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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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  •  Sexual Assaults on Campus

    Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

    On Thursday evening, one by one, students poured into the ethics center classroom, eager to discuss an important issue on campus—sexual assault.  The attentive crowd exuded emotionally charged energy. Women composed the vast majority of the audience; however, several men sat peppered throughout the crowd.

    Students already face many hurdles as they learn, develop, and mature during college. Sexual assault should not be one of these challenges.
     
    We’ve already heard the alarming statistics. One in five women will likely be victims of sexual assaults (or attempted sexual assault) on college campuses. Every 21 hours, another rape takes place on college campuses. Among college women, nine in ten victims of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.
     
    Now, we wanted to hear the voices, your voices. 
     
    In our culture, topics of sex are shushed and somewhat taboo. Discussions of sexual assaults, specifically, are difficult and often traumatic for the victims. Our goal? Create a comfortable, safe space to unite—men and women, activists and victims—and to actively explore the virtues of justice and compassion in light of such experiences.
     
    The Big Q has particular interest in the intersection between sexual assaults on campus and university responsibility. Our forum brought forth the following questions:
    • Do universities have an ethical mandate to help to end sexual assault on campus? Is it the school’s job, student’s job, or a combination of both to create a safe environment?
    • How should judicial policies reflect the ideals of justice and compassion for the victims?
    • What role do ethics play in protecting the rights of the accused offenders? 
    Finally, where are our current efforts to end sexual assault lacking? The numbers alone show these incidences on campus are far too common. We’re called to action.
     
    What are some next steps for us to take?
  •  Snapchat and Internet Privacy

    Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

     

    At Santa Clara University, “Week 5” sparks a tidal wave of midterm studying stress and a seemingly endless “to-do” list of assignments.  Last week during the chaos, I sat in my library study cubicle and surveyed the concentrating students around me. I noticed a peculiar trend. Instead of typing away on term papers or studying lecture notes, students played on their smartphones, the screens forming a sea of flickering yellow.  One after another, students posed for pictures with coffee mugs and stacked textbooks, giggling at their shameless “selfie” Snapchats. Snap! Snap! Snap!

    Snapchat. It’s photographic documentation at super speed.  Since its launch in 2011,   the application has seen massive success. In fact, users send an estimated 700 million photos and videos via Snapchat per day. The best part? The photos disappear after an allotted amount of time—or so we think.

    Despite its popularity, Snapchat’s privacy issues have slammed national news headlines. Security breach issues first surfaced earlier this year after a hacker website obtained over 4.6 million user names and phone numbers. Two weeks ago, hackers released another overwhelmingly large database of photos, this time accessed through a third-party application. In all cases, users believed that their “snaps” disappeared after opening; however, in our technologically advanced society, hackers managed to make the vanished reappear.

    The issue brings up several ethical questions regarding technology and privacy. First, if we willingly share photos, can we blame others when and if the content leaks?

    In addition, we can examine privacy itself. Is privacy a right or a luxury?

    Finally, what role do technology companies have in protecting our privacy?

  •  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?
  •  Five Ethical Dilemmas Freshmen Face

    Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014
    Welcome Weekend and Move-In Day finally arrive—the culmination of the longest summer of a freshman’s life. Lines of fully packed SUVs wrap campus, bulging with mattress pads, futons, and Container Store bags. Students pulse with excitement and fidget with nervous energy. In the dorms, parents sort boxes and hang photos, while freshmen begin to contemplate the placement of a something especially significant—themselves.
     
    During the first year of college, there’s a whole lot of new. Change lies in the far edges of an unknown campus, behind the door of a co-inhabited room, and underneath the cover of a thick, intimidating textbook. We’re bombarded with questions surrounding new faces, a new school, and a new routine.
     
    Often, freshmen face the following questions and conflicts that test their conscience and push new boundaries.
     
