Ethics/Religion and Society Program

Course Criteria for E/RS Status

  1. While preserving the integrity of the discipline from which it comes, the course integrates in a substantive way the ethical and/or religious analysis of a socially significant issue or issues.
    • “Substantive” integration means that the incorporation of moral reflection and/or religious analysis is neither peripheral nor incidental, but rather is central and intentional. Simply devoting one or two classes in the semester to ethical and/or religious analysis is inadequate. Substantive integration is to be demonstrated explicitly in the course's structure, choice of required texts, and assignments.
    • “Socially significant” means that the issue under study constitutes an important dimension of society and has implications that go far beyond its effects upon isolated individuals.
    • “Ethical and/or religious analysis” entails that the course engages in ethical and/or religious reflection in a way that is consistent with the appropriate methods of the discipline in which the course is offered. (In some cases, disciplinary methods cannot be used for ethical and religious reflection. However, the ethical or religious reflection should harmonize with the professor’s main discipline. For instance, chemical analyses could be combined with a discussion of whether certain toxins have unjust effects on certain segments of society.)

  2. The course is clearly identified as an E/RS course.
    • Minimally, this means that the course syllabus clearly states the course's status as an E/RS course and that the course description explicitly describes how the course intends to meet E/RS objectives.
    • Ideally, this means that, in addition, the professor of the course regularly draws the students’ attention explicitly to the E/RS objectives of the course.
  3. The course provides regular and substantive opportunities for critical discussion.
    • Although the professor may identify a set of values and principles according to which the social issue can be analyzed, the professor creates an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable to express their judgments.

    • By encouraging free discussion and critical reflection, the professor helps students to consider different points of view and to appreciate the complexity of issues.

    • A strictly lecture format is discouraged.

  4. The course complements, in some demonstrable way, the other required courses that make up the E/RS Focus.
    • Minimally, this means that the professor of the E/RS course has some awareness of the content of the three required E/RS courses and makes occasional connections to one or more of them. 
    • Ideally, this means that the professor has a good grasp of the content of the three required E/RS courses and makes regular and relevant connections to them.


Faculty who wish to propose an E/RS elective should consult the Guidelines for Submission of a Proposed Ethics/ Religion and Society Course (revised Fall 2019).

Samples of recent E/RS Course Proposals and Syllabi:

Health Services Administration 390, Foundations of Healthcare Ethics and Law
Theology 366, Early Christianity in Rome