BBBS Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2015

Big Brothers Big Sisters held its annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraising event last weekend, earning a record amount of $122,893! The proceeds go towards the organization’s mission of matching up “bigs” (adult volunteers) and “littles” (children in high-risk situations) through an in-depth interview process and background . BBBS is America’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network. Bigs serve as role models for their Littles and spend quality time with them in order to form meaningful relationships “that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.” This can be through reading, games, homework help, or even outings in the community. The program hopes to foster positive self-esteem and instill ethical reasoning skills, too. One of the best ways to do that is to have great role models involved in these children’s .

Bowl for Kids’ Sake is the largest fundraising event BBBS holds, and this year, it was held March 21st at Valley Lanes in Harrisonburg. To get involved, one could either contribute to the cause by donating, or simply pay the $50 fee ($25 for students) to participate on a bowling team. The event was held by Big Brother Big Sister organizations across the country, but each location’s fundraising directly circulates back into their local BBBS programs.

The event was sponsored by an array of businesses in Harrisonburg, with Perdue Farms, Inc. being the presenting sponsor. Radio stations like Fresh 96.1, 105.1 BOB Rocks!, and Q101, as well as local TV station WHSV 3, served as media partners for advertisement in the days leading up to the event. On their Facebook page, BBBS stated, “We can’t thank our sponsors, participants, donors, and partners enough… We are so grateful to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County community for such tremendous support of the children we serve.”

BBBS serves as a prime example of how much of a difference a positive influence can have on the lives of children. At a young age, children are already developing character, discovering outcomes, fighting for fairness, and looking for that authority figure that will guide them through life. Having an encouraging and ethical Big can make a big difference in Littles’ present situations and future decisions. In fact, 67% of former Littles say their Bigs played a large role in their decision to attend college!

Although Bowl for Kids’ Sake is finished for 2015, you can still make a difference by donating at any time to the BBBS organization! Visit the BBBS of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County website at:

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Week Three of the Madison Collaborative Interactive Pilot

During the third week of the MCI pilot program, the main character meets their new mentor, Raymond, who explains their first work assignment and introduces them to some of the older, more established employees. The protagonist quickly learns that this workplace filled with many disparate personalities and that while the company’s message is focused on unity and teamwork, some of the individuals working there aren’t exactly focused on the larger good of the business or on the well-being of their co-workers. This becomes very clear when they encounter a case of workplace bullying with one of their fellow new hires. After this incident, the pilot readers were asked to think about the question of authority (“What do legitimate authorities (e.g. experts, law, my religion/god) expect of me?”) and select one of four possible actions while determining an appropriate course of action for the central character. The following answers were chosen as good examples of how these readers explained their decision-making process for this chapter:

Response One:

“After witnessing this event and considering all of my options, I have decided to stay neutral in this situation. This decision was rather difficult for me in that I had to put my personal beliefs and morals aside in order to do what was best for my career.

When focusing on what authorities expect of me, I had to decide who exactly the authorities were. Was the authority Morgan? Was the authority Julie? Was the authority the law? Was the authority God? After thinking about this, I realized that authorities are ever changing and it is impossible to please all of the authorities. Due to this fact I realized that I needed to keep my own best interest in mind for it is impossible to make all of the authorities content.

Once I established that, I tried to balance fairness and possible outcomes. What Morgan did to Luis was not fair and I understand that. However, the possible outcomes of me reporting the incident to the police or the company would have a negative effect on my career, including possible unemployment. Along with this, reporting the incident may cause Morgan to harass him more if he believes Luis was the one who filed a complaint. However, this was a hard decision for me in that I do not condone bullying whatsoever, whether it is based on ethnicity, gender, appearance, religion, or anything else.

Despite this I sadly had to put my best interest in mind and choose to D: Stay neutral and try to change the subject.”

Response Two:

Authority: What do legitimate authorities (e.g. experts, law, my religion/god) expect of me?

                I believe that is expected of me to be honest in what I saw. It is expected for me to tell others of what I saw because it could potentially hurt someone. I think that since Miri and I both saw Luis being bullied by Morgan, we both have to be honest and tell someone else in order to protect Luis and others from being emotionally hurt by Morgan.

Fairness: How can I act equitably and balance legitimate interests?

In order to go about the situation fairly, I think that it’s necessary to stay by Miri’s side so she isn’t alone with bringing up the bullying. However, I also think that it’s important that Luis knows that Miri and I saw Morgan bullying him and want to help Luis out. I believe that filing a police report is too drastic for this situation, but staying neutral and forgetting about it won’t be fair to Luis and other people Morgan might bully.