    1.    Do I have to conform? It’s human nature—everyone wants to fit in. We want to feel comfortable, accepted, and loved.  When making friends proves difficult, conformity seems to triumph over individuality. To an outsider, social skills and popularity render instant happiness. During freshmen year, students often ask themselves, how much of me am I willing to forfeit?  Am I willing to lie about who I am?
     
    2.    Do I pick a major based on passion or post-graduate salary? Many freshmen hear a piece of conventional wisdom, “Minor in what you love, but major in what gets you a job.” College students stand at a pivotal crossroads in their lives, torn by conflicting voices. In one ear, we hear encouraging whispers of pursuing passions; in the other, we’re fed constant reminders of debt, expense, and the pressure to provide.
     
    3.    Do I have to adhere to “hookup culture”? We’ve all heard our friends’ and parents’ stories about finding love in college. Today, the hype over casual hookups seems to squash the idea of the classic, committed relationship. Do couples even meet in class anymore? Many freshmen enter the first year with an idea of the “norm” already in place—the courting happens after hours, often with a drink in hand. Is casual sex okay?
     
    4.    How do I live with someone else? In college, roommates present gifts and challenges, all in one. Soon, moments of “me time” shrink from entire evenings to convenient class schedule incongruencies. On move-in day some freshmen meet lifelong best friends; others meet acquaintances. Regardless of the situation, freshmen quickly learn that they’ll have to address both trivial and complex roommate conflicts. How do I tell someone that his or her behavior bothers me? What’s normal, and what constitutes “crossing the line”?
     
    5.    Do I party? The media broadcasts that college life revolves around one thing—parties. We hear the message loud and clear. A typical night involves keg stands, sweaty, packed basements, and an endless supply of potent drinks, right? Freshmen ask themselves, do I have to party to fit in? Does everyone drink?  Unfortunately, the consequences of underage binge drinking (including it’s illegality) outlast the day-after headache. What does partying mean for my reputation?
     

     

  •  Waitlists and VIPs

    Tuesday, May. 27, 2014

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

    Callie is the Senior Events Coordinator on her student government. She plans senior events throughout the year, but the biggest event is Senior Ball. Hosted each spring, the event includes a night of wine and dancing for 1,000 members of the senior class. Due to chaperone restrictions, venue requirements, and transportation issues, attendance cannot exceed 1,000 students. Each year, about 100 seniors who want to attend Senior Ball must be turned away.

    This year, the number of seniors who could not get tickets is even greater. The event sold out in two hours, and the line to purchase tickets was wrapped around the block. Callie had to turn away many seniors, including a few of her close friends. As she goes through the list of attendees a few days before the event, Callie realizes that there were some errors in data entry and five tickets remain. Since there was no possibility of adding additional spaces, Callie did not create a waiting list. Callie immediately thinks of her friends. She knows that there are other seniors who desperately want tickets, but she could easily fill the spots from only her friend group. Callie wonders if she can just distribute the tickets to her friends. They really want to go, and she wants them to be there. Callie spent the last several months working on the event, and thinks she deserves to have all her friends there to share it with her.

    She knows she could send an email to the senior class and create a waiting list, and draw names from the people who respond, but with only a few days before the event, Callie doesn’t feel that she has the time. She has to visit the venue, establish the set-up, confirm all the contracts and reservations, train volunteers for the event check-in, and make sure each participant has turned in the waivers. She knows that she’ll receive hundreds of responses about the tickets, and creating the waiting list will detract from her ability to prepare for a great event. For just five tickets, it doesn’t seem worth the extra work.

    What would you do in Callie’s situation? Is it fair to give the few extra tickets to friends, without extending the opportunity further? Can you extend the benefits of your student government position to your friends? When does it go too far?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Photo by Joshua Ganderson available under a Creative Commons license.

    Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

  •  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.

     

  •  Lying to be Nice

    Monday, Mar. 3, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Lying to be Nice” 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 16th, 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.**

    Mark is an upper classman college student at a large university. He is a double major in Psychology and Political Science, is involved with on-campus Associated Student Government, and works two jobs in order to pay for college and essentials like food.

