethics.

Rice’s bioengineering program is ranked No. 9 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and has consistently been lauded for groundbreaking research. Despite these accolades, Rice lags behind in its ethics curriculum. Peer institutions like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania require students to take an ethics course before graduating. Rice has no such requirement. In fact, ethics courses themselves are easy to avoid; while a few courses in a smattering of departments cover ethics, none are required for a degree.

Although the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology requires that universities educate students on ethics, at Rice, the ethics curriculum in most engineering disciplines is not a required standalone course. Instead, discussion of ethics takes place during other more technical courses, such as Thermal Design for mechanical engineering students. 



Simply integrating a brief discussion of ethics into existing classes is not enough. To support all academic disciplines, Rice should follow its peer institutions and develop a comprehensive ethics curriculum by expanding its ethics course offerings, adding ethics requirements and integrating ethics into more coursework. Perhaps this could have led the CRISPR researchers to reconsider their actions before violating Rice’s ethical norms. 



More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 5/10/19 11:07am
Martel College senior Muna Uzodike to speak at graduation

“I truly believe we find our unique purpose in that space, because no one can be copied to the T,” Uzodike said. “We have a lot to bring to the table and I just want to remind people that no matter what space they find themselves in, they should never abandon the traits, gifts or skills that make them unique.”

OPINION 5/5/19 9:20pm
Companies need to remember the inclusion part of diversity and inclusion

Companies should strive to go beyond “quotas” for underrepresented groups as their measure of diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are reflected in how marginalized groups are treated by others, the opportunities available to these groups and the amount of respect given to a person’s voice. Even if a company has an equal demographic split, can they really say they are diverse or inclusive if select people experience bias or lack opportunities for success?

NEWS 4/27/19 5:49pm
The Hoot to stop selling Chick-fil-A

Student-run business The Hoot announced Wednesday that they would no longer serve food from fast food chain Chick-fil-A beginning next fall, citing misalignment between Chick-fil-A’s corporate values and The Hoot’s values. The Hoot’s announcement on Facebook garnered over 350 reactions and over 150 comments at time of publication, with students and alumni voicing varying opinions on the decision. 


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.