Former Ethicist columnist at New York Times to speak at Union

Publication Date

Emmy-award winning writer, humorist and ethics expert Randy Cohen will speak Monday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

His talk, “How to Be Good,” will explore why people don’t behave virtuously and how to create communities in neighborhoods, schools and businesses where people are likely to behave admirably. The talk is free and open to the public.

Cohen is best known as the author of the weekly “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times magazine, which he wrote from 1999 until recently. The column was syndicated as “Everyday Ethics” to dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. The Good, the Bad and the Difference, a book based upon the column, is available in paperback from Broadway Books.

Cohen was a regular contributor on ethical questions to the weekend edition of the National Public Radio program All Things Considered. A graduate of the University at Albany, he is developing a show about ethics for public radio called A Question of Ethics.

Cohen won three Emmys as a writer for Late Night with David Letterman and a fourth for his writing on Fox Network’s TV Nation. He was also the lead writer for The Rosie O’Donnell Show, where he co-wrote the theme music.

Cohen is the author of a collection of short stories (Diary of a Flying Man) and letters (Modest Proposals). His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Slate magazine, the Washington Post, Harper's and the Atlantic Monthly.

Cohen’s talk is sponsored by the College’s Scholars Program. Additional sponsors include the Dean of Studies Office, the Office of Postgraduate Fellowships, the Leadership in Medicine Program, Ethics Across the Curriculum and the Philosophy Department.

Union's Ethics Across the Curriculum program was recently featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education. At many colleges and universities, faculty in the philosophy department typically teach students about ethics. Since 2006, Union’s approach has been to make ethics a staple of classroom discussion across the board in more than 50 courses, from physics to photography. It is modeled after a pilot project that introduced ethics into the economics curriculum.