Outcomes: What achieves the best short- and long-term outcomes for me and all others?

  • Reporting the incident to someone in the company with Miri will have the short-term outcomes of Morgan’s bullying habits being brought to the company’s attention. A long-term outcome of this choice would be people seeing me and Miri as “tattle-tales” because you said something bad about a long-term, trusted employee.
  • Filing a police report will result in the short-term outcomes of Morgan being reprimanded for his actions. A long-term outcome from this choice would be Morgan losing his job and resenting me and Miri for ruining his career.
  • Mediating the situation may result in the short-term outcomes of Morgan retaliating against Miri and me for standing up to him. A long-term outcome may be Luis being thankful to Miri and me for standing up for him against Morgan.
  • Staying neutral could cause a short-term outcome of Miri and me feeling guilty for not doing anything to help Luis. A long-term outcome would be Luis becoming severely emotionally discouraged due to the constant bullying from Morgan.

I would choose the option of reporting the incident to someone in the company with Miri, Option A.

Response Three:

“After going through my first day at work, I have to choose a decision that results in a positive, ethically sound impact as an effect of my choice. There are multiple authorities that expect a certain action from me. The experts, or mentors, of the company expect me, Luis, and Miri to “sugar” our resume up and make us look good to the higher ups, which has a direct impact on our mentors as well. The higher ups in the company, not the mentors, expect the new hires to be honest and display our positives and negatives to them, which conflicts what the mentors want because it could possibly backfire and make a new hire look unimpressive. When it comes to breaking the law, Morgan stole Luis’s crucifix and could be reported for theft. My religion, or lack of one, demonstrates that stealing a crucifix is morally wrong because it is highly significant to both Luis, demonstrated by him crying, and to the new hires because everyone should be religiously tolerant.

I want to balance all legitimate interest, however, the best short and long term outcomes are entirely dependent on what Miri and I should do next. If I go with Miri to report the incident to someone in the company, in the short term I am being honest and reporting a violation that I have seen someone make within the company, which the higher ups in the company would appreciate in the short and long term. This would, however, create a rift between the new hires and the mentors because we ignored the trust that they want us to have with them so that everyone could exceed in the workplace. If I called the police, I would be yielding to the authority of the law, however, reporting a theft while ignoring any potential solutions to the problem would be ignorant because communication could easily solve this problem, and it jeopardizes the company and the people who work in it. Calling the police would only be an available option if nothing remains solved, therefore it is the last option.

Working with Miri to attempt to mediate the conflict between Morgan and Luis demonstrates how I am choosing to trust the mentors by directly talking with Morgan about his improper conduct, without betraying them by going to a higher authority. The company in the long term would not have to find any violation, and the mentors would have security in knowing the new hires found a way to solve conflict without taking it to someone in a higher position. If I choose to stay neutral and change the subject, I am not being faithful to my religion or a good law-abiding citizen. I am jeopardizing the company by watching a violation take place and doing nothing, and I am demonstrating that the behavior of the mentors is acceptable, which, in the long term of the company, is unprofessional and potentially damaging, (what if Luis attempts to sue?).

I would (A) report the incident to someone higher in the company while voicing my concerns about the mentors wanting us to be dishonest in our resume. I cannot recognize the mentors as a legitimate authority because they pressured me to lie in my resume, which is against my morals. They also mistreated Luis, and this abuse could be very damaging to the company. Bullying is not okay, and I would never go to the bullies and attempt to solve it if the bullies have already been pressuring me to lie to higher authorities.”

Such great answers! The students in the MCI pilot program are doing such a wonderful job of providing thorough and deliberate responses to each installment—we really appreciate their participation.

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Chemotherapy Against Her Will

Cassandra’s life hung in the balance at just the young age of 17 when doctors diagnosed her with Hodgkin lymphoma. The disease is a cancer of the immune system that damages one’s ability to fight infections. If left untreated, Cassandra would only have 2 years to live. Luckily, there are several treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and vaccine therapy. Cassandra’s doctors chose chemotherapy as her safest bet for a full recovery.

Cassandra, however, did not agree to the chemotherapy. In fact, she and her mother skipped the follow-up medical appointments. Suspecting medical neglect, a judge awarded temporary custody of Cassandra to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. She was placed with a relative for a brief time, then allowed to return home under the condition that she complete the chemotherapy.

