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.

  •  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.

  •  Dangerous Curves

    Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate.  Responses must be received by midnight August 7, 2011.

    Francesca is taking an introductory chemistry class this quarter with a bunch of people from her dorm. Knowing that chemistry is not her strongest subject, she studies regularly. Before the midterm, her friends from the dorm go out partying, but she stays up all night going over the material.

    Francesca goes into the exam feeling somewhat confident. She knows the professor will grade on the curve, and she will probably do better than her dormmates, who have hardly cracked the book. During the exam the professor leaves the room temporarily. While he is gone, Francesca notices Nick, a guy from her dorm, sneakily pulling out his IPod and consulting a crib sheet he has downloaded. He then passes the IPod over to Chloe. Both of them notice her watching, and wink at her.

    Should Francesca inform the professor of this cheating? Won't her dormmates suspect she was the "snitch"? She has to live with these people for the rest of the year.


    Here are some resources you might find useful

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What Does It Really Mean to Curve Grades?


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


  •  Should I Call the EMTs?

    Monday, Jul. 25, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate.  Responses must be received by midnight July 31.

    It had been a long second week of freshman year. Roommates Sally and Morgan were ready for the weekend. On Friday night, they heard about an upcoming party and decided to check it out. The beer was plentiful, and even though they were underage, Sally and Morgan were welcome to drink as much as they wanted.

    As the night progressed, Morgan, who had very little experience with alcohol in high school, started to feel sick, so Sally helped her back to the dorm. When they got to the dorm bathroom, Morgan passed out next to the sink.

    Sally wasn't sure what she should do. She had heard that there were EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) on campus to help in this situation. But she'd also heard that when you called the EMTs, you got fined and "written up." She didn't want to get in trouble or to make trouble for Morgan, but she thought her friend might be really ill.

    Facts about Alcohol Poisoning

    Alcohol Medical Emergency Policies at Colleges and Universities 

    College Drinking: When Friends Get into Trouble 

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


    Photo by Laughing Squid available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

  •  A Major Decision

    Monday, Jul. 18, 2011

    $50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, 7/24/2011

    Megha was excited to start college. During her summer orientation she started learning about all the possible majors at her university. She decided on history because it was something she was truly passionate about. In high school, she had been so inspired by her American history class that she was now reading books on the founding fathers just for pleasure. When she announces her decision to her parents, she is stunned at their reaction.They insist that she major in engineering.

    Megha has been a good all-around student, so she can certainly handle the engineering curriculum, but the subject just isn't something she can see herself pursuing for four years--let alone for an entire career. In her parents' minds, however, engineering is practical and will guarantee her a job when she graduates, while history will not.Should Megha go against her parents' wishes and declare a history major?


    Here are some resources that might be useful

    College Board Majors and Career Central

    Highest Paid Degrees

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


     Photo by Ben Oh available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

  •  Sexiled

    Monday, Jul. 11, 2011

     $50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, July 17th.

    Brad and Wilson are roommates. Brad is an outgoing, free-spirited, notorious "ladies man." Wilson prefers to spend his time in the dorm, reading and doing homework. At first, they got along well, with their personalities complementing each other.  But then Brad started bringing women to the room unannounced. During the day, he'd make some not very subtle comment about wanting to be alone and expect Wilson to split.  Sometimes he brought a date home for a "sleepover," and he seemed not to care if Wilson stayed in the room.  But that made Wilson feel like a voyeur, so he slept on the couch in the lounge.  Once he even missed class because, without his alarm clock, he overslept.

    Wilson doesn't want to upset Brad by asking him not to bring women back to the dorm so late and so often, nor does he want their friendship to become awkward or tense.   But he'd also like the use of his own room.  How should he approach this problem with Brad?

    Here are some resources that might be useful:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Sexiling 101

    7 Tips for a Better Rommate Experience


    Photo by Chrissy Hunt available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.



  •  Why Am I Here?

    Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2011

    $50 Amazon giftcard for best comment.  Deadline Sunday, July 10, midnight.

    Junior and senior year in high school sometimes seemed like one long slog to Christina.  Between the PSATs, the SATs, the APs, the ACTs, her GPA, her sports practices, and her job tutoring, everything was oriented toward polishing her resume and getting her into college.

    She went through the entire application process because that's what everyone expected her to do.  Now she was in, an undeclared freshman, she couldn't help wondering what she was doing here.  Was it right for her to be spending so much of her parents' money on college when she didn't even know what she wanted to study?  Was she taking the slot of someone else who would have really known what she wanted from her education?  Was college just going to be a repeat of that stressful high school experience, where she felt like she was always preparing for the future but not really living her life?

  •  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.

  •  The Slowdown Hits Home

    Monday, Jun. 20, 2011

    $50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, June 5.

    Kayla is going to be a freshman at a prestigious university, which was her first choice for college.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more expensive institutions of higher learning in the country.

    When Kayla was making her applications, her family was in good shape financially, but just before she was accepted, she learned her father had been laid off from his job as a software engineer.  In order to send Kayla to her first-choice school, her parents intend to dip into their retirement accounts. 

    Should Kayla allow them to do this, or should she go to the less expensive state university, where she was also accepted?


