The purpose of this course is to introduce the graduate students of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) to ethical and social issues that intersect with their disciplines.  Starting with philosophical foundations of ethics and social justice, it will introduce the concepts of privilege, systems of oppression, and institutional bias. It provides a historical perspective on racism and gender bias and on the political movements that brought about positive social change. We closely examine the social, and psychological reasons behind the racial and gender discrimination and their impact on human potential. We connect these ethical and social justice themes to the technological advances in ECE and CS touching on many contemporary issues such as the power of social media on our democracy, algorithmic bias and fairness, energy production and distribution choices, sustainable information technology, and the promise and perils of artificial intelligence.

Course Objectives

1. Difference, Power and Discrimination

Recognize difference, power and discrimination within social systems and their influence on people of diverse backgrounds both inside and outside their discipline.

2. Ethical Analysis of Technology

Recognize and analyze the moral, ethical, and social questions that arise in their discipline.

3. Responsible Conduct of Research

Identify how to conduct scholarly activities in an ethical manner.


Weekly Homework: Students will be required to read 2-3 articles every week and write their   reflections. They will take the online CITI training on responsible conduct of research. Class participation will carry 20% of the weight. For a final project, they will research a topic that covers some social and ethical issues in their discipline, write a paper on it, and do a 15 minute presentation in the class.


Weekly readings and journal writing    30%

CITI online training on RCR                   10%

Classroom participation                          20%

Final report and presentation                 40%


Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098. DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.

Collaborations and Student Conduct

This is a highly collaborative class. You are encouraged to work together and respectfully discuss various issues with one another. Some of the conversations surround sensitive issues such as race and gender and can be uncomfortable. Please be respectful for others' opinions, even when you strongly disagree. One goal of the class is to develop mutual understanding and empathy for each other despite our differences of social background, upbringing, and belief systems.

I hope that this class gives you plenty of opportunities to learn:

  • how to disagree without being disagreeable
  • how to be firm without being rude
  • how to listen without being judgmental, and
  • how to respect opinions that may be widely different from your own.

Useful Links

  • To report an incident of bias (e.g. due to racism or bigotry) at OSU: go here.
  • To report an ethics violation at OSU: go here.
  • To report a student conduct violation or incidents of harassment, bullying or discrimination at OSU, go here.


Course Summary:

Date Details