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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.

  •  You Don't Say That

    Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “You Don’t Say That” 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, May 11th, 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.**

    Linda attends a large public university in Oregon. Before coming to college, Linda was a closeted lesbian. In her hometown she never felt comfortable opening up to anyone, be it family, friend, or mere acquaintance. When she arrived at her university, Linda was able to find a safe haven with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) club.

    As Linda got more comfortable at her university, she began to go out at night to meet individuals outside of her LGBT community. She was able to find friends involved in different parts of her college campus: multi-cultural club, Greek life, student government, and more.

    One day, Linda is at a fraternity party with some of her friends in Greek life. While dancing and enjoying music, Linda overhears a conversation occurring at the beer pong table. One of her friends, Justin, is disappointed that his teammate is taking so long to finish his drink. She overhears him say, “That’s so gay.”

    Linda confronts Justin and expresses her distaste with the language he used. She tells him “gay” shouldn’t be a slang-term for lame or stupid. Justin doesn’t understand what the big deal is. He tells her that he is fully accepting of homosexuality and didn’t mean any harm with his words. Linda doesn’t accept this, refuses to speak to Justin again, and leaves immediately.

    A few weeks later, Linda and Justin are at the same nature hike with the Wilderness Club. At the end of the hike, there is a waterfall where you can jump into a lake below. Justin overhears Linda telling one of her friends to “Man up.” He confronts her about the term, saying that man up implies gender norms. Linda doesn’t understand why he’s so upset with this term. She says that it is used universally and isn’t supposed to insult anyone.

    Do you think there is a difference between using the terms “That’s so gay” and “Man up?” Is it okay to use either of them? Does American culture condone this type of language? Does the unconscious use of these terms contribute to harmful stereotypes or does everyone understand that they don’t really mean anything? 

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Duke's 'You Don't Say' Campaign Reminds You Which Words Shouldn't Be Used As Slang

    Photo by Gian Franco Costa Albertini available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  A Cog in a Machine

    Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “A Cog in a Machine” 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, April 27th, 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.**

    George is a junior at a small university in Washington State. He is a frequent user of Amazon to purchase materials for college including textbooks and school supplies. In fact, George has an Amazon Prime account to save money on shipping, since he uses the site so often. George has recently started to take advantage of his prime account by purchasing almost everything on Amazon, from clothing to books to head massagers. On average, George uses the website three to four times a month.

    One day, George is perusing the Internet and notices an article headline that shocks him: Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers.

    George reads that Amazon is not only scientifically managed to the T, but that the employees are treated more as cogs in a machine than as human beings. He reads that Amazon uses monitoring technology to track movements and performance of employees. The company has conducted several studies to find the fastest way to perform tasks in the warehouse. All employees are instructed to follow the “one best way” of completing tasks for maximum efficiency. The logic behind this strategy is to ensure that employees are customercentric, creating a “cult of the customer.”

    George goes on to read that workplace pressure at Amazon pushes up employee productivity while keeping hourly wages at a barely livable rate. The speed required to complete tasks causes many employees to struggle to meet targets and less skilled employees often fail. If an employee fails three times, Amazon uses a three-strike policy and fires him or her.

    George is shocked by this article, but at the same time he doesn’t know what to do. He has already paid for his Amazon prime membership and relies on the website for most of his purchases now.

    Should George continue shopping online on Amazon? How credible is this one article? Can George rely on this article to make an educated decision, or does he need to conduct more research? Should customer satisfaction be held with utmost regard, even if that means that employees are treated as robots and pushed to unrealistic limits? Is it ethical to treat employees as a cog in a machine, or a means instead of an end? What can George do to better the circumstance of the Amazon workers, if anything?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers

    Photo by thisisbossi available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Charitable Acts

    Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on “Charitable Acts” 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, April 13th, 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.**

    Paula is a freshman at a large university in southern California. She is involved with a sorority, Alpha Alpha, on her campus. Paula rushed Alpha Alpha because she heard that it was heavily involved in philanthropy. In fact, Alpha Alpha hosts an annual philanthropy week donating money to a charity that raises money for cancer research.