Cassandra ran away from home and went missing for an entire week. She eventually returned but rejected the medication, claiming she did not want the “poison” in her body. Her mother was also against chemotherapy. Despite Cassandra and her mother’s refusals, the judge admitted Cassandra to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for treatment.

Now, Cassandra has only two chemotherapy appointments left and is on her way to a full recovery. Although the side effects were minimal, her mother continued to oppose the court’s mandated medical intervention and recently lost in court when fighting for Cassandra’s right to make her own decision about her health. However, the teen has changed her stance; Cassandra now wants to complete the course of treatment.

Are teenagers mature enough to make their own decisions regarding their health? Should the court be able to force a minor to undergo intensive medical procedures or take medications? Whose responsibility is it to make these critical life decisions, and what rights does a teenager like Cassandra have?

Read the full story here:

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Week Two of the Madison Collaborative Interactive Pilot

During week two of the MCI pilot program, the story’s brave protagonist finally makes it to the first day of work and begins meeting their new co-workers. They spend some time getting to know their fellow new hires as well as a manager from human resources named Julie. In addition to explaining the company’s signature mentoring program, Julie guides the new employees through the usual routines and paperwork that new workers typically experience when starting a job, but things don’t go according to plan for the main character in this story. While going through their HR packet, they discover some sheets of paper that clearly don’t belong there including a spreadsheet that documents the salaries and educational backgrounds of all new personnel as well as a copy of a contract that the company’s mentors must sign. The contract outlines the rewards and penalties the mentors can expect if they succeed or fail while working with their mentees. Readers of week two’s installment were asked to think about the question of fairness (“How can I act equitably and balance all interests?”) and select one of three possible actions while determining what they would do with these materials, and the following student writings were selected as examples of good responses to that prompt:


Response One:

“This situation requires you to evaluate what would be most fair to your employer, your new colleagues, but also yourself. First, your employer has not intended for you to see this information. While some of what you have seen is shocking and seems unfair to you, such as the difference in starting salaries, that information belongs to the employer. Second, your new colleagues would be upset to learn that you know their salaries. For this reason I would not tell them or draw attention to myself by alerting Julie to the mistake immediately. Lastly, I do not want to outcast myself and make enemies on the first day of work. Should I let my colleagues know that I have private information, I would not be very popular with them.

I would choose to talk to Julie privately after the meeting. This would be the best possible outcome in both the short term and long term. In the short term, I am sharing the mistake with the employer and quickly adjusting the issue. I am not keeping the papers and will not share the information with anyone other than Julie. In the long term, I am establishing a trust with the company. I am proving that I am a trust worthy person and responsible. I am someone who will do the right thing and call attention to improper situations.

I am choosing option number 2. I will talk to Julie privately after the meeting to discuss the accidental papers in my folder. This action is fair to both my employer and colleagues but also has a positive outcome in the short and long term for myself.”


Response Two:

“In this situation, I would speak with Julie privately about it after the meeting and share the concerns I have experienced while viewing the new documents. If the information I have read is confidential and should not be mentioned in a large group, it would be rude and impolite for me to discuss those type of figures with everyone. A private, one on one conversation about this event would be much more appropriate and professional. You also do not want to hide your knowledge of the documents entirely because this can lead to lying situations and you do not want your reputation to go downhill just at the beginning of you career. Because of this, I think the best option in #2. Even if during the conversation with Julie turns out to be not necessary, and she tells you that the information you came across is public information, it will not hurt to play it safe and responsible. You never want to assume anything regarding policies, regulations, or rules and regret not adhering to them later. Ignorance is not an excuse and can lead you to getting into trouble, and worst-case scenario, being fired from your new job. It is not your job and place now, to discuss your concerns and comments regarding policies of the company. If later down the road, higher officials ask for your opinion, you are more than welcome to express your issues and concerns on company policies and regulations, but not on the first day and not in front of all your brand new co-workers.”


Response Three:

“Since seeing this paper is obviously a mistake, in ‘my’ opinion, I think it would be best to let someone of authority know about it. I would imagine there are more short-term outcomes than long-term because this does not seem like too big of deal, just some misplaced papers. Telling someone about the papers would show the company that I am honest. I do not want to have something I am not supposed to or see something that is not meant for me. If I did not tell anyone about the papers and simply destroyed them, this could be good because most likely no one would know I saw them, but this could be bad because someone else could have printed these papers out and need them for something. Though unlikely, someone could have put these papers in my folder on purpose as a test. Maybe everyone, or just I, has/have them and they want to see who will speak up.

