Everyday Ethics

What is Ethics?

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by rjp218 Apr 01, 2015
by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Asia Ferrin
by rjp218 Sep 24, 2015
Contributors: Michael D. Burroughs
by khepler Apr 02, 2015
Contributors: Nicolae Morar
by khepler Apr 07, 2015
Contributors: Ayesha Abdullah
by SKeira Apr 15, 2015
by rjp218 Sep 13, 2016
by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Matt Bodenschatz
by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
by David Price Oct 12, 2020
by SKeira Jul 21, 2015

What is it like to be a PIKSI Graduate Assistant?

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Asia Ferrin
This is a guest post by Asia Ferrin. Asia was a PIKSI Graduate Assistant during PIKSI 2012.

Asia FerrinThis is a guest post by Asia Ferrin.  Asia was a PIKSI Graduate Assistant during PIKSI 2012.

Serving as a Graduate Assistant for the 2012 Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) was one of the best experiences I had in graduate school.

I participated in my fourth summer as a graduate student, shortly after I had started my dissertation. Looking down the barrel of a dissertation, I remember feeling overwhelmed by graduate school before attending PIKSI. Yet, by the end of my PIKSI experience, I was chomping at the bit to get started on my work and felt a deepened commitment to philosophy.

Everything about the experience was revitalizing. The speakers and session leaders were fantastic. Working with Ellen Feder was great; she was supportive, energetic, kind, and funny. And I came to adore the students instantly. They were sharp, curious, and enthusiastic. I felt like I learned as much from them as they from me, given their diverse social and educational backgrounds. My co-graduate assistants were also amazing. We worked well together as a team, and I appreciated the chance to commiserate over the challenges of grad school with outside peers who had unique perspectives and insights. Even though PIKSI meant long hours and hard work, I felt fresh and motivated by the end of the week. Years later I still try to tap into that excitement as I’m finishing my dissertation.

Ferrin with her cohort of undergraduate students
Ferrin with her cohort of undergraduate students

PIKSI not only energized me, but also inspired new teaching ideas. Taking cues from Ellen Feder’s session on social contract theory and Charles Mills’ session on political liberalism, I incorporated sections of Mills’ The Racial Contract, and Moller Okin’s Justice, Gender, and the Family into my Introduction to Philosophy Course. This upcoming Fall, I will be teaching a course on Oppression, Privilege, and Resistance, which I likely would not have imagined as a course topic if not for PIKSI.

In addition to influencing the content I choose for courses, PIKSI affected my methodology for teaching philosophy. Shannon Sullivan’s session at the beginning of PIKSI on “Experience,” in which we focused on excerpts from Dewey’s Experience and Nature and Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk highlighted the relationship between our experiences and philosophy. One of the central tenets of my teaching now is that philosophy ought to be relevant to my students’ diverse experiences, which guides the tone of my class, the activities I choose, and how I engage my students. I like to think I share the spirit of PIKSI every time I teach.

Finally, PIKSI helped me shift from mentee to mentor. I was incredibly lucky as an undergraduate to have outstanding mentors encouraging me to pursue philosophy and graduate school. I have always been committed to paying that mentoring forward. PIKSI gave me that opportunity and helped me see myself as a mentor. Since the institute, I have continued mentoring some of the students from my PIKSI cohort, started a mentoring relationship with a McNair scholar at my undergraduate institution, and mentored incoming graduate students in my PhD program (one of which, was a participant at PIKSI 2012). Mentorship is now a central component of my service as an academic.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in PIKSI. I hope it continues to serve undergraduate and graduate students for many years to come.

Asia Ferrin is a philosophy doctoral student at the University of Washington, Seattle. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, a program designed to prepare first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students for graduate study. She works primarily in Ethics, Feminist Philosophy, and Philosophy of Implicit Bias. Her dissertation explores how automatic, intuitive, gut-reactions guide moral judgments and decisions. In 2014-2015, Asia will be a Faye Sawyier Predoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Humanities Department at Illinois Institute of Technology—a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with focus on science, technology, and design. 

What is Ethics?

by rjp218 Sep 24, 2015
Contributors: Michael D. Burroughs
How can you move from ethical awareness to ethical action? The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State can help guide you and give you some tools to help in both your professional and personal lives.

