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The Big Q

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The following postings have been filtered by tag ethics. clear filter
  •  A Recycling Dilemma

    Monday, Nov. 28, 2011
    Photo by Bill Bumgarner available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.


    The best student comment on "A Recycling Dilemma" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Dec. 11.  Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest.  If you want to follow the comments as they come in and be informed about the winner, you can subscribe to the blog with the RSS button or by email at the bottom of the right-hand column.

    One Friday night, Steve and his housemates threw a huge party at their place for a good friend's birthday. After many hours of fun, all the guests went home, leaving bottles, cups, food wrappers, and party favors everywhere throughout the house and backyard. The next morning, when Steve came downstairs, he found that his housemates had put all the garbage into five large trash bags and were about to put them all in the dumpster. However, Steve knew a majority of the contents were recyclable, and his friends had just been too lazy to sort it.

    Should Steve stop his friends and make them go through the trash for the recyclable materials, even though it may take an extra 30 minutes? Or should he just let them throw it all in the dumpster and be done with it?


    Here are some helpful resources:

     A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


    Recycling Basics

    Is Recycling Worth the Trouble, Cost?


    Don't forget to like us on Facebook


    Photo by Bill Bumgarner (bbumavailable 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.

  •  The Dealer in the Next Room

    Monday, Sep. 5, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate. Responses must be received by midnight September 11, 2011

    Isaac moved off campus his sophomore year into an apartment with his friend Jason. Isaac and Jason met in their dorm during freshman year. Isaac always thought Jason seemed like a really cool guy until he discovered that Jason was into cocaine. Not only was Jason a user; he also distributed cocaine to others on campus. Isaac doesn’t want to rat Jason out because they’re friends, but Isaac doesn’t want to run the risk of being kicked out of his apartment, or worse, going to jail.

    Should Isaac confront Jason and tell him that he knows he has been using and selling cocaine? Should Isaac tell a school counselor? the police?

     Here are some resources you may find useful:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    Signs of Drug Use

    College Drug Use 


    Photo by International Relations and Security Network available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

  •  Facebook Gossip or Cyberbullying?

    Monday, Aug. 15, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate.  Responses must be received by midnight August 21, 2011.

    Paige, a college freshman, needed to put the finishing touches on a poli sci paper that was due at 11. After her 9 a.m. class, she returned to her room in the residence hall to check the footnotes, but when she unlocked the door, her roommate Cheyenne was in bed with the comforter pulled up above her head.

    Paige flicked on the light. It wasn't her problem that Cheyenne was such a party girl. She hadn't come home the night before, and that was hardly the first time. She decided to ignore Cheyenne and opened her laptop to begin her work. But when she started typing, Cheyenne growled at her to go somewhere else.

    Paige had told some friends to come by her room before class, and now she had to let them know she wouldn't be there. On her way out of the residence hall, she posted a new status to her Facebook: "Cheyenne (AKA the skank) is sleeping it off in the room. I'll be in the library."

    By the time she reopened her laptop, her friend Ivy had commented on her status: "That girl is going to be pregnant before midterms." And Leanne followed with lol.

    Paige was astonished when she got back from dinner that night to be approached by Tara, the Resident Fellow on her floor. Tara said she wanted to talk with Paige about cyberbullying Cheyenne.

    Do you think Paige was engaged in cyberbullying? If so, do you think the university should get involved in the issue?


    Some resources you may find useful:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

     Destructive Bullying 

    Facebook Crimes on Rise


    Photo by Herbstkind 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?

  •  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.

  •  Date My Professor?

    Monday, May. 16, 2011

    Best student response this week wins a $50 Amazon gift card.

    It all started when Frannie, a 19-year-old sophomore, went to work as a student assistant in the English Department. She had gotten a recommendation for the job from Bill Marsden, who had been her professor in the survey of British literature she took last quarter. The class had been so lively and engaging that Frannie was thinking of declaring English as a major.

    After she started working for the department, Professor Marsden always stopped at the reception desk and spent some time chatting with her. As they got to know each other better, it seemed natural that Marsden asked her questions like whether she had big plans for the weekend or whether she had a boyfriend waiting for her back in her hometown. But then she began to notice other signals that maybe he was interested in more than the usual professor-student relationship. He would put his hand over hers for a moment while they talked, and he brought her a collection of the love letters from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning.

    Frannie was actually quite flattered by his attention. True, he was probably well into his thirties, but he was still cute, and he was a lot more mature and interesting than the boys she met on campus, whose idea of a good time was beer pong. Frannie was pretty sure Marsden would ask her out if she gave the right signals back. Should she get involved with someone on the faculty?

    Here are some resources that may help:

    Dating Your Professor: Problems to Consider Before You Date Your Instructor

    Yes, Professor?

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making



  •  A New Study Buddy

    Monday, Apr. 25, 2011

    It has been a hectic fall quarter. Jack is checking his finals schedule: two exams on Tuesday (back to back) and two on Wednesday. How is he going to possibly do all of this studying? As he sits looking over his notes, Amanda, a classmate sits next to him, and he complains about  the amount of work he's going to have to do.

    She suggests Jack take a pill to help him concentrate and study better: Adderall. He really doesn't know what Adderall is, but Amanda says it will be okay.  She has a prescription (a lot of kids take it for attention deficit disorder to help them focus), and he can trust her. She assures him that many college kids take Adderall and other drugs to help them study during finals week. Does Jack take the pill, believing his classmate and hoping that this will really help? Or does he decide that maybe it's not such a good idea to be taking pills to study especially if it's someone else's prescription?

    Here are some resources that may be helpful:

     Is Using Study Drugs Cheating

    Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy (Nature)

    Adderall (& Other Stimulant) Abuse on Campus

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making


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


  •  Not Hungry

    Monday, Apr. 18, 2011

    Jaya has always been thin, but recently she has started to look emaciated. Jaya used to meet her roommate, Naomi, and some of their mutual friends for dinner, but lately, she tells Naomi she is "just going to grab something on the way to the library."

    Also, Jaya works out like a fiend, running twice a day and doing endless crunches. Naomi has heard that this pattern is common in people with the eating disorder anorexia. She has tried to broach the subject with Jaya, but Jaya angrily denied that she had a problem. Last week, though, Jaya passed out after doing her evening sit-ups. She’s also cold all the time, no matter the temperature in the room. Naomi is truly worried.

    What should Naomi do?  Should she talk to someone at the University Health Service?  Should she call Jaya's parents?

    Here are some resources that may be helpful:

    Symptoms of Eating Disorders: Mayo Clinic

    Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders

    A Framework for Thinking Ethically


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