A long-term outcomes of speaking up about the documents is trust of the higher-up people in the company, showing them that I am honest and speak up when I believe something may be wrong. On the other hand, if I were to not speak up about the papers, I could feel guilty during my time with this company, or I could get in trouble if someone found out that I saw them or had them. Being fired or looked down upon is not something of great interest since I am so new and this is my first day.

To be fair and act in favor of the situation, I believe that speaking up about the documents would be the most beneficial to me and to the company. Most likely I am not supposed to be seeing these papers, and I would want to represent myself in the highest way possible. Telling someone about the papers would be helpful for the company and other new hires because it really is none of my business what other people are being paid as opposed to what I am. It is the company’s doing and their responsibility to denote salaries based on how they think the salaries should be distributed. In addition, I believe that telling Julie about the documents in private would be better because I would not want others to know if someone from the company messed up, and I would not want to embarrass the person or share any information to the other new-hires that they should not be aware of.

I think that since the company is in control of salaries and payment it is none of my business to discuss the contents of the documents, because I know nothing more about each person than simply their name. It would not make me look good, especially on the first day, to bash other new-hires or the company based on a few papers that I probably should not have seen in the first place.

I would…[s]peak with Julie privately about it after the meeting, possibly sharing any concerns [I] have about the contents.”


We’re so happy to see the students in our pilot program generating such thoughtful answers!

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What Would You Do If You Were a Vixen?

For those of us who are part of the Madison family, this status is a big part of our identity. We take pride in being a Duke, and we assume that JMU will always be there in some form or another. Sadly, this kind of assumption is no longer possible for students at another higher education institution in Virginia. Sweet Briar College, a small, private, all-women’s college in rural Amherst County will be closing its doors on Aug. 25 after a sudden announcement was made on Mar. 3. Students, alumnae, faculty, and staff were all shocked and saddened by the unexpected news, and many felt robbed of part of their identity as SBC Vixens. The college’s closing has inspired many heady conversations about equality in higher education, the future of America’s university system, and the role that single-sex institutions might play in that system. Lofty discussions aside, SBC’s current students and its alums are asking, “What about us? What do we do now?”

Those practical questions have garnered some big answers. Many schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia have stepped forward to help Sweet Briar’s students, offering simplified transfer procedures and accepting late applications in response to the young women’s crisis. Over 100 schools from all across the country have contacted SBC’s administration to extend various types of assistance, and that list is being updated daily. For the alumnae, an activist network has come together to challenge the decision to close made by the institution’s Board of Directors. Not satisfied with the way in which the college communicated its intentions, these alums decided to fight for their alma mater.

A group called Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. was formed to explore options to save the women’s college. The group’s first move was to retain a law firm that could mount a legal challenge to the board’s decision. The not-for-profit corporation, run by alumnae and others who have a vested interest in preserving SBC, has also launched a massive online campaign to publicize their efforts and to raise money to save the school. Since the closure announcement, this corporation has gathered $2.6 million in donations, an amount that is growing daily. For a school that typically only has about 700 undergraduates enrolled during an academic calendar year, these efforts are an amazing testament to the mobilizing ability of these motivated women.

While these efforts must be applauded, one prong of the campaign might be cause for concern. The group has asked current students to wait on the results of this movement before agreeing to attend another institution. Naturally, the alums don’t want all of Sweet Briar’s existing pupils to leave the school in a mass exodus, but is it appropriate to ask them to put their educational futures on hold while waiting on the results of a potentially prolonged legal battle? If the alumnae-members of Saving Sweet Briar used the Eight Key Questions to shape how they engage with the current crop of Vixens, would they still make the same request? What are the potential outcomes of this entreaty? What are the alums’ responsibilities to their younger counterparts and to their college as a whole? How can the group be fair to everyone involved while still trying to save Sweet Briar? These are the kinds of questions that these alumnae (and anyone who has an affiliation with an institution of higher education) should be asking during this difficult time. How can the past and present women of Sweet Briar retain their identity as Vixens while using ethical reasoning to face this challenge?

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Week One of the Madison Collaborative Interactive Pilot

There’s a big project underway at the Madison Collaborative. We’re currently piloting a new educational intervention called the Madison Collaborative Interactive. The MCI is a story that’s being told online in weekly installments, and the story’s plot is determined by the ethically reasoned choices made by its readers. Over two hundred students, including first year students in Dr. Tim Ball’s GCOM 121 class, are participating in this trial, and they are not only deciding the fates of the story’s characters; they are also crafting weekly responses to explain the reasoning behind their determinations.

