2024 FASPE Alumni Reunion Recap

Saturday, March 2

Princeton University Campus

We were pleased to return to Princeton University to host our 2024 FASPE Alumni Reunion, where we explored the breakdown of trust within the professions and what we stand to lose if and when we can no longer trust the institutions and individuals we look for for guidance and leadership. Selected transcripts of remarks and lectures (revised for formatting and clarity) are available below, as well as event photos.

Welcome and Introduction
Rebecca Scott, Director of Programs, FASPE

Good morning! It is both a pleasure and an honor to be able to welcome you to the 2024 FASPE Alumni Reunion. 

I want to thank you all, FASPE alumni and faculty, for taking the time out of demanding schedules and busy careers, for traveling from near and far, to be here today. It is wonderful to see alums from FASPE’s earliest days in the audience, and to formally have the chance to welcome our 2023 fellows into the wider alumni community.  

On a personal note, being a part of your FASPE experience and connecting with the alumni community is truly one of the best parts of my job...

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Seeing the incredible relationships you all have with one another, and the ways in which you act as support systems and sounding boards well after the fellowship trip has concluded underscores the need for, and resonance of, the work that we do on a daily basis.  And this is why, each year, we invite you to step away from your daily lives and spend a couple of days once again immersed in FASPE.  It is our fervent hope that these opportunities to reconnect with one another and with your FASPE experience will be both grounding and guiding, a ballast point, as your professional responsibilities grow and change throughout the course of your careers.

And we are very much committed to expanding these opportunities in the future!  Later today, you will hear about more ways to become involved, and learn about some exciting upcoming events.  One of FASPE’s primary goals in the coming months and years is to build a much stronger alumni network, and we hope you will be part of that.  

As a reflection of our desire for growth and increased engagement, we’ve recently added two new members to the FASPE team. Please meet Maya, our Program Assistant, who in a very short time has become completely indispensable.  Maya will be focusing much of her time on alumni initiatives.  And Haley, our Communications Manager, who has managed to pull a group of luddites into the current century. Please do find a moment this weekend to say hello and get acquainted with both of them. Many thanks to Maya and Haley for all the hard work they’ve put into making this weekend possible.  I’d also like to thank Mia, who truly holds FASPE together, and David and Thorsten, without whose work, vision, and leadership, none of us would be here today.

I’d like to now spend a few minutes talking about this weekend, the topic of trust, and why we’ve chosen this particular focus.  

But first, it seems necessary to - and I would be remiss not to -  acknowledge the landscape of the current moment.  I do not want to make claims regarding the stakes being higher than ever - but I don’t think anyone could accuse me of hyperbole when I say that the need for ethical leadership is great.  

We are now 5 months into a harrowing, heartbreaking, and devastating conflict between Israel and Gaza, with horrific loss of life and safety, and pain and suffering contouring the daily lives of Palestinian and Israeli communities, and tides of fear and anguish emanating from Gaza, Israel, and beyond, resulting in terrifying surges of antisemitism and Islamophobia, denials of the right to Palestinian livelihood and the right to Israeli existence, and escalating risks to the stability of the region. 

Two years after it began, the Russian/Ukrainian war wages on, and the rise of autocratic leaders and intense nationalism threatens to upend the democratic world order.  

Polarization is at an all-time high – not only do we not have a shared vision of the future, we no longer have an agreed upon set of facts, or estimation of what is truth.   And this as we approach a major election in the United States, that stands to be a watershed moment for the course this country will follow.  

I could, of course, continue to go on.

Compounding all of these challenges is the fact that that productive discourse has all but broken down, resolution feels far out of reach, and conflicts and differences remain intractable.  

I would like to say that we invited you here with the goal of solving the world’s problems.  (Though even with such an august group, we might have needed more than a weekend!)  These past months, the challenges to communicate and engage in dialogue, even within a community as thoughtful and well-intended as FASPE’s, have at times felt insurmountable and paralyzing, as words of comfort for one are acutely painful for another, and what feels like an existential truth for one is received as a violation and affront to another. The FASPE community has always been enriched by the diversity of its members and by the willingness of those diverse voices to engage with each other. And though not immune to the fault lines and fissures that have been exposed, we believe in the power of discourse, and in the FASPE community’s desire and ability to engage meaningfully in it. This weekend, we want to take advantage of the opportunity to have a large, interdisciplinary group of thoughtful professionals gathered together.  On Sunday, we will spend time in breakout discussions, exploring questions of professional responsibility in light of these issues that are on many levels existential, and how individual professionals can navigate deeply opposing viewpoints and certainties and seek ethical solutions.

To return to today's program - and the topic of trust - you may be wondering why this, why now?

As you know, FASPE’s entire premise is built around focus on the individual professional, and we define professionals according to the idea of influence.  Our criteria for the professions we focus on does not include an assessment of whether there are formal qualifications or specific barriers to entry, but instead an identification of those who hold a certain expertise, and in exerting that expertise, influence their communities.  Influence imparts power, power imparts responsibility.  Responsibility, we hope, leads to the commitment to act ethically.

And this is where FASPE’s focus has always been –  a bit narrower - not on the world at large, but on the professions and institutions on which we depend to safeguard us, to provide the structures and services that enable a healthy and productive society.  And on the individual professionals whose influence guides us.  But that ability to influence is now impaired.  And what it is impaired by is a lack of shared trust.  Trust is a necessary precursor to all accepted knowledge beyond our own direct experience, all understanding. It is the absolute bedrock upon which all ability to influence, to lead, is built.  And yet the long-trusted norms that provided the guardrails have been breached, and the very expertise on which we used to rely is now not just regarded with doubt, it is denigrated and discounted.  

You, as professionals, are on the frontlines of this battle, and no doubt may feel under siege.  

The breakdown is evident across professions - we need doctors to protect our health, yet do not trust they act in the patient's best interest; we need journalists to inform us, yet do not trust that they speak the truth; we need clergy to guide us, yet the decline in congregations persists; we need lawyers to protect and uphold our rights, yet we question what those rights are and how they should be applied; we need businesses to operate in ways that prioritize the health of the economy and planet, yet we believe they work only for their own interests; we need technologists to shape the ways of the future, yet we do not trust them to assess or rein in the consequences of their innovations. 

But I would also be remiss - and untrue to FASPE - if I did not point out that trust is what empowers us to lead, but it is also what enables us.  Loss of trust did not happen independent of the behavior or choices of the institution or the individual professional.  We cannot ignore the perpetuation of institutionalized racism, the ways that lack of accountability, and other factors have led us to a point of crisis - and the role that, intentionally or unintentionally, individual professionals have played. In order to foster trust, we must be trustworthy.  How can we as doctors, lawyers, journalists, clergy, businesspeople, and technologists navigate the current moment, the changing landscape?  This morning, there will be time devoted to breakout sessions within our professions to explore these questions.

So where do we go from here? What responsibility do we have for the loss of trust, and what is the path toward restoration? How does revolutionizing technology impact each profession in the face of enormous risk and lack of clarity?  What questions should we be asking ourselves in light of world events that impact us both personally and professionally?

We are grateful today to be joined by some incredible speakers and thought leaders to help us define and examine these questions - a very special thank you to Dean Jill Dolan, Trevor Morrison, David Miller, Julia Angwin, Gabriella Waters, and our very own Mary Gray for joining us today.

We hope that you will find this weekend edifying and gratifying.

Welcome to Princeton
Jill Dolan, Dean of the College, Princeton University

Welcome, I’m delighted to have you here. I much admire the work that David Goldman and all of you at FASPE do around ethics and the professions. Your reunions here at Princeton offer wonderful opportunities for cross-programming and contact.

In my 15 or so minutes with you this morning, I have a two-fold agenda. First, is to welcome you here to Princeton and the second is to share a few thoughts about the topic of your meeting from the perspective of higher ed.

So, first. Welcome. I know our friends in the Graduate School have facilitated your use of the space. McCosh 50 is one of the oldest lecture halls on campus, and although it’s recently been refurbished (with new seats to fit our slightly bigger physical outlines, and new lighting, floors, and a/v), it’s simply haunted with centuries of people thinking and learning, which makes it an always inspiring room in which to convene.

Second, I’m flattered, as Princeton’s Dean of the College, to begin your conversations about “trust.”

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My role as Dean is to oversee the undergraduate academic experience from their admission through students’ programs of study to commencement and beyond. Because Princeton is a residential liberal arts college, academics and the co-curricular experience are closely entwined.

But not enough attention is paid to the emotional quotient of our work in the academy. The pandemic, if nothing else, demonstrated the need for compassion and empathy in institutions that usually assert that academic rigor trumps all.

In fact, post-COVID, and in the face of the new epidemic of student anxiety and depression, Princeton’s president has been criticized for privileging academic standards over creating an environmental conducive to student mental health.

So, on the one hand, students clamor to be accepted to a college that’s selective and elite because of its storied rigor, but on the other hand, they want us to make sure that their education doesn’t cause them too much stress. With those impossible expectations comes their own inability to trust that we’ll ever get the balance right.

They also want colleges and universities to correct everything that’s wrong with the world by serving as a kind of magical microcosm. Students tend to see the local as their global, and if they can’t trust their college or university to get it right, then not only we but they have failed to right the world’s wrongs. In other words, there’s a lot at stake, and lots of ways for us to let them down.

Part of what they want is our empathy, to be seen and understood, but sometimes, they don’t understand the necessity of empathizing with others (or the Other).

The media, of course, also breeds mistrust in colleges and universities by feeding political tactics that scapegoat our work. It’s sometime hard even for me to hear Princeton’s president, Chris Eisgruber, say that we’re a “truth-driven” institution when it’s no longer entirely clear what the truth is or how it’s adjudicated.

Commentators and politicians insist ever more vehemently that universities are ideologically biased echo chambers. Perhaps as a result, our students don’t come to us with the same level of respect and admiration for they once considered the more pristine neutrality of the enterprise.

In such a partisan and unhappily quarrelsome context, how can our students trust us to deliver their education? And how can we trust them to be full, ethical, and open participants in their learning? I’ll offer four examples of this conundrum.

First, students no longer trust nuance. I recently heard Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth (and daughter of the legendary Jewish theologian/activist Abraham Joshua Heschel), speak about teaching undergraduates in this particular historical moment. She emphasized that students today see everything in black and white. People are good or bad, they’re heroes or villains. Our goal as instructors, Heschel said, should be to teach students nuance, to teach them to accept uneasy but generative ambiguity and ambivalence.

I agree. But that’s difficult to do if you can’t establish trust and empathy in your classroom. And it’s difficult to do if your students haven’t yet learned foundational skills that allow them to engage through the structured conventions of intellectual discourse.

Another example. My colleague, Khristina Gonzalez, a senior associate dean of the college, argues that this generation of students doesn’t understand irony. They take everything literally and at face value, which is partly why they need trigger warnings and why speech in the classroom has become so fraught.

To understand irony is to trust a partial point of view, to be able to see and appreciate a critique, to hold two contrasting ideas in tension at once.

But irony is also nuanced, and if students think gray areas are pernicious and potentially harmful, how can they engage? And again, if they expect us to take care of them rather than challenge them, and don’t trust us to foster their mental health, you can see why they want trigger warnings.

Wrapped up in this conundrum of care versus rigor is students’ sometimes explicit mistrust of expertise. A colleague a few years ago offered a lecture on minstrelsy in an introduction to American Studies course. She’s a white performance studies scholar with an expertise in American theatre history and popular culture, of which minstrelsy is an important example, imbricated though it is with the history of racism.

She intended to share clips from the African American filmmaker Marlon Riggs’ documentary Ethnic Notions that illustrated the idioms of minstrelsy. She’d prepared students in advance by noting that its use of blackface is upsetting, and she assigned an essay that explained the importance of a form which by contemporary standards is anathema.

But as she prepared to show the clip, several students in the class protested that her race disqualified her from teaching the topic and stopped her from proceeding. By reading the lecture only through the professor’s whiteness and not her expertise, the students mistrusted the professor’s ability to teach them this history.

One final example. Princeton has an Honor Code that’s existed since 1839. It’s meant to represent a pact between students and faculty, an understanding that students can rely on one another’s integrity not to cheat, not to seek an unfair advantage, and, by extension not to need faculty to proctor their seated exams.

Students and faculty are meant to trust that their ethics will prevail to prevent cheating and that when a student sees one of their peers cheat, they’ll report them to the Honor Committee, which hears academic integrity infractions.

Well, nearly 200 years later, I don’t think the Honor Code works the same way. That’s partly because students don’t trust one another not to seek an unfair advantage. They don’t trust that their fellow students won’t try to get ahead because even their premier liberal arts education remains an instrumentalist, goal-oriented race to the best GPA, which will get them into the best professional school or Wall Street firm.

Without trust, how can we rely on the Honor Code? A student recently told me she’s lost faith in humanity because she was prosecuted by her peers for cheating on an exam, which she insists she didn’t do. She told me she had trusted the system, but it let her down.

As the dean to whom appeals are sent, I’m not sure I trust the system, either. The Honor Codes presumes that students will turn one another in for cheating. But what if the reporting

students are lying? What if they’re acting on implicit bias? After all, our students are no longer all white male Scotch Presbyterians.

In other words, many of our bedrock academic values—like engaging with multiple perspectives and with ambiguity and nuance as modes of learning; understanding irony not as harmful but as hopeful; respecting and trusting faculty expertise; and trusting students’ commitments to an ethical learning and assessment environment—the very values that underpin our systems are now weakened.

I don’t want to leave you thinking I only despair about higher education. Many of my students are empathetic, emotionally acute young people who do embrace multiplicity, ambivalence, and nuance and who crave learning from experts. I’m describing here a more general malaise of mistrust that undermines our essential, enabling structures.

My hope for their repair or renovation resides in conversations like the ones I know you’ll have today. Trust can only be rebuilt if we come together with faith and integrity, to look one another in the eye and to rehearse how to recognize and empathize with one another’s humanity.

I know that’s what distinguishes you all as FASPE fellows, and as ethical professionals in your fields. Your work on empathy and experience, on ethical praxis, is founded on values that can help repair and renew the broken systems in higher education and in other vital social institutions.

Your presence here today gives me hope. Welcome to Princeton.

Fifteen Years On & Looking to the Future
David Goldman, FASPE Chairman

I. Thank-you’s to all. Noting, in particular, all of the alumni who made the trek; and Princeton for all that they do to welcome/accommodate us.

II. Quick reflections on Jill Dolan’s wonderful remarks. Her focus on key words: Nuance, Irony, Expertise and Trust. So important to us.

III. Looking back, I have tons of memories, anecdotes, key moments, wonderful learnings. The discussions over the years have been enriching and important in so many ways. Always guiding us into the future.

IV. I was a little surprised by the title for my remarks, or maybe a little daunted by it. I’m not sure that I will do much looking back, but I do want to do some table setting and looking forward. Especially, I should add, as the FASPE Board is in the middle of a Strategic Planning process.

V. I think it good to take stock of what we are doing and why.

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There are four continuing fundamentals:

• Professional ethics.

• Focus on the individual professional.

• The Fellowship Program as our flagship.

• Framing through the study of the Nazi-era professionals with Europe as the situs for the Fellowship Program.

These are what make us distinctive, these are what define us.

I want to spend a bit of time with each.

VI. The FASPE Mission: to promote a recognition by professionals of their influence as professionals; to promote ethical awareness, ethical behavior and ethical leadership among professionals; to promote professionalism among professionals. Our focus is on the individual professional.

VII. The FASPE Method:

Framing through history:

• As a starting point and framing device, we examine the actions and motivations of Nazi-era professionals. In so doing, we recognize quotidian and familiar behavior and motivations within professionals who behaved unethically with terrible consequences; and, with this framing, we can identify our own vulnerability to behave badly.

• Why the Nazi-era professionals? First and foremost, because they display the power/influence of professionals. And, because the results of their actions are so reviled and so consequential, the quotidian nature and familiarity of their motivations are therefore impactful and urgent. They help to establish the risks and dangers of our own vulnerabilities.

• We recognize the challenge that we must not seek or propose direct analogies between the Nazi-era professionals and ourselves. Thus, we must always be clear that we are framing conversations through these professionals, we are not comparing ourselves to them; we are not equating us with them.

• We use “cases,” often starting with particular Nazi-era professionals and institutions, using them to connect with themes that I discuss below and to use them as a bridge to current ethical issues.

• Personal Risk and Vulnerability. We seek to learn, through self-awareness, who we are; what motivates us; our vulnerability to be complicit; the risks inherent in our own motivations.

• Current Ethical Themes. We operate in themes, in categories of motivations and professional challenges, that are embodied in the examples of the particular Nazi-era individuals (and institutions) whom we study. Some themes cross many or all professions; some are particular to individual professions. Examples include the following, all identified within the FASPE cases. I actually want to spend a little time on these—they matter, they are at the heart of what we do.

• Particularist ethics: ethical behavior is not necessarily universal; we have the capacity, and within professional settings, to create our own micro-environments with self-defined and self-rationalized particularist ethical constructs.

• Moral neutrality: Is it good enough to do our jobs well without regard to ethical consequences; may we cede ethical responsibility to our clients and our customers? May we transfer and absolve ourselves of ethical responsibility through transparency and “informed consent?”

• Role morality: do we leave our personal moral and ethical compasses at the doors of our offices?

• Expertise: the influence of professionals, and trust in professionals, derives from their expertise. The expertise must be real, studied and honest. Without expertise, how can we expect to be trusted or to be influential?

• Unintended consequences: What is our responsibility to consider the unintended consequences of our professional advice/work?

• Multiple loyalties: To whom do we owe loyalty—the individual patient, client, et.al., to the institution we serve, to the system we operate within? To ourselves?

• What is the makeup of a successful professional: What values and competencies do we seek in ourself, as a professional? What values, motivations and competencies can lead us astray? Do these attributes of a successful professional sometimes collide with the attributes that we seek in ourselves?

• Where are the risks: what internal motivations can lead us astray; what externalities or characteristics of the professions, themselves, can lead us astray?

• Normalization: The risks of the slippery slope, of normalization, of the consequences of “momentum.”

• Crossing Professional Cohorts. We believe that the ethical guideposts of one profession can provide guidance to professionals in other professions. Examples: a journalistic guidepost is truthful reporting; do lawyers in their advocacy value truth? How do other professions think of the doctors’ “do no harm?”

• Fellowship and Place. With our Fellowship Programs:

• We believe in the power of fellowship, in shared experiences. We now understand that our use of word “fellowship” is not merely as the honorific of the grant/award, but about the relationships that we hope for—on the trip and thereafter.

• We employ the power of location—believing that conversations are more intense and impactful when taking place in the locations where the Nazi-era professionals operated and/or where the consequences of their actions played out. Similarly, in our alumni programming we increasingly are seeking to visit similarly impactful sites in the United States.

VIII. The FASPE Approach:

• We seek to provoke/encourage conversations, not to answer what is right or wrong.

• We seek to hone the questions, not to provide answers. We are not the ethics police.

• Our focus is on the individual, not for example, on the systems of justice or health care. Provoking and honing can lead to challenging or questioning the systems, but that is not our institutional brief (though we very much believe that professionals should use their influence to challenge, question and create change).

• We believe that, in our Fellowship programs, the diversity of the Fellows—racial, gender and religious, geographic, political and economic, professional interest, focus and motivation—leads to more complete individual inquiries and learnings.

• We believe in emotional and experiential learning—through the locations that we visit, the use of art and literature, the challenges of the topics.

IX. Our Goal. As a consequence of our work:

• We want our Fellows and Ethical Leadership Training (ELT) participants to be more self-aware of what motivates them, of what drives their behavior. To be self-reflective.

• We want our Fellows and ELT participants always: to search for and recognize the ethical questions and quandaries in their work, to ask the ethical questions, to think about the consequences of their work, to act on their ethical conclusions.

• We want our Fellows and ELT participants to lead and to mentor—with their clients, patients, customers, et.al., and within their organizations.

• We want our Fellows and ELT participants to recognize the responsibility of being a professional, always to practice professionalism.

X. The Potential Misconceptions. FASPE is a program in individual professional formation.

• While we study Nazi-era professionals, we are not a program of Holocaust education.

• While we examine the motivations of the Nazi-era professionals and the consequences of their actions which included the murder of 6 million Jews, we are not a program devoted to fighting anti-Semitism.

• While we recognize the genocidal consequences of the actions of the Nazi-era professionals, we are not a program in genocide prevention.

• While our cases are largely focused on the behavior of the professionals whose actions led to the autocratic fascism of Nazi-era Germany, and to the resulting genocide, we are not a program whose expertise is in defining autocracies, fascistic regimes, war crimes or what is just war or genocides; and therefore our mission is not, and it would be irresponsible and off-mission for us, to examine, comment on or advocate about geopolitical matters.

As to all of the above, we encourage our Fellows to advocate as they wish; and to utilize their professional expertise and influence in support of their conclusions as to appropriate ethical behavior.

As an institution, we do not take positions or advocate—other than to urge individual professionals to utilize their professional expertise and influence in support of ethical behavior.

XI. Looking forward, where we will devote resources:

• Curricular—new cases, professional ethics and the connections; ensuring that we are clear in our mission and that we are current in what are the ethical challenges in the actual practice of our professions.

• Alumni—FASPE serves you! We want you to be the future of FASPE. So, more learning, more connectivity, more programming, more opportunities to be together, more alumni trips, more networking, more involvement in all parts of FASPE, more…!

You have influence. You represent the institutions on which our communities—small and large—depend. Use your influence ethically, productively and responsibly.

Plenary Session: The Breakdown of Trust in Professionals & Institutions
Trevor Morrison, Eric M. and Laurie B. Roth Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus, New York University School of Law

Thank you very much for that introduction and for the invitation to be with you today. I'm a very big fan of FASPE and if it's the case that I'm considered part of the FASPE family, then I count that a very big honor, indeed.  

I'm going to try and give some thoughts about the loss of trust in the professions and in professional institutions, starting with the theme of humility. 

In talking about trust in the professions. I think we're talking about the relationship between trust and the exercise of expertise. I'm not sure that I myself have deep expertise in the phenomenon of trust and the loss of it. So I give you these thoughts with real humility. I also note that FASPE’s overall approach is to do more asking of questions than providing of answers. I will endeavor to frame my remarks that way too, to hopefully try and pose some questions for us to think about the why and the how in terms of eroding trust in public institutions and in professions, professionals and professional institutions. 

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One more note on humility: One of my favorite quotes comes from a speech that Judge Learned Hand, one of the most celebrated federal judges of the 20th century, gave in 1944--an interesting time to give a speech on what it meant to him to be an American. The title of the speech was “The Spirit of Liberty,” and one of the things that Hand said in his speech is that “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it's right.” And to say that in 1944, when it was obvious-- or certainly should have been obvious--that there were certain things in the world that were obviously wrong, is something that really resonates for me still today. I think it might connect back to some ideas that I'll share here about the role of trust. 

It seems beyond dispute that trust in the professions is on the wane. The Gallup pollsters actually take a poll about what they call trust in the professions every few years. In 2023, when respondents were asked to say whether they had either “high” or “very high” confidence in the ethics of various professions, here are the results: for college teachers, 42% of respondents had high or very high confidence in their ethics; 32% had high or very high confidence in the ethics of clergy; 19% in the ethics of journalists; and 16% in the ethics of lawyers. Were it not for the fact that car salespeople came in at 8% and members of Congress at 6%, the number for lawyers  would have looked even worse. 

Doctors were the highest in this group at 56%, but actually that is distinctly lower than the trust in doctors that Gallup reported in previous years’ polls. So either as an absolute matter or as a trending matter, trust in the professions is low and going down. In the face of these data, it’s pertinent to ask a number of questions, Why is this happening? What are the consequences of this kind of loss in trust? And what are the relationships between the presence or absence of broad public trust in a profession and the ethical discharge of one's own professional responsibility as a member of a profession?  

Stepping back, we might start with a set of even more fundamental questions: Why is trust important? What are the preconditions for trust to exist? And if trust breaks down, what are the drivers of that breakdown? I'll try and offer some thoughts across each of these questions. When I offer examples to illustrate things that I am trying to say here, I'm principally going to draw examples from the legal field, as well as government. That's just because that's where my experience lies, but I hope these things might generalize to other professional contexts as well. 

Why is trust important? I think in some ways trust in a profession or in an institution is a response to uncertainty. If the fact of whatever matter was in question could be known directly by any one of us, our need to trust someone claiming to have expertise in it would be much lower. But in modern society, in particular in heterogeneous and complicated societies, that's not possible. That direct knowledge is not possible. Indeed, we have professions essentially because specialized expertise is a way to confront complicated problems, by dividing up the intellectual labor that is required to surmount complicated problems of the day. That division of labor depends upon a certain level of trust. At a broad societal level, trust in a given profession – trust that the profession will use its expertise appropriately – is vital to the continued legitimacy of that profession.   

What are the preconditions for trust? I think one key is a presumption of good faith on the part of the actor who's asking to be trusted with what they do or what they say, a presumption that they are acting in good faith. Earlier in my career, I had the great honor to serve as a law clerk for Justice Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. One of the key things we were taught as clerks was that if you were helping to draft an opinion for the justice, and if in doing so you were describing the position that was the opposite to the justice’s, one of the worst things you could do would be to caricature that argument, to portray it in something less than the best possible light, just in order to show the wrongness of the position. 

We were never to do that. Instead, the obligation was really the opposite, that no matter how well or poorly the advocates for that point of view had defended their view, our job was to make the best possible argument for that point of view, maybe better than those advocates had done, and only then to show why it should not carry the day and why it was wrong. So what's going on there? What's underlying that? I think it reflects a presumption that the other side with which you deeply disagree is operating in good faith and is offering their argument honestly, from a position that seeks to be legitimate with reference to the same body of knowledge, the same body of authorities for a lawyer, the same body of law, that you’re operating from. There may be profound disagreements about the correct answers to certain contested legal questions, but there is a presumption that the disagreement is happening between sides that are making arguments honestly, that are not presenting arguments as shams or pretexts. In the context of the law, the presumption of good faith is a presumption that lawyers are treating the law itself with integrity, and treating the language and principles of the law as worthy of respect. 

I think that's translatable to other domains. Whatever the language of a profession is, there is a presumption of good faith on the part of those who are practicing that profession, interacting with others in the profession, and interacting with those who are receiving the services of that profession.  

But this presumption of good faith is not inevitable, and I think it's not in a very healthy position these days. Some of you may have seen just earlier this week, there was a piece in the New York Times describing what the author called a crisis in the teaching of constitutional law. The claim is that recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have put pressure on the idea that the Court itself is operating in good faith. The piece quoted a number of law professors, including Michael McConnell, who is a very distinguished professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal judge. McConnell was relaying an experience in one of his classes as they were discussing a judicial opinion in a particular case. 

McConnell told his class that it was important to presume good faith on the part of the people who were advancing the argument they were critiquing. And a student raised his or her hand and said, why should we assume good faith on the part of the person advancing that argument? Isn't it obvious that they're doing it for nefarious reasons, that they're doing it for ways that are going to increase injustice in the world? They're advancing these arguments in ways that are fundamentally wrong and unjust. Why should I presume good faith? Why are they entitled to that presumption? And McConnell himself in the context of this article didn't have an answer to that question, and neither did the author of the piece, and I don't know that I do either. It’s a difficult, challenging question. But I will observe that the loss of that presumption of good faith is deeply connected to -- in fact, I think it describes -- the loss of trust in the legal profession, and perhaps in many other professions too. 

