Santa Clara University


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.

  •  Contributing Writer: Kaitlin Fuelling

    Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

    Kaitlin is a senior at Santa Clara University. She is planning to graduate this June with a major in marketing and a minor in communications.  She currently works in the Bronco Athletic Department, and is a member of the Triathlon Club and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. 


  •  Contributing Writer: Mikaila Read

    Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

     Mikaila Read is a junior at Eastern Washington University, where she is also the president of the university philosophy club, The Trascendental Apathetic. She self identifies as an, "old soul," and a "closet musician." In her spare time she enjoys reading, hiking, volunteering in her community, and songwriting/singing. Mikaila hopes to go onto graduate school and eventually become a professor of philosophy.

  •  Forgive and Forget

    Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013

    The best student comment on "Forgive and Forget" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 10, 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.**
    Consider these two students’ financial paths through college, and consider what the “Fairness for Struggling Students Act” (FSSA) would do for both of them. The act, now before Congress, would allow people with college loans from private lenders to get out from under those loans in bankruptcy. Currently, college loans are not dischargeable even if the borrower declares bankruptcy.
    Katrina’s parents worked hard all their lives, and although they were very well off, they always  encouraged her to earn her privileges through hard work and dedication. She has never gotten a  handout or “freebie” from her parents—she started working when she was sixteen, bought her own car,
    and worked hard at everything she put her mind to. When it came time for Katrina to go to college, her
    parents told her that they wanted to pay for her four years in full. Since they had the financial ability to, they wanted to give their daughter the peace of mind that comes with graduating with zero debt. Katrina realized that this is an enormous gift that required sacrifice, and she was incredibly grateful.
    Emily was also raised with the value of maintaining a strong work ethic. Unlike Katrina, however, she  wasn’t raised in a home that had the financial capacity to pay her tuition at an expensive private college,  largely due to the fact that she had three younger siblings. They were willing to send her to junior  college, but they could not afford more. Despite her parents’ inability to pay for her first-choice school,  she was determined to find a way to make it work at any cost. She applied to many grants, but she didn’t qualify for any federal or private need-based scholarships because her parents’ joint income was  just barely above the required threshold. After much difficulty, Emily decided to take on $150,000 in  debt to a private lender in order to go to the school of her dreams.
    Both girls graduated school with honors. Katrina was overcome with gratitude for her parents’ gift of a college degree, and decided to further her education with graduate school. As Emily crossed the podium, she looked forward to starting work at a non-profit agency.
    Five years later, Katrina had successfully attained a Master’s degree and was settled into a career. Emily,
    however, had been unable to keep up on her loan payments, and found herself deep in debt. Facing no
    other alternative, she filed for bankruptcy.
    If the Fairness for Struggling Students Act were to pass, Emily’s college loans would be forgiven when
    she declared bankruptcy. Is this fair to taxpayers and families like Katrina’s? Did Emily essentially make a
    poor investment choice by taking out so many loans, in effect robbing taxpayers of thousands of dollars?
    Are Katrina’s parents essentially being punished for being successful? Alternatively, Emily did everything
    “right,” except for opting for a cheaper education. Is this act the only way that an honest, hardworking student like Emily can find justice in an extremely flawed system?
    Useful Resources

  •  Caught in the Middle

    Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

    The best student comment on "Caught in the Middle" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be recieved by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
    Ben and Tyler have been best friends since day one of college. Now seniors, they’re still inseparable, despite many ups and downs over the years.