During the MCI’s first week, readers were introduced to a young graduate who remains unnamed and ungendered as they’re starting their first day of work. Along with those absent descriptors, the story is told in the second person to encourage the audience members to put themselves in the protagonist’s shoes. Starting a new job is stressful in and of itself, but the protagonist must also decide whether or not to take a dear friend to an important doctor’s appointment. Out of the hundreds of responses, a few were selected as examples of good student responses to this dilemma:

Response One:


It seems that there are two opportunities to explore: those being taking Cori to her appointment, and the after-work social. The two outcomes that are competing against one another are one, making a good impression on your new employers, and two supporting your ill friend. Even though arriving late would make a bad impression, that impression can certainly be improved upon at the after-work social where one can explain their situation to their employer. The inverse can also be adopted; one can abandon Cori and her appointment to arrive on time, but then skip the after-work social to spend with Cori. The former simply makes more sense because then both outcomes are achieved unless the employer is completely unreasonable. In addition, one can always email their employer ahead of time to explain their tardiness.


While abandoning Cori to arrive on time will yield the best short-term outcome for you, i.e. arriving on time and making a good impression, it will also result in Cori feeling hurt and neglected in the short term that could carry over into the long term. On the other hand, if your employer is exceedingly rigid then your tardiness could have lasting consequences for your future career. This whole situation depends on the temperament of each individual, would Cori understand being abandoned given your situation? Would your employer understand your situation with a terminally ill friend in combination with nerves?


You have an obligation to arrive at your new job on time; this is a written requirement for your position and should be followed. However, it is unreasonable to expect humans to function flawlessly like machines, people will be late occasionally, and experienced employers should recognize this reality or be unreasonable. You also have a relational obligation to Cori, as a friend you have agreed to help her in her struggles, and an unexpected cancellation like this could either have a good reception or one that damages the relationship.


It is possible that in this situation your employer would admire such a selfless act as risking your reputation to help a friend, selflessness may be a quality that you are expected to show in your work. Cori would also respond well to this, knowing that you acted out of compassion as opposed to self-preservation.


Ultimately the choice should lie with you, the consequences of your actions are what follow, [and] results have no impact on what is right and what is wrong. Freedom is not a huge issue in making this choice except for realizing that ultimately the choice is yours.


Your professional authority, i.e. your boss, expects you to arrive on time as part of your contract. However, contracts should not be inflexible to circumstances such as this – ultimately your employer must decide on how to judge your actions. Many religious authorities will expect you to make the selfless choice over the selfish one as well.


Your employer has the legal right to punish your tardiness – this is the only way that this aspect enters into the debate.


Personally, I would take Cori to her doctor’s appointment and be late. I would send an email to my employer before I left disclosing the reason that I am late and return as quickly as possible. I would then explain my situation to my employer when I did arrive at work and inform him as to the nature of Cori’s illness etc. Even if my employer reacted badly I would not regret my decision, in fact, I do not want to work for someone who would not understand that situation anyway, which I realize is a very easy statement to make sitting comfortably with my student status and not in the working world.”

Response Two:

“Fairness: There is no exact way in this situation for both people to have fair outcomes. One way that I can arrive to work on time and for Cori to get to the doctor is for someone else to be able to take Cori to the doctors. It is not the best way to solve the situation but it could work for both people.

Outcomes: The short-term outcomes if I take Cori to the doctors is I would be late to work and she would receive the help she needs. The short-term outcomes if I don’t take Cori to work is I would be on time on my first day which would be the appropriate thing to do at a new job and Cori would have to make another appointment. The long-term outcomes if I take Cori to the doctors is being late to work could possibly affect my position at the office and Cori would possibly get better from going to the doctor and receiving treatment.

Responsibilities: The responsibilities which I have as a new employee is to arrive on time and to do my work right. The responsibilities which I have as a friend is to help them when they are need and bringing Cori to the doctor would be one of them.

Character: The action which best reflects me as a person would be for me to bring Cori to the doctors because she is sick and in need. I am too nice to say no and care deeply about others. I would be able to handle the consequences at the office.

Liberty: I don’t think any of the three apply to this situation.

Empathy: I care about the ones around me and the people involved so I would take Cori to the doctors because she is sick and needs to be treated.

Authority: My religion expects me to do the right thing and to help others which would end with me bringing Cori to the doctors. My job would require me to arrive on time to my new job but I know they will understand.

Rights: Any legal rights would have to deal with work but I know I could work around them.”

