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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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My first year on campus, I wrote a column that took a critical look at misogyny in Interfraternity Council (IFC) recruitment. At the time, I had also just joined a house. I was confident that, despite the attitudes displayed by some during recruitment, the system was sound as a whole. I thought, or perhaps hoped, that it was the case of a few bad apples with too much liquor and too little common decency.

Original Artwork by Kathryn Ryan

To understand some of the problems with DePauw’s campus climate, one need look no further than who is participating in the discussion. I learned this lesson firsthand as a sophomore, when I attended a film screening on white privilege at the Prindle Institute. As a white man, I thought it would be important to learn about my own privilege. I hoped that others like me would do the same.

George Stephanopoulos by Tulane Public Relations (via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

This post originally appeared in The Indy Star on May 29, 2015.

The real damage done by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos’ vacuous ethics – as shown by his revelation of gifts to the Clinton Foundation – won’t be to him or his network. ABC will still get its ratings. George will still make his mega- millions in his cushy anchor seat, convinced he is a real news reporter and has done nothing wrong. It is the citizenry who once again takes it on the chin because of misdeeds of the powerful and pompous.

It’s a throwback, for sure, but there was a time when the voting public put its trust in the powerful media organizations to report news fairly and fully. The mainstream press was counted on to provide the information flow that empowered citizens in a democracy.

Proof that the public is victim to journalistic dereliction comes from a new Rasmussen Reports survey. It finds that 61 percent of American voters distrust the political news they receive from the media. That’s an increase of 16 points since last fall. As survey respondents look ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign, only 23 percent think reporters will offer unbiased coverage.

When high-profile network names such as Stephanopoulos and NBC’s Brian Williams ignore basic journalistic ethics standards, the well of trust is poisoned across the industry. News consumers conclude that the misguided moral compasses of the big shots represent the values of the news industry as a whole. Citizens thus lose faith in news sources and disengage from the public sphere. Knowing that ABC’s chief political correspondent has ethics issues no doubt makes news consumers wonder about what other network reporters are hiding.

ABC’s brass wrote off Stephanopoulos’ ethics breech as just a “mistake,” the network statement adding ABC “stands behind him.” The failure of the network to see the broader implications of Stephanopoulos’ chummy connections with the Clinton Foundation exposes a groupthink in ABC’s hierarchy. A quote from prominent 20th century journalist and social observer Walter Lippmann captures the ABC situation: “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

The Radio Television Digital News Association is the nation’s premiere professional electronic news organization. Its Code of Ethics is apparently not posted at ABC’s news headquarters. Under its Fairness section, the code states that reporting should be based “on professional perspective, not personal bias.” With regard to integrity, the ethics code warns electronic journalists to not “engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence.”

Stephanopoulos’ weak response to this flap shows how oblivious he is to the seriousness of the situation. He explained away to his ABC audience that his donations to the Clinton Foundation simply reflected his interest in stopping AIDS, helping children and saving the environment. A heck of a nice guy, sure, but he apparently doesn’t know that less politically charged organizations also take donations for these causes. His self-imposed penalty was to remove himself as moderator for an upcoming Republican primary debate. And Tom Brady won’t be the referee in the Patriots’ next NFL playoff game.

Nobody expects reporters to be blank slates with no personal opinions. But regardless of a journalist’s personal political leanings, the professional reporter can still strive to be fair. At the least, reporters must excuse themselves from stories in which they have hardened attitudes or clear conflicts of interest. All of this takes a high degree of integrity, hard work and foundational principles by the people who make up the news industry.

The citizenry is powerless when it operates in a void of accurate and full information. The free press was created by the nation’s founders to serve as the citizens’ watchdog over the government and the powerful. Public confidence in the press and government is collapsing, leaving the public with no suitable surrogates and nowhere to turn.

James Madison once wrote, “Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy.” If the great United States experiment ever becomes a farce or tragedy, big media’s role in stifling and warping the information of the day will be a major factor.

Illustration by Prindle Art Intern Evie Brosius

The Prindle Prize Program is an annual competition that gives students and faculty the opportunity to win monetary prizes for their dedication to ethics in their academic work and their involvement with The Prindle Institute. Abstracts for each of the following outstanding papers are linked here: Prindle Prize Abstracts

Humanities:

Adrienne Westenfeld, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Through a Journalistic Lens”
Course Name: ENG393: Drugs, Lit, and Culture
Professor: Wayne Glausser

Midori Kawaue, “Visceral Power of the Words of Kissinger in the Chile Coup of 1973: The Dueling Realities of American Exceptionalism”
Course Name: HIST382: U.S./Latin American Relations
Professor: Glen Kuecker

Katie Kondry, “American Civil Liberties and the Patriot Act”
Course Name: PHIL 342: Philosophy of Law
Professor: Jeremy Anderson