But what is ethics? There are many answers to this question given that numerous ethical theories and conceptions of ethics exist. At the Rock we often discuss ethics in terms of moral literacy, the resources that encourage moral agency—by moving from ethical awareness to ethical action through cultivating ethical purpose—and help us to become ethical leaders in every aspect of our lives.

We offer the following guide to moral literacy to help faculty, students, staff, administrators, and other members of our community to sort through the complex ethical issues we face together. 

Moral Literacy

We are often faced with unexpected and complicated situations that require that we speak up and take appropriate action. The best way we can prepare ourselves for these situations is to develop the skills involved in moral literacy.

Moral literacy involves several important abilities:

Ethics Spotting: the ability to recognize that a situation involves ethical issues and to appreciate the ethical values underlying that issue. Questions to consider in working to spot ethical issues include:

      • Are we proud or ashamed of the action? Does it “feel wrong”?
      • Is such an action compatible with our basic ethical values such as integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, responsibility, and accountability?

Ethical Salience: awareness of the ethical intensity of the issue or situation. Not all violations of ethical values and principles are of comparable magnitude. Being able to judge the ethical intensity includes:

      • Recognition of the centrality of underlying values to the individual or community.
      • An appreciation of the seriousness of the resulting harms.
      • An awareness of the likelihood that harm will result.
      • An understanding of the numbers of people adversely affected.

Ethical Reasoning Skills: these are skills that we each need to develop and refine throughout our lifetime and which enable us to appreciate more fully the specific principles and values that guide our judgment in making ethical decisions. Ethical reasoning skills involve assessing ethical considerations by reflecting on the following:

      • What are the relevant ethical duties in this instance?
      • Who and what will be impacted by an action? (Who are the stakeholders?)
      • What consequences might result from acting in a particular way?
      • Is this action based on values that we fully endorse?
      • What would a caring person do in this instance?

Moral Imagination: the moral imagination is a blend of cognitive and affective factors that help us develop a sensitivity for how our actions affect others and enable us to think creatively about solutions. These factors include:

      • The ability to imagine ourselves in the situation of others
      • The capacity to “think outside the box” and come up with creative alternatives to habitual action
      • The development of sensitive attunement to the complexities of the situation

To produce real results, ethical literacy must be paired with moral agency. Individuals will choose a particular moral action only if they are convinced both of its importance and of their own capability to act in this way. The role of ethics education is not to stipulate behavior but to stimulate purpose.

Moral Agency is cultivated and encouraged through:

Ethical Purpose: developing a sense of one’s role in the moral domain.

Personal “ownership” and habituation of ethical behavior through:

    • Taking responsibility for ones actions,
    • Cultivating virtuous habits, and
    • Developing a passion for justice.

Moral Courage: the ability to act ethically even in the face of adversity and cost to one’s self.
Moral Hope: the belief that we can make a difference.
Moral Responsibility: the commitment to acting ethically.

Ethical Leadership includes:

  • Leading by example through being a role model for ethical behavior.
  • Taking the initiative to help others appreciate ethical issues, embrace moral purpose, and encourage moral agency.
  • Participating in the creation of an ethical culture that encourages and supports those who speak up in defense of the integrity of the community and those who stand up to the pressures capable of tempting any one of us to act in ways that undermine the pursuit of our common goals.

We at the Rock appreciate that:

  • Ethical decisions are often difficult decisions.
  • The ethical choice sometimes comes with a cost or a risk to one’s self or others.
  • We often have to act without sureness that our actions are the right ones, but we must do our best to act ethically and to take responsibility for our actions should we make a mistake.
  • Being an ethical person or an ethical leader sometimes means admitting to one’s own errors, taking responsibility for mistakes, doing what we can to rectify the situation, and learning from our errors.

For additional moral literacy resources, see our “What is Moral Literacy?” module. In addition, the Rock Ethics Institute "Everyday Ethics" webpage provides an informal online forum for community-wide ethical deliberation concerning issues and challenges faced at Penn State and beyond. 

What is a 'Bridge' Concept?

by khepler Apr 02, 2015
Contributors: Nicolae Morar
Scientific knowledge plays a very important role in our society. Why is it so? The assumption is that science is the paradigm of (empirical) knowledge and, as such, scientific claims have a certain authority. These claims overcome the level of opinions and they capture some objective facts about the world.


