Sandra Bertin

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Sandra Bertin is a 2015 graduate of DePauw University and a 2015-2016 Graduate Fellow at the Prindle Institute.

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"Reading a Book at the Beach" by Simon Cocks is liscensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

New Prindle Reading Courses

Beginning in Fall 2016, the Prindle Institute will sponsor a small number of 1/4 credit reading courses on special topics in ethics.

Each course will allow faculty members and their students to read and discuss a single work that enhances their understanding of the field of ethics or some ethical issue. Our goal is to provide a compelling way for students to incorporate an ethics component into their curricular goals.

DePauw students will have the opportunity to take multiple (different) sections of this course and be challenged to grapple with ethical issues throughout their time at DePauw.

Classes will be held the first eight Thursdays of the Fall 2016 semester from 7-8:30PM. Transportation to and from Prindle will be provided.

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reading courses

There are lots of ways to get involved with Prindle! Find out the different internships and roles Prindle has to offer DePauw students by coming to our event.

The event will be held on February 25th at 11:30 AM in the UB Ballroom. Lunch will be served.

We will be giving information on the different internships available and the application processes.

Want to learn more about the different positions you can apply for? Click here to explore the different roles and what the applications look like.

"Nativity scene Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs Cambridge" by Thorvalddson is liscensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A Cincinnati, Ohio suburb is fighting over a zombie themed nativity scene at a private residence. Jasen Dixon and his family operate a haunted house for Halloween, and used some of their zombie decorations to create a unique nativity scene in their front yard for the second year in a row.

Last year, the family was in hot water with township officials for not having the proper permits for the large manger. This year, the Dixon’s applied for a permit, but their appeal was rejected and they have incurred fines from the township as a result. The Dixon’s realized that by deconstructing the roof of the manger, the scene would no longer qualify as a building and they avoid further fines. Although the fines have stopped, the criticism has not.

Religious groups have left numerous notes at the scene, saying that the zombie depiction is disrespectful to God. One note claims “God frowns upon the manger scene”. However, the Dixon’s send their son to Catholic school and defend against claims that they are anti-Christian.

Jasen Dixon sees the display as harmless, saying We use this for our family craft time”. The Dixon’s created a Facebook page for their scene and has gained many fans. The page has received many messages of support from fans in the Cincinnati area and worldwide. One commenter states, “I don’t personally like it but it’s a free country and for that, I support this family’s expression of freedom!” and many other posts mirror this sentiment. Some humorously share references to The Walking Dead and others say the display would be more appropriate at Halloween, or even Easter (when Jesus rose from the dead). The Dixon’s are also collecting donations for various causes including offsetting the fines that they incurred, building a bigger and better scene next year, and sending money to local charities.

"Planned Parenthood in St. Paul" by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

On Friday, November 27th, a man named Robert Lewis Dear Jr. entered a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a semiautomatic rifle. He killed three people: a police officer and two civilians. After hours of a violent standoff with the police, Dear was eventually brought into custody. Though mass shootings have garnered much public discussion recently (after news surfaced that we have had more than one mass shooting per day in 2015), the Planned Parenthood shooting has received a particularly high amount of media attention.

There are several ethical components brought forth by the shooting. Two notable ones are: 1) Should society blame violence on an atmosphere of verbal hostility? 2) Should society view Planned Parenthood as the face of abortion?

Many have argued, like Washington Post Columnist Ruth Marcus, that, “Republicans deserve some blame for the Planned Parenthood shooting.” Marcus argues that, “words- extreme language and overheated representations- have consequences” and that the heated rhetoric that she argues come from some pro-life Republicans inspired Robert Dear’s attack on Planned Parenthood. Father Frank Pravone, the national director of Priests for Life, rejected this accusation in his Op-Ed for Fox News that the pro-life movement would support any violent action. He argues that though the pro-life community consistently condemns all attacks at abortion facilities, they still receive most of the blame. He also rejects the accusation that describing abortion as “child killing” is creating a climate of violence. It is his belief that abortion is murder and to change his language would be abandoning his lifelong attempt to protect unborn babies.

This argument over language leads to the next question. Is the focus on Planned Parenthood as the face of the abortion issue legitimate? Both pro-choice and pro-life advocates seem to have an interest in deflating and inflating, respectively, the importance of Planned Parenthood in regards to abortion services. For example, Planned Parenthood reports that only 3% of their services provided are abortions and have been widely criticized for distorting their numbers to arrive at this number. Similarly, some pro-life advocates responded with a claim that 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services are abortions, a claim that is similarly criticized. However, a third party fact checker, Politifact, says the most accurate statistic is that an estimated 12% of Planned Parenthood customers receive abortion. Do these examples of inflating/deflating Planned Parenthood’s abortion services show that we have a tendency to alter the truth to benefit a specific political agenda?

Can language incite violence? If it does, is it ethical to place limitations on language? How do we address our tendency as people to distort facts in order to benefit politically?

"DePauw University sophomore Ismael Sylla tries to reason with one of the protesters." by Rebeca Bagdocimo (Image used with permission from owner)

UPDATE: This article has been altered to include more eyewitness accounts.

The protesters of two weeks ago have sparked significant campus discussion. At the forum held in the late afternoon after the initial day of protests, many of the students in attendance expected to talk through the issues of the hate group that came to campus that day. These students were then confused when the forum went in a different direction. Some of the confusion may have arisen as a result of the fact that many students weren’t aware that there were two major events that took place on that day, not just one. A full picture of what happened on that first day of visits may help to explain why the forum took the direction it did.

