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The Big Q

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  •  Fast Friends: Rushing Intimate Relationships

    Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014

    We’ve all heard that “your greatest friends come in college”—those lifelong friends that you toast to at the Grand Reunion or dance the night away with at your wedding reception. As freshmen, we envision ourselves surrounded by this core group of loyal companions from the get-go. We’re expected to post pictures of our fabulous new BFFs on Facebook and form an inseparable clique within a matter of weeks.

    When we come to college, we don’t want to wait around. We need friends, and we need them quickly! We rush relationships. We talk about our successes and failures, our home lives and our love lives, our fears and our ambitions.  

    The problems arise when we over-share and try to force intimacy.  Relationships don’t need to be physical to be intimate; close friendships are intimate in an emotional way. Premature intimacy of any kind can lead to heartache.
    Imagine that you’ve had a rough day. For comfort, you confide in a new friend, Sam. After a night of venting, you decide to share a troubling secret—you feel safe.
    The next day, however, you’re approached by a stranger in the hallway.  The stranger places his hands on your shoulders, and says, “Hey, Sam told me what happened. Feel better!”
    What!? Your new friend spilled. You’re hurt, but you doubt that Sam shared your secret maliciously. Either way, what do you do? There’s an imbalance of trust.
     
    Healthy relationships depend upon a strong foundation of trust, and trust takes time. Think carefully about your closest friends. How long have they been around? Many of our dearest friends have held prominent positions in our lives for one, five, or maybe even ten years. Often, you’ve grown up with one another, from the toddler diaper days to the teenaged braces phase. You’ve seen everything—the good and the bad. You’ve endured catty high school drama or vigorous sports team practices side-by-side. You know each other inside and out.
     
    During the beginning of college anonymity seems devastating, yet friendships with unreciprocated trust may sting just as badly.  What has been your experience with friendship in college?  When do you know you can trust someone?  How do you define true friendship?
     
     
  •  Claustrophobic

    Monday, Sep. 17, 2012
    Derek's roommate, Joey, is extremely clingy.
    The best college student comment on "Claustrophobic" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, September 30. 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.
     
    Derek is beginning his freshman year in college. Wanting to expand his social horizons, he had signed up for a random roommate assignment when it came time to register for housing. Now, several months after making that decision, he felt a little nervous as he moved the first boxes into his room. However, his roommate, Joey, had arrived before him, and he was quickly relieved to discover that Joey seemed “normal.”
     
    The two guys got dinner together the first night, and got to know each other a bit. Joey seemed friendly and didn’t have any obvious hygiene issues, so Derek felt like it was a good match! He had heard lots of roommate “horror stories,” and was thankful that he would not be added to that list.
     
    After the first couple weeks of classes, Derek signed up for the student government and quickly found a group of friends through that organization. Joey, however, was less proactive—he seemed to limit his free time to surfing the Internet, and began to make comments about feeling lonely and homesick. Derek felt bad for the guy, so he invited Joey to hang out in his new friend group as an opportunity to socialize and meet more people.
     
    As Joey began to tag along more and more, Derek started to realize that their personalities didn’t exactly mesh. Little things that Joey would do or say would rub Derek the wrong way, and he could tell that others in the group shared that sentiment. It began to be an obligation to invite Joey along to things, and nobody felt that they could completely be themselves with Joey around. Derek felt responsible for creating this tricky dynamic, and felt that he had to do something about it.
     
    Torn between being a good friend and feeling claustrophobic, Derek was faced with a tough decision. Should he stick it out for the rest of the year for Joey’s sake? Or, should he be honest and tell Joey that sometimes he wants a little space to hang out with his friends by himself?
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by maverick253 available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.
  •  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.

  •  Living Situations

    Monday, Aug. 22, 2011

     Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate. Responses must be received by midnight August 29, 2011

     

    With his acceptance to his first-choice school, a medium-sized private university far from his hometown, Mo gets a package of information about his options for dorm living. He’s heard a lot about the various Residential Learning Communities on campus, each of which focuses on a different theme. As an African American, Mo is interested in exploring his racial and cultural identity, so he’s drawn to the African American–themed dorm, United. But then he wonders whether living in United will limit his interactions with students from other communities. He doesn’t want to be defined entirely by being African American, but he also doesn’t want to feel isolated in a dorm where there may be no other African American students.

    Should Mo choose the United dorm knowing it may allow him the best chance to explore his ethnic identity, or should he opt for another residence hall where the dorm’s theme may attract a wider variety of students?

    Some resources you may find useful:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

    The Impact of Diversity on College Students

    Why Does Diversity Matter in College Anyways?

     

    Photo by Derek Severson 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.

     

     

  •  Poster Wars: An Ethics Perspective

    Friday, Apr. 1, 2011

    Mary puts up a poster on her dorm room door opposing gay marriage. James, a floormate, finds it offensive. What should happen?

    Read the full case

    The other responders to this case have covered several of the ethical issues, especially how to balance the right of free speech with the harm that may come from attacking someone else’s identity.

    Identity has become an increasingly important part of ethics. For a long time, ethics was much more concerned with whether some isolated action was right or wrong, and not as concerned with who was doing the action—with the person’s history, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, core values, context, and all the other things that make us who we really are and that profoundly affect what we do.