So if a presumption of good faith is a precondition for trust, then when we lose that presumption of good faith, the trust itself is sure to be diminished as well. I think it's commonly the case that trust operates successfully when there is also another precondition: a sense that the profession or individual professional in question has enough of the same set of fundamental values that we have. The idea here is that our view of the good, our view of what it means for a society to flourish, our view of what it means for justice to be done is sufficiently overlapping that when I trust this professional to exercise his or her expertise and to provide services to me or to work within the government or to do whatever they do, whatever the profession is called upon to do, that there's some kind of congruence between that work, the work of the professional, the work of the profession, and the set of fundamental values that I think society ought to be organized around. 

If I believe that, then I can believe that the professional in question is advancing on some larger goal that I share. Maybe we can't quite connect what they're doing on any particular day to that larger set of goals, but we think that they line up in the end and so it's easier to trust them. Of course, that's going to be more true -- or a less challenging assumption to indulge -- if the community we’re talking about is small and relatively homogenous.   

But if that means that trust in professions can only work in small homogenous communities, then the future of the professions is in real trouble in dynamic, heterogenous, pluralistic societies like ours. If there can't be that kind of presumed shared fundamental values or if the fundamental values that we can presume to be shared are very few in number, what else is going to work? What can sustain the professions in a more pluralistic, heterogeneous society?  

Part of the answer might lie in the idea that, apart from questions of bedrock, fundamental values, each profession claims to have its own set of professional norms. When we talk about professional ethics, I think we're talking about adhering to or aspiring to adhere to ethical norms of good behavior within a given professional context. Those norms, at least in the legal profession, tend not to be very enforceable by external actors. 

In law, you're licensed to practice law by a state bar, and so there are mechanisms for reviewing whether someone has committed such a flagrant violation of norms of professional ethics that they might have their license revoked. But that's an incredibly thin conception of professional ethics in the legal space. When we talk in a less technical way about the ethical norms that we want lawyers to abide by, we immediately go beyond the minimal things that are enforceable by outside actors. Those more substantively rich norms often are subject only to self-enforcement, by individual legal professionals themselves, against themselves.  

And this I think becomes more important when we're in a complicated heterogeneous society where the number of fundamental values we hold in common are relatively few. In those circumstances, a belief that the profession is enforcing its ethical expectations on itself becomes the basis for maintaining or restoring trust. I'll give you an example. Some of my scholarship is about how legal interpretation and lawyering happens in the executive branch of the federal government, especially in contexts where the issue is unlikely ever to end up in a court. If the issue is going to end up in a court, that’s your external enforcer, right? The court is going to keep the government within the boundaries of the law, one hopes, and it will impose a discipline on the lawyers involved to only make arguments that meet some minimal threshold of professional responsibility. But there are a lot of legal issues, especially involving questions of say, national security and use of the military that are very unlikely ever to end up in a court. But that’s not to say that lawyers are uninvolved in their resolution. 

In fact, every modern presidential administration has employed hundreds of lawyers to analyze these problems and to decide, for example, whether the president can lawfully direct the military to engage in a particular operation. There is an office within the United States Justice Department called the Office of Legal Counsel, which is the office that is most commonly asked these questions. It writes up opinions in answer to these questions. The opinions look a lot like judicial opinions, and they kind of hold themselves out as legal precedents of sorts. Well, we might ask why should anyone take this seriously? These are lawyers working within the executive branch. The heads of the office are political appointees. Should it be any surprise when a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel writes an opinion saying, of course the president has the authority to do this thing he wants to do? 

We might worry that the fix is in. Sure, this lawyer is going to use the language of law in their opinion, but only ever to say yes. So here's the problem, and I think this generalizes to a question of trust and integrity in law and in the professions more broadly. If the dominant view is that a lawyer within the executive branch is always going to say that the president has the lawful authority to do whatever he wants to do because they're on the president's side, if that becomes the routine expectation, then there really is no point in having lawyers in the executive branch. Why even ask the question, if all you're ever going to get is a “yes”? In those circumstances, the yes is unremarkable.  

I have argued in my scholarship that that kind of dynamic is self-defeating. If everyone understands that executive branch lawyers are always going to say that the president has the legal authority to do whatever he wants to do, then there is no particular value in getting the legal advice in the first place.   

