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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.

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  •  Neknominated

    Monday, Mar. 17, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Neknominated” win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business. Use your gift to try out that new flavor of ice cream or spend it on two slices of your favorite pizza. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 30th, 2014. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Lawson is a junior at a large public school in California. He is still in touch with many of his childhood friends who now attend other universities around the country. Most of his communication with his old friends is over social media. One day, Lawson gets a notification from one of his friends at a college on the East Coast. In a video called a “Neknomination,” Lawson’s friend shows himself chugging four different types of alcoholic drinks while standing in the trunk of a moving car. His friend has now nominated Lawson to do a Neknomination within the next 24 hours.

    Lawson looks online to research what Neknominations are. He finds out that the new Internet craze, that entails videos of people drinking alcoholic beverages on social media, originated in Australia with individuals recording themselves chugging a beer. The craze has now escalated, with participants trying to do even crazier stunts with booze than their friends who nominate them. He even reads about some deaths that have happened due to the challenge.

    Lawson is faced with a difficult decision. On one hand, he doesn’t want to complete the nomination for many reasons. He isn’t 21 yet and doesn’t want to post a video of himself on social media drinking alcohol, because he is afraid of the repercussions it may have on him while job hunting. He doesn’t know if he can top his friend chugging four alcoholic drinks in the trunk of a moving vehicle. He also has academic commitments within the next 24 hours that will be negatively affected if he attempts a stunt.

    On the other hand, Lawson wants to be a good sport and has always enjoyed competitions like this with his friends. He knows that if he doesn’t follow through with this Neknomination, not only will his good friend never let him live it down, but it will also be broadcast to his large network of friends since the craze all centers around social media.

    Lawson isn’t sure what to do. Should he accept the Neknomination and post a video on social media? Should he try to top his friend’s post or just chug one beer? Is it ethical and safe for students to be playing a game like Neknominate on social media sites? If Lawson goes along, will he be contributing to the escalation of this game to unsafe levels?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Online Drinking Challenge Goes Viral Globally

    Neknominate: 'Lethal' drinking game sweeps social media

    Photo by Danny Howard available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Browsing or Cyberstalking?

    Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

    Entries for "Browsing or Cyberstalking" must be received by midnight, Sunday, November 24th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Lauren is a junior at a small university. While she finds she fits in at her college, her decision to attend was based on following her high school boyfriend of two years, Dave. After two more years of dating in college, Dave decides he wants to go separate ways, and thinks it best if the two don’t see each other anymore.
     
    Though they have no face-to-face interaction, Lauren maintains her online connections to Dave. She constantly checks on what he is doing and who he is spending time with through his Facebook posts, Instagram photos, and tweets. She often shows up at restaurants or bars he says he is attending, and “accidentally” runs into him, to force real life interaction.
     
    A few weeks later, Lauren is browsing Dave’s Facebook and notices that he is spending a lot of time with a sophomore at their university, Emily. She immediately feels jealous and starts to monitor Emily’s social media pages as well. She even begins comparing herself with Emily to her friends, complaining about how Dave “lowered his standards.”
     
    It’s been several months since Lauren’s break up with Dave, and while they haven’t spent time together in person, she knows the ins and outs of his life. She talks about him so much to her friends, that they’ve started to become sick of it. She’s also making herself miserable because her online monitoring isn’t letting her get over her break-up. One day, one of Lauren and Dave’s mutual friends approaches Dave and tells him Lauren has been checking up on him and his new girlfriend on social media. Dave is surprised and disturbed by the information.
     
    What should Dave do, keeping in mind they are all still students at the same university? Is Lauren’s “online monitoring” equivalent to cyberstalking? What is the line between checking up on your old friends and stalking them? Have you ever personally engaged in cyberstalking or know of someone who has? Do you notice cyberstalking as a trend on college campuses?
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by olalindberg under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Emails Exposed

    Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

    The best student comment on "Emails Exposed" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, October 27th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
     
    Robert is on the baseball team at a small college in Texas. He’s a high profile player on the team, and as a result he has a lot of followers on Twitter and a large network on Facebook. For this reason, the members of the athletic board at his college think it’s necessary to monitor his social media accounts. In Texas, there is no law to prevent schools from requiring individuals to give up their personal social media login and password information, so Robert is forced to hand over his social media account information.
     