… concepts which have proved useful for ordering things easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as ‘conceptual necessities’, ‘a priori situations’, etc. The road to scientific [and moral] progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors. It is therefore not just an idle game to exercise our ability to analyze familiar concepts, and to demonstrate the conditions on which their justification and usefulness depend, and the way in which these developed […]. In this way, they are deprived of their excessive authority.

Albert Einstein

Scientific knowledge plays a very important role in our society. Why is it so? The assumption is that science is the paradigm of (empirical) knowledge and, as such, scientific claims have a certain authority. These claims overcome the level of opinions and they capture some objective facts about the world.

But, in perhaps less obvious ways, this role is also based on the successful integration of scientific concepts in ethical and social debates. The success of such scientific concepts can be partly explained by the fact that they combine a certain epistemological objectivity and a normative valuation standard, they provide a bridge between the realms of “is” and “ought.” Scientific concepts are based on an objective foundation since they are supposed to capture (subject-independent) facts and patterns about the world. At the same time, these concepts have also been invested with normative force and treated as proxies for values. For example, when the doctor tells you that your heart surgery went well, and now you are healthy, she is making a scientific, statistical judgment (a value-free judgment) about the normal functioning of your organ, but also, and maybe even more importantly, she is telling you that this state of affairs is good for you. She is also making a normative or an evaluative judgment. So, this category of concepts, which includes ‘health’, ‘fitness’, ‘advantage’ or ‘well-adaptedness,’  seems to track a set of objective values.

The conceptual benefit of bridge concepts lies in their capacity to overcome both relativism, which sees values as determined by specific forms of culture and history, and reductionism, which reduces some scientific claims to statistical judgments (statistical outriders in case of sick people). The concept of health can be both “based on an empirical biological foundation and be evaluative” (Lennox, 1995, p.499) at the same time. There is a sense in which certain features of life provide an objective validation for a certain class of value concepts. Whenever they are employed, they provide more than an empirically observable description of reality. They also always come with an implicit normative connotation.

This class of concepts is especially effective when it comes to values assigned to nature, such as conservation values. Over the last century, conservation policy and practice has relied on a series of concepts drawn from the science of ecology, including the balance and harmony of nature, ecosystem health and integrity, ecological interdependence, keystone species, and so on.  Each one of those concepts has been the center of significant research attention and criticism at the same time. In my next post, we will analyze the importance of such a bridge concept - biodiversity.


Lennox, J. 1995. Health as an Objective ValueJournal of Medicine and Philosophy. 20: 499-511.

What does it mean for us to empathize with Walter White?

by khepler Apr 07, 2015
Contributors: Ayesha Abdullah

From the very beginning of the series, and most certainly during the course of it, Breaking Bad incited some serious and unresolved questions about morality. Specifically, the series conjures up questions about the development of moral character.

For Aristotle, we can say that a person is moral if they behave morally habitually. Habitual moral action is how one forms a character worthy of being dubbed moral; it is how one’s character becomes sedimented as moral. Of course, if one habitually behaves immorally, one sediments an immoral character. This offers us a simple way to understand how Walt performs more and more evil deeds. He moves from telling “necessary lies” to his family, to watching a woman overdose on meth, to poisoning a child, to full out murder. With each immoral act, another one becomes easier and easier. This view, however, seems to oppose what some viewers think about Walt: Walt’s character was always questionable; nothing has changed. From the beginning to the end, his character was always contaminated. We will never know about Walt’s entire history but I do propose a different way to think about the development of his character. The issue, I believe, is not sufficiently addressed by deciding either that the immoral foundation was already within Walt’s character or that the moral decay occurs through a series of events to which Walt reacts. But I think the series’ creator, Vince Gillian, is giving us a very accessible picture into problems with how we understand our own moral character and how we can swiftly and silently damage it. In particular, he is giving a glimpse into what one of the most insidious lies is, the lie to oneself. It is this type of lie that drives any person into moral decay. And it is this lie that keeps the viewers on Walter White’s side.


