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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.

  •  Members Only

    Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
    A building in Hastings, providing student housing and offices.
    The best college student comment on "Members Only" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, November 18th. 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.
     
    Jared is a college student who grounds his identity in his faith. From a young age, Jared found that his Christian beliefs helped him make sense of the world, and most of his friends feel the same way. For his undergraduate studies, Jared went to a Christian school, but decided to pursue law at Hastings, part of the University of California system.
     
    Immediately, Jared found a home with the Christian Legal Society. All the members of the group held his same beliefs, and used those beliefs to inform their understanding of law throughout their studies. However, one of Jared’s friends, Molly, was a part of the LGBTQ club, Hastings Outlaw, and found out that students who were part of the LGBTQ community were not welcome to vote or hold leadership positions in the CLS.
     
    Molly was outraged, saying that this policy was unfair discrimination that went against Hasting’s policy that “student organizations allow students to participate regardless of the student’s status or beliefs.” Besides, Hastings was a public university, and since student clubs received funding from the university, allowing the CLS to exclude members of the LGBTQ community would be like the state imposing the religious standards of one group on another. It would be state-sanctioned discrimination.
     
    Jared tried to explain to Molly that he personally did not have a problem with the Hastings Outlaw or anyone in it, but the faith he has fiercely believed in all his life has explicitly laid out in the Bible that “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” is sinful, and that includes "sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman" as well as homosexual relationships. For the CLS to ignore this important aspect of their belief system, Jared said, would not honor what the CLS was trying to represent. Forcing the CLS to accept leadership from those who believed differently would be infringing upon the members’ freedom of religion.
     
    Molly said that she understood where he was coming from, but it shouldn’t matter because students should be allowed to explore different beliefs in college and feel safe from discrimination in doing so. Hastings College of Law agreed, and refused funding of the CLS unless they changed their membership policy.
     
    Do you think that Molly and Hastings Outlaw are right? Should anyone be able to apply for any leadership position in a club, regardless of whether or not their personal philosophy aligns with it? Or, do you think Jared is right? Can he and the CLS be justified in excluding students who don’t share the CLS’s beliefs from leadership roles so that they can maintain the integrity of the group and fully exercise their freedom of speech, association, and religion?
     
     
    This case study is based on the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by cbcastro available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.
  •  Rock the Vote

    Monday, Oct. 15, 2012
    The best college student comment on "Rock the Vote" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, October 28th. 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.
     
    Maggie is voting for the first time this year. She has made a particular effort to educate herself about the important issues in her state's race for the U.S. senate.

    The issues Maggie cares most about—along with the majority of her peers—are jobs, healthcare, and education funding. She realizes that the dismal job market is looming just beyond graduation, that the current healthcare system is flawed, and education funding is lower than ever before. She has found a candidate that she fully supports and that advocates policies and changes that she feels she can trust. However, there is just one problem—she does not agree with the candidate’s permissive stance on abortion.
     
    Her friends tell her that her moral qualms about the abortion issue are vastly outnumbered by the positive qualities that her favorite candidate has to offer; however, she is having trouble accepting a candidate who directly contradicts her passionately held, pro-life position.
     
    Should Maggie vote for the candidate she thinks is less qualified to lead in this capacity, but who agrees with her stance on abortion and will legalize the morality she believes should guide U.S. policy? Or should she vote for the candidate she agrees with on every other issue, and also risk perpetuating a belief that she finds morally reprehensible? 
     
     
     
     
    Photo by mrmannnn available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.

     

  •  The Pre-game

    Monday, Oct. 1, 2012

    The best college student comment on "The Pre-game" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. The video should allow you to choose whose story you will follow.  If you have trouble with this feature, you can view the video on YouTube.

    Entries must be received by midnight, Oct. 14. 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.

    For this contest, watch this interactive video which allows you to choose what two college students, Ari and Daniel, will do on a night out.  Click on the prompts to make your selection.  At the end, comment here and tell us about a time you faced a decision like Ari's and Daniel's.

  •  Claustrophobic

    Monday, Sep. 17, 2012
    Derek's roommate, Joey, is extremely clingy.
    The best college student comment on "Claustrophobic" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, September 30. 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.
     
    Derek is beginning his freshman year in college. Wanting to expand his social horizons, he had signed up for a random roommate assignment when it came time to register for housing. Now, several months after making that decision, he felt a little nervous as he moved the first boxes into his room. However, his roommate, Joey, had arrived before him, and he was quickly relieved to discover that Joey seemed “normal.”
     
