The Ethics of Passing and Disability Disclosure in Higher Education
This talk will explore if or when one has an ethical duty to disclose their disability as a faculty member. It will explore such topics as: Who do you have a responsibility to disclose your disability to and why? Do faculty specifically have an ethical obligation to disclose their disability that is entailed by their role? How do you judge whether the ethical reasons you may have for disclosure are outweighed by your own self-interest to avoid the harms of disability stigma and discrimination by passing? Does one have an obligation to disclose all disabilities or is there reason to disclose some disabilities more than others? Ultimately, I will use the methodology of narrative identity and ethics, as developed by Hilde Lindemann, to argue that there are some ethically salient reasons for some faculty members to disclose their disability some of the time, but this duty is not absolute and can be outweighed by other considerations. The ethical reasons for disclosure arise from the notion that a person’s identity is never a private matter, but always relational in nature because human agency is relational. That is, a person is always constrained by others when making the choices that express who they are. However, these relational constraints are not permanent or static, but can be tightened or loosened, allowing for lesser or greater self-determination in matters of identity. Constraints placed on the identity and agency of those with less power are loosened when those with more power open up the social space necessary for acting according to a chosen personal identity. One effective way to open up this social space for disability identity to flourish is for you yourself to identify as disabled. To translate this argument into the institutional structures of higher education, faculty, especially permanent, tenured faculty, sometimes have an obligation to disclose their own disability identity to create the social space for other disabled people with less institutional power to flourish within the academy.
About Dr. Stramondo
Dr. Joseph Stramondo is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs at San Diego State University. He holds a PhD in philosophy and MA in Public Policy Studies. Broadly, his teaching and research focus on how social and political forces shape the institutions and practices of bio-medicine in morally significant ways. Namely, he studies how various systems of oppression – especially those pertaining to disability – have influenced bioethical thought, education, policy, and practice. He has published more than 20 scholarly articles and book chapters on topics including: informed consent procedures, moral conflict in medicine, prenatal diagnosis and selection, organ transplantation, physician aid in dying, rationing critical care, assistive technology, and brain computer interface technology. Currently, he is co-authoring a book tentatively titled Learning How to Look in Bioethics: Race, Gender, Disability, and Sexuality, currently under contract with Routledge. In addition, he has a second book proposal under review: The Ethics of Choosing Disability.