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Previous Questions

Ask an Ethicist: What should I do if I encounter discrimination in the workplace?

Tom C. Hogan The workplace should be an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment. But what happens if you feel discriminated against or someone who is known to discriminate or regularly uses offensive speech is promoted. How should you deal with this and what resources do you have at your disposal? This week’s column aims to offer some advice on the subject.

Ask an Ethicist: Can I share my interview questions with peers?

Wayne Cross headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing a five-part series retailed to the career-fair. Interviews can be stressful, especially for the first time. Many people feel that if they know the questions ahead of time, they’ll do a better job as they will be prepared. But is that really true? And, is knowing the questions ahead of time ethical or is it considered cheating?

Ask an Ethicist: Embellishing on a résumé

Erica Kryst Headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing a five-part series retailed to the career-fair. In many cases, the résumé is your first point of contact with the employer. You know how important it is and you really want to stand out from the competition. Is it ethical to embellish or exaggerate a bit on your résumé?

Ask an Ethicist: Should I accept a job from an internship that didn't seem like the right fit?

Ashley Rippey In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This question centers around a job offer from an internship that didn't seem like the right fit. There are ethical implications in deciding whether to accept a job offer after completing an internship or co-op. Today, we discover what some of those issues might be and how to approach them.

Ask an Ethicist: Should I attend a career fair after accepting a job offer?

Lesley Jackson Headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This question centers around attendance at the career fair. It's a great moment when you finally get that first job or internship offer. It feels even better to formally accept the offer, feeling secure about that next step in your career. But what if that offer comes before a career fair and you accept? Is it ethical to still attend the fair and take up the time recruiters could be spending with other students?

Ask an Ethicist: Serving as a reference (or not)

Jennifer Eury In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This first question centers around writing reference letters. Most of us have either served as a reference for someone or asked someone to serve as a reference for us. But what happens when someone is asked to serve as a reference for a colleague or student and for whatever reason, the individual is not comfortable serving in this capacity? How should someone respond to the request?

Ask an Ethicist: Reporting food safety problems

Amit Sharma headshot Serving safe and healthy food is a priority for the vast majority restaurateurs. But, sometimes the cost or lack of knowledge makes it difficult for chefs or owners to implement the necessary processes to ensure food safety standards are met. What happens if an employee of the restaurant notices a consistent lack of concern for food safety? Should the employee report it to the proper authorities, take action, or both?

Ask an Ethicist: Ethical communication in personal relationships

Denise Solomon Is it ethical to withhold information from someone with whom you have a close, personal relationship? What if that information will upset your relationship partner? This week’s article considers ethical communication in personal relationships, and it offers insight into questions about when you should disclose to your partner, and when you might be able to keep sensitive news to yourself.

Ask an Ethicist: Fairness in the workplace

Being treated fairly in the workplace means being treated equally to others in the work group and in a non-arbitrary and respectful manner. So what happens when one employee feels that the supervisor is giving projects to colleagues instead of the employee and is treating the concerned employee negatively? What options does this employee have and what ethical concerns should be considered?

Ask an Ethicist: What can I do to address our changing planet in an ethical way?

Issues of flood, drought and a changing weather dynamic raise ethical and moral questions, including issues of justice and fairness between different populations, and between people and nature. To address such issues, constructive dialogue and community based discussions provide a way to find solutions and address the moral and ethical dilemmas raised.

Ask an Ethicist: Why should the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Peter Buckland Photo At the Paris Climate talks, global society agreed to pursue a rapid decarbonization of the global economy to cap total global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Such actions would prevent some dire effects of human-caused climate change. What are some of the ethical issues from global climate change?

Ask an Ethicist: Does climate change affect genders differently?

Photo used on profile page.Olsson, L., M. Opondo, P. Tschakert, A. Agrawal, S.H. Eriksen, S. Ma, L.N. Perch, and S.A. Zakieldeen, 2014: Livelihoods and poverty. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 793-832. Climate change is a global issue and affects all of us. You most likely have read about or discussed climate concerns, but an often overlooked topic is gender and climate change. In today’s Ask an Ethicist column, our ethicist brings to light this often overlooked topic and explains why gender should be part of the climate change conversation.

