For Undergraduates

The USC College of Arts & Sciences is now offering an innovative undergraduate course – Social Advocacy & Ethical Life (SAEL 200).  

Taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by South Carolina’s new General Education Curriculum – the Carolina Core – SAEL 200 serves as an “overlay course,” a course that meets the Carolina Core’s outcomes for Oral Communication and Values, Ethics, and Social Responsibility.


Advocacy builds ethical life just as ethics sustains the work of advocacy

In the last several years, the United States has seen and heard myriad calls for civic engagement, civility, and active citizenship. Many of these calls are directed to college students. As the argument goes, it is important that undergraduates recognize the diversity of experience, interest, and identity, undertake cross-cultural community-building, and play a greater role in political deliberation. These are all important ideas. Yet, for all their good intentions, many institutional and civil society proposals to foster engagement and renew the promise of citizenship remain naïve to the questions of advocacy and ethics on which they rest.

 Speaking up is not always easy. There are no guarantees that anyone is listening. Social cohesion initiatives may promote unity at the cost of enforced consensus. Calls for public engagement rarely account for the pervasive disinterest that deters individuals from entering into collective discussion at the same time that they afford few insights into how to generate interaction and constructive debate in the face of difference, deep political disagreement, and the deeply ingrained assumption that speaking is a far cry from acting. The promise of civic deliberation often overlooks that its vision of decision-making can be pre-structured to ensure the exclusion of particular perspectives and to foreclose discussion of what counts as reasonable and ethical interaction.

Social Advocacy & Ethical Life is a course that seeks to provide Carolina’s undergraduates with the critical and practical skills needed to: 1) question the meaning and importance of contemporary calls for civility, engaged citizenship, and political deliberation, 2) investigate the roots, power, and limits of ethical discourse and its relevance to social and political decision-making, and 3) develop a working understanding of the principles of social advocacy and the ways in which oral communication serves to construct, support, and remake the grounds of ethical interaction.

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Read more about the Carolina Core