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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.

  •  Why Am I Here?

    Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2011

    $50 Amazon giftcard for best comment.  Deadline Sunday, July 10, midnight.

    Junior and senior year in high school sometimes seemed like one long slog to Christina.  Between the PSATs, the SATs, the APs, the ACTs, her GPA, her sports practices, and her job tutoring, everything was oriented toward polishing her resume and getting her into college.

    She went through the entire application process because that's what everyone expected her to do.  Now she was in, an undeclared freshman, she couldn't help wondering what she was doing here.  Was it right for her to be spending so much of her parents' money on college when she didn't even know what she wanted to study?  Was she taking the slot of someone else who would have really known what she wanted from her education?  Was college just going to be a repeat of that stressful high school experience, where she felt like she was always preparing for the future but not really living her life?

  •  Party!

    Monday, Jun. 27, 2011

    Starting the first week of Will's freshman year at a large state university, there was always a party going on. There were frat parties, tailgates, theme parties, and dances. Even within Will's dorm, some group was always having a good time--playing poker, watching movies, or just hanging out.

    At first, Will enjoyed the social scene and getting to know people; he didn't see a problem with adjusting to the social atmosphere before really getting into the academics. But two months into college, he found himself behind in a couple of classes, and handing in work that he wasn't very proud of. He would promise himself to study, but then get sidetracked when one of his buddies dropped by his room and asked him to go out.

    Will had come to college to prepare himself for a career in law, and he knew he needed to perform reasonably well to get into law school. But he also figured that college was supposed to the best time in his life, which it certainly wasn't going to be if all he did was study. What was the right balance? What difference would it make either way?

    Some Interesting Facts and Resources

    About 29 percent of incoming students chose their colleges based on the reputation of their "social activities."

    Chronicle of Higher Education, 2003

    Most guides recommend about 2 hours of study a week for each hour in the classroom. Generally this will work out to between 30 and 45 hours. But the National Survey of Student Engagement found that many students try to get by on far less. Of freshmen at four-year residential colleges, only 12 percent spent 26 hours or more preparing for class.

    "A" students average 3.1 drinks per week
    "B" students average 4.4 drinks per week
    "C" students averages 5.6 drinks per week
    "D" and "F" students average 9.5 drinks per week The Bacchus Network

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

    Photo by mel_rowling available under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  The Slowdown Hits Home

    Monday, Jun. 20, 2011

    $50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, June 5.

    Kayla is going to be a freshman at a prestigious university, which was her first choice for college.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more expensive institutions of higher learning in the country.


    When Kayla was making her applications, her family was in good shape financially, but just before she was accepted, she learned her father had been laid off from his job as a software engineer.  In order to send Kayla to her first-choice school, her parents intend to dip into their retirement accounts. 

    Should Kayla allow them to do this, or should she go to the less expensive state university, where she was also accepted?

     

    Here are some resources that might be useful:

     

    Balancing kids' college and retirement saving

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Pay for College (CollegeBoard) 

     

    Photo by Daniel Moyle available under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

     

    Posted by Rebecca Bivona-Guttadauro

  •  Top Ten Ethical Issues for College Freshmen

    Friday, Jun. 10, 2011

    You're off to college. You've filled out your roommate survey and ordered your "dorm in a bag" set, joined the Class of 2015 Facebook group from your school and maybe even thought about what classes to take. But there’s another way to be prepared: Imagine what you will do when you face “The Top Ten Ethical Questions for College Freshmen.”

    What am I doing here? Let's be honest: A lot of kids are headed for college because it's the thing you do after high school. But you'll get more out of the experience if you think about why you're doing it: To train for a job? To be exposed to great ideas? To party? A bit of each? Your answers to these questions will form the kind of person you become in college.

    Do my parents belong at college? Should your parents have a say in your choice of major? Do they have a right to see your grades? Can you ask them to call a teacher when you’re having trouble in a class or contact a dean if you have a disciplinary problem? Many parents want to be involved (especially when they’re paying the bill), but when is that reasonable guidance and when is it an intrusion? Now that you’re 18, aren’t you an adult with adult responsibilities?

    Do I want to rush a fraternity or sorority? If you’ve been thinking about this question in terms of how to improve your social life, you may want to add an ethical dimension to your internal debate. By its nature, the Greek system is exclusive; some people don’t get in. Do you want to belong to that kind of group? What are the kinds of activities, social and philanthropic, that the different sororities and fraternities on your campus support. Do these match your values?