Response Three:

“In the first episode of the Madison Collaborative series, a young man is on his way to his first day of work when he realizes he has forgotten about an obligation he had to his friend, Cori. Though he has everything planned out perfectly so that he will be on time to his first day of his new career, by the time he remembers that he promised to take Cori, who is suffering from multiple sclerosis, to her doctor’s appointment that morning, it would be impossible to fulfill his promise and still make it to work on time. Based on the concept of ‘outcomes’ in the 8 key questions, the student has to choose what course of action is the most ethical.

The concept of ‘outcomes’ poses the question, ‘what achieves the best short- and long-term outcomes for me and all others?’ This question is ethically complex because arriving late on the first day of a new job makes you look irresponsible and undependable. It is a big sacrifice to make yourself look bad and risk losing a new job that you have presumably worked hard to get and matters to you. However, friendship is less easily replaceable than a job, and the personal relationship the young man has with his friend Cori makes ditching her more hurtful. Beyond that, Cori has a chronic illness that requires medical attention. If you do not take her to her appointment, you could be seriously endangering her health. As a friend, how could you live with that? Finally, the young man created the situation he is in by forgetting about the appointment. It is no one’s fault but his own that he now has to make this difficult decision. It is unethical to make Cori suffer for his mistake. Therefore, the ethical course of action given the outcome that is best for you and all others is to live up to your own mistake and take Cori to her appointment, and consequentially be late to the first day of work. This is the decision that I would make, even though it is hard to sacrifice the prospect of a new career as a newly graduated college student. However, a person of strong character would recognize that they are responsible for the promise they made, and are equally responsible for forgetting about that promise. For that reason, I would choose to take Cori to her doctor’s appointment.”

Kudos to the students who composed these thoughtful responses as well as to all the students who are participating in this pilot. Everyone at the Madison Collaborative appreciates your diligent participation in this ongoing project!

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Forced Sterilization—Using the 8KQ to Determine Reparations

$400,000. By most standards, that’s a lot of money. In JMU terms, it would pay for about 172 meal plans for students who live on campus, 1,818 annual parking passes for full-time students, or a year’s worth of tuition and fees for 41 in-state students. Many JMU students would be grateful to have that much money to throw at their educational expenses.

$400,000 looks rather different, though, when you examine that amount in the context of the entire budget for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia’s biennial budget allots $47,013,163,377 for fiscal year 2015 and $47,563,883,725 for fiscal year 2016. With that much money in play, $400,000 seems miniscule in comparison. Why fixate on hundreds of thousands of dollars when our state has billions at stake?

We should be interested in Virginia’s spending of $400,000 because that’s the amount recently designated by the General Assembly to compensate victims of the state’s forced sterilization program which ran from 1924 to 1979. Over a decade after the General Assembly officially apologized for the state’s actions, the 11 remaining identified survivors of this program will receive $25,000 each from this specially created fund. This stands in stark contrast to North Carolina’s Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims which will be distributing $10,000,000 to applicants who have been verified by that agency.

North Carolina and Virginia were not the only states that crafted legislation based on the flawed principles of the eugenics movement, but they are the first to try and atone for the damage done by those laws. Finding appropriate ways to make amends for wrongs done in the past is an enormous struggle, so how could use of the Eight Key Questions affect the reparations that are increasingly being offered by states around the country and in our very own commonwealth? The questions of fairness (“How can I act equitably and balance all interests?”) and liberty (“What principles of freedom and personal autonomy apply?”) are especially relevant in this case because these survivors have had their personal freedom grossly usurped in an egregiously imbalanced way, but the government must tend to the interests and self-determinations of all its citizens when deciding upon appropriate restitution.

As members of the JMU community, we are asked to be engaged citizens capable of bringing about great change; how can we use our finely honed ethical reasoning skills to work toward justice and equity for those Virginians whose lives were transformed by this horrible chapter in our state’s history? How might we use the 8KQ to help restore some measure of fairness and liberty to these proceedings while encouraging empathetic and fiscally responsible actions from our state lawmakers? How can our representatives use this ethical reasoning framework to arrive at a solution that will satisfy their constituents while also satisfying the larger need for just action?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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The College of Education Embraces Ethical Reasoning in Action and the Eight Key Questions.

When it comes to embracing the Madison Collaborative’s mission, the College of Education has been a leading advocate this year. With the support of Dean Phil Wishon, the college developed the Madison Collaborative Initiative Grants to provide financial resources to support faculty projects aligned with the Collaborative’s mission, vision, and values. Three projects were funded and each was innovative in its approach to understand