A recent gift from University of Mississippi alumnus Dean Douglas will support a campus entity focused on developing practical solutions to pressing and contentious moral and political issues.
The donor’s gift establishes the Dean J. Douglas Fund for The Center for Practical Ethics (TCPE), which fosters civil dialogue and collaboration on a range of ethical issues through public events and programming.
“The gift is about creating the awareness that this organization exists and is a focus area for the university,” said Douglas of Oxford, Mississippi. “It’s about trying to figure out how each of the schools – the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Business Administration, etc. – would embrace a set of institutional as well as personal ethics for people who are earning Ole Miss degrees.
“But building awareness will take more than just press releases,” he continued. “This gift stems from a desire to get real people who have a passion for or understanding of these subjects to discuss them, bringing to bear all sides of issues and having a discourse about them.”
Douglas’ gift will enable the center to establish programs that appeal to students and the community at large while providing resources for speakers to visit campus to address ethical issues.
For example, a TCPE Policy Talks event for 2024 is “When Human Narratives and AI Meet: Responsible Design and User Protection.” Previous Policy Talks include “Medical Cannabis Research and Education at State Universities” (2023) and “Big Data and Tech in the Delivery of Health Care in Rural America” (2022).
Policy Talks bring academics, alumni, business and industry experts, officials and community members together to focus on the ethical issues surrounding a timely topic and to seek informed solutions from a variety of perspectives and fields.
Through a day of presentations and conversations, panelists and attendees learn about recent industry practices, explore current academic educational and research models, and consider ethical challenges and goals. Policy Talks provide a unique opportunity for participants to network and engage in collaborative recommendations, “best practices” guidelines and ethically informed policy solutions.
“We are focused on pragmatic solutions to real-world policy problems and our events produce deliverables,” such as ethical guidelines, white papers, blog posts or policy proposals, said Deborah Mower, the center’s director.
Examples of such problems include the moral implications of certain technologies, the ethics of health care and medicine, the morality of war and violence, and the ethics of business and economics.
“Practical ethics is concerned with the moral problems that people face in both their personal and professional lives and how we can make moral decisions that are just and fair,” Mower said.
“We are extremely grateful for Dean’s generous gift in support of our work and mission,” she continued. “He is helping us give more individuals the tools to analyze complex concepts while engaging in thoughtful conversations.”
Douglas believes ethics on many levels are being undermined.
“For example, it’s difficult to know what to believe in the press today. One group is saying one thing; another group is saying another about the same subject,” he said. “Irrespective of your politics, that gets to be pretty concerning.
“On top of that, more and more folks are using a relatively loose moral compass to work through issues and ideas. There seems to be a lack of focus on personal ethos and I’m of a generation where personal ethos was essential. Having a discourse without it devolving into insults is important.”
Most recently, Douglas served as CEO and president of Syniverse, a software firm focused on telecommunications. Previously, he was president of the enterprise segment of CenturyLink, a division that accounted for $10 billion of the company’s $16 billion in revenues. He formerly was CEO of Unify, where he led conversion to a provider of software-based, enterprise-unified communications.
During his career, Douglas also served as CEO of the Westcon Group and LCC International, held an executive role at Motorola and lived abroad for many years, leading international business ventures for his employers.
Douglas attended DePauw University in Indiana for two years before transferring to Ole Miss, where he joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
The Dean J. Douglas Fund for The Center for Practical Ethics is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Those interested can mail a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS, 38655, or click here.
For more information, contact Angela Brown, senior director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3181.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation