"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.

Original photography by Cynthia O'Dell

Episode Two: Systems in Sheep’s Clothing is now available to download! In this episode we hear from producers Sandra and Christiane about their voices. Andrew Cullison interviews Rebecca Gordon about her new book Mainstreaming Torture, and Robin Zheng discusses the ethics of a concept popularly known as “Yellow Fever.”

To get this episode, subscribe to the Examining Ethics podcast in iTunes, or head over to our new site ExaminingEthics.org.  If you visit the site, you’ll also find a link for a 30% discount on Rebecca Gordon’s new book.

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.

AINAK-6420.jpg by Jerome Starkey (via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the many reasons that weighing ethical dilemmas is such a challenge is because we’re often faced with a conflict between measurable and immeasurable value. We see this often in relation to environmental issues. Because we can’t place an exact value on the intrinsic worth of nature, we struggle to cognitively compare environmental health with economic benefits. Thus, many companies pursue profit over environmental wellness, without fully understanding the detrimental consequences. The inability to directly quantify something doesn’t entail that it is value-less or that its interest should be disregarded, but it can be awfully difficult to convince some groups of this.

Kale ready for harvest at The Nashville Food Project's urban garden

This post draws on my experience from co-leading the Prindle Institute’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Nashville, TN focused on food ethics and justice on March 22-28, 2015.

Food justice is an issue that many of us are indirectly exposed to at an early age. We’re taught, often through religious education but also in other ways, that many people in the world are hungry and we, as more privileged global citizens, have a responsibility to help alleviate their suffering. In my experience growing up in the Catholic school system in Columbus, Ohio, canned food drives were routine, field trips to food banks were not uncommon, and students memorized “feed the hungry” as part of the Corporal Works of Mercy. We lugged paper bags filled with Campbell’s soup, Ramen noodles, or whatever else our parents wanted to discard from our pantries to Homeroom to earn a “dress down day.”

Research by Dayna Bateman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

At the 2015 Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) conference a few weeks ago, I went to a breakout session on ethical research that is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The presenter leads a division of the NSF called Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM (CCE STEM), which essentially oversees the ethical provisions of NSF grants given to universities.  The presenter’s main point was that perhaps too much slack is given to faculty members who head up large-scale research projects, at least when it comes to ethics.

The NSF seems to have a clear commitment to ethical standards. Pertaining to ethics training, the grant application states: “The institution must have a training plan available upon request for students and post-docs, and all new applications to NSF must include a mentoring plan if any post-docs will be employed.” Missing from the requirements is any type of ethics training mandate for faculty members, not to mention the vague language around the training plan, which are allegedly lacking at many schools. Faculty are presumably exempt because they are already well-versed in ethical research and conduct.

Yet, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found an increase in the instances of ethical red flags in their grantee’s research projects. The number of cases of plagiarism, peer review confidentiality breaches, misrepresenting of funding sources, etc. is on the rise. The OIG even speculates that 1,300 of 45,000 NSF proposals could contain plagiarized content. These instances of “cheating” are not being done by the undergraduates or post-docs, but by the faculty members in charge of the project. This begs the question of whether faculty really should be exempt from ethics training, that which their subordinates are required to complete.

Students are graded based on their papers and tests. Developing research projects and publishing based on the results is the equivalent for faculty members. The academic community abhors cheating from students; in fact, plagiarism can often result in suspension or expulsion. Shouldn’t faculty members be held to the same ethical standard?

"Cubicles" by Michael Lockner. ,a href=https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“Choose a job that you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life”-Confucius

How many times have you heard this advice? I grew up thinking that the only career path I should pursue is one where I love the work that I am doing. While I still strive to find these positions, I believe that work has inherent worth and that finding a job you love is a luxury that the millennial generation sees as normalcy.

This is a timely matter to discuss with college graduations having just passed throughout the month of May. A trending conversation topic, there was a recent Opinion piece in the New York Times that discussed the inherent value of work and the millennial generation obsession with, “do what you love”. There is such a tone of entitlement in those words. What about a statement like, “work to earn a living that will make you comfortable?” Many of my family members previously or currently work in the service industry, in jobs where they work days and evenings and weekends just to pay bills and earn a week’s worth of vacation at the end of the year.

Are we devaluing that work in advising everyone to follow their passions professionally?

Service jobs, tough jobs, need doing. They are available, and they are a source of income. Doing what you love is not an accessible notion for those just trying to get by. It’s not even necessarily the best option for the more privileged demographic of college graduates. Why?

Several reasons. Doing what you love doesn’t always pay the bills. I don’t know of a job that exists that fulfills all of one’s passions. And just because you love something, doesn’t mean you want to work in that field. Trust me on this last one. I love the outdoors, but I quickly found that working in the environmental field turned my interests into an emotionally draining chore.

So, why do millennials follow the “do what you love” notion?

A recent study suggests that Generation-Y (I identify this as late teens to mid-twenties entering the work force) values job fulfillment over salary benefits and security. Since this generation is the first to grow up with the internet, they have been exposed to more of the world’s problems and strive to be a part of the movement that can solve them. There’s also the idea that instead of getting married and identifying themselves through hobbies and home life, millennials identify with their jobs and create communities around where they work and with whom they work.

At some point, we need to reassess our personal values when it comes to work. I know I’ve had to do this several times throughout my very early and brief professional career. Family is of the utmost importance to me, and someday I hope to provide economic stability and security to my parents and close relatives the way that they have done for me. Although I still search for jobs that are fulfilling, even more so, I eventually want a job that will reasonably pay off my student loans so that I can spend less time worrying about finances, and more time cultivating meaningful relationships.

In Professor Gordon Marino’s words from the NYT Op-ed, “sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.”

Photo by Linda Striggo

Jacquelyn Stephens became a Graduate Fellow after graduating from DePauw in 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in French. Jacquelyn was a Prindle intern during her senior year. She initiated the Popcorn and Pop Culture ethics series and served as the Lead Intern for the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium. She is interested in a wide range of ethical issues, including those related to research, morality and the environment.

During her time at DePauw, Jacquelyn was in the inaugural class of the Environmental Fellows program. She was a Resident Assistant for three years and served on the Community Standards Hearing Board. Jacquelyn was also a Presidential Ambassador her senior year. During Winter Term 2013, she traveled to Hawaii to study sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. Jacquelyn was also active within Putnam County as a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor and America Reads tutor.

Jacquelyn is originally from St. Charles, Illinois. She plans on eventually pursing her Ph.D. in Psychology. In her spare time Jacquelyn enjoys yoga, the outdoors, and getting creative in the kitchen.

Camille Veri is a 2014 graduate of DePauw with a B.A. in Philosophy. Camille interned for the Prindle Institute for two years and served as Lead Intern her senior year. Some of her projects as an intern included initiating an ethics-focused film series at Prindle and helping to organize a community-wide dinner at the Campus Farm. Camille was selected to participate in Prindle’s 2014 Undergraduate Ethics Symposium.

As a student at DePauw, Camille was very involved with DePauw’s radio station, WGRE 91.5 Your Sound Alternative, serving as Music Director her sophomore year and a DJ each semester on campus. She was also involved with Philosophy Club and Film Club. Camille was a member of DePauw’s Honor Scholar program as well as Phi Sigma Tau, a Philosophy honorary society. During the fall of her junior year, she studied Central European Studies and Film Studies in Prague, Czech Republic.

Camille is particularly interested in sustainability and environmental ethics, as well as in examining the ways in which literature and film reveal the complexities that accompany ethical thought. She enjoys bike rides, baking, and day trips to Bloomington. Camille is originally from Columbus, Ohio.