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The Big Q

A dialogue on the big questions college students face. Like The Big Q now on Facebook to stay updated on the latest post and winners.

  •  The Spirit of Giving

    Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014
    Despite returning to classes, final presentations, and exams this week, many students, including myself, continue to exude that post-Thanksgiving glow.  We have happiness leftovers. The holiday’s warmth and joy remains within us, like the excess turkey and mashed potatoes that fill our fridges.  We’ve spent a week surrounded by friends and family, laughing, reuniting, feasting, and expressing gratitude.
     
    However, how long will this feel-good Turkey Day attitude last? Especially with winter holiday season on the immediate horizon, and with so much talk about thanks, thankfulness, and giving thanks, we must ask ourselves, what are the ethical implications of giving?
     
    I’m a fulltime student, and college isn’t cheap. Besides tuition payments, excess expenses for extra-curricular activities, gas, and the costs of just day-to-day life,  I work several on-campus jobs for spending money. Am I obligated to donate this money? Isn’t my money hard earned? Many students juggle the fine ethical line between supporting others and supporting themselves.
     
    On my driving route to and from campus, I regularly pass a homeless man or woman on the interstate turnoff, holding a dilapidated sign and asking for spare change. Despite my gut feeling, my urge to help, I keep on driving—and I don’t think that I’m alone. Why?
     
    At a Jesuit institution like Santa Clara University, the faculty and staff strive to educate the “whole person” on spiritual, emotional, and intellectual level.  Students learn the importance of competence, conscience, and compassion. From an academic standpoint, we enroll in courses that incorporate social justice, ethics, and community involvement. In business classes, we study corporate responsibility, and a company’s obligation to act and transact in a manner that benefits the society at large.
     
    Maybe, we should flip around the logic. Let’s look at individuals, ourselves, and not entities.
     
    What are we doing to give back to the community? Are we fulfilling our civic duty?
     
    And, more importantly, what are the ethics implications behind social responsibility?
     
    This holiday season, I encourage everyone to “pay it forward,” to keep the Thanksgiving joy alive. A holiday gift to ourselves and to the community—keeping this powerful momentum of giving constant throughout both December, and the rest of the year.
     

     

    Happy Holidays!
    © RP Stillworks
    © RP Stillworks
  •  Sexual Assaults on Campus

    Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

    On Thursday evening, one by one, students poured into the ethics center classroom, eager to discuss an important issue on campus—sexual assault.  The attentive crowd exuded emotionally charged energy. Women composed the vast majority of the audience; however, several men sat peppered throughout the crowd.

    Students already face many hurdles as they learn, develop, and mature during college. Sexual assault should not be one of these challenges.
     
    We’ve already heard the alarming statistics. One in five women will likely be victims of sexual assaults (or attempted sexual assault) on college campuses. Every 21 hours, another rape takes place on college campuses. Among college women, nine in ten victims of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.
     
    Now, we wanted to hear the voices, your voices. 
     
    In our culture, topics of sex are shushed and somewhat taboo. Discussions of sexual assaults, specifically, are difficult and often traumatic for the victims. Our goal? Create a comfortable, safe space to unite—men and women, activists and victims—and to actively explore the virtues of justice and compassion in light of such experiences.
     
    The Big Q has particular interest in the intersection between sexual assaults on campus and university responsibility. Our forum brought forth the following questions:
    • Do universities have an ethical mandate to help to end sexual assault on campus? Is it the school’s job, student’s job, or a combination of both to create a safe environment?
    • How should judicial policies reflect the ideals of justice and compassion for the victims?
    • What role do ethics play in protecting the rights of the accused offenders? 
    Finally, where are our current efforts to end sexual assault lacking? The numbers alone show these incidences on campus are far too common. We’re called to action.
     
