Q&A with philosophy professor Ann Bumpus

by Racquel Lyn | 10/27/16 12:42am

When philosophy professor Ann Bumpus accepted a position at the College in 1991, she expected to be in Hanover for only a year. Twenty-six years later, Bumpus continues to teach popular classes in the philosophy, writing and women’s, gender and sexuality studies departments. Bumpus earned a doctorate in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. from Union College. With a primary research interest in reproductive rights, specifically in designer babies, Bumpus enjoys learning about new reproductive technologies and incorporating the subsequent ethical questions into her teaching. This term, she is teaching two Writing 5 classes, one focusing on human cloning and the other on the death penalty.

Are you working on any current research?

AB: When I have the time, yes. One of the things I teach and am working on now is the area of reproductive rights — basically using new technologies to choose the traits of your offspring. It is pretty interesting and mostly looks at the ethics around choosing enhanced traits such as memory or super strength. I have learned over the past few years that there are also people who use the technology to choose to have a kid with what you might think of as a disability, like a deaf child or a kid with dwarfism. Some of this is more looking to the future, and there are newer technologies that may make it easier over to time to have more and more choices, which, if you don’t know, can cause ethical issues. The last several years I have been teaching and incorporating in my classes a lot of bioethics.

Why should students be interested in taking your class?

AB: My classes are really fun. I really push people to think through their view very carefully. Since I teach controversial issues – abortion, physician-assisted suicide – people usually come in already having views on them. They can have whatever view they want, but they really have to learn how to defend it rigorously. I think most students want that challenge and opportunity to really think through their beliefs and see why they hold them and if they can defend them.

How have you liked the Hanover region?

AB: On the whole, there is a lot I like about it. I moved here from the Boston area, and I used to live in San Francisco. It was a big change, but it’s beautiful and I love the outdoors. I love hiking, looking at the leaves and definitely do not miss the traffic in those cities! The cold I am a little mixed on. I actually have a 13-year-old daughter, and you may have noticed the Vermont [and] New Hampshire area is very white, and my kid isn’t. In some ways, I wish I were raising her in a more diverse place. Yet, she goes to school in Thetford, VT, which is a super nice community and a great place to raise children.

What do you like to do for fun when you are not teaching?

AB: I think my favorite thing to do is woodworking and making furniture. I started making stuff in the Dartmouth woodshop, and they are amazing because there are so many people there to help you. I went in there not knowing how to cut a piece of wood and just found it really challenging and satisfying to make things. The biggest thing I have made is a built-in cabinet for stereos and also built-in dressers. I actually took a class this summer where we made funky, fun boxes, but it took me several days just to make a little box. There was one big conference table that I started for one of my friends, who has an architecture business before I adopted my daughter. Eight years later, I was able to deliver it! It totally varies.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.