    Mark is very focused on his education and career growth at this stage in his life and in the rare free moments he has, he enjoys spending time with his housemates who are his best friends. He isn’t against dating, but he knows that relationships take time and money and is not sure he has the availability or funds for a girlfriend. That being said, he has told his roommates several times that if he finds the right girl, he will make time for her and will budget his earnings accordingly.

    Joe, Mark’s roommate, has been trying to set up his friend with a girl for a long time. Joe is under the impression that Mark needs someone to help him enjoy the moment and not just focus on the future. Joe sets Mark up with his girlfriend’s best friend, Laura. He tells Mark to just go to coffee with the girl and see if they mesh. Mark agrees to go to coffee with Laura.

    At coffee, Mark struggles to find anything in common with Laura. He thinks she is a nice girl, but he also doesn’t feel that she is someone he wants to date. Her interests and hobbies are very different from Mark, and it even seems like her values are different at times during his talk. Mark enjoys the conversation with her, but he decides he doesn’t want to pursue anything after the coffee.

    When leaving the coffee shop, Laura tells Mark she had a good time and would like to get to know him even better. She gives Mark her phone number and asks him if he will call her later. Mark knows he isn’t going to call Laura. He has no interest pursuing her for a relationship and is already so strapped for time. However, he tells her he will call her because he thinks it is better to be nice than to tell her the truth.

    Did Mark do the right thing? Was lying to Laura that he’d call her the nice thing to do? Is it just to withhold the truth from someone, even if you think it’s for his or her betterment?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Truth in Thomas Aquinas

    Is Lying Ever Right?

    Lying and Truth-Telling

    Photo by Kris Krug available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Spreading Wings

    Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Spreading Wings” 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 2nd, 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.**

    Lucy is a second semester senior at a small private university near San Francisco. Coming into college, Lucy had to choose between two similar universities on opposite sides of the country, one in California and the other in New York. Lucy’s decision came down to location and she ended up selecting the California university because of its proximity to her home and family.

    Now, Lucy is preparing for her post-graduate life. She has applied to countless jobs in public relations, as her father has always told her that getting a job is a numbers game. Several positions have been on the East Coast, but the majority have been in California. Lucy knows her mother would like her to stay close to home. Lucy has a younger brother still in high school whom she could mentor, and an older sister who lives at home and commutes to her job in the city.

    Lucy’s dream job is to work for a global public relations agency in a big city like New York or Chicago. She isn’t really interested in doing public relations for the technology industry. California agencies largely work in technology, so if she stayed close to home she would likely have to work tech for part of her career.

    That being said, family is the most important aspect of Lucy’s life. She was raised in a home where family is No. 1, and there were no compromises when it came to the family’s well-being. Everyone in her family looks out for one another. She would absolutely love to stay near them if she has the opportunity after college.

    After a long and hard job search, Lucy manages to get an internship at one of the largest global public relations agencies in Chicago. She also gets several good agency jobs in San Francisco, including one at a global public relations firm working in technology. Lucy is struggling with her decision. She knows that she doesn’t really want to work in technology, but she does want to stay close to home if possible. Both agency jobs pay around the same, and she would be able to grow in each company with hard work. She also could jump location eventually should she desire to experience working in a different city.

    Should Lucy choose to stay close to home or move away to a more desirable career opportunity? Which option will bring Lucy more happiness? What is more important, individual career goals or family responsibility and loyalty? Does Lucy have an ethical responsibility to consider family when preparing for her future career? Why or why not?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    How to Deal With Moving Away From Your Family

    Photo by Amanda Tipton available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Shot on the Job Hunt

    Monday, Feb. 3, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Shot on the Job Hunt” win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business. Use your gift to try out that new flavor of ice cream at Mission City Creamery or spend it on two slices of your favorite pizza at Pizza My Heart. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, February 16th, 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.**

    Mike is a senior public relations major at a large university preparing to join the work force. One night, he gets in a conversation with his roommate Anne about career options and applying for jobs. Anne is also a public relations major, so they have similar interest in what they would like to do after college.

