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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.

  •  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. 
     

     

  •  Protesting Commencement?

    Friday, Jun. 1, 2012

    The best college student comment on "Protesting Commencement?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, June 17.  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.  

    After nearly four years of college, Ryan is finally graduating. As he goes online to figure out his responsibilities for the big day, he notices that his school has already chosen the commencement speaker: the CEO of a burgeoning business in the area. Not overly familiar with the woman, Ryan researches her and the company on the web.

    Quickly, Ryan learns that although the successful business has donated lots of money to the surrounding community, it has been tied up in a number of lawsuits over the improper disposal of its wastes. Looking into the matter further, Ryan discovers that this particular CEO has even made changes in the company that directly resulted in less environmentally sustainable practices.

    Ryan has been a member of Students for a Greener Earth since he was a freshman, and the college itself made a weighty pledge within the last year to improve its environmental sustainability. Unable to change the speaker but nonetheless outraged that she has been selected, Ryan intends to protest. 

    One option is to pass out leaflets before or after the ceremony detailing her actions in light of the school's pledge; however, another possibility is to do something when she's on stage. While she speaks, he could stand and turn his back to her; he could rally his friends to chant a message against her; he could even gather a group of people to shout so loudly so she can't finish her speech. 

    What do you believe he should do?

    Resources

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    Remarks by John J. Digioia, president of Georgetown University

    Controversial Commencement Speaker Hall of Fame (Washington Post)

     

    Photo by ragesoss available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  The Dream Act

    Monday, May. 14, 2012

    The best college student comment on "The Dream Act" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, May 28.  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.  

    Ana immigrated illegally to the United States from Mexico when she was just two-years-old. Alongside her father and two older siblings, Ana was carried on her mother’s back to California where they now reside. Sixteen years later, Ana is applying to college; however, she needs public funding in order to attend these institutions.

    The California DREAM Act—a bill similar to the national DREAM Act which helps minors who have arrived illegally attain permanent residency—would allow Ana access to scholarships and funding she needs to attend college. However, any money that she receives from the state is the same taxpayers’ money that could be going to other students.

    Is it fair, then, that Ana, who is in the country illegally, receive the funds that Californian citizens could use as well? Should Ana’s eligibility to receive such public funds depend on whether her parents have worked and contributed to society during their time in California? How much of Ana’s educational aspirations should be sacrificed because of her parents' decision when she was an infant?

    Further Information

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    Overview Of The National Dream Act  

     

  •  Paying For College – Who Should Take Responsibility?

    Saturday, Apr. 28, 2012
    The accompanying photo is by DonkeyHotey, available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr
    The accompanying photo is by DonkeyHotey, available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr

    The best college student comment on "Paying For College – Who Should Take Responsibility?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, May 13.  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. 

    Kevin is enjoying his sophomore year at a small, private university on the east coast. He has good friends, he’s close with his professors, and he is involved with a community service club on campus. He also works 20 hours a week for dining services to defray the cost of his room and board. Unfortunately, however, he has just learned that a scholarship he received for the first two years won't be renewed, and his tuition money will take a big hit.

    When Kevin chose this college, his parents had agreed to pay for his schooling; however, in order to afford the increased cost, they would have to push back their retirement, working years past when they intended to stop.

    Kevin is already working the maximum number of hours he's allowed.  Assuming he can't find scholarships to cover the rest, should he be expected to attend a cheaper, state college? Or should Kevin’s parents be expected to make the sacrifice?

     

    Further Information

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making 
    Who Should Pay for College? (USA Today College)
    Student Debt and the Importance of College

  •  Embellishing The Details

    Monday, Apr. 16, 2012

    The best college student comment on "Embellishing The Details" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, April 27.  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.

           Ever since Kate took a class on social justice earlier in the year, she has become very interested and involved with the workers’ rights of the custodians and gardeners on her college campus. And recently she discovered that the school has increased the cost of the workers’ premium and co-payments for their health insurance.

          Now Kate works for the school newspaper and thinks that if she writes an article on the increased cost of their benefits, it could gain the attention of the administrators who could help the workers' case. However, with the facts and interviews that Kate has been able to collect, she doesn't believe the story will be able to persuade those she needs to reach. But if she portrays a composite character as a real person, estimating his salary and the devastating effect these price hikes would have, she believes her article will have the necessary strength to have an impact.

          Her actions have no intent to garner praise for herself; she merely wants to achieve what is due to these workers. Is it ethical, then, for Kate to employ such tactics?  

    Further Information

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    Journalism Ethics: Right Name, Wrong Game

     

    Photo by Sasha Y. Kimel under a creative commons license.

  •  Tyler Clementi Case - What Punishment Is Justifiable?

    Monday, Apr. 2, 2012

     

    The best college student comment on "Tyler Clementi Case - What Punishment Is Justifiable?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, April 15.  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.

    You've probably heard about the case of Tyler Clementi - a freshman at Rutgers University who committed suicide after his roommate, 18-year-old Dharun Ravi, secretly filmed and broadcasted Tyler having a homosexual encounter with another man. Three days later, Tyler committed suicide. Now, convicted of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, witness tampering, and hindering arrest, Dharun faces 10 years in jail or deportation (Dharun, although living his whole life in the US, is technically native of India).  He will be sentenced in May.

    What punishment do you think fits the crime? How is it fair, and if so, why?  Does it bring justice to Tyler?  Does it serve some larger social purpose such as deterring further crimes?

