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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.

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  •  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?
     

     

  •  Go Greek or Go Home

    Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on "Go Greek or Go Home" win a $5 Yiftee gift certificate to a local business of your choice! Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, January 19th, 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.**
     
    Stefano is a freshman at a small college called Hinchley University. Although Hinchley doesn’t recognize Greek life, there are plenty of nationally recognized fraternities and sororities off campus.
     
    Even before Stefano applied to college, he knew he wanted to rush a fraternity. His father was in a fraternity and always told Stefano that he gained valuable life lessons out of his experience that shaped who he became as an individual. When Stefano gets to Hinchley, however, he is disappointed that his father’s fraternity doesn’t have a chapter at his school. He forgets about rushing a fraternity until winter quarter comes around and fraternities host rush week.
     
    Stefano decides to attend rush week to see if he can find an organization that fits his mold. He’s looking for fraternity brothers who care about academics as much as socializing and who walk the talk supporting worthwhile philanthropies. At the end of rush, Stefano thinks he’s found just what he wants in a fraternity called “Alpha Iota.”
     
    Alpha Iota extends Stefano a bid and he accepts. Soon, however, Stefano finds some of his fraternity brothers are not the kind of guys he really wants to hang around with. While a lot of the members are great, several others both publically and privately show disrespect towards other fraternities and all women on and off campus. In addition, there is hostility between the brothers themselves that Stefano didn’t see during rush. He soon finds out it may be from hazing the pledges are forced to undertake.
     
    Only a couple days into his pledge period, on a Monday night, Stefano is locked in a dark basement with his pledge brothers. First, they are instructed to finish a keg of beer amongst the 25 pledges. After this, they are forced to stay awake all night, still locked in the basement, by blasting music and active brothers going around slapping pledges awake who fall asleep.
     
    Stefano finds himself torn. He’d like to belong to a fraternity so that he has a good social network on campus. But should he continue to go through the pledge period to join this exclusive club, even though he doesn’t respect some of the members and he doesn’t feel comfortable with the hazing?
     
    Do you believe the desire to be in a Greek organization—even one that hazes—should outweigh a college student’s moral conscience? If you were forced to do something you didn’t want to do to join an exclusive organization, would you do it? Or would you walk away, knowing that dropping out will affect your social life at college? If you are involved with Greek life, is there something the organization could do that would make you reevaluate your allegiance? If so, what?
     
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
    Photo by Donald Harrison available under a Creative Commons license.
  •  Rushing Into Things

    Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012

     The best college student comment on "Rushing Into Things" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, September 16. Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.

    Katie is a freshman, and she has loved the first few weeks of college. However, she feels that she could benefit from a close-knit group of friends; and, unlike many of her peers, she doesn’t feel like she has connected strongly with anyone in her dorm or the few clubs she’s joined.
     
    Katie’s older sister is in a sorority at another school, and tells Katie that she should rush for a more built-in community. Beyond gaining friendships, her sister cites leadership opportunities, volunteer work, and a full social calendar on a long list of benefits of “going Greek.”
     
    Despite the fact that her sister seems happy with her decision to rush, Katie isn’t so sure. While hazing is banned at her university, she knows all too well that it happens. Recently she heard that one sorority on her campus makes its pledges drink an entire bottle of champagne by themselves after pledging, and she’s heard of even more hazing horror stories from friends at other colleges. Despite the awful things that hazing rituals consist of, though, she’s also heard members say that the hazing process often brings the people in those groups much closer together.
     
    Katie longs for a group of girls that will love and accept her in the name of sisterhood, and wouldn’t mind the activities and other benefits that come with it. She knows that, like her sister’s chapter, not all sororities haze. But should she take the risk that she may be forced to do something she doesn’t want to do, even something potentially dangerous, for the sake of making friends? And is she willing to inflict that upon someone else?
     
     
     

     

     
  •  Rush

    Monday, Aug. 8, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate.  Responses must be received by midnight August 14, 2011.

    When Bobby first arrived on campus, he didn't know a single person. Making an effort to meet people, Bobby went to a fraternity party where the members tried to convince him to come out for rush the following week. They seemed pretty cool, and Bobby was excited to have met some new guys who seemed to like him already. Bobby has heard all the typical fraternity stereotypes: heavy partiers, skirt chasers, users, etc. He has also heard that fraternities can act as very exclusive clubs, and that brothers only interact with other members. However, Bobby also knows that stereotypes are often wrong.

    While Bobby has never been a huge partier, and he really doesn't want to be pigeonholed as a "frat boy," he really does want to find a good setting to get to know his classmates. Should he go out for rush and see what it's like or wait for another opportunity to meet people?

    Here are some resources you might find useful:

    Going Greek: The Pros and Cons

    Hazing Study

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

    Photo by Wolfram Burner available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

  •  Party!

    Monday, Jun. 27, 2011

    Starting the first week of Will's freshman year at a large state university, there was always a party going on. There were frat parties, tailgates, theme parties, and dances. Even within Will's dorm, some group was always having a good time--playing poker, watching movies, or just hanging out.

    At first, Will enjoyed the social scene and getting to know people; he didn't see a problem with adjusting to the social atmosphere before really getting into the academics. But two months into college, he found himself behind in a couple of classes, and handing in work that he wasn't very proud of. He would promise himself to study, but then get sidetracked when one of his buddies dropped by his room and asked him to go out.

    Will had come to college to prepare himself for a career in law, and he knew he needed to perform reasonably well to get into law school. But he also figured that college was supposed to the best time in his life, which it certainly wasn't going to be if all he did was study. What was the right balance? What difference would it make either way?

    Some Interesting Facts and Resources

    About 29 percent of incoming students chose their colleges based on the reputation of their "social activities."

    Chronicle of Higher Education, 2003

    Most guides recommend about 2 hours of study a week for each hour in the classroom. Generally this will work out to between 30 and 45 hours. But the National Survey of Student Engagement found that many students try to get by on far less. Of freshmen at four-year residential colleges, only 12 percent spent 26 hours or more preparing for class.

    "A" students average 3.1 drinks per week
    "B" students average 4.4 drinks per week
    "C" students averages 5.6 drinks per week
    "D" and "F" students average 9.5 drinks per week The Bacchus Network

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

    Photo by mel_rowling available under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  Theme Party

    Monday, Apr. 11, 2011

    Michelle is looking through Facebook after class and notices that her good friend Anthony has a new album uploaded on his profile entitled “FOBs R Us.” Michelle looks through the photos and video clips and sees that both white students and students of color are depicting stereotypes of immigrants from Asia. There are people speaking in fake accents, wearing pointed farmer’s hats and ethnic garb, bowing to each other, posing in mock martial arts positions, and carrying around chopsticks in their pockets.

    Michelle knows that most of the photos were taken at a “Fresh Off the Boat” party Anthony held the weekend before. Michelle was invited but made up an excuse not to go because the whole idea made her uncomfortable. Now that she sees the photos, she’s even more uncomfortable, but she notices that a lot of her friends have “liked” pictures from the album. Is there something wrong with Michelle’s sense of humor, or is there something wrong with the FOBs R Us?

    Here are some resources that might be helpful:

    Racist Theme Parties: Freedom of Speech or Freedom to Hate 

    Discussion of UCSD "Compton Cookout" by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Photo by Swamibu available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.