Campus & Community

Undergraduate grant recipients will tackle ethical issues

3 min read

Six Harvard College students have been awarded the first annual Lester Kissel Grants in Practical Ethics to carry out summer projects on subjects ranging from Indias market in human organs to the role of luck in legal responsibility. The students will use the grants to conduct research in the United States or abroad, and to write reports, articles, or senior theses. Three of the students will carry out their projects on internships or foreign study. Each grant supports living and research expenses up to $3,000.

The recipients were selected by a committee under the auspices of the University-wide Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, which administers the grants.

“We were impressed with the quality of the applicants and the importance of the topics in our first year of offering these grants,” said Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy Dennis F. Thompson, director of the Ethics Center. “I am confident that these students not only will learn more about the ethical topics they are investigating, but also will produce work that will help the rest of us better understand the issues.”

The recipients are as follows:

Kevin Gan, a junior in Leverett House, will study the ethics of health care reform in the context of the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa. As a member of a team from Harvard Medical School, Gan will evaluate responsibility distribution and resource management of proposed models of HIV-related care.

Keith Hemmert, a junior philosophy concentrator, will carry out senior thesis research on luck and personal responsibility in ethics and law. He will explore the tensions between our basic intuitions about personal responsibility and the influence of luck on our ethical and legal judgments.

Kelly Heuer, a junior in Cabot House, will undertake honors thesis research in Beijing on a topic in ethics and value theory as it relates to justice and individual rights. She will contrast perspectives from Chinese philosophy (particularly Confucian Humanism) with the more analytic ideology of the Western canon.

Loui Itoh, a junior in Quincy House, will consider the topic: “Do Professions of Faith Violate Public Reason? The Legitimacy of Religious Argument in Public Decision Making.” She will research the issue of legitimacy of religious argument in decision making, and investigate whether American politicians abide by the limits imposed on religious speech by political philosophers.

Om Lala, a senior at Kirkland House, will study the ethical considerations of, and incentive schemes for, designing strategies that address the problem of India’s market in human organs. Lala will ask: “What ethical principles make organ selling wrong? Do different principles apply in developing countries? Which policies best optimize both practical and ethical standards?”

Jillian London, a junior at Adams House, will research the political and ethical implications of intervening, without their consent, in the lives of individuals with mental disorders and/or drug abuse problems so as to provide them with medical care and rehabilitation. To gain an international perspective, she will undertake her research in London.

The Lester Kissel Grants are made possible by a gift from the late Harvard Law School graduate and longtime benefactor of Harvard’s ethics programs. For application forms and further details about the grants, contact Stephanie Dant at (617) 495- 1336, or visit