    What are some next steps for us to take?
  •  Snapchat and Internet Privacy

    Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

     

    At Santa Clara University, “Week 5” sparks a tidal wave of midterm studying stress and a seemingly endless “to-do” list of assignments.  Last week during the chaos, I sat in my library study cubicle and surveyed the concentrating students around me. I noticed a peculiar trend. Instead of typing away on term papers or studying lecture notes, students played on their smartphones, the screens forming a sea of flickering yellow.  One after another, students posed for pictures with coffee mugs and stacked textbooks, giggling at their shameless “selfie” Snapchats. Snap! Snap! Snap!

    Snapchat. It’s photographic documentation at super speed.  Since its launch in 2011,   the application has seen massive success. In fact, users send an estimated 700 million photos and videos via Snapchat per day. The best part? The photos disappear after an allotted amount of time—or so we think.

    Despite its popularity, Snapchat’s privacy issues have slammed national news headlines. Security breach issues first surfaced earlier this year after a hacker website obtained over 4.6 million user names and phone numbers. Two weeks ago, hackers released another overwhelmingly large database of photos, this time accessed through a third-party application. In all cases, users believed that their “snaps” disappeared after opening; however, in our technologically advanced society, hackers managed to make the vanished reappear.

    The issue brings up several ethical questions regarding technology and privacy. First, if we willingly share photos, can we blame others when and if the content leaks?

    In addition, we can examine privacy itself. Is privacy a right or a luxury?

    Finally, what role do technology companies have in protecting our privacy?

  •  Fast Friends: Rushing Intimate Relationships

    Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014

    We’ve all heard that “your greatest friends come in college”—those lifelong friends that you toast to at the Grand Reunion or dance the night away with at your wedding reception. As freshmen, we envision ourselves surrounded by this core group of loyal companions from the get-go. We’re expected to post pictures of our fabulous new BFFs on Facebook and form an inseparable clique within a matter of weeks.

    When we come to college, we don’t want to wait around. We need friends, and we need them quickly! We rush relationships. We talk about our successes and failures, our home lives and our love lives, our fears and our ambitions.  

    The problems arise when we over-share and try to force intimacy.  Relationships don’t need to be physical to be intimate; close friendships are intimate in an emotional way. Premature intimacy of any kind can lead to heartache.
    Imagine that you’ve had a rough day. For comfort, you confide in a new friend, Sam. After a night of venting, you decide to share a troubling secret—you feel safe.
    The next day, however, you’re approached by a stranger in the hallway.  The stranger places his hands on your shoulders, and says, “Hey, Sam told me what happened. Feel better!”
    What!? Your new friend spilled. You’re hurt, but you doubt that Sam shared your secret maliciously. Either way, what do you do? There’s an imbalance of trust.
     
    Healthy relationships depend upon a strong foundation of trust, and trust takes time. Think carefully about your closest friends. How long have they been around? Many of our dearest friends have held prominent positions in our lives for one, five, or maybe even ten years. Often, you’ve grown up with one another, from the toddler diaper days to the teenaged braces phase. You’ve seen everything—the good and the bad. You’ve endured catty high school drama or vigorous sports team practices side-by-side. You know each other inside and out.
     
    During the beginning of college anonymity seems devastating, yet friendships with unreciprocated trust may sting just as badly.  What has been your experience with friendship in college?  When do you know you can trust someone?  How do you define true friendship?
  •  Five Ethical Dilemmas Freshmen Face

    Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014
    Welcome Weekend and Move-In Day finally arrive—the culmination of the longest summer of a freshman’s life. Lines of fully packed SUVs wrap campus, bulging with mattress pads, futons, and Container Store bags. Students pulse with excitement and fidget with nervous energy. In the dorms, parents sort boxes and hang photos, while freshmen begin to contemplate the placement of a something especially significant—themselves.
     
    During the first year of college, there’s a whole lot of new. Change lies in the far edges of an unknown campus, behind the door of a co-inhabited room, and underneath the cover of a thick, intimidating textbook. We’re bombarded with questions surrounding new faces, a new school, and a new routine.
     
    Often, freshmen face the following questions and conflicts that test their conscience and push new boundaries.
     