Ask an Ethicist: Profiting from a Cure

Dan Cahoy Headshot Should someone be able to charge high prices for important medical information? Can one even own such knowledge? This week’s article shed’s some light on these questions by taking a look at whether or not it is ethical for an acupuncturist to charge other licensed acupuncturists a large sum of money to learn about key acupuncture points.

Ask an Ethicist: Should I engage with lay audiences about my research?

Brad R. Woods Headshot We now have access to more information than we’ve ever had and it keeps growing by the minute. We can quickly pull up restaurant reviews, journal articles, and real-time weather within seconds from devices in our pockets. But what happens when you come across something online that you know to be incorrect because you spent your life researching that topic? Should you feel compelled to engage in this online discussion since you’re an expert with several related publications?

Ask an Ethicist: Is it wrong to ask my son about his combat service?

Justin Synder Headshot Combat experience is sometimes difficult to talk about, especially for loved ones. Concerned parents want to learn more about their children’s time in the military, but many aren’t sure how to go about it. This week’s column helps explain why many veterans choose not to talk about their experiences and suggests that being there to listen, not asking, is the most ethical way to communicate with them.

Ask an Ethicist: Can Plato help us pick the next president?

Image: Joel Priddy Caucus season is here. In picking the next POTUS, how do we choose well? Common criteria include candidates’ takes on specific issues, their ability to serve as commander in chief, and how we imagine they would navigate delicate international imbroglios. But what about ethical leadership? This week's column discusses what Plato and the power of invisibility can teach us about the role of ethical leadership in contemporary democracy.

Ask an Ethicist: Can money raised for a charity 5K be used to pay entry fees?

Francisco Javier Lopez Headshot Spring is around the corner, and that means all kinds of worthwhile charity 5K races. Many of these races have a reasonably priced entrance fee, but they also encourage runners to raise money for the charity. What if you create a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for that charity and want to pay for the entrance fee from the money that was raised? Is that ethical? Today's column looks at this dilemma and offers some advice.

Ask an Ethicist: Can I turn down a work assignment that goes against my morals?

irector of the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication and an associate professor of advertising and public relations My boss asked me to create a marketing campaign for a new client, but the client’s environmental record is poor. Sustainability and protecting the environment is something that I am extremely passionate about. I’m worried that saying “no” to the assignment will upset my boss. Should I go against my morals and complete the assignment since it’s my job or should I stick with my instincts and say no?

Ask an Ethicist: Can I turn down an accepted internship offer for a better one?

Katie Wysocki Headeshot Question: I pushed myself to apply to top companies for my summer internship. I was so excited to get an offer from Company A that I accepted the internship immediately fearing I might not get another offer. However, I just received an internship offer from Company B, which is my top choice. I would much rather work at Company B, but I’m concerned reneging on the original accepted offer from Company A could hurt future opportunities. Can I change my mind? I have not started working at Company A yet.

Ask an Ethicist: Should I lower the volume of my music if a neighbor asks?

Don Thompson "Turn that music down!" is something many of us have heard from a neighbor or family member. In today's column, the ethicist takes a look at this predicament and offers some guidance on how to respond.

Ask an Ethicist: What is ‘ethics education’?

Michael guest lecturer in Sweden ‘Ethics education’ is a broad term for learning experiences intended to help students develop ethically, whether in terms of increased ethical awareness and understanding or greater motivation to act ethically in the world. There are many forms of ethics education used in K-12 classrooms, experiential learning settings and in higher education. Though not exhaustive, some prominent ethics education categories include character education, with a focus on learning experiences for the acquisition of central virtues and ethical character traits, and service-learning programs that attempt to build ethical awareness, motivation and related skill sets through experiential learning and service within one’s community. (For more information, see The Handbook of Moral and Character Education.)

Ask an Ethicist: How do religion, ethics, and climate change fit together?

Earth with hands holding it Climate change is a topic that includes many disciplines, including often overlooked fields such as religion and ethics. These disciplines bring new insights to the discussion.