What appears to be one issue (the protests led by Brother Jed and his group) is actually two. The first issue is the hateful message promoted by the visiting group that caused emotional distress for many on campus. However, there is an important second issue: the response by Greencastle and Indiana State police to some students of color who took part in the counter protest movement against Brother Jed’s group.

Brother Jed’s group, Campus Ministries USA, spoke prejudicially against many different groups. They called female students “whores” and said the following: “blacks are still slaves,” “blacks and gays worship a different God than us,” “it is not natural to put your penis in a rectum,” “carpet munchers keep your tongues to yourself,” and “militant feminists are ruining the world.” Their messages targeted almost every student on our campus, and every student has a right to be upset about them.

The second issue began after six women from Feminista! began a peaceful counter protest and were eventually joined by many other groups including: Omega Phi Beta, AAAS, Student Government, Lambda Sigma Upsilon, Sigma Lambda Gamma, etc. Individual protesters also came to show support.

The police, in an effort to protect students from lawsuits and jail time if they were to commit an act of violence against the protesters, eventually detained one black student. He was protesting peacefully and had not committed any such act of violence. Soon after, a white student threw hot coffee at the protesters. The student was taken away with a hand behind her back and escorted back to her dorm room.

Shortly after, a black student was angered by one of the protesters. When the student became visibly agitated, a group of staff stepped in to support him. One of the staff members involved, Yug Gill, stated, “[The student] had already begun to calm down and wanted to be left alone when the police officer entered the staff bubble around the student. [The student] did not resist the police officer.” The policeman slammed the student to the concrete followed shortly after by a staff member of color who was trying to de-escalate the situation. The police officers used their knees to pin them down and the student was placed in handcuffs. Neither of the detained men had committed a violent act.

The disparity between the police’s response to the detained men of color and their response to the white student who threw the coffee is a one clear factor in the outpouring of anger, grief and confusion at the evening forum. It is also clear how this issue is uniquely a racial one.

With this picture of the events it is reasonable to see how students present at the protest and who witnessed the detaining of their classmates and friends understood the forum to be on the subject of the unfair detaining of people of color by the police. It is also reasonable to see how students not present would have expected the forum to be regarding Brother Jed’s group and their hateful messages. Neither expectation of the forum was wrong.

What is wrong is accusing students who wanted to discuss racial disparities in policing that day of “hijacking” the forum and arguing that it wasn’t the time or place to discuss race issues. It is wrong to pretend that we only have space in our campus discussions for one issue at a time and to continuously prioritize whichever is more comfortable.

I hope that we can create a culture of listening at DePauw where we stop and listen when we are faced with something uncomfortable rather than shutting it down. I hope we can create an intentional community where we listen and trust each other’s experiences. Learning these skills is essential to healing divides that exist on campus.

Greisy Genao, Yug Gill, and Vivie Nguyen helped write this post and provided all firsthand account of the protest on 9/23/15.

The seemingly endless events of police brutality and the deaths of unarmed black people of the United States has captivated and divided our country. The most recent in the saga is the events of the infamous pool party of McKinney, Texas. Videos of the police officer under question, Officer Eric Casebolt show him arriving at a teenager’s pool party with mostly people of color in attendance and throwing a young bikini-clad fifteen-year-old to the ground, placing both knees and his full weight on her back, and shoving her face into the ground. He then threatens other kids who run to help her by pointing his gun at them. All attendees were unarmed and nonviolent.

There has been discussion over this incident, and much of it is argument over whether Officer Casebolt is racist or not. Those who defend Officer Casebolt argue that he had just responded to two suicide calls and was emotionally unstable at the time. But maybe this argument of whether the officer is racist or not is just a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is why did the police come in the first place? I believe the answer lies in the concept of white space vs. black space, who belongs and who does not, and how this tension leads to racial profiling in our country.

Before the officer arrived at the scene, the teens had been pestered by the security guard of the pool who continuously insinuated that they shouldn’t be there, though according to attendees, they had done nothing wrong. The security guard accused them of playing music too loudly and not having permission to use the pool. The security guard supposedly told them that their music had to be turned off, though attendees swear that the music was edited. Most teens in attendance lived in the community that owned the pool and thus had the right to its use.

Why would the security guard be uncomfortable with a large group of teens when there were groups of white teens at the pool as well? Why would their music be a problem if there were no curse words in it? Why would they assume that the teens didn’t belong, though most of them lived in the neighborhood?

On an episode called the “Birds and Bees” on NPR’s This American Life, one of the voices heard is Nikki Jones, who discusses how Americans racially code space. She says, “The ghetto itself is believed to be carried on the bodies of black people…that presents special dilemmas when black people are in white space. What is white space? Almost anywhere else. In these white spaces, black people have a special burden and they face a number of dilemmas. They have to prove that they belong there, the burden is on them to prove that they belong in a particular space.”

This rings true in the tale of the McKinney pool party. These teens should not have had to convince anyone that they belong in the neighborhood in which they live, let alone be subject to police violence while trying to prove their legitimacy. McKinney is not the ghetto, it is an average middle class suburb of Dallas, TX. By Nikki Jones’s logic, McKinney is white space, no matter how many people of color live there.

When examining events of police brutality against people of color, it is easy to get distracted by the violence. Though we need to discuss the violence and work to end it, our conversations must not end with “agree to disagree” moments of whether police violence was racist or not. Let us not forget to question why the police stopped these victims in the first place. Let’s examine if there was legitimate cause or if it was simply because they were a black face existing in a white space.