UCSD dean Jeff Elman sought to raise cash for Nathan Fletcher post.
  • UCSD dean Jeff Elman sought to raise cash for Nathan Fletcher post.
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

In recent years, University of California auditors have unearthed a range of shortcomings, including questionable expenses by wealthy UCSD professors. “Travel and entertainment reimbursements were not always submitted in a timely manner, and some travel was not preauthorized,” recounted a March 23 report. “Management has decided to cancel the Department Chair’s Express Card, and will limit provision of Express Cards to approved selected personnel.”

In another case, social science dean Jeff Elman stepped down in 2014 after emails revealed he had talked about raising money from Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs to pay for the part-time professorship of Nathan Fletcher, a Jacobs-favored politico now running for county supervisor. “My guess is that there are people like Irwin Jacobs and others who have contributed to Fletcher [redacted] and they might be willing to provide these monies — or even more.”

Now the school has come up with a new Institute for Practical Ethics to light its way as the university’s tax-funded scientific breakthroughs increasingly allow manipulation of the human genome for handsome professorial profits. “UC San Diego is one of the world’s greatest producers of technology, medical innovations, and scientific knowledge,” says an October 2 announcement by the school.

“These developments can offer great benefits to humanity, but they often raise urgent ethical questions. The aim of the Institute for Practical Ethics is to help close the gap between the pace of innovation and our ability to deal with these questions responsibly.” According to the release, the freshly minted organization will have “a holistic vision, one that is focused on the theoretical and pragmatic aspects of ethical problems, founded on a partnership among social scientists, natural scientists and humanists, and attentive to both social and individual-level problems.”

Charged with keeping the new body from turning into the Institute of Transactional Ethics are philosophy professor Craig Callender and sociology professor John Evans, who “has particularly focused on ethical debates about human genetics, the relationship between religion and science, and the social structure of the field of bioethics.”

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


monaghan Oct. 12, 2017 @ 5:01 p.m.

Every word in this Reader story about UCSD's new "Institute for Practical Ethics" is loaded and tells us about the state of affairs at San Diego's top-tier academic research center, as well as many others just like it across the country. It will be a tall order to "close the gap between the pace of innovation" and the greed of scientists who have been profiting personally from their "university's tax-funded scientific breakthroughs." And no word whether the Institute's philosopher and sociologist chairmen will wield actual veto power over anything or if there will be an additional stipend for their deliberations.


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader