Frank, provocative discussion of difficult periods in American history--from slavery to Jim Crow to the Red Scare--is standard fare for students in the Master’s in Ethics and Public Policy program.

The students tackled these and other ethical issues in American history at a special conference analyzing the book Confronting Injustice: Moral History and Political Theory by prominent political theorist David Lyons (pictured).

Each master’s student presented on a chapter from Lyons’ book, with the author himself seated right in the front row. Lyons attended the event to both introduce the book and comment on the students’ analysis.

Mandeep Minhas, a first-year student in the EPP program and a former communications coordinator for the Obama Presidential Campaign, discussed a chapter in Lyons’ book addressing reparations for descendants of former slaves.

“I had to be careful to discriminate between his words and my thoughts throughout the talk,” Minhas said. “I often referenced quotes from the chapter I was covering to support my points and he would smile, pick up his pen, and scribble a few points down to address in his closing lecture.”

Minhas and his classmates’ presentations went beyond simply summarizing the chapters; they also brought their own criticisms and potential solutions to the table. Minhas agrees with Lyons’ call for reparations, but proposed affirmative action as his own solution.

“This conference was an exercise in critical thinking and academic presentation for our students and an opportunity for the community to reflect on the legacy of deeply problematic and formative moments in American political history,” said Professor Nir Eisikovits, professor of philosophy and director of the Ethics and Public Policy program.

Lyons found the conference format unique and beneficial for the students’ professional growth, and was also grateful for the additional discussion the presentations provoked. “I continue to work on the issues addressed in the book, so the conference provided thoughtful feedback and an opportunity to express some of my further thoughts on the topics,” he said.

The debate will continue for Minhas and his classmates as well, as they complete their Master’s program. “The EPP program has been a great experience,” Minhas said. “I wish to pursue law school in a couple of years and the matters of ethics and public policy go hand in hand with my future career interests.”