    Mike finds out that Anne has recently applied to a company called Reed PR. Anne went to the career fair the previous quarter and found a contact with Reed to network with. After some time networking and finding out more about the company, Anne determined that it was her first choice company to work for. She spent hours putting together a solid application. During her conversation with Mike, Anne shows him a blog that she created for her application with her cover letter, resume, recommendation letters, writing samples, and fun facts.

    The next morning, Mike decides to follow Anne’s example and create his own job application blog. He copies Anne’s format and finds out how Anne created her blog. He regularly checks Anne’s blog to look for tips in order to get a job. Mike decides to send his new blog to Reed PR as well, without telling Anne. He doesn’t think it’s important to let her know.

    About a month later, Mike hears back from Reed PR that he has been invited to interview with the company. Mike tells Anne this and finds out that Anne hasn’t made it on to the next round. Anne is surprised that Mike applied to Reed and is upset at him for not telling her and copying her application format. She feels betrayed.

    In a competitive world, was it okay for Mike to apply to the same job as his roommate? Should Mike have told Anne that he applied? Is it unethical that Mike copied Anne’s job application blog format? Does Anne have the right to be upset at Mike, or should she get over it?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    On the Job Hunt, Trust No One

    You and Your Friend Applied for the Same Job. What to do?

    What to Do When You’re Competing With a Friend for a Job

    Photo by Gvahim available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Off the Hook-Up Culture

    Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on "Off the Hook-Up Culture" win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business of your choice! Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, February 2nd, 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.**

    Frank is a college junior at a small private university. Before coming to college he had a girlfriend for two years, ending abruptly because they were going separate ways. His attitude coming to college was to remain single, grow academically and professionally, and enjoy youthful experiences.

    In his freshman year, Frank found that the culture at his college largely matched what he was looking for. Hooking up was very common, and long-term relationships were rare. During his first year at school, Frank saw a lot of different women and had sex with several of them, rarely more than once or twice. He had some good experiences with women who he would have liked to pursue longer, but he just didn’t think the culture allowed for it.

    All the students seemed to be focused on bettering their future. They were academically and professionally driven, not driven by relationships and finding love. Some of Frank’s peers explicitly said they didn’t have time for a romantic relationship, and had no interest since they didn’t know what state they would be living in after graduation.

    At the beginning of his junior year, Frank got involved in an uncommitted sexual relationship with Susan, a girl he always had been interested in getting to know better. After hooking up once, they both discussed how they weren’t looking for a relationship but enjoyed each other’s company. Frank and Susan continued this exclusive, hook-up relationship for the first half of the semester. While they both enjoyed time with one another, the uncommitted relationship ended unexpectedly when Susan wanted more and Frank was still unsure he was ready to fully commit.

    Frank went back to his routine random hook-ups, but he soon realized that he wasn’t enjoying them anymore. There was no long-term fulfillment and growth that he had started to feel with Susan. Frank stopped hooking up with girls randomly, and instead started searching for something deeper. He spent the rest of the quarter not hooking up with anyone and realizing how difficult it was to find a relationship in college, especially after he had built a negative reputation after hooking up with so many women around his small college campus.

    Frank’s friends approached him one day in an “intervention.” They were genuinely concerned about him because he was acting so different than usual and seemed depressed. They told him that he was in a funk after his time with Susan. He needed to get back out and hook-up with girls again, so that all would be normal again.

    What should Frank do? Is Frank just heart-broken from Susan? Should Frank be hooking up with more girls? Should he not be? Why do students hook-up? In the college hook-up culture, is the choice to not hook-up just as acceptable as the choice to hook-up? Why or why not?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    American Psychological Association: Sexual hook-up culture

    Does Hookup Culture Hurt Women?

    9 Reasons ‘Hookup Culture’ Hurts Boys Too