Santa Clara University


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.

  •  Poster Wars: When Is Speech Offensive?

    Monday, Mar. 28, 2011
    Photo used under creative commons from Dana Rocks

    Mary lives in a college dorm and displays a poster on her door with the text of California Proposition 8: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” She supported the successful “Yes on 8” campaign.  A constitutional challenge to the proposition is now working its way through the courts, and Mary is involved in the effort to prevent the proposition from being declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    James, her dorm neighbor, finds this poster offensive and demands Mary take it down. He worked to defeat the measure, which he feels is homophobic and discriminatory. To Mary, the poster is an expression of her beliefs and identity, and she does not think she should have to remove it.

    What should happen now?

    Best student response wins $50.  Rules

    Here are some resources from different perspectives that might help you decide:

    Making an Ethical Decision 

    Hate Speech on Campus: Pros and Cons 

    Student Speech: ACLU 

    Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) 

    Responding to Bigotry and Intergroup Strife on Campus: Anti-Defamation League

    Photo by Dana Rocks available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License


  •  Big Q Contest Rules

    Friday, Mar. 25, 2011

    The Big Q will award a $100 Amazon Gift Certificate to the best student comment on the featured case.

    Eligibility: Undergraduates students currently enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges. You can submit your comment using whatever email address you like, but if your comment is selected as the best, you will be asked to confirm that you are a student, usually by emailing from a .edu address. Email addresses are not used for any purpose other than contacting winner.  Only one prize per person in any six-month period.

    Selection: Ten finalists will be determined by “likes.” Encourage your friends to come to the blog and “like” your comment. Winner will be selected by staff and students at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University based on the commenter's analysis of the ethical issues. The Ethics Center reserves the right not to make an award in a week when no comment is judged prize-worthy.

    Prizes will be delivered as Amazon gift cards.

    The Big Q Blog Contest is made possible thanks to a gift from Ethics Center Advisory Board Member John Bronson, retired senior vice president and head of human resources for Williams-Sonoma.

  •  Meet the Bloggers: Student Cameron Tow

    Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011

    Cameron Tow is a senior psychology major at Santa Clara University.

    Following the three most frighteningly short years of my life, I now find myself as a senior at Santa Clara University, unwilling to accept that my undergraduate career is almost over. After browsing the aisles of academia for what felt like all of twenty minutes, I have finally settled on psychology as a major. Chief among my limited accomplishments so far has been helping to found the Lambda Gamma chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity, of which I am a member of the inaugural Alpha class. I have lived in three places throughout my life: New York, where my family now lives, Australia, where I spent a few of the most impressionable years of my life (and brought back a gnarly accent to prove it, which I have unfortunately since lost), and California, where I now go to school and hope to build my adult life. My tentative plan is to get some form of graduate degree and then hopefully a job.


  •  Meet the Bloggers: Parent Miriam Schulman

    Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011

    Ethics Center Communications Director Miriam Schulman is also the parent of a college junior and a recent graduate.

    Like many parents of college students today, I am a boomer. I entered college myself--Brandeis University--in 1969, the year of the moonwalk, Woodstock, and the national student strike. In other words, I’m well aware that the current generation did not invent sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I’ve always had an interest in ethics, particularly social justice. Right out of college, I joined Volunteers in Service to America (the domestic Peace Corps), which matured into my first job as the editor of a community newspaper. Along the way, I picked up a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and then went on for a master’s in creative writing from Stanford. I’ve been lucky to be able to put my skills and interests together as the communications director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, where I have also taught in the Communication Department.

  •  Meet the Bloggers: Student Deepti Shenoy

    Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2011

    Currently a law student at University of Pennsylvania, Deepti Shenoy wrote her responses when she was a senior at Santa Clara University.

    In college, I was constantly discovering new passions I couldn’t resist pursuing. Triple majoring in History, Religious Studies and Women and Gender Studies definitely kept me on my toes, and my various academic and nonacademic activities, including six classes every quarter, working as peer educator in a yearlong Ethics and Globalization class, becoming involved in research with my professors, various art projects, learning cooking, and vegetable gardening made me feel a bit like a professional juggler. It was a challenge, and at times I had my parents pulling their hair out in frustration, but what’s life without a little excitement? At least, that’s what I keep telling myself, since it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down anytime soon.

  •  Meet the Bloggers: Student Intern Alicia Rangel

    Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2011

    As The Big Q's student intern, Alicia Rangel manages the project Facebook page and video contest.

    Originally from San Jose, CA, I decided to keep it local when it came to college and I am a senior at Santa Clara University. My major is management, and I also have a minor in music. I hope to work for a major tech company, a start–up non-profit, or some happy mix of the two when I graduate. I would also love to continue my other interests post–graduation, which include music, theater, and art.

  •  Meet the Bloggers: Ethicist David DeCosse

    Monday, Mar. 21, 2011

    David DeCosse is director of campus ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.  His Ph.D. in theological ethics is from Boston College, and he teaches classes such as "The Ethics of War and Peace."

    It's true--I like reading and writing about abstract theories of freedom in social and political life. But all that work and study is the top of the building. The foundation of the structure is attention to real life, where ethics is played out, surprising, shaded with doubt, or lit up like the sun on a green California hill. Blogs fit into that foundation.  They inhabit that space of real life where what happens hits us hard, evokes a bunch of opinions, then evokes a bunch more. Space is opened up in all this churn: Space to see things more clearly, live life more rightly.


  •  Who Should Read the Big Q?

    Thursday, Mar. 17, 2011

    First and foremost, the Big Q is for college students.  We want it to be an online hub for honest discussion about the everyday--but sometimes complicated--ethical issues students have to come to grips with. 

    But the Big Q is also for the people who care about college students--parents, teachers, and student life professionals.  It's a way to find out what issues students are wrestling with.

    We'd love for the blog to be place where students can talk among themselves and also with older people who  understand--or want to understand--what they are going through.



  •  The Big Q Video Contest

    Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011

    To cheat or not to cheat? Is it okay to take Adderall to study? Is there anything wrong with friends with benefits?

    Create a 2-5 minute video that shows an ethical issue for college students. Prize: $500

    Don’t know what an ethical issue is?  Click Here

    Use your own creative style and approach.  Just be sure the video shows how students face an ethical dilemma.

    Open to undergraduates, ages 18-25, currently enrolled at 2- or 4-year colleges and universities.

    To enter, go to the Big Q Facebook page and click the tab for video contest.  Instructions on uploading your video are on that site. 

    Entries accepted March 11-April 11.

    Judging: Ten finalists will be selected by Facebook likes.  Winner is selected by a panel of three students and three members of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics staff.

  •  What Questions Will the Big Q Cover?

    Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2011

    The first round of The Big Q focuses on nine dilemmas any college student may face:

    Your floormate puts up a poster that you find offensive.

    You want to end a "friends with benefits" relationship but wind up in bed anyway.

    You have been invited to a "Fresh Off the Boat" theme party.

    Your roommate has stopped eating and you worry that she is anorexic.

    Your friend offers you some of his prescription Adderall to help you study.

    One member of your group project is not doing his share of the work.

    You've failed a paper for unintended plagiarism, and your dad wants to call the teacher.

    Your friend has passed out from drinking.  Should you call the EMTs?

    Your first job offer is from a company you're not excited about working for.

    These stories were among the 130 narratives collected from undergraduates across the country by students working for  the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. 

    Subscribe to the blog to read the week's case and comments and leave your own feedback. 

    Also, visit The Big Q Facebook page to participate in polls about the week's case or to learn about The Big Q Video Contest.