Rachel Hanebutt

Rachel graduated from DePauw in 2015 and was a Political Science and Education Studies major from Huntingburg, Indiana. She is currently a Master's Candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Ant-Man Cosplay by William Tung (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you have not yet viewed Marvel’s latest production, Ant-Man, take this as the obligatory spoiler alert. Those who have viewed this perplexing film about an ant-size superhero that saves the world, however, probably have several questions running through their minds: How can such a small superhero be so powerful? Will Ant-Man join other Marvel heroes in future films? But the most important question, one that has yet to be asked by the masses, is what the very idea of Ant-Man and the plot of Marvel’s film says about our morals and whether the ideas in this film allude to a bigger problem in terms of warfare.

As a member of the graduating class (yes, I said it) and a Prindle Intern, I feel that it is my ethical duty to bring the following question to your pre-graduation attention: What, if any, responsibility do we as graduates of DePauw University, have in living ethical lives post-graduation? I raise this question because of the incredibly important conversations that have occurred on DePauw’s campus during our time as students. Additionally, the privileges inherent in graduating with a college degree, privileges we all now share, become a part of who we are as not only individuals, but as the future change-makers of the Class of 2015.

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The Prindle Institute for Ethics formally invites all DePauw students to submit coursework relating to ethics or of ethical concern. The Prindle Prize Program is an annual competition, which gives students the opportunity to win monetary prizes for their involvement with Prindle and dedication to including ethics in their academics. Submission categories for coursework from the current semester include Humanities, Natural Science Research, Social Science Research, Visual Performing and Literary Art, and Technology. 15 Prizes of $300 each will be awarded (3 per category).

Photo Credit: Background photo from Bon Appetit - Facebook

Taking into account recent emails and updates from DePauw Administration in regards to the student meal plan, students have begun to voice concerns not only about the meal plan changes, but also about the fact that the student body was not consulted about these changes that affect them so directly.  Their concerns highlight not only a need for rethinking proposed changes to the meal plan, but also the requirement for consulting with students before mandating a change to the ways they eat on campus.

by Wolfram Burner (CC BY -NC 2.0)

By nature, the increase of online news reporting and journalism pressures journalists to get the story fast and as accurate as possible. In the recent case of “A Rape on Campus,” Rolling Stones writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely made the mistake of going after a story, even when not all of the accurate pieces of the story were obtained or obtainable. Her mistake has been highlighted in numerous accounts, including a report by Columbia Journalism School and has become the newest textbook example of why standards of reporting are so important.  While this discussion will not focus on the ethics of Erdely’s actions and reporting, I aim to pose the question, sparked by a recent NYTimes Op-Ed:  When if, at all, do reporters have a moral obligation to “walk away” from a story, rather than report it? 

Breaking Rules - By mr.smashy

While 2013 was declared the “Year of the Trigger Warning,” it is important to revisit the idea of adding trigger warnings to course syllabi and discussions. Some universities have gone as far as to require faculty to warn students of any topic that might “challenge their thinking.” The question of when it is ethical to use a trigger warning and when it is okay not to use one forces us to think about the implications trigger warnings have on every educational environment.

Research by Colin Charles (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Breast cancer and the push for finding “the cure” for cancer are not new. We race for the cure, walk for the cure, bike for the cure, and do just about anything you can think of to raise money to fund cancer research; the one way society as a whole works to combat this disease. In the months leading up to losing her 13+ year battle with cancer, former LA Times staff writer Laurie Beckland tells a different story of how cancer can be combatted in a February op-ed, As I Lay Dying.

Beckland writes, “Promise me you’ll never wear a pink ribbon in my name or drop a dollar into a bucket that goes to breast cancer “awareness” for “early detection for a cure,” the mantra of fund-raising juggernaut Susan G. Komen, which has propagated a distorted message about breast cancer and how to “cure” it.”  Her article explains that there are other resources, such as databases detailing patient experiences that other patients can learn from.  This would include invaluable advice to current patients who are making decisions about their own individual “trial” as Beckland refers to it.

Cancer patients are not required to report their metastatic diagnosis, so many times, individuals die of other diseases and official death records are in no way reliable instruments for evaluating or counting cancer-related deaths.  Beckland even goes as far as to say not using Big Data to the advantage of cancer patients is criminal and that a lack of participation in such a project by both patients and doctors would be unethical. This brings about a slightly different question: Is it unethical not to create a way for patients to voluntarily (or even anonymously) spread and share information with one another/with doctors?

Additionally, while we are waiting for researched “cures” to meet the gold standard approval of researchers, we are losing valuable time and resources, which could aid patients, potentially prolonging their lives in other ways. Is it unethical for society to continually support the “one cure” mindset, funneling money into research that might not be doing as much as it could be for the cancer patients it claims to support? Should we reconsider the ways in which we fight this currently incurable disease?

by CGP Grey (CC BY 2.0)

“Many of the ensuing problems call for solutions that cannot wait for the world to agree on a universal right to move, some of them of an ethical nature.”

This quote is taken from an article by Florian Coulmas which discusses “The Ethics of Language Choice in Immigration,” and sheds light onto a topic that is rarely discussed: the ethics of language.  We use language all the time, however, we rarely discuss the originations, usage, or particular implications of the ways in which we can talk and actually speak about dilemmas such as immigration.  We also rarely address the ways in which language can become unethical.

The article also poses two main questions:

1. Should language rights be understood as collective rights or individual rights?

2. Do language rights entail active endorsement of immigrant languages on the part of the state, or only passive toleration in the private sphere?

Coulmas expresses the importance that language has for society; “high-level communication is key for most operations” and successes in the world as we know it.  The  emergence of a “national language” trend, post-French Revolution, however, inevitably repressed already linguistic minorities by transforming the English language into an extension of state power and control. Not to mention, Native American languages, which were the true first language(s) of the “United States” are now considered insignificant next to English.  English-speaking elites have successfully colonized not only the land we now call America, but the language of this place as well.

What is the responsibility of the government or society as a whole when it comes to including the language(s) of immigrants? Viewing language rights as a collective responsibility would make it ethically imperative for a government to actively endorse all minority languages, providing linguistic support for these people when it comes to law, medical care, etc. Keeping the languages of immigrants in mind would also be a smart move for authoritative bodies, as it is in their favor to have an informed working class and electorate.  Coulmas’ advise for balancing this slippery slope is that, “To treat individual immigrants fairly and to prevent collective discrimination are obligations of a just society that the state as its agent cannot disregard.”

What do you think? Should the United States be held accountable for supporting all minority languages, especially realizing that European-based/the English languages was once a minority language itself?


Photo By Andre Williams '15

After an emotionally-charged and educational first DePauw Dialogue, many students, faculty, and staff are asking: What’s next? in terms of campus-wide education and commitment to inclusion and diversity.  Previous discussions of the Multicultural requirement (“M”) as an addition to DePauw’s graduation requirement list brings about important issues of both ethical and social concern.

by kdemerly (CC BY NC 2.0)

With the recent announcement of details regarding DePauw University’s Day of Inclusion activities, some in our community have questioned whether cancellation of school and requirement of attendance is warranted for this large-scale community discussion and day of learning. On DePauw’s intellectually driven campus, it is important to analyze the ethics involved with such a decision, and for us to come together as a community in solidarity.