    The two guys got dinner together the first night, and got to know each other a bit. Joey seemed friendly and didn’t have any obvious hygiene issues, so Derek felt like it was a good match! He had heard lots of roommate “horror stories,” and was thankful that he would not be added to that list.
     
    After the first couple weeks of classes, Derek signed up for the student government and quickly found a group of friends through that organization. Joey, however, was less proactive—he seemed to limit his free time to surfing the Internet, and began to make comments about feeling lonely and homesick. Derek felt bad for the guy, so he invited Joey to hang out in his new friend group as an opportunity to socialize and meet more people.
     
    As Joey began to tag along more and more, Derek started to realize that their personalities didn’t exactly mesh. Little things that Joey would do or say would rub Derek the wrong way, and he could tell that others in the group shared that sentiment. It began to be an obligation to invite Joey along to things, and nobody felt that they could completely be themselves with Joey around. Derek felt responsible for creating this tricky dynamic, and felt that he had to do something about it.
     
    Torn between being a good friend and feeling claustrophobic, Derek was faced with a tough decision. Should he stick it out for the rest of the year for Joey’s sake? Or, should he be honest and tell Joey that sometimes he wants a little space to hang out with his friends by himself?
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by maverick253 available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.
  •  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?
     
     
     

     

     
  •  Passion or Practicality?

    Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012
    Mark must decide whether to pursue his dreams or to please his parents.
    The best college student comment on "Passion or Practicality?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, September 2. 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.
     
    Mark has always loved to draw, creating images from things he’s seen around him and things he conjures up in his own imagination. He is fascinated by the fine arts, and when he pictures his future, he sees himself as a curator of an art museum, or the owner of his own gallery.
     
    There’s just one problem. With the recent economic downturn and two younger siblings to think about, Mark faces many daunting financial obstacles in order to pursue his education. As a college freshman, he’s picked up some federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, but his school’s endowment is less than stellar so he hasn’t received many grants. In essence, he’s looking at about a 150k debt that he’ll have to pay off when he graduates. He plans on continuously applying for merit-based scholarships, but he knows that he’s still going to have a lot on his shoulders. With all of this to consider, his parents are encouraging to pursue something a bit more… “lucrative.” In their minds, something like business or engineering would have a much bigger return than a fine arts or art history degree. They are so serious about this, in fact, that they have decided they will only pay off Mark’s loans if he pursues something that they consider to be practical. If he chooses to pursue something in the arts, Mark will take on his debt by himself.  
     
    Mark understands the situation he is in, and wants to be realistic… Perhaps he could become a businessman and sketch on the side, or volunteer at a local museum. However, he also feels like he can’t deny the part of himself that wants to completely follow his number one passion. How can Mark deal with this tug-of-war, respecting both his family’s wishes and his own hopes for the future?
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by cstmweb available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.
  •  Petty Theft

    Monday, Aug. 6, 2012
    Jackie sees her best friend stealing.. What should she do?
     The best college student comment on "Petty Theft" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, August 19. 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. 
     
    Jackie lives in an apartment with two friends, but lately her housemate Alex has been getting on everyone’s nerves. She always has her boyfriend over, she hasn’t been helping with chores, and she’s been distancing herself from the other two. She also has a nasty habit of leaving all of her belongings strewn everywhere- wallet, keys, file folders for work, you name it! In contrast, Jackie and her other friend, Sarah, have been getting much closer, spending almost every moment together. Jackie’s a little sad that she and Alex aren't as close anymore, but feels that it’s beyond her control. 
     
    One Thursday afternoon, Jackie gets home early from work. Alex is shut in her room as usual, so the only indication that she’s around is her typical trail of belongings. Sarah is in the shower, so she doesn’t hear Jackie come in. Jackie plops down on the couch and turns on her laptop, ready to do some much-deserved Pinterest surfing. Absorbed in the myriad of crafts and wedding decorations, she doesn’t notice that Sarah has turned off the shower and stepped out of the bathroom. Jackie is a bit out of Sarah’s sight, and she watches in surprise as Sarah picks up Alex’s wallet, takes out a $10 bill, and puts it in the pocket of her robe. Jackie almost says something, but then figures that it’s probably for something that Alex owes Sarah. And, even if Sarah is taking money, doesn’t Alex deserve it for irresponsibly leaving her stuff everywhere?  It isn’t even that much; $10 is basically an overpriced latte, right? 
     