    1.    Do I have to conform? It’s human nature—everyone wants to fit in. We want to feel comfortable, accepted, and loved.  When making friends proves difficult, conformity seems to triumph over individuality. To an outsider, social skills and popularity render instant happiness. During freshmen year, students often ask themselves, how much of me am I willing to forfeit?  Am I willing to lie about who I am?
     
    2.    Do I pick a major based on passion or post-graduate salary? Many freshmen hear a piece of conventional wisdom, “Minor in what you love, but major in what gets you a job.” College students stand at a pivotal crossroads in their lives, torn by conflicting voices. In one ear, we hear encouraging whispers of pursuing passions; in the other, we’re fed constant reminders of debt, expense, and the pressure to provide.
     
    3.    Do I have to adhere to “hookup culture”? We’ve all heard our friends’ and parents’ stories about finding love in college. Today, the hype over casual hookups seems to squash the idea of the classic, committed relationship. Do couples even meet in class anymore? Many freshmen enter the first year with an idea of the “norm” already in place—the courting happens after hours, often with a drink in hand. Is casual sex okay?
     
    4.    How do I live with someone else? In college, roommates present gifts and challenges, all in one. Soon, moments of “me time” shrink from entire evenings to convenient class schedule incongruencies. On move-in day some freshmen meet lifelong best friends; others meet acquaintances. Regardless of the situation, freshmen quickly learn that they’ll have to address both trivial and complex roommate conflicts. How do I tell someone that his or her behavior bothers me? What’s normal, and what constitutes “crossing the line”?
     
    5.    Do I party? The media broadcasts that college life revolves around one thing—parties. We hear the message loud and clear. A typical night involves keg stands, sweaty, packed basements, and an endless supply of potent drinks, right? Freshmen ask themselves, do I have to party to fit in? Does everyone drink?  Unfortunately, the consequences of underage binge drinking (including it’s illegality) outlast the day-after headache. What does partying mean for my reputation?
     

     

  •  Welcome Logan Peterson--Hackworth Fellow Working on The Big Q

    Friday, Oct. 3, 2014

    I’m a senior Finance major, Spanish studies minor from Phoenix, Arizona. Upon my first visit to Santa Clara, I was drawn to the university’s Jesuit education and emphasis on compassion and ethics. I like deep talks, long walks on the beach…but really, I do—I love picking apart the complex ethical issues that college students face. I’m excited to contribute to the Big Q this year, incorporating my passion for both writing and photography.

    On-campus, you can often find me in the Business School building, Lucas Hall, running to and from meetings. In my spare time, I enjoy staying active and city life. I love exposure to new cultures, languages, and countries. Post-graduation, I plan to travel to South America before starting full-time at Apple as a finance associate in the fall.

  •  Introducing the 2014-15 Big Q Intern Tony Williams

    Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

    Tony Williams is a Senior at SCU majoring in Sociology, with minors in Entrepreneurship and Japanese. He hails from the frigid tundra of Minneapolis, MN, where he grew up reading science fiction and staying inside as much as was humanly possible every winter. His primary interest, however, lies in Hip-Hop, where he is a well- known performer within the Minneapolis music scene as a member of the group "KILLSTREAK". Perhaps most notably, he created and performed a Hip-Hop mass in May 2014 at Minneapolis' Plymouth Congregational Church, a center of social advocacy and progressive faith.

    Outside of music, Tony enjoys social justice work, video games, reading, and discussing contemporary ethical issues with anyone willing to listen to him for more than half an hour. After a long career of sidelining parties to discuss ethical conflicts of interest, he decided that he might as well get an internship that allowed him to discuss them on the clock. Jokes aside, he's thrilled to be working with The Big Q this year, both on their Twitter (Follow him at @bigqethics!) and on plans to bring a series of campus forums discussing ethical issues to SCU. He's thrilled to be engaging with a variety of ethical perspectives over the course of the next year, refining his own ethical compass and helping to make SCU a better place for everyone.

  •  Congratulations Graduates!

