Fall 2023 - URB 647 G100

Urban Ethics (4)

Class Number: 5828

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 5:30–9:20 p.m.



Opens an active, informed dialogue on moral and ethical subjects, which demand the attention of urban professionals. Course material is organized around enduring and contemporary questions about the good city and ethical practice.


Ethics are rules or standards that govern the conduct of a person or the members of a group, whether defined by professional status or along other social lines. Urban professions such as planning, architecture, and research are guided by formal codes of professional ethics; the remainder of urban professions are guided by less formal systems and understandings of ethical conduct. Beyond professional conduct, this course tackles ethics in urban lives, attempting to “out” the often-tacit cultural norms and assumptions about what constitutes a moral and ethical (urban) life for dissection and structured consideration using a range of tools from professional and scholarly ethics and moral philosophy.

What is the city good for? What is the good city for? What is the city for good? This course will open an active, informed dialogue on moral ethical matters which demand the attention of urban professionals in the course of fulfilling their professional responsibilities in a context of “conflicting values, incompatible loyalties, and subtle temptations from a variety of sources” (Gerou, 2008, p.32). The challenges of violent and other forms of conflict, surging inequality, environmental and social crisis, demographic and technological change, and global exchange and competition demand an adept flexibility in addressing specific challenges and opportunities in different unique pieces of the city that may never seem to add up to any coherent whole urban project with any inherent value. Course material is organized around key enduring questions about the good city, utopian and distopian visions, justice, pluralism, rationality, and action. Working both independently and in groups, students will also be introduced to ethical dilemmas in areas such as urban public space, multiculturalism, poverty and gentrification, and the right to the city, and will use tools and frameworks presented in class to devise – and act out – solutions.


  • Attendance and active participation 15%
  • Readings and discussion 15%
  • Case study 20%
  • Ethics scenarios skits 40%
  • Reflections journal 10%



All course readings will be made available online or on reserve at SFU Belzberg Library. 

The following required texts are only available as physical books, so some students may prefer to purchase a copy:

Sennett, R. 2018. Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the city. London: Penguin.

Lukes, S. 1995. The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat. New York: Verso.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.