    While this new dimension of identity has been a boon for ethics in many ways, there are times when it has stopped ethical reflection dead in its tracks. This happens when identity becomes something unchanging, beyond challenge, unable to be discussed, and easily offended: I am who I am, and you have no right to infringe on my sense of who I am. When I speak, I am asserting who I am in a way that you may not question.

    But identity can’t be locked down, definitely not in life and rightfully not in the swirl of conversation that is college life. We may affirm something constant about who we are, but we have to acknowledge that we are always changing, too. And speech—whether it’s a poster on a dorm room door or a discussion in class—is the great engine of this change. Could the poster on Mary’s door initiate a conversation in the dorm that changes the way that Mary and James see themselves? Perhaps that conversation leads them to change their opinions of Prop 8. Perhaps it leads them to re-affirm those opinions. Perhaps what emerges is an unforeseen, diverse community on a dorm hallway previously inhabited by separate, fixed identities of the too-rigidly assertive and the too-easily offended.


    Who is David DeCosse?

    Agree with David?  Have another perspective?  Leave us your feedback?  Today is the last day for a chance to win $50 for the best comment on Poster Wars.

  •  Poster Wars: A Parent's Perspective

    Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011

    To think about this case, I have to go back to the primary reason I sent my kids to college: to be educated. If I had wanted them to encounter only the ideas I raised them with, they might as well have stayed home. From that perspective, I’d say that a campus should remain open to different viewpoints to the widest extent possible. In other words, Mary’s poster stays.

    That doesn’t mean I’m insensitive to the offense James feels—or the pain a Jewish student may feel when a floormate posts a “Zionism=Racism” poster or a Latino student may feel about a "Support Arizona" poster.  While there may be some posters that are beyond the pale even for me, the examples above are expressions of political beliefs. I may not agree with them, but as a general rule, I think the value of dialogue on a university campus supersedes the possible offense such expressions may create.

     

  •  Poster Wars: According to Cameron

    Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011

    Mary puts up a poster on her dorm room door opposing gay marriage. James, a floormate, finds it offensive. What should happen?

    Read the full case

    Mary is well within her rights to post her “Yes on Prop 8” poster. Though I do not agree with her opinion, I believe she should be allowed to express it, as long as she does so in a civil way. Mary is not forcing her opinion on anyone, and she is not speaking out against the gay community.

    I think James is overreacting to Mary’s opinion because it conflicts with his own. By trying to force Mary to take her poster down, James is being extremely hypocritical. Mary could easily turn James’ own argument against him, and say she is offended by his opinion and demand that he take down all of his posters.

    There is a clear difference between open prejudice and an expression of opinion or support for a certain viewpoint. Even as a supporter of gay rights, including the right to marry a person of the same sex, I think it is extremely important that no opinion (except overly hateful or clearly offensive displays) be suppressed. After all, if both James and Mary and their respective parties were not able to express their opinions, none of them would have any say in the matter whatsoever. I doubt this would be appealing to James, seeing as the very rights he is campaigning for were the product of the right to free speech, the same free speech that Mary is entitled to.

    Who is Cameron Tow?

    Agree with Cameron?  Think he has it all wrong?  Post your comment for the chance to win $50 prize for best student response.  Rules

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

    Photo used under creative commons from Dana Rocks
  •  Poster Wars: Deepti Says

    Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011

    Mary puts up a poster on her dorm room door opposing gay marriage. James, a floormate, finds it offensive. What should happen?

    Read the full case

    It seems to me that Mary would be in the wrong for putting such a poster in a hallway through which James, and others who may themselves be homosexual, are compelled to walk. The dorm hallway is as much part of James’ temporary home as it is part of Mary’s. For Mary to put her neighbor in a position in which he is confronted on a daily basis with an [albeit silent] attack to his very identity, within a space that could be considered his home, is unethical. James has a right to feel respected and secure within his own home. To view on a daily basis a public denouncement of his rights would not be conducive to any such feelings.

    If Mary keeps the poster up, she must be prepared for a neighbor to post on his or her door an attack on some aspect of her own identity. The dorm director, who has a responsibility to ensure that all residents feel secure, should request that Mary move the poster to someplace within the confines of her own room, provided her roommate is not offended by it.

    Who is Deepti Shenoy?

    Agree with Deepti?  Think she has it all wrong?  Post your comment for the chance to win $50 prize for best student response.  Rules

  •  Poster Wars: When Is Speech Offensive?

    Monday, Mar. 28, 2011
    Photo used under creative commons from Dana Rocks

    Mary lives in a college dorm and displays a poster on her door with the text of California Proposition 8: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” She supported the successful “Yes on 8” campaign.  A constitutional challenge to the proposition is now working its way through the courts, and Mary is involved in the effort to prevent the proposition from being declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    James, her dorm neighbor, finds this poster offensive and demands Mary take it down. He worked to defeat the measure, which he feels is homophobic and discriminatory. To Mary, the poster is an expression of her beliefs and identity, and she does not think she should have to remove it.

    What should happen now?

    Best student response wins $50.  Rules

    Here are some resources from different perspectives that might help you decide:

    Making an Ethical Decision 

    Hate Speech on Campus: Pros and Cons 

    Student Speech: ACLU 

    Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) 

    Responding to Bigotry and Intergroup Strife on Campus: Anti-Defamation League

    Photo by Dana Rocks available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License