    Paula is excited to take part in the weeklong activities because philanthropy and service have always been an important part of her life. She wants to find out more about the charity, and is thrilled that other college students will also be finding out more about cancer research and what they can individually do to help fight cancer.

    When the week approaches, Paula is surprised at the activities that will take place. She notices that not once in the week’s activities does it mention cancer research. Teams simply sign-up and have each member pay $15 to partake in the activities. Paula notices that the activities are simply attending a dinner at a local restaurant, performing a two-minute dance on stage, a karaoke tournament, a fashion show, and a scavenger hunt.

    Paula thinks the week is a lame excuse of a philanthropic effort. She hears from her older sorority sisters that teams just pay the fee and never hear about the charity again. Teams allegedly just participate to get drunk and attempt to win the activities for bragging rights. Paula is disappointed to be a part of such a philanthropy week.

    Are philanthropy weeks, like the one Paula’s sorority puts on, ethical? Do participants actually get an idea where their money is going? How can philanthropy weeks better incorporate education about the cause they are donating to? What about charity balls that older individuals take part in? Oftentimes individuals pay a large sum of money per plate at these charity events, but don’t learn much about the charity and just attend to boost their social status. Is there a difference between the way they are run and these college philanthropy weeks?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Photo by Ahoova available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  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

  •  Go Greek or Go Home

    Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

    The first 20 student comments on "Go Greek or Go Home" win a $5 Yiftee gift certificate to a local business of your choice! Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, January 19th, 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.**
     
    Stefano is a freshman at a small college called Hinchley University. Although Hinchley doesn’t recognize Greek life, there are plenty of nationally recognized fraternities and sororities off campus.
     
    Even before Stefano applied to college, he knew he wanted to rush a fraternity. His father was in a fraternity and always told Stefano that he gained valuable life lessons out of his experience that shaped who he became as an individual. When Stefano gets to Hinchley, however, he is disappointed that his father’s fraternity doesn’t have a chapter at his school. He forgets about rushing a fraternity until winter quarter comes around and fraternities host rush week.
     
    Stefano decides to attend rush week to see if he can find an organization that fits his mold. He’s looking for fraternity brothers who care about academics as much as socializing and who walk the talk supporting worthwhile philanthropies. At the end of rush, Stefano thinks he’s found just what he wants in a fraternity called “Alpha Iota.”
     
    Alpha Iota extends Stefano a bid and he accepts. Soon, however, Stefano finds some of his fraternity brothers are not the kind of guys he really wants to hang around with. While a lot of the members are great, several others both publically and privately show disrespect towards other fraternities and all women on and off campus. In addition, there is hostility between the brothers themselves that Stefano didn’t see during rush. He soon finds out it may be from hazing the pledges are forced to undertake.
     
    Only a couple days into his pledge period, on a Monday night, Stefano is locked in a dark basement with his pledge brothers. First, they are instructed to finish a keg of beer amongst the 25 pledges. After this, they are forced to stay awake all night, still locked in the basement, by blasting music and active brothers going around slapping pledges awake who fall asleep.
     
    Stefano finds himself torn. He’d like to belong to a fraternity so that he has a good social network on campus. But should he continue to go through the pledge period to join this exclusive club, even though he doesn’t respect some of the members and he doesn’t feel comfortable with the hazing?
     
    Do you believe the desire to be in a Greek organization—even one that hazes—should outweigh a college student’s moral conscience? If you were forced to do something you didn’t want to do to join an exclusive organization, would you do it? Or would you walk away, knowing that dropping out will affect your social life at college? If you are involved with Greek life, is there something the organization could do that would make you reevaluate your allegiance? If so, what?
     
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
    Photo by Donald Harrison available under a Creative Commons license.
  •  Happy Holidays!

    Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

    The Big Q would like to wish you all a happy happy holidays! We will be taking some time off, but will be back with more contests and cases in the new year! Look out for our next Big Q case about Greek Life, scheduled to post on January 6.

     

    Photo by Melissa Brawner under a Creative Commons license.