    How will I interact with people who are different from me? Your decisions about how you will deal with diversity may start before you even get to campus, when you must decide whether to live in a racially or ethnically themed dorm. Or they may arise when you're invited to a "Ghetto" or "Fresh Off the Boat" or "South of the Border" theme party. How will you treat people from other backgrounds? How much do you want to move outside your own group?

    My roommate is anorexic, a drug dealer, a World of Warcraft addict, an aggressive vegan …. You’ve heard the roommate horror stories. While you’re trying to figure out how to handle a difficult roommate, considering the ethical side of things may help. What kind of obligations do friends have to each other? What is the fair thing to do when two people have to share a space? What behaviors are so dangerous that you have to kick the problem up to the next level?

    What about cheating? Okay, this is an oldie, but you may be surprised by the new variations it comes in once you’re in college. Your calculus teacher may encourage you to work collaboratively with your classmates on problem sets, but your chemistry teacher does not. Is it cheating to study with a partner in chemistry? When you’re assigned a group project the same month as you have to play in three away baseball games, is it cheating if you don’t do as much work as the other members of your group? You’re pre-med but you have to take an art history course; how bad is it to copy the homework for a class you’ll never use in your professional life?

    Should I call the EMTs? More than 70 college students have died from alcohol poisoning since 2004, according to media reports compiled by CompelledtoAct.com. In some instances, their friends had hesitated to call emergency personnel because they didn’t want to get their drunk friend in trouble or because they themselves were underage and had been drinking. If one of your friends is in danger, will you call the EMTs no matter what the consequences may be?

    Facebook posting or cyberbullying? In a recent study from Indiana State University, almost 22 percent of college students reported that they had been cyberbullied and 25 percent said they had been harassed through a social networking site. Is that comment you’re posting for all the world to see harmless gossip or are you going to be making someone else’s freshman year a living hell? And what does it really mean to be a Facebook "friend"?

    Sex!!!??? Ethics is about how we treat other people. Nowhere is that concern more complicated than in the realm of sex. Of course many high school students are already sexually active (62 percent of seniors in a 2003 study by the Center’s for Disease Control). But college, where you live your everyday life out of the view of most people over 21, is different. Before you come to campus, think about the place you want sex to have in your relationships. And then get ready for the ways your resolution may be challenged by alcohol, loneliness, and what everybody else is doing.

    How do I treat the people who work for me? In college, a host of people keep your campus functioning. There’s a guy who trims the roses, and a woman who cleans the common areas of your dorm, and a secretary who works for the bursar. Do you even acknowledge these workers when you pass them? Do you make the effort to get rid of the pizza boxes after the dorm meeting or separate your dishes from your silverware on the lunchroom conveyor belt? If you don’t, what does that say about the respect you have for the people who work for you?

     

    A version of this article first appeared on The Huffington Post, May 3, 2011.

  •  World of Warren

    Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2011

    Warren is an Orc. In fact, he's a level-60 Orc, a feat he has achieved by playing a lot of World of Warcraft. He belongs to a successful guild, whose members he considers friends. He spent last summer at home playing about eight hours a day--basically until his parents nagged him to come to dinner.

    Now that he's in college, there's no one to nag him, and he devotes every minute he can to WoW. He usually manages to go to class, but he's behind on his homework, and there are days he doesn't get around to showering.

    At the beginning of the term, his suitemates invited him to join them at various activities, but now they pretty much avoid him. Warren sometimes thinks his gaming is out of hand, but nothing seems as interesting as WoW and the people he's met playing it.

    Does Warren need to join the real world now that he's in college? Should his suitemates push him to do so?

     

    Here are some resources that might be useful:

    Are Video Games Good or Bad for Teens?

    WoW Detox

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

     

    Photo by Rebecca Pollard available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  Get Me Out of This!

    Tuesday, May. 31, 2011

    $50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, June 5.

    Since he was a little boy, Sam has always been able to count on his father. When Sam was in grade school, his dad went to bat for him if a teacher didn't treat him fairly. In high school, Sam appreciated when his father made sure he got plenty of playing time on the basketball team, and he learned more from his father than from the English teacher when his dad helped him with assignments.

    Now, at the end of his freshman year of college, Sam has a real problem. His psychology professor has found a couple of lines in the final paper he just turned in that were copied directly from an article in a professional journal. Sam does not dispute that the lines were from the journal, which he included in his bibliography, but he explains to the teacher that he simply forgot to put quotations around them and cite them in this one instance. The teacher is not impressed by his explanation, and has given him a failing grade on this very important assignment.

