Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law


Course development and teaching is being conducted in connection to the CLEAR Lab in both the UVA's College of Arts & Sciences and the Law School.

Arts & Sciences

Each Democracy Lab as part of the Democracy Initiative will bring the issues explored in the project into the classroom as part of the new Forums Curriculum in UVA's College of Arts & Sciences.

Starting in the Fall of 2019, the CLEAR Lab will lauch a Democracy Forum called The World Gone Wrong taught by Sylvia Tidey, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies ( and David Singerman, Assistant Professor of History and American Studies (

When the world seems unfair or unjust, who or what should we blame? And how do we build our worlds anew? In this Forum, we’ll investigate how concepts of a just and well-organized society have varied across culture and history by rigorously exploring different ideas about corruption. We’ll ask what kind of behaviors or morals various societies have judged to be corrupt and why. We’ll examine how people across history have attempted to tackle the problem of corruption, and we’ll try to learn from them as we struggle with corruption in our own society.

By tracing concepts of corruption, students will gain an understanding of how ideas develop within particular histories and cultures—ideas about the individual and society, public goods and private property, governments and markets, legality and ethics. They will learn how to think at multiple scales, from the local to the global, and how to connect corruption with other social problems such as inequality, racial injustice, and violence. Through their final projects, they will work with their peers to conduct deep and civically meaningful research, and ultimately to become more engaged and critical citizens.

UVA's Law School

Profs. Deborah Hellman ( and Michael Gilbert ( are co-teaching in Spring 2021 a new course at the law school titled the "Law of Corruption."

This class examines how the topic of corruption is addressed in several different legal domains including criminal law (bribery, extortion, fraud, and deprivation of honest services, etc.), election law, constitutional law (including the Emoluments Clauses and the First Amendment’s treatment of campaign finance laws) and others. In addition, the course will explore how best to define and understand corruption, drawing on the work of philosophers and legal scholars.