Social Science

Haley Pratt, “Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Intervention and Support as a Strategy for Closing the Achievement Gap and the Discipline Gap”
Course Name: PSY493: Senior Thesis
Professor: Scott Ross

Celia Klug, “What’s Race Got To Do With It? Recent Race-Based Peremptory Challenge Litigation”
Course Name: Sociology Senior Seminar
Professor: Matthew Oware

Rudra Vishweshwar, “Creating an Ethical Market for Organ Donation”
Course Name: Economics Senior Seminar
Professor: Manu Raghav

Natural Science

Caitlin Handy, “Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine”
Course Name: Senior Research Fellowship Seminar
Professor: Daniel Gurnon

Tyler Huff, “Helping Families with Rare Diseases: Finding Disease-Causing Variants in a Wealth of Genomic Data”
Course Name:CHEM395 Independent Study
Professor: Daniel Gurnon

Jessica Tilley, “Quality of Life and the Cure”
Course Name: HONR300: Ethics of Cancer Research
Professor: Pascal Lafontant

Arts

Katie Tozer, “Borderland: Between My Forest and Your Pen”
Course Name: ENG392 Lit of the Environmental Crisis
Professor: Jeane Pope/Harry Brown

Lauren Arnold, “Containers and Vessels”
Course Name: Art Senior Seminar
Professor: Lori Miles

Sarah Ertlet, “The Salvation of Man”
Course Name: FYS: Why? The Quest for Meaning
Professor: James Wells

Anh Nguyen, “Burden”
Course Name: Art Senior Seminar
Professor: Lori Miles

Technology

Rudra Vishweshwar, “Trendstar”
Course Name: Computer Science Seminar
Professor: Khadika Stewart

Erin O’Brien, “The DePauw Robotics Club and the Ethics of 3-D Printing”
Course Name: TV Production and Literacy
Professor: Larry Abed

Extended Written Thesis

Tazree Kadam, “The Impact of Arranged Marital Custom’s on Women’s Autonomy in Rural India”
Course: Honor Scholar Senior Tutorial
Professor: Jason Fuller

Colleen McArdle, “Zoo Animals, Livestock, and Pets, Oh MY! An Exploration of the Ethics of Captive Breeding”
Course: Honor Scholar Senior Tutorial
Professor: Vanessa Fox

Emily Vincent, “The Feral Cat Conundrum: Assessing the Science and Ethics of Trap-Neuter Return”
Course:  Honor Scholar Senior Tutorial
Professor: Jennifer Everett

The Prindle Post Op-Eds
Jeffrey McCall, “Obama seen as ‘enemy’ to press freedom”
Rebecca Schindler, “Conflict Antiquities: Is There a Future for the Past?”
Jeffrey Dunn, “What the Ray Rice Video Suggests About Our Moral Thinking”
Rich Cameron, “Will climate divestment work?”

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.

Image Courtesy of Ayo Animashaun

This post was written by Ayo Animashaun, a 2014 graduate of DePauw University. Ayo was an Economics major, Management Fellow, and Bonner Scholar. This article details his post-grad experience integrating sustainability and business with Earthships Biotecture Academy as well as his ambitions to bring the Earthship model to his home country of Ghana.

Graduating presented me with the opportunity to pursue ideologies that I had been obsessing over since the first semester of my senior year. A few months after graduation, I was accepted into Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, New Mexico. Earthships are radically sustainable buildings that were thought up by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, and perfected in the last decade. Earthship design hinges on 6 principles: 1) Thermal/Solar Heating & Cooling; 2) Solar & Wind Electricity; 3) Contained Sewage; 4) Building with natural & recycled materials; 5)Water Harvesting; 6) Food Production.  Essentially what you find with Earthships is the personification of a man-made ecosystem, with closed loop energy and material cycles, minimal waste, and sustainability in the long term. The principles come together into a home that takes care of its off-grid inhabitants indefinitely without any utility bills or reliance on the grid.

The possibility of learning how to build an eternal off-grid house with all modern conveniences initially drew me to this esoteric knowledge hidden in the Taos desert mesa plateau 7,500 feet above sea level. My academy session was  six weeks long with eight hour days split evenly in the classroom and on the construction site. During this time, I was able to learn more about the Earthship design principles, philosophy, history, and systems. I decided after the academy to volunteer with the construction crew at Earthship Biotecture and learned everything from installing a roof, framing a greenhouse, stonework finishes, plastering, tiling, electrical wiring layout, and installing a greywater planter during the eight months I spent volunteering. I learnt enough to actually get paid doing some sidework for an African-American family building their very own Earthship 12 miles away from the biotecture headquarters. I had no construction experience prior to enrolling at the academy.