When we meet Walter White, we are presented with someone who is a respected Chemistry teacher, claims to have been swindled out of the co-ownership of a billion dollar company, and living an already difficult lower middle class life with a pregnant wife and teenaged son. We are invited to empathize with him. And when Walt receives some of the most devastating news one could hear, that he has a very advanced and inoperable stage of lung cancer, we can recognize his devastation. He is likable and we root for him because of these things. So, when Walt decides to cook methamphetamine in order to pay for his cancer treatments and save money for his wife and children, we can understand his desperate logic. Indeed, the writers and producers have put much effort into making the audience empathize with Walt. In fact, we even understand Walt when his simple lies to his family become more elaborate and complex. It is what he has to do in order to cover up his tracks as he begins to cook. It is all in the name of a higher and nobler good. Yes at root, his decision is clearly immoral– there are surely better (albeit limited) means to make money quickly – but he has a finite amount of money to make and then he is out of the business. In short, we can believe the story he tells himself.

As the series goes on, the story Walt tells himself grows bigger and bigger in order to cover up its obvious contradictions to his overall behavior. But as he flips back and forth from leaving the meth business to returning to it, drunk with power one minute and letting his wife rationalize him out of his insatiable greed the next, we see how much he wants to hold onto his lie. Perhaps this means that, even more than he desperately wants to compensate for years of bitterness about running away from success and a healthy route to the power he pines for, Walt wants to believe that he is not the monster that he has become.  And perhaps we want to be blind with him. Because Walt knows so deeply that he is wrong, he has to hold onto a lie, a romanticization of his motives, even when daily contradictions abound. What is the meaning of having empathy for such a character?

Without over-aggrandizing the meaning of the consumption of pop culture, I think it does, in fact, tell us something about our values. On the one hand, we certainly value bourgeois virtues like family – well, the nuclear, middle class family.  We accept actions that are driven by the desire to keep that family together and afloat in times of need. Especially when such actions are proposed by the male head of the family. This ascription to bourgeois values certainly allows Walt an empathy that would not be afforded to characters of another value system or background. I also think our continuous rooting for Walt shows us how much influence money and power has over us. Who has not fantasized about doing something, technically immoral, as a means to wealth? And not that this is a bad thing, unless it is left unreflected on and unchecked. But most of all, I think it shows a picture of how we lie to ourselves about how good we are, how moral we are, and how pure our intentions are. When we do something wrong, like Walt, do we not justify our original point of view with an even larger, sometimes inconsistent and contradictory justification, hoping that we can escape or manipulate the consequences? Don't we believe that, for whatever reason, the action is an exception to the rule and is somehow different?


In the end, it is not that Walt was always an evil power hungry monster, or that he simply makes a series of bad decisions that turn him into a monster. It is that Walt's perception of himself depends on him fulfilling his fatherly duties. Further still, it is that he thinks this value isn't susceptible to contradictions. Walt's providing for his family is the only way and best way their future will be ensured. And, as long as he believes this (whether or not he "humbly" admits to his wife that all of this has been about a power trip) all means justify this end. By the series finale, he wants to fulfill that idealized intention even more so, whatever the consequences, whether his family wants his money or not. The picture painted by his apology to his wife is that Walt has learned something but, in reality, he still doesn't get the entire picture.

Interestingly, Aristotle also says that no one knowingly does evil, people are just mistaken about how to achieve the good.  Perhaps this is another way to understand how we empathize and keep rooting for Walt - along with most anti-heroes in film and television. In Walter White’s case, though, I believe this fairly amusing adage applies: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”…

Interesting articles on Breaking Bad:

NPR article on the redemption of Walt in the series finale.

NYTimes article on morality in Breaking Bad.

An interview with the series’ creator.

In my blog series, I will be discussing the moral development or decay of various characters in television and what it means for us to empathize with these characters.

What are Our Food Values?

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015
On September 26th, the Rock Fellows Seminar discussed the essay "What Food is "Good" for You? Toward a Pragmatic Consideration of Multiple Values Domains" by Donald Thompson and Bryan McDonald. The goal of this paper, as articulated by its authors, is to lay out our food values without taking a normative stance, to map out the various ways (in three value domains) that we think about food and goodness to encourage self reflection and open areas for research and policy needs. The role of self-reflection, as a key means of spurring decisions about food, was a main point of discussion during the seminar.