    Below are some further facts to help assist your decision.

    Sept. 19th 2011: Tyler asked Dharun for the room to himself. Dharun then left the webcam of his computer on while he went over to a friend’s room to watch the live stream. He then posted on Twitter to his 150 followers, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay”.

    Sept. 21st 2011: Tyler read Dharun’s Twitter post and complained to his resident assistant and two other officials, requesting a room change.

    Sept. 21st 2011: Another attempt was made by Dharun to film his roommate. And having contacted numerous people via text messages (one saying, “Yeah, keep the gays away”), an open iChat session was set up by Dharun accompanied with another Twitter post, this one saying, “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again.” However, Tyler noticed the webcam and unplugged Dharun’s computer to prevent the filming.

     

    Sept. 22nd 2011: Tyler posts his intention to commit suicide and then goes through with the intention.

    Sept. 22nd 2011: Five minutes after Tyler’s post (although Dharun claims he didn’t see Tyler’s post until the next day), Dharun sends two apology emails within 15 minutes of one another. The first expressed his guilt and “good-natured” intentions in filming the first night; the second expressed his lack of bias against homosexuals.

    March 16th 2012: Dharun was found guilty of invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, witness tampering, and biased intimidation pertaining to the second viewing incident. The jury concluded that Dharun did not act with a purpose to intimidate either Tyler or his guest because of their sexual orientation, but that Tyler reasonably believed that this was the case.

    The sentencing is set for May 21st.

     

    Further Information

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    CBS News Interview with Tyler Clementi's Parents 

    ABC News Interview With Dharun Ravi

  •  Making the Grade

    Monday, Mar. 19, 2012

    The best college student comment on "Making the Grade" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, April 1.  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.

    Alejandro is a junior economics major who wants to go into business. Right now, he needs to choose his classes for next quarter.  He’s interested in “Mathematical Economics and Optimization,” but it has the reputation of being a killer course. Instead, maybe he should take a class in Spanish, his native language. That would certainly help his GPA.

    Should Alejandro challenge himself with the mathematical economics class knowing he will learn a lot? Or is he better off just taking the Spanish class, knowing he will get an A, which will help him toward his eventual goal of grad school or a business career?

    Useful Resources

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making
    Does Your GPA Really Matter?
    When the Tail Wags the Dog: Perceptions of Learning and Grade Orientation in, and by, Contemporary College Students and Faculty

    Photo by Jose Kevo used under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Resume Inflation

    Monday, Mar. 5, 2012

    The best student comment on "Resume Inflation" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 18. Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest.  For updates and to learn the winner, subscribe to The Big Q blog by RSS (above) or by using the email feature at the bottom of the right hand column.

    Graduation is months away, and Nicole still doesn’t have a job. Thousands of dollars in college loans are backing up and payments are due soon. Furthermore, her mother was recently laid off, and her parents are in need of some supplemental income. Stress and pressure, then, is building as Nicole remains jobless.

    Fortunately, she just received a request from a marketing firm to send in her resume. However, Nicole’s resume is not quite up to the standard that this job expects. She has had an internship in marketing before, even excelled in the subject at school, but she doesn’t have the proper list of real-world experience her employers will desire. When pondering the issue, she realizes that she could exaggerate her responsibilities from her internship. Although she was typically filing and making coffee, she could say that she "wrote" a report she had in truth transcribed. When she staffed the front desk, she could claim she was doing “client intake.” And even though she quit after a quarter due to boredom, she could say she worked there for six months.

    Nicole knows she’s competent and capable of doing the job well; it’s just that her employers might not recognize it based solely on her resume. Since she is buried in debt and her family is in need, is it all right for Nicole to simply alter some facts?

    Useful Resources

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making
    Lying on Your Resume


     

    Photo by Chloe Fitzmaurice

  •  A Good Sport? Do College Athletics Build Character

    Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012

    The Big Q contest for the best student response to this case is being hosted by PolicyMic, "the first democratic online news platform to engage millennials in debates about real issues."  PolicyMic rules will apply in selecting the winner of the prize, a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 4.  A link to PolicyMic follows the case.

         Nathan has always thought, to be the best, you have to believe you’re the best. Recruited to a top Division I school to play basketball, he is ruthless on the court. If he knocks a player down, the player shouldn’t have been in his way. If he scores a three in his defender’s face, he lets his opponent know how bad his defense was. Most guys dislike playing against Nathan because of his competitive callousness. But confidence, alone, can’t take you to the top, and Nathan knows that. He is the first guy to arrive at practice and the last one to leave. Nathan may be called inconsiderate, rude, and egotistical, but being the best means making other people worse than you.

         Off the court, however, Nathan seems like a totally different person. He is polite, soft spoken in class, and is willing to help others if there’s homework they don’t understand. Noticing this shift in disposition, one of Nathan’s teammates—one that Nathan had recently called out in front of the whole team—accused Nathan of being two-faced: although he tries to appear friendly off the court, he’s really just an arrogant jerk.

    Weigh in: So, is Nathan a good guy or a bad guy?  What impact have sports had on his character?  In general, do you think participating in college sports has a good or bad influence on the players?

    Useful Resources

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making SCU

    Do Sports Build Character? (Chronicle of Higher Education) 

     To be eligible to win this week's contest, you must post your comments on PolicyMic.

    Comments To PolicyMic Here