    Jackie feels a little put off by the situation, but gives Sarah the benefit of the doubt. They make dinner together and watch a movie, and Jackie forgets all about it. Later that night, Alex emerges from her room and grabs her wallet, about to head out with her boyfriend. Thumbing through the bills with a puzzled look on her face, she asks, “Have you guys seen any money lying around? There’s not as much in here as I remember.” Sarah shakes her head and says, “Maybe it got lost in the laundry or something!” Jackie looks at her, surprised, remembering what she had seen earlier that afternoon.
    What should Jackie do? Should she tell Alex that Sarah took money from her wallet and risk damaging her closest friendship and her living situation for the year? Or should she say she hasn't seen anything, since Alex probably won't know the difference and should learn to keep better track of her things? 
     

     

  •  Once a Cheater...

    Monday, Jul. 23, 2012
    Devon has to decide if he can trust his friend Cory, who regularly cheats on schoolwork.

    The best college student comment on "Once A Cheater..." wins a $200 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, August 5. 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.

    Devon thought it might be difficult to make friends when he went to college, but three weeks into his freshman year, he had already found two of the best friends he could ask for. They did everything together, from basketball to homework. And, as luck would have it, Devon randomly shared the same class as one of these friends, Cory.

    In that class, Devon noticed that his friend cheated profusely. Not only would Cory plagiarize assignments, but he would also use his phone to cheat on tests. Still they were friends; whatever Cory did in class was his own business and shouldn’t matter to the friendship, Devon thought.

    One night, however, the three friends were playing poker, and Cory kept getting good hand after good hand. As much as Devon wanted to call it coincidence, he couldn’t help thinking of Cory cheating in class. On a later day, Devon played against his two friends in basketball; Cory claimed he was fouled even though Devon didn’t see it.

    Now, Cory has asked to “look over” Devon’s essay for their class--just to give Cory an idea of where to start. Devon wants to help his friend out, but worries about what Cory’s real intentions might be.
    Is Devon just being paranoid? Would it make sense for Devon to trust his other friend more than Cory? Does cheating in class reflect anything about your character outside of it? 

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What is Plagiarism, and is it Always Bad?

     

    Photo by theentiregospel available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.

  •  Cheat Sheet

    Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012

    The best college student comment on "Cheat Sheet" wins a $200 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, August 5.  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.

    Shelby has been studying for the past two weeks for her final in chemistry. Her grade in the class is much lower than it should be, and her father has warned her to improve it or there will be consequences. So declining party invitations, restricting her time with friends, and spending hours in the library, Shelby has done a lot to prepare for this exam.

    Come test day, Shelby sits next to a mutual friend of hers that lives on the same floor in their dorm. Talking with her before the test begins, Shelby notices that this friend has hidden a cheat sheet at the top of her backpack.

    Ordinarily, Shelby wouldn’t be concerned about it; however, the professor has already announced that he will be grading the test on a strict curve. Even if everyone does really well, the professor will divide up the grades to make sure there’s a limited amount of A’s and B’s. Should Shelby report what she’s seen to the teacher? Should she keep it to herself? What would you do?

     

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What Does It Really Mean to Curve Grades?

     

    Photo by Mr_Stein available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  What's Wrong With Cheating?

    Monday, Jun. 18, 2012

     

    With about two-thirds of 14,000 undergraduates in a recent study admitting that they cheat on tests and assignments, colleges and universities are looking for ways to engage students on the importance of academic integrity.
     
    This summer, The Big Q will focus on cheating. Every two weeks beginning June 25 and ending July 30, The Big Q Facebook page and blog will feature a new case study illustrating an aspect of academic integrity. A $200 Amazon gift card will go to the best undergraduate response on each of three cases. The Big Q will also run a weekly poll on students' attitudes toward cheating.
     
    For the past three years, the Ethics Center has partnered with SCU's Office of Student Life to offer summer sessions on academic integrity to every incoming freshman at Santa Clara.
     
    "What we've found," says Center Assistant Director Miriam Schulman, "is that students often think of cheating as a victimless crime—an action that may be unethical but that doesn't hurt anyone else." The materials for The Big Q project put cheating in the context of fairness, showing how it provides an unfair advantage that does, indeed, harm classmates.
     
    Also, Schulman notes, "Many students believe that they can quarantine cheating—just doing it in classes outside their major or courses that have no impact on their professional readiness. " In response, The Big Q case studies encourage students to think about how the act of cheating changes the cheater, eroding character in ways that affect every aspect of their lives.
     
    SCU will be using the cases and polls this year in 26 orientation sessions for freshmen, and organizers hope the dialog spreads beyond the Santa Clara campus. The Big Q is free and available to faculty or staff at any university who wish to use the materials. Contests are open to any student at a 2- or 4-year college or university.