Although I can now confidently say that I have enough experience to enable me to build my very own off-grid Earthship-inspired house, I came away from the experience learning more than that. I came away learning more about sustainable living than the buildings themselves. Living in an Earthship is astoundingly serene, and also makes you quite observant and aware about being a burden to your immediate surroundings. For instance, the south-facing greenhouse in the front of earthships not only keeps the building warm as a passive solar home, but also helps you grow food. The food grown in the greenhouse is cultivated in a greywater planter bed which basically sits in your waste water from the shower and faucets. Whatever waste water that isn’t absorbed by plants, is then pumped back into your toilets to avoid using fresh water to flush your toilet. Unlike in modern architecture, this biotecture reminds you of the intimate relationship humans should have with plants. In order to be able to eat the produce you grow in a greywater planter bed, you have to become more conscious about what you put down the drain, the cleaning/hygiene products you use, and even the food/medicine you put in your body. This is largely because the energy the human body wastes in an Earthship is immediately passed down to the plant. Also on the isolated desert mesa you become conscious about your trash. We often repurpose aluminum cans, cardboard, and glass bottles for building, and are less likely to use plastic bags.

During my time at the Earthship headquarters, I met some amazing people from all over the world doing incredible things to change and challenge norms in their parts of the world. Learning from all these people empowered me to share the knowledge I had gained about biotecture with people back home in Ghana. As a result, I will be moving back home this summer not only to share my knowledge, but also to re-learn sustainable practices in more rural parts of Ghana and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I also have a prototype roof design that I am developing that would help existing homes in what I call Middle Earth (15°0′N to 15°0′S) be cooler, and more comfortable. The roof design will inevitably reduce the need for energy consuming fans and air conditioners. After graduating, I have found that I’m dedicated not only to cultivation of intellect, and the continual pursuit of knowledge, but also to helping others learn about how they can live more sustainably. Although I haven’t used my Economics degree in a conventional sense, I hope to make an impact where it’s need. I’m really excited about the work I’m involved with now and what is to come in the future. I hope to keep finding inspiration in unusual places. This summer I will be an instructor and particpant for a rammed earth workshop in Abetenim in Kumasi, Ghana. We will be leveraging pre-existing knowledge about earth building in the local village from local craftsmen and natural resources such as laterite and bamboo for the build. As a proud DePauw alum, I would love to see some DePauw input in this exciting project. Hopefully some cool students have an interest in volunteering.

Click here to contribute to Ayo’s Kickstarter campaign.

Scotland by Moyan Brenn CC BY 2.0

Four and half months ago, I left Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America for the bonnie land of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. With only eight weeks of my semester long adventure left, I can say that I did not expect to run into any ethical dilemmas while abroad. Yet being in another country has forced me to encounter more than I did back home.

At the Eiffel Tower, London Eye, or the Opera House in Vienna, you are expected to act like a tourist. Taking photos, oohing and ahhing, talking loudly, and blatantly acting like a tourist are not abnormal behaviors to locals because they are facilitating your tourist experience. But when you are in a small restaurant in Prague, is it disrespectful to do the same? As a tourist, should you change behavior based on your situation? Is ethical tourism even a possibility and what does it look like? One of the things that I struggle with is how to be respectful of other cultures while trying to experience them in a short amount of time. This internal battle between wanting to take my photos and then not wanting to offend those who live there has marked my traveling.

Another stamp of my travels is the amount of other tourists who seem not to care about the local culture in the least. From chanting “USA” in a Dublin bar to singing loudly on a tour bus with 35 other people on it, I have been shocked by how little concern some tourists show for the people around them. I love my country, I love my hometown, and I love my school; but I did not go abroad to talk about that love across the pond. Instead, I went abroad to learn something new about myself in a different place and to try and grow. This is not to say that I am not a tourist, but its hard to embrace a culture and truly immerse yourself it in when you are just there to snapchat or pose in front of a monument. Traveling should be about discovering parts of your soul in another place and setting, not how many likes you can get on an Instagram. As a 21 year old, its pretty hard to not care about social media, but making a conscious effort to take in the culture has given me more happiness than hitting 200 likes has. I wonder if travelling ethically means we have to give up a little part of who we were back home in order to fully participate in the present.

Being abroad has made me miss Greencastle, Indiana more than anyone should ever miss a small Indiana town, but I have loved every minute of this journey. They say that adventure is good for the soul, and I would have to agree. But adventuring for a couple days at a time does present the dilemma of how to do so respectfully. From the people in my program to the trips that I have been on, cross-culture communication has become a part of my daily life. The ideas of cross-culture communication and cultural sensitivity expand beyond my abroad experience and those experiences of the other DePauw University students abroad this semester. International communities exist both in governments, like the UN, or in industries, like NATO or OPEC. Cultural sensitivity and figuring out how to communicate across boundaries should be at the core of these organizations, and yet, that is not exactly what we see in practice. How does that change? Or should it change? How can individuals and communities work on interacting with each other in a more respectful manner? Does this topic even matter?

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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.