    Saturday, Jun. 14, 2014

    The Big Q sends best wishes to all students who graduated in 2014 and wishes a great summer to everyone who will be returning to school in the fall. We will be taking some time off during the summer, but will be back with more contests and cases at the return of the school year. In the meantime, check out some of our old cases about ethical issues students face in their everyday lives! Feel free to leave us your thoughts and opinions! Happy Summer Holidays!

  •  Waitlists and VIPs

    Tuesday, May. 27, 2014

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Callie is the Senior Events Coordinator on her student government. She plans senior events throughout the year, but the biggest event is Senior Ball. Hosted each spring, the event includes a night of wine and dancing for 1,000 members of the senior class. Due to chaperone restrictions, venue requirements, and transportation issues, attendance cannot exceed 1,000 students. Each year, about 100 seniors who want to attend Senior Ball must be turned away.

    This year, the number of seniors who could not get tickets is even greater. The event sold out in two hours, and the line to purchase tickets was wrapped around the block. Callie had to turn away many seniors, including a few of her close friends. As she goes through the list of attendees a few days before the event, Callie realizes that there were some errors in data entry and five tickets remain. Since there was no possibility of adding additional spaces, Callie did not create a waiting list. Callie immediately thinks of her friends. She knows that there are other seniors who desperately want tickets, but she could easily fill the spots from only her friend group. Callie wonders if she can just distribute the tickets to her friends. They really want to go, and she wants them to be there. Callie spent the last several months working on the event, and thinks she deserves to have all her friends there to share it with her.

    She knows she could send an email to the senior class and create a waiting list, and draw names from the people who respond, but with only a few days before the event, Callie doesn’t feel that she has the time. She has to visit the venue, establish the set-up, confirm all the contracts and reservations, train volunteers for the event check-in, and make sure each participant has turned in the waivers. She knows that she’ll receive hundreds of responses about the tickets, and creating the waiting list will detract from her ability to prepare for a great event. For just five tickets, it doesn’t seem worth the extra work.

    What would you do in Callie’s situation? Is it fair to give the few extra tickets to friends, without extending the opportunity further? Can you extend the benefits of your student government position to your friends? When does it go too far?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Photo by Joshua Ganderson available under a Creative Commons license.

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  •  Lean on Me

    Monday, May. 12, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Lean on Me” win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business. Use your gift to try out that new flavor of ice cream or spend it on two slices of your favorite pizza. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 25th, 2014. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Patrick is a sophomore at a large university in Washington. He’s from Arizona, so he is paying out of state tuition. Patrick is fortunate that his parents are able to pay for his college tuition and apartment rent. However, Patrick had to find a way to pay for other essentials like food, textbooks, and any entertainment. As a result, he attained two jobs: peer tutoring and working at the on-campus Jamba Juice.

    One day during sophomore year, Patrick finds out that his best friend from high school, Jordan, is going through rough times back in Arizona. Jordan lost his basketball scholarship at his university because he was caught doing drugs. As a result, he wasn’t able to continue paying tuition and had to drop out. In addition, his single mother can no longer afford to support him.

    Patrick convinces Jordan to come out to Washington, so he can get away from his recent past and get onto a new track. Jordan crashes on Patrick’s couch for a couple of weeks. He has no money and no job, so Patrick begins to support him until he can get back onto his feet. He works longer hours and is busy all the time because of his two jobs and academics.

    Patrick talks to Jordan about getting a job. After a month, Jordan is able to get employed at a local restaurant. However, Jordan isn’t given many hours so he isn’t able to pay for many living expenses. Patrick tells Jordan to try and find another job, but it always seems like he is just hanging out while Patrick is at work or school, instead of actively looking.

    Patrick doesn’t know what to do. Jordan is his longtime best friend. However, Patrick knows he won’t be able to sustain his financial support for Jordan. What should Patrick do? What is best for Jordan’s future? Patrick’s? Is there a way Patrick can help Jordan get back on track, or is it up to Jordan now to figure it out? Is there something Patrick could have done earlier to avoid this situation entirely?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    How to Help Loved Ones in a Financial Crisis

    Mooching friends -- how to deal with them

    Photo by Amy available under a Creative Commons license.