On September 26th, the Rock Fellows Seminar discussed the essay "What Food is "Good" for You?  Toward a Pragmatic Consideration of Multiple Values Domains" by Donald Thompson and Bryan McDonald. The goal of this paper, as articulated by its authors, is to lay out our food values without taking a normative stance, to map out the various ways (in three value domains) that we think about food and goodness to encourage self reflection and open areas for research and policy needs. The role of self-reflection, as a key means of spurring decisions about food, was a main point of discussion during the seminar.

For one thing, to explain poor food choices as a lack of self-reflection underplays the systemic role the industry has in identifying values, exploiting them and playing us into them in our consumer decisions. Marketing practices most vividly bring to light the identity politics of food, for instance, the widely marketed appeal by Pepsi that what one consumes says something about one's personality. Other significant factors in the discussion of food choice are the value tradeoffs of individual consumers. Food is often regarded as something ephemeral, where as other goods are durable; one can have cable all year long, or pay for shoes that last a long time, while the food one budgets for is only temporary.

A key argument of the essay that appealed to seminar participants is that our discussions pertaining to food and food values have strong undercurrents that go beyond food itself. As Bryan McDonald suggested, often the conversation people are having through food is about the kind of society they want to live in. Ethics is the domain where these varying undercurrents and underlying premises get sorted out. Furthermore, participants discussed the relationship between concepts of health and wellbeing. To consider one's health related to food choices affects more than mere nutritional value. According to the Constitution of World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, social, and mental wellbeing. Wellbeing is as such more of a catch-all phrase that includes the relationship between individual health & societal health, and also incorporates a broader set of goals that try to balance physical health with broader concepts of social and economic health. 
Some other questions raised during the seminar were the following:

• How could the argument of this essay be placed within the context of current guidelines for nutrition and health?

• How do the aesthetic aspects of food, ranging from the appearance of food itself to the desired body image of the consumer, impact our food values?
• While the essay is grounded in a pragmatist utilitarian ethic, what other alternative ethical approaches can be applied to a discussion of food values? Could we have a rights based discussion of food values? Or a virtue ethics approach to animal rights?
• Are decisions made about consumption of drugs based on similar value domains?

(This summary of the discussion was provided by Rock Fellow Atia Sattar.)

Welcome Message from the Interim Director

by rjp218 Sep 13, 2016
It is my pleasure to welcome you back to another exciting year at the Rock Ethics Institute. This coming year promises to be a busy but also a creative and hope inspiring one for all of us at the Rock and the University Community in general.

Eduardo Mendieta headshotIt is my pleasure to welcome you back to another exciting year at the Rock Ethics Institute. First, let me welcome Daryl Cameron, Joshua Inwood, and Alan Wagner, our latest cohort of ethics core faculty members. Each one is already a pioneer in their respective fields and collectively they bring research agendas that will make the Rock and Penn State leaders in ethics education and thinking. Let me also congratulate Yael Warshel for the teaching award she received for the course plan she submitted to an international communication teaching contest sponsored by the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's (AEJMC). Additionally, we are extremely happy and proud to welcome the Sherwin Early Career Professors, Jeremy Engels and Bryan McDonald.

I also want to welcome our faculty fellows: Jeffrey Catchmark, Rosemary Jolly and Amit Sharma, who will be conducting research during the next academic year and collaborating with our core faculty. This year we will be doing another call for proposals for this new initiative at the Rock. We are lucky welcome back Denver Tang, our post-doc fellow, who will be working closely with our faculty fellow Jeffrey Catchmark on developing new ethics curriculum in the college of agricultural sciences. And finally, I would like to welcome Karissa Rodgers, our new administrative support assistant who will help coordinate events at the Rock.

This coming year promises to be a busy but also a creative and hope inspiring one for all of us at the Rock and the University Community in general. We will be conducting four searches for four additional ethics core faculty in areas that will continue to expand our “ethics footprint.” This effort signals the Rock’s and the University’s commitment to being ethical leaders in education, in the sciences and humanities, and as engaged citizens local, national, and global community. Keep an eye for the schedule of the talks by candidates for these positions, as well as the schedule of brown bag talks by our ethics core faculty and Sherwin Professors.