In fact, presidents across virtually every administration have found it valuable to seek the legal advice of the lawyers in the executive branch. But the value of that advice depends on the belief that, if there really were no plausible way to tell the president “yes,” then the lawyer would say “no.” Put another way, the yes is significant precisely because we believe that it wasn’t inevitable, that it's not always the answer. And so the Office of Legal Counsel, for example, continues to be of value to presidents if it occasionally says no, and if those answers “no” are actually publicly known, so the public can observe here an office of lawyers operating according to a set of norms that require honest legal advice, even if the result of that advice is bad news for the client, and even if the client is the most powerful client in the world. That, I think, is part of the fuel for trust in a profession -- that the professional will adhere to a set of pre-commitments even if the result is an outcome that isn't the one that the client was seeking, or that the institution was seeking, or that the public was seeking.  

When we talk about a professional and a profession and trust in professional expertise, I think we're talking about deploying that expertise according to the rules of that expertise as can be best understood by the professional in question, and not just simply asking the ultimate ends question “what is just?” and doing whatever it takes to get there. Professional norms are in that sense constraining. They limit the means by which professions can pursue the ends they (or their clients, or other constituents) might desire. 

So for example, if it were the case that the ends always justify the means, then a criminal defense lawyer representing a client she was sure was innocent would be justified in violating any rule of evidence, or procedure, or ethics if the likely result was acquittal for her client. If the criminal defense lawyer believes that the prosecution in her case is fundamentally evil in their motivation or that the law being enforced is fundamentally unjust, then if the ends justify the means, there should be no professional constraints, ethical constraints on the defense lawyer's efforts to ensure an acquittal for their client. The legal profession is committed to the idea that that's not right. Even criminal defense lawyers who are convinced that the use of state power to advance a carceral state is a fundamentally unjust project overall, are expected to accept limits on their freedom to pursue that belief when they act as lawyers in the courtroom on behalf of their clients. They are required, in short, to accept that the ends don't always justify the means. 

And I think to the extent that trust in the professions is being lost, it may in part be a belief that other professionals are operating as though the ends do justify the means. So that brings me to the next thought, which is that when trust is breaking down, there are at least two kinds of accusations that might be made at a profession or a professional. One is hypocrisy – the idea that the profession or the professional espouses a set of values, espouses a set of norms, but then doesn't routinely follow them, adheres to them only when it's convenient and not when it's inconvenient. And that inconsistency suggests that there is actually some other agenda being pursued. So if a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel recites a bunch of legal principles in defense of constrained executive power in certain circumstances and then forgets about them in others depending on what the president wants, the charge of hypocrisy is going to have real force. And that’s going to sap trust in the lawyer, in their office, and perhaps even in the government. 

I think the other reason trust might break down is a simple belief, not that the profession is acting hypocritically, that the profession is abetting injustice, a belief that the profession isn't aligned with the ultimate good. 

When former President Trump refused to say in advance that he would accept the outcome of an election he lost, it's because he wasn't going to trust the system of government to produce the only thing that he took to be a just outcome, which was a win for him in the election. When a criminal defense lawyer says they won't accept a conviction or they won't accept the rules that bind them in terms of how they can represent their client, because any conviction would be fundamentally unjust, that's going to sap trust as well, because there's simply a belief that there's a disconnect between where the profession is and the values that I hold as an individual or that my small community holds or that I think the community or nation should hold more broadly. I think we might be in that kind of moment today with at least some professions, including the legal profession. 

When I think about my own law students today compared to when I started teaching 20 years ago, I think more of them today are skeptical about whether the legal profession as a whole is sufficiently aligned with justice for it to deserve trust. If that's our criterion, then I think the professions may be in trouble. Part of what I think it means to maintain or restore trust in a profession is to defend the idea that professions can exist in a kind of middle space, not guaranteed always to generate just outcomes but sufficiently premised on a set of norms that are desirable, or at least workable, in a complex pluralistic society that it makes sense to maintain them. I do think that's a more tenuous position to be in today, than at certain points in the past. The ultimate challenge I think may well be that expertise-based professions and professionals are, necessarily, at least to some extent inherently conservative, small “c” conservative. 

They're structured more to preserve a certain shape of society than to overthrow it. And then the question becomes, well, what is the capacity of one member of that profession to use their expertise to seek more fundamental change? And at what point does that come up against or come at the price of trust in the profession itself? I don't have an answer to that question, but I think it's part of what makes this moment so vexing. I think both from the perspective of participants within the professions and from the perspective of many in society outside the professions, there's a kind of questioning whether the professions deserve the trust that they have historically been able to lay claim to. I think that's a precarious place for the professions to be in.  

Having reached that precarious place, I will close with a question that seems worth asking, but that I am not sure how to answer. The question is this: How can each one of us act in ways that are deserving of trust by those who would repose trust in us as professionals and in our profession generally, and also feel like we are doing our part to bend the arc of history in the direction of justice as opposed to injustice? Thanks. 

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