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.

The following postings have been filtered by category Social Conscience, Tolerance, and Responsibility. clear filter
  •  Sister, Can You Spare a Dime?

    Friday, Jan. 4, 2013

    The best college student comment on "Sister, Can You Spare a Dime?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. 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.

    Jack is a fixture of the neighborhood right outside the gates of a large, urban university. Homeless for the past 13 years, Jack carries all of his belongings in a shopping cart, to which he also hitches his faithful dog, Rufus. Every day, Jack takes up a position outside the fast food joint across the street from the campus, where he solicits passersby for change. Most nights, he sleeps in a nearby parking lot, but when it gets really cold, he has been known to sneak into the campus library and labs to keep warm. A veteran of the Gulf War, Jack obviously has his demons, and he can sometimes be seen drowning them in a bottle of wine half-concealed in a brown paper bag.

    As a freshman at the university, Mandy encounters Jack in the second week she is on campus, when she goes off campus with fellow members of the water polo team for a late night snack. When she sees his cardboard sign— "Homeless Vet. Please Help"— Mandy throws a few quarters into the paper cup he holds out.

    "Don't give him money," Jocelyn, a junior teammate warns her. "He'll just spend it on alcohol."

    "If everybody would stop giving these freeloaders a handout, they would go hang out somewhere else," adds Ella. "They're scary."

    "Oh, Jack's harmless," Meg, a senior, chimes in. "I give him something when I can."

    "You just do that to salve your conscience," Jordan says. "Giving money to individual panhandlers doesn't do anything about the root causes of poverty in this country. You should join Students Act Against Homelessness if you really want to make a difference."

    Do you think students have a responsibility to help the homeless? If so, should they give money to anyone who asks? Should they buy food for the panhandlers instead? Should they not give to individuals but make donations to charities instead? What can students do about the root causes of homelessness?

    Useful Resources

    Photo Credit:>


  •  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.
  •  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?


    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.


  •  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

  •  The Value Of Giving

    Monday, Dec. 12, 2011

    The best student comment on "The Value Of Giving" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Jan. 8.  Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest.

    Jessica worked as a hostess all fall quarter in addition to taking a full load of classes. Although her parents and her scholarship cover her tuition, Jessica pays for her own books and uses the extra money from her job for personal expenses. But as the holidays approach, she decides to go to the mall and use some of that money to buy gifts for her friends and family.

    Once she finished shopping, she notices that she has some extra money and no one to spend it on. Feeling she worked hard this last quarter, she decides to treat herself with a new blouse she had spotted earlier. However, as she heads back to the store, she runs into a man asking for donations for a homeless shelter. Jessica knows this extra money would be useful to the organization, but she worked hard over the quarter to earn it.

    Should Jessica donate the money or use it for herself? 

     Here are some helpful resources and great charities for you to consider:

     A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Kiva – Loans That Change Lives

    Heifer International Charity

    Grameen Foundation

    Vittana – Education Changes Everything


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

  •  Oh, the Cleaners Will Get That

    Monday, Sep. 12, 2011

    Best Student Comment Wins a $50 Amazon gift card. Responses must be received by midnight, September 12, 2011

    Mike is new to the Bike Club on campus and the first meeting just finished. As members start shuffling out of the room, Mike notices no one picks up the trash. Mike starts to gather plates, cups, and napkins and throw them away.

    The president of the Bike Club, Tom, says, “Oh, the cleaners will get that.” Do students have a responsibility to clean up after themselves? Or is it not that important since the University pays people to clean?


    Here are some resources you may find useful:

     A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    Staff Perspective on College Behavior 

    Civility at Rutgers


    Photo by r_melgaresavailable under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

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