Finally, this year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Stand Up Awards, which has had a profound impact at Penn State and throughout the commonwealth. There is nothing like this award that embodies our commitment to both ethical literacy and leadership, but above all, to fomenting cultures of ethical responsibility and hope. This award celebrates the ethical creativity of our students, who have volunteered to deal with ethically pressing challenges locally and globally, and who have shown the way with their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and generosity. Keep an eye for the call for nominations and do not hesitate to nominate a student whom you found inspirational and to be role models.

I look forward to seeing you at our events. I hope you have a wonderful semester.

Eduardo Mendieta
Interim Director of the Rock Ethics Institute
Professor of Philosophy

WE ARE... Here Too!

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Matt Bodenschatz
As part of our Being Penn State series on Speak Up, we are featuring voices from around the campuses addressing some of the significant ethical challenges we face as a community. We are also featuring stories about people who Stand Up, Speak Up, and demonstrate their willingness to take on leadership roles in actively addressing these ethical challenges. The following thoughts, contributed to us by Penn State student Matt Bodenschatz, provide an example of both. Matt brings a perspective to our current situation that many of us may not have considered at any length as as we have been coping in our own ways with all that has been happening here and how it has affected us. Whether you agree with everything he says or not, I hope you will take this opportunity to listen to Matt and that you will consider joining in the conversation he is inviting us to have.

WE ARE... Here Too!

by Matt Bodenschatz         

For roughly two months, buildings lining the downtown streets of State College have been coated with signs declaring homes and businesses to be "Proud to Support Penn State Football." 

Clearly, Penn State football is widely regarded here as something needing and deserving our defense, advocacy, and strident, active support. 
That support, in general, is fine, and is in keeping with proud traditions held dear in this community. But the crucial context of this poster campaign goes unremarked. The fuller set of facts it ignores goes unaddressed. This campaign of support is too specifically targeted toward one particular portion of our community, and it carelessly implies that their situation is the one most worthy of lament and sympathy. It's too conveniently neglectful of an entire population of people, of what that population has endured, and of what it was publicly promised (but has yet to get) from those around it. And a great many of us who comprise that population, the recipients up to now of nothing more than lip service, broken promises, and empty, unfulfilled commitments, see, feel and absorb this campaign in a much different way. 
There is in fact a sizable community of the abused here, numbering in the many thousands, bullied into a terrified silence and thus conveniently marginalized, and nearly never talked about except when being given vague, occasional, noncommittal and dismissive acknowledgement. Far too many of us in that community, when we walk the streets of State College, experience these inescapable signs as a taunting, as an onslaught, as a gauntlet we're forced to walk and that says to us, "Our football program and our Penn State pride, these alone are the things worth taking action for and worth organizing and campaigning in defense of, these alone are the things and the people for whom it's important to keep our promises. This, even despite what we now know regarding the too many who often live in pain and fear among us, is what matters most." 
Victims/survivors know as well as anyone that people can be supportive toward their teams and their school as well as toward victims/survivors. The community of the abused knows that you can support these two things equally and in tandem. That is not the issue. The issue is that Penn State hasn't done so in the past and still doesn't do so in the present. 
With all of this constantly and inescapably in mind, roughly one month ago I walked past the University Health Services Pharmacy on campus, noticed this same one-sided, alienating sign in the window, in a place it had no right to be, and decided that I had seen enough, that bounds had been overstepped, and that some action in defense of my brothers and sisters in the victim/survivor community was warranted and was long overdue. 
I wrote a strongly-worded email to the head pharmacist, expressing myself as an abuse survivor to whom the signage was upsetting, and let him know exactly why the placement of that sign was a problem for me and my community. I explained that because the pharmacy is located in the same building as CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) its placement ran the unnecessary risk of alienating and intimidating the abuse victims/survivors who might want to seek out CAPS for help. Frankly, I wanted him to understand the same thing that I constantly struggle to make this entire town and campus understand: That we, the abused, are here among you - by the thousands. That while some of us are able to hold onto something firmly enough to sustain our existence and be alright, many more of us are suffocating under the weight of the misguided attitudes and thoughtlessness that is all around us. And any sign, or anything at all that would run the risk of making my brothers and sisters fearfully turn away from the one building where they're supposed to know that they are safe and that they matter more than football, is not alright. 
To their credit, they responded to my email promptly, to voice regret and to let me know that the sign has been removed.

We are...