    Here are some resources that might be useful:


    Balancing kids' college and retirement saving

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Pay for College (CollegeBoard) 


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


    Posted by Rebecca Bivona-Guttadauro

  •  Top Ten Ethical Issues for College Freshmen

    Friday, Jun. 10, 2011

    You're off to college. You've filled out your roommate survey and ordered your "dorm in a bag" set, joined the Class of 2015 Facebook group from your school and maybe even thought about what classes to take. But there’s another way to be prepared: Imagine what you will do when you face “The Top Ten Ethical Questions for College Freshmen.”

    What am I doing here? Let's be honest: A lot of kids are headed for college because it's the thing you do after high school. But you'll get more out of the experience if you think about why you're doing it: To train for a job? To be exposed to great ideas? To party? A bit of each? Your answers to these questions will form the kind of person you become in college.

    Do my parents belong at college? Should your parents have a say in your choice of major? Do they have a right to see your grades? Can you ask them to call a teacher when you’re having trouble in a class or contact a dean if you have a disciplinary problem? Many parents want to be involved (especially when they’re paying the bill), but when is that reasonable guidance and when is it an intrusion? Now that you’re 18, aren’t you an adult with adult responsibilities?

    Do I want to rush a fraternity or sorority? If you’ve been thinking about this question in terms of how to improve your social life, you may want to add an ethical dimension to your internal debate. By its nature, the Greek system is exclusive; some people don’t get in. Do you want to belong to that kind of group? What are the kinds of activities, social and philanthropic, that the different sororities and fraternities on your campus support. Do these match your values?

    How will I interact with people who are different from me? Your decisions about how you will deal with diversity may start before you even get to campus, when you must decide whether to live in a racially or ethnically themed dorm. Or they may arise when you're invited to a "Ghetto" or "Fresh Off the Boat" or "South of the Border" theme party. How will you treat people from other backgrounds? How much do you want to move outside your own group?

    My roommate is anorexic, a drug dealer, a World of Warcraft addict, an aggressive vegan …. You’ve heard the roommate horror stories. While you’re trying to figure out how to handle a difficult roommate, considering the ethical side of things may help. What kind of obligations do friends have to each other? What is the fair thing to do when two people have to share a space? What behaviors are so dangerous that you have to kick the problem up to the next level?

    What about cheating? Okay, this is an oldie, but you may be surprised by the new variations it comes in once you’re in college. Your calculus teacher may encourage you to work collaboratively with your classmates on problem sets, but your chemistry teacher does not. Is it cheating to study with a partner in chemistry? When you’re assigned a group project the same month as you have to play in three away baseball games, is it cheating if you don’t do as much work as the other members of your group? You’re pre-med but you have to take an art history course; how bad is it to copy the homework for a class you’ll never use in your professional life?

    Should I call the EMTs? More than 70 college students have died from alcohol poisoning since 2004, according to media reports compiled by In some instances, their friends had hesitated to call emergency personnel because they didn’t want to get their drunk friend in trouble or because they themselves were underage and had been drinking. If one of your friends is in danger, will you call the EMTs no matter what the consequences may be?

    Facebook posting or cyberbullying? In a recent study from Indiana State University, almost 22 percent of college students reported that they had been cyberbullied and 25 percent said they had been harassed through a social networking site. Is that comment you’re posting for all the world to see harmless gossip or are you going to be making someone else’s freshman year a living hell? And what does it really mean to be a Facebook "friend"?

    Sex!!!??? Ethics is about how we treat other people. Nowhere is that concern more complicated than in the realm of sex. Of course many high school students are already sexually active (62 percent of seniors in a 2003 study by the Center’s for Disease Control). But college, where you live your everyday life out of the view of most people over 21, is different. Before you come to campus, think about the place you want sex to have in your relationships. And then get ready for the ways your resolution may be challenged by alcohol, loneliness, and what everybody else is doing.

    How do I treat the people who work for me? In college, a host of people keep your campus functioning. There’s a guy who trims the roses, and a woman who cleans the common areas of your dorm, and a secretary who works for the bursar. Do you even acknowledge these workers when you pass them? Do you make the effort to get rid of the pizza boxes after the dorm meeting or separate your dishes from your silverware on the lunchroom conveyor belt? If you don’t, what does that say about the respect you have for the people who work for you?


    A version of this article first appeared on The Huffington Post, May 3, 2011.

  •  World of Warren

    Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2011

    Warren is an Orc. In fact, he's a level-60 Orc, a feat he has achieved by playing a lot of World of Warcraft. He belongs to a successful guild, whose members he considers friends. He spent last summer at home playing about eight hours a day--basically until his parents nagged him to come to dinner.

    Now that he's in college, there's no one to nag him, and he devotes every minute he can to WoW. He usually manages to go to class, but he's behind on his homework, and there are days he doesn't get around to showering.

    At the beginning of the term, his suitemates invited him to join them at various activities, but now they pretty much avoid him. Warren sometimes thinks his gaming is out of hand, but nothing seems as interesting as WoW and the people he's met playing it.

    Does Warren need to join the real world now that he's in college? Should his suitemates push him to do so?


    Here are some resources that might be useful:

    Are Video Games Good or Bad for Teens?

    WoW Detox

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making



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