    University officials say that the intent of monitoring is to identify potential compliance and behavioral issues early on, enabling athletic departments to educate athletes on how to present themselves online. They regularly check what Robert posts and flag certain postings they have issues with.
     
    One day Robert tweets “Skipping class to break bad #schoolsucks #bettercallsaul #breakingbad.” Since Robert publicly admits to skipping class, school officials flag the post and decide to also start monitoring Robert’s email account without informing him.
     
    Since the school provides an email account as a service to its students and faculty, it reserves the right to search its own system’s stored data. According to the college’s student handbook, administrators may access student email accounts in order to safeguard the system or “to ensure compliance with other University rules.” The policy does not mention whether or not account owners have to be notified that their emails are searched.
     
    When searching Robert’s email account, university officials find several questionable emails between Robert and his tutor. It seems that Robert’s tutor has been sending him all answers to homework assignments and quizzes. As a result of the investigation, Robert is placed on athletic probation and his tutor is fired.
     
     
    Should universities be allowed to monitor student email and social media accounts? If so, under what circumstances?
     
    What crosses the line between campus safety and invasion of privacy?
     
    Are university rules regarding email and social media monitoring too vague? If so, how can these rules be changed for more clarity?
     
    Should Robert have been punished for cheating in class if he did not know his email was being monitored? What about his tutor?
     
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by cmm08f available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Selfies

    Monday, Sep. 30, 2013

    The best student comment on "Selfies" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, October 13th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Stacy is a sophomore in college who is addicted to Instagram. She regularly posts multiple photos a day showing her followers what she is up to. Stacy views Instagram as a way to stay connected with her friends. While many of these Instagram photos incorporate amazing sights or delicious-looking baked goods, she also posts a lot of selfies. One day Stacy posts a photo of herself by the pool in her new string bikini. Another day, she takes a picture of herself in a sexy camisole getting ready for bed.

    These photos start to attract a lot of attention from her college peers. On her way to class one day she hears two guys she has never met talking about her as she walks by. She even sees one of her peers looking at one of her Instagram selfies on his phone in class.  

    Stacy’s best friend, Andrea, confronts her about posting these photos. She claims that showing this kind of photo on social media is not only dangerous but also can make guys think of Stacy as a skank. Stacy says she is simply expressing herself through these selfies, and that if people don’t want to see these photos, then they can stop following her on Instagram.

    Is Andrea right to be worried about Stacy? If guys take Stacy’s photos the wrong way, is that her responsibility? What if a man posted a photo of himself shirtless or in a bathing suit? Would that be a problem? If so, why is there a difference in the way we view photos put up by men and women?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Video: It's Your Fault

    Opinion from a Young Teenage Girl

     

    Photo by Paige Worthy available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Insta-Interruption

    Thursday, May. 9, 2013
    The best student comment on "Insta-Interruption" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 19th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Beth and Katie have been friends throughout college, but their busy schedules have kept them from spending a lot of quality time together recently. They finally find a time to meet for lunch, and both girls are excited to catch up.
     
    When their food arrives, Katie exclaims, “Oh, this looks so good—I have to Instagram this!” Beth laughs and checks her Facebook notifications while her friend takes a picture and chooses just the right filter. Together, they deliberate over which hashtags perfectly encapsulate the finished creation, and Beth finally posts it 10 minutes later. They both put their phones down and continue their conversation, but Katie keeps receiving comments and “likes” on the Instagram picture of their lunch, so she keeps checking her phone. Beth gets a text from a classmate about a group project, and she spends about 5 minutes texting back and forth to schedule a meeting time for later in the evening. The dialogue between the two women is, therefore, sprinkled with long pauses as they get distracted by their devices.
     
