Foundations: Sciences 
Fall 2014

There are two basic categories of RAPs at UMass Amherst:

  • Topic RAPs and
  • Foundations RAPs...

This RAP is like a cross between the two:

  • Like Topic RAPs, this RAP is intended to bring together students who have a common interest - in this case the broad topic of science.
  • Like Foundations RAPs, this RAP is an opportunity for students to enroll in a class with people they are living with.
  • Different than Topic RAPs, this RAP does NOT include a seminar class.

This RAP is open to students in any major or undeclared.

When you join this RAP you will...

  • Enroll in one General Education class
  • Share your living-and-learning experience with a community of students with similar interests
  • Foundations RAPs do not include a RAP seminar.

Specific course information.

"Introduction for Ethics" (Philosophy 160) for students living in Dickinson Hall.

Here is a message about the class from Bob Gruger, the instructor:

We all hold moral views.  Most of us think that we should (almost) always tell the truth.  Most of us think that murder is wrong.  But,

  • Why should we tell the truth?
  • Why is murder wrong?  
  • What reasons can we give for our moral views?  

In this class, we will look at different answers to the question; "What is it that makes right actions right and wrong actions wrong?" That is, we will study normative ethics.  

We will also grapple with questions about value. What is it that makes things valuable? Throughout, the focus will be on giving logical arguments and employing careful reasoning. We will learn how to give philosophical arguments to support our moral convictions.  

Why study normative ethics?For one thing, it can be fun. But more importantly, the study of ethics can make you a more thoughtful person.


"Introduction to Medical Ethics" (Philosophy 164) for students living in James Hall.

Here is a message from Bailie Peterson, the instructor:

Have you ever wondered what the right thing to do is?  In the context of medical ethics, seeking answers can be challenging and intimidating.

In this course, we will hone our analytic skills through an introduction to ethics and philosophical methodology. As the semester progresses, we will apply what we have learned to issues such as Paternalism, Euthanasia, and Abortion.  We will make use of interviews, case studies, news clips and film in order to aid understanding and facilitate discussion. 

Some specific questions we will explore:

  • Is it ever acceptable for a physician to actively euthanize a patient?
  • Would it ever be acceptable to actively end a person's life in order to distribute her organs to another? 
  • Is it ever acceptable for a doctor to withhold information from a patient for his own good?
  • Can a patient rationally refuse to receive life-saving treatment?
  • Is it ever permissible for a doctor to interfere with a patient's decision?

Given their controversial nature, we will be working on discussing and answering these questions together, in a productive, respectful manner. 

There is a strong emphasis on participation, including class discussion, written assignments and online forums. 


Be sure to visit the How to Join page on this website to learn about the process and important timelines you must follow to become a member of this fantastic program! 

Classes and Locations

Fall 2014 

Students interested in Foundations: Sciences RAP will enroll in: 

One Gen Ed class (4-credits) -specific to each location: 

"My Body, My Health" - Public Health 160 (Gen Ed SI). Students will live together in Kennedy Hall in Southwest area of campus. The lecture will be on main campus and discussion section in the residential area.

"Medical Ethics" - Philosophy 164 (Gen Ed AT). Students will live together in James Hall in Southwest area of campus.

"Introduction to Ethics" - Philosophy 160 (Gen Ed AT). Students will live together in Dickinson Hall in Orchard Hill area of campus.


"College Writing"- English Writing 112 (Gen Ed CW), 3 credits a limited number of sections will be offered in each residential area both Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters.

Spring 2015

  • No required RAP classes.
  • Small sections of Gen Ed classes will be offered in each residence area.

Pamela R. Marsh-Williams, Ph.D.
Assistant Provost & Dean

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