     Lately, though, Ben’s been noticing that something’s a bit off with Tyler. He’s been spending a lot of time with this girl Lucy, and less time with his actual girlfriend, Kendra. Ben asked if something was going on between them, but Tyler insisted that he and Lucy just have a lot of classes together and work together on homework, sometimes late at night. Ben knows how much Tyler loves Kendra, and trusts that his friend is telling him the truth. Later, though, Kendra confides in him that she thinks Tyler is cheating on her. He waves away her concern, telling her that Tyler loves her and wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.
    However, this shady behavior continues for a few weeks, and Ben is starting to have doubts about his friend’s honesty. These doubts are unfortunately confirmed when, at a party, he sees Tyler flirting with Lucy. Kendra is spending the evening in the library, so Ben realizes that Tyler is taking this opportunity to have a little fling. He watches from across the room as Tyler leads Lucy to his bedroom, shutting the door.
    Ben feels a strange mixture of emotions: confusion, betrayal, anger, and still an irrational sense of protectiveness over Tyler’s integrity. “Tyler’s just drunk,” he tells himself. “Everybody makes a mistake every once in a while.” Still, he feels hurt that Tyler lied about being attracted to Lucy, and angry that he would cheat on Kendra. Even though Tyler is his best friend, he still considers Kendra a close friend, too.
    What should Ben do? Should he go home and pretend he didn’t see anything? Should he bang on the door and tell Tyler to knock it off? Should he tell Kendra what he saw, so that she doesn’t get hurt? If he does that, where does that leave his friendship with Tyler?

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

  •  Sister, Can You Spare a Dime?

    Friday, Jan. 4, 2013

    The best college student comment on "Sister, Can You Spare a Dime?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. 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.

    Jack is a fixture of the neighborhood right outside the gates of a large, urban university. Homeless for the past 13 years, Jack carries all of his belongings in a shopping cart, to which he also hitches his faithful dog, Rufus. Every day, Jack takes up a position outside the fast food joint across the street from the campus, where he solicits passersby for change. Most nights, he sleeps in a nearby parking lot, but when it gets really cold, he has been known to sneak into the campus library and labs to keep warm. A veteran of the Gulf War, Jack obviously has his demons, and he can sometimes be seen drowning them in a bottle of wine half-concealed in a brown paper bag.

    As a freshman at the university, Mandy encounters Jack in the second week she is on campus, when she goes off campus with fellow members of the water polo team for a late night snack. When she sees his cardboard sign— "Homeless Vet. Please Help"— Mandy throws a few quarters into the paper cup he holds out.

    "Don't give him money," Jocelyn, a junior teammate warns her. "He'll just spend it on alcohol."

    "If everybody would stop giving these freeloaders a handout, they would go hang out somewhere else," adds Ella. "They're scary."

    "Oh, Jack's harmless," Meg, a senior, chimes in. "I give him something when I can."

    "You just do that to salve your conscience," Jordan says. "Giving money to individual panhandlers doesn't do anything about the root causes of poverty in this country. You should join Students Act Against Homelessness if you really want to make a difference."

    Do you think students have a responsibility to help the homeless? If so, should they give money to anyone who asks? Should they buy food for the panhandlers instead? Should they not give to individuals but make donations to charities instead? What can students do about the root causes of homelessness?

    Useful Resources

    Photo Credit:>


  •  Happy Holidays from the Big Q

    Friday, Dec. 21, 2012

     We at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics wish you a joyous holiday and all the best in the new year.  Back in 2012.

  •  It Would Be an Honor

    Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
    Do Honor Codes work?
    Do Honor Codes work?

    This post is not a part of our bi-weekly Big Q contest, which will return in January. However, with finals coming up, please comment on this relevant and controversial topic! Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.


    Does your school have an Honor Code?

    If so, do you think that it really works?

    Why or why not? 


    For further reading on this topic, check out these articles: 

    Academic Dishonesty: Honor Codes and Other Contextual Influences


    Empirical Support for Academic Honor Codes


    Do University Honor Codes Work?


    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 




    Photo by CollegeDegrees360 available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr. 


  •  Boys Will Be Boys

    Monday, Nov. 12, 2012

     The best college student comment on "Boys Will Be Boys" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, November 25th. 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.


    Julia and Ricky have been dating for about a year now, and are completely committed to one another. All of their friends feel that they have a strong relationship with a solid foundation.
    Despite this, however, Julia has been noticing a pattern that concerns her. Ricky regularly watches pornography, which she really doesn’t like. After ignoring it for a while, Julia mentions that it bothers her, and makes her feel like Ricky is cheating on her.
    Ricky apologizes, but explains that it’s solely for “release,” and means absolutely nothing beyond that. Julia feels that pornography objectifies women in a way that undermines their relationship, and her self-esteem also suffers a hit when she thinks about the images that go across her boyfriend’s screen. Her best friend tells her not to worry because “boys will be boys,” and Julia reluctantly acknowledges that she knows that many college guys do this. She thinks that she may be blowing things out of proportion, but she can’t shake the feeling of betrayal.
    Is Julia overreacting, or should Ricky change his habits to honor the relationship? Do the moral implications change whether or not Ricky and Julia are sexually active?
    Photo by fb available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr. 

  •  Members Only

    Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
    A building in Hastings, providing student housing and offices.
    A building in Hastings, providing student housing and offices.
    The best college student comment on "Members Only" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, November 18th. 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.
    Jared is a college student who grounds his identity in his faith. From a young age, Jared found that his Christian beliefs helped him make sense of the world, and most of his friends feel the same way. For his undergraduate studies, Jared went to a Christian school, but decided to pursue law at Hastings, part of the University of California system.
    Immediately, Jared found a home with the Christian Legal Society. All the members of the group held his same beliefs, and used those beliefs to inform their understanding of law throughout their studies. However, one of Jared’s friends, Molly, was a part of the LGBTQ club, Hastings Outlaw, and found out that students who were part of the LGBTQ community were not welcome to vote or hold leadership positions in the CLS.
    Molly was outraged, saying that this policy was unfair discrimination that went against Hasting’s policy that “student organizations allow students to participate regardless of the student’s status or beliefs.” Besides, Hastings was a public university, and since student clubs received funding from the university, allowing the CLS to exclude members of the LGBTQ community would be like the state imposing the religious standards of one group on another. It would be state-sanctioned discrimination.
    Jared tried to explain to Molly that he personally did not have a problem with the Hastings Outlaw or anyone in it, but the faith he has fiercely believed in all his life has explicitly laid out in the Bible that “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” is sinful, and that includes "sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman" as well as homosexual relationships. For the CLS to ignore this important aspect of their belief system, Jared said, would not honor what the CLS was trying to represent. Forcing the CLS to accept leadership from those who believed differently would be infringing upon the members’ freedom of religion.
    Molly said that she understood where he was coming from, but it shouldn’t matter because students should be allowed to explore different beliefs in college and feel safe from discrimination in doing so. Hastings College of Law agreed, and refused funding of the CLS unless they changed their membership policy.
    Do you think that Molly and Hastings Outlaw are right? Should anyone be able to apply for any leadership position in a club, regardless of whether or not their personal philosophy aligns with it? Or, do you think Jared is right? Can he and the CLS be justified in excluding students who don’t share the CLS’s beliefs from leadership roles so that they can maintain the integrity of the group and fully exercise their freedom of speech, association, and religion?
    This case study is based on the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
    Photo by cbcastro available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.
  •  Rock the Vote

    Monday, Oct. 15, 2012
    The best college student comment on "Rock the Vote" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, October 28th. 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.
    Maggie is voting for the first time this year. She has made a particular effort to educate herself about the important issues in her state's race for the U.S. senate.

    The issues Maggie cares most about—along with the majority of her peers—are jobs, healthcare, and education funding. She realizes that the dismal job market is looming just beyond graduation, that the current healthcare system is flawed, and education funding is lower than ever before. She has found a candidate that she fully supports and that advocates policies and changes that she feels she can trust. However, there is just one problem—she does not agree with the candidate’s permissive stance on abortion.
    Her friends tell her that her moral qualms about the abortion issue are vastly outnumbered by the positive qualities that her favorite candidate has to offer; however, she is having trouble accepting a candidate who directly contradicts her passionately held, pro-life position.
    Should Maggie vote for the candidate she thinks is less qualified to lead in this capacity, but who agrees with her stance on abortion and will legalize the morality she believes should guide U.S. policy? Or should she vote for the candidate she agrees with on every other issue, and also risk perpetuating a belief that she finds morally reprehensible? 
    Photo by mrmannnn available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.