    At the end of their lunch, Beth and Katie hug each other and promise to see each other again soon. On the way to her car, Beth stops to take a picture of a rose that she sees so that she can Instagram it later, and Katie tags Beth in a Facebook status: “Love catching up with old friends in the sunshine!”
     
    Does this sound familiar to you? Do you interrupt your face-to-face interactions with social media platforms or text messages to people who aren’t there? Do your friends do that to you? Do you think that these kinds of interactions negatively affect friendships, or are they just a natural part of an increasingly technology-dependent society? Do you feel the need to report on everything you’re doing during the day via social media? Do you think this enhances or devalues friendships?
     
     
    Useful Resources
     
     
     
     

      

  •  Can You Keep a Secret?

    Monday, Mar. 25, 2013
    The best student comment on "Can You Keep a Secret?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, April 7, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     

    Scott couldn’t believe his eyes when he checked Facebook this morning. A new page, “SCU Confessions,” had just been created, and one of the first “confessions” was about him! Someone shared a story where he had gotten really drunk last week and did a few things he wasn’t proud of. Granted, he wasn’t mentioned by name, but it was a unique enough situation that everyone he knew would recognize it as being about him.

    Scott had heard about other schools starting pages like this, where people message the page administrator their secrets, hook-up stories, dirty deeds, and anything else that they would want to share anonymously. Scott initially thought these pages were hilarious, and even “liked” the ones from other schools just so that he could be entertained. However, now that he was reading something about him, he felt embarrassed and upset. Already it had 50 “likes” and counting, and several of his friends tagged him in the comments so that he would see it. To make matters worse, the post was anonymous, so he had no way of knowing who was spreading the story around.

    Scott’s friends told him to laugh it off; it wasn’t that big of a deal. Even he had to admit that the story was objectively pretty funny, and most of the other posts on the page were relatively harmless as well. On the other hand, he could envision how people would take advantage of the anonymity and could potentially cause somebody real harm.

    What do you think about Facebook college “Confessions” or “Hook-Up” pages? Do you feel like this type of anonymous sharing can be hurtful and even dangerous, or do you think it’s a harmless way to tell funny stories? Have you ever submitted anything to a page like this, or been mentioned in a post?

     

  •  When Do I Friend?

    Monday, Sep. 26, 2011

    Best student answer to Emily's problem wins a $50 gift certificate.  Comments must be received by midnight Sunday, Oct. 1.  Rules

    At the beginning of her Freshman year, Emily is a bit surprised to find a notification for a friend request along with a message. It's from John, a guy she met at Orientation who lives in the neighboring dorm. His message is brief: "Hey Emily! Good meeting you at Orientation. Looking forward to seeing more of you! John."

    Emily hadn't spent too much time with John since they weren't in the same orientation group. During the few interactions they did have, though, he came off as a bit creepy. He kept popping up wherever Emily went and acting over-friendly. He's definitely not someone she is hoping to get to know better.

    Emily feels kind of odd confirming, but she doesn't want to seem snobby and unfriendly by refusing something as simple as a Facebook friend request. Should she and John become Facebook friends?

    Here are some useful resoources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Anatomy of a Facebook Stalker

    The "Only If We're Off-line Friends" Rule

     

    Photo by Ed Yourdon available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 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.

  •  The Big Q on Facebook

    Monday, Mar. 7, 2011

    The hub for The Big Q project is on Facebook.  There you can:

    • Tell us your own ethical dilemmas and leave feedback for others
    • Vote in The Big Q Poll
    • Enter a video in The Big Q Video Contest.  Vote for the video you like best
    • Find out what college issues are in the news, from Adderall use on campuses to friends with benefits relationships in the movies

    Want to get into a deeper dialog about these issues?  Beginning March 28, this blog will feature a weekly case study of an ethical issue that college students are facing.  Join the conversation.