CICC Events Focus on Ethical Issues

CICC Events Focus on Ethical Issues


Two Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC) events that concern themselves with ethical issues take place Tuesday, March 5, at SUNY Cortland.

The first, which continues the CICC’s semester-long focus on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is a screening of the BBC film "The Way of the Flesh." It takes place at 4 p.m. at the Dowd Gallery, located temporarily on the third floor of Main Street SUNY Cortland, at 9 Main St.

A talk by Robert Shetterly, the artist who created the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibition running currently at the Dowd Gallery, follows at 7 p.m. in Sperry Center, Room 205.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, an associate professor of philosophy at the College, will introduce the film that inspires the first event. The documentary concerns itself with the story told in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the 2010 non-fiction book about race and medical ethics. In it, author Rebecca Skloot details the experiences of a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, have proven vital in gene mapping, cloning and the development of vaccines, generating millions of dollars never seen by Lacks or her family.

Filmmaker Adam Curtis produced a one-hour film about Lacks and her cells in the late 1990s — before the best-selling book was published — as a way to explain the significance of her contributions to genetic research.

"The Way of the Flesh" eventually earned distinction for the best science and nature documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The Maine-based Shetterly will continue the ethical discussion in the evening with a lecture about his “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibition on display at the Beard and Dowd galleries. His talk will consider larger questions about how the art relates to ethics, resistance and social justice.

Shetterly began his work on the collection because of the frustration he felt about the war in Iraq. He believed President George W. Bush’s administration leveraged propaganda about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as justification for war and he originally set out to paint 50 portraits, one for each state.

To date, he has created more than 150.

According to Shetterly, the painting subjects gaze back at the viewer with an invitation to act.

“I was determined to use the portraits and the words of the subjects as an act of defiance against the lies of an administration leading the American people into unnecessary and illegal wars,” Shetterly stated. “The fantasy was that I could, by painting the portraits of these courageous people, evoke their spirits in some way to help us now.”

Twenty-eight portraits from the collection are on display at the College’s Beard and Dowd galleries, including a special, posthumous one of William “Bill” Griffen ’50, the former peace activist and SUNY Cortland professor of foundations and social advocacy.

The art display runs through Saturday, March 9, and admission to the galleries is free and open to the public.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Both galleries are closed Sundays and Mondays.

Shetterly’s talk is sponsored by CICC; the Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice; the Campus Artist and Lecture Series; the School of Education; and the Philosophy Department.

For more information, contact Fitz-Gibbon at 607-753-2016.