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015

All of us have learned how to reply with the right words when we hear someone shout "We are...", but how much effort have we put into spelling out what we mean by that response in a way that enables us to articulate to others precisely why it means so much to us to be able to respond in that way?

This recent post from Onward State calls on Penn State students across the commonwealth to Stand Up and defend the university in the face of what amount to the largest proposed budget cuts (in terms of both percentages and actual dollars) in the history of state-funded higher education. Like all members of the Penn State community, we at the Rock Ethics Institute share in the concerns expressed in that post. We also do what we can to promote an environment in which students will take the suggestions offered there: to readparticipatecare, and be heard. In fact, the Speak Up blog and the Rock Ethics Institute Facebook page were created for precisely this purpose.

Thus, it seemed like a good idea for us to add one further suggestion. We hope that students will Speak Up and participate in informed dialogue not only about how to respond effectively to this threat, but also about the core values that are being threatened, the other values that are being prioritized over these, and the place of our various and sometimes-competing values in defining who we are; both as a university community and as a commonwealth that has historically both supported and been supported by its public universities. 
We have already posted a couple of topics on the Discussion Board of our Facebook page to get things started. We encourage everyone who stands to be affected by the proposed budget cuts and who has an interest in being heard to contribute their responses, to share them with their Facebook friends, and to create new topics for further discussion there.  

Virginia Eubanks delivers 2020 Richard B. Lippin Lecture in Ethics

by David Price Oct 12, 2020
Noted author Virginia Eubanks presented the Rock Ethics Institute’s 2020 Richard B. Lippin Lecture in Ethics the evening of October 1, 2020.
Virginia Eubanks delivers 2020 Richard B. Lippin Lecture in Ethics

Virginia Eubanks

Noted author Virginia Eubanks presented the Rock Ethics Institute’s 2020 Richard B. Lippin Lecture in Ethics the evening of October 1, 2020.

In her lecture, Eubanks expanded on the themes of her book “Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor,” which investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America.

She was joined for a panel discussion after the talk by Sarah Rajtmajer (research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute and assistant professor of information sciences and technology) and Pamela VanHaitsma (Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and assistant professor of communication arts and sciences and women's, gender, and sexuality studies, and interim director of Center for Humanities and Information). The event was moderated by Daniel Susser (research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute and assistant professor of information sciences and technology and philosophy).

Presented virtually, Eubank’s lecture and the panel discussion can be seen here.

Eubanks is an associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, SUNY, whose work on social justice and technology has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, BBC, and elsewhere. “Automatic Inequality” received the 2018 McGannon Center Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice.

Co-sponsors for this year’s Lippin Lecture included the Center for Humanities and Information; the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications; the McCourtney Institute for Democracy; and Penn State University Libraries. The McCourtney Institute interviewed Eubanks during a recent episode of its Democracy Works podcast.

The Richard B. Lippin Lectureship in Ethics was made possible by support from Richard B. Lippin and the late Ronnie Lippin. The annual event focuses on current ethical issues in the fields of business, medicine, science, and technology, as well as questions of justice. Richard Lippin is a 1968 Penn State graduate in psychology who established the lectureship with his late wife because he felt that much of the integrity and honesty that he knew growing up now seems lacking in the world of business. His company, the Los Angeles-based Lippin Group, does marketing consulting for the entertainment industry.

USDA's MyPlate criticised for "mixing science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests"

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015

The USDA created  ChooseMyPlate.gov, a simple guide to help Americans eat better.  But Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health argues that the USDA's MyPlate "mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating."  So Harvard has created its own plate, the Health Eating Plate.

Among the substantive criticisms of the USDA's MyPlate:

MyPlate does not tell consumers that whole grains are better for health than refined grains; its protein section offers no indication that some high-protein foods -- fish, poultry, beans, nuts -- are healthier than red meats and processed meats; it is silent on beneficial fats; it does not distinguish between potatoes and other vegetables; it recommends dairy at every meal, even though there is little evidence that high dairy intake protects against osteoporosis but substantial evidence that high intake can be harmful; and it says nothing about sugary drinks. Finally, the Healthy Eating Plate reminds people to stay active, an important factor in weight control, while MyPlate does not mention the importance of activity.

See Harvard serves up its own 'Plate' Healthy Eating Plate shows shortcomings in government's MyPlate   Take a look, and share your thoughts...