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Senior lecturer Elizabeth Karns works at a computer in her office .

Data Science Ethics Course Provides Roadmap

Joyce Gorospe MILR ’24 and Britt Snider MILR ’24 are among the dozens of students who experienced the immersive video “Nobody’s Fault” in the “Integrated Ethics in Data Science” class taught this year by ILR Senior Lecturer Liz Karns.

It is part of a growing emphasis at ILR on data science learning.

Gorospe and Snider shared their impressions of the class and the video in interviews.

What were your greatest takeaways from the class?

Gorospe: It made clear that we need to be asking: What are the ethical implications of this product that we’re creating? How will this algorithm we’re building affect certain populations? What does that mean, and should we care about it? We need to be having more of these conversations.

The class also taught me that I have agency and that I can take difficult stances, even when they’re unpopular. You do it because you have your set of values, you know what’s right and what’s wrong, you know that your actions have real consequences. Professor Karns talks a lot about these values that you need to develop in order to do that. Not only does she say we need to do this, she gives us a roadmap for how to do it.

Snider: For me, it was identifying the ethical decisions one has to make when you’re at work, and knowing how to deal with them.

How did you react to the video?

Snider: The video gave us real-world, in-time experience with these ethical dilemmas. Seeing them play out and having to make decisions, I felt that was a really good learning experience. It helped the materials sink in a bit more. Listening to the executive who didn’t care about the consequences of the data made me angry. It was upsetting to see how cavalier he was about people not being able to access the benefits they needed.

Gorospe: I was really drawn to the daughter who couldn’t pay her rent on time. The conversation she had with her mom, where she didn’t disclose the fact that she was behind on her rent, that really tugged at me, because that’s something I would not disclose to my mom. I think it’s interesting that Professor Karns chose that situation, because it was definitely more impactful than [others might have been].

How did it differ from other learning experiences?

Snider: You see the consequences very quickly as you go through the video. It’s a lot more interactive than, say, watching a video or a movie with similar scenarios where you don’t get to make decisions as you go.

Gorospe: I could see it being an impactful tool for training anybody, whether in a workplace or an academic setting.

Has it changed the way you would approach an ethical dilemma?

Snider: It’s an awareness that I had before. But now, it will be at the forefront of my mind if I face a situation like this.

Gorospe: I’ll never forget that these decisions have real-world implications. And that there are very real consequences to speaking out against the status quo. I think I’ll be able to forecast better and be prepared for different situations.

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