    Sam calls his dad to complain about the situation, and his father is indignant that the professor is being so "rigid." He offers to call the department chair and protest Sam's grade. Should Sam involve his father in this matter?

    Here are some resources that may be helpful:

    Here are some resources that may help:

    Helicopter Parents (The Tufts Daily)

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

     

  •  A Job Search Dilemma

    Monday, May. 23, 2011
    Job fair, University of Illinois

    Best student response of the week wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

    Eric, a second-semester senior, is looking for a job. Anxious about finding work in the worst economy in decades, he sends out scores of resumes for a wide variety of positions. The first call he gets is for a position that doesn't really interest him, but he figures he should be open to every opportunity. He schedules an interview, which he aces. In fact, the recruiter offers Eric the job on the spot. He would like Eric to start as soon as possible.

    Should Eric accept the offer? If he does, can he continue to pursue other jobs actively?

    Here are some resources that may help:

    First Offer Not Your First Choice?

    Job Search Ethics (UC-Berkeley)

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

    Photo by Jeremy Wilburn available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  Date My Professor?

    Monday, May. 16, 2011

    Best student response this week wins a $50 Amazon gift card.

    It all started when Frannie, a 19-year-old sophomore, went to work as a student assistant in the English Department. She had gotten a recommendation for the job from Bill Marsden, who had been her professor in the survey of British literature she took last quarter. The class had been so lively and engaging that Frannie was thinking of declaring English as a major.

    After she started working for the department, Professor Marsden always stopped at the reception desk and spent some time chatting with her. As they got to know each other better, it seemed natural that Marsden asked her questions like whether she had big plans for the weekend or whether she had a boyfriend waiting for her back in her hometown. But then she began to notice other signals that maybe he was interested in more than the usual professor-student relationship. He would put his hand over hers for a moment while they talked, and he brought her a collection of the love letters from Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning.

    Frannie was actually quite flattered by his attention. True, he was probably well into his thirties, but he was still cute, and he was a lot more mature and interesting than the boys she met on campus, whose idea of a good time was beer pong. Frannie was pretty sure Marsden would ask her out if she gave the right signals back. Should she get involved with someone on the faculty?

    Here are some resources that may help:

    Dating Your Professor: Problems to Consider Before You Date Your Instructor

    Yes, Professor?

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

     

  •  I Can't Get a C

    Monday, May. 9, 2011

    Tell us what you think.  Best student response wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

    Melissa is a pre-med student at a large university. She prefers taking classes that relate directly to her emphasis. However, Melissa knows that she has to take general education requirements to graduate. She decides to take "An Introduction to Art History," an easy class, to balance out the hard science classes she must take this quarter.

    It turns out that Art History has weekly homework assignments--nothing difficult, but Melissa never seems to have time to do them. She reasons that she shouldn't waste her energy on class content that she will never use. Still, the teacher does grade the homework and Melissa cannot afford do poorly in the class because medical schools will care about her GPA. She ends up copying a classmate's homework on a weekly basis. Does Melissa really need to spend time on this gen-ed when she has more important classes to worry about?

    Here are some resources that may help:

    Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research

    Fundamental Values Project--Center for Academic Integrity

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

     

    Photo by Dany Sakugawa available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  Group Project

    Monday, May. 2, 2011

    Kyle, Mia, Raymond, and Jasmine have been friends since they started college as communication majors three years ago. This semester, they're all taking the quantitative research methods class, which requires a group project instead of a final exam. The four of them decide to work together on the project, which includes designing and carrying out a survey, and writing a report on their findings.

    Problems crop up pretty quickly. Mia is also taking a TV production class at the same time, which is enormously time consuming. She misses the meeting where the group finalizes the wording of the survey and divvies up the responsibilities for administering it. When she learns what her group has assigned her, she tells them right away that there's no way she can complete so many surveys by the deadline because of all the work she has for TV production. Instead, she offers to take on more of the writing when the time comes to do the report.

    Although the others aren't thrilled with this arrangement, they cover part of her assigned surveys so that they can stay on schedule. Mia makes good on her promise to do extra writing for the final report, but she's really pressed for time, and the rest of the team is very unhappy with the quality of her work. Should they hand the report in as is or rewrite it? If they rewrite it, should they tell the professor that Mia did not do her share?

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.  Comments must be posted by May 8, 2011, at midnight.

    Here are some resources:

    Group Project Tips for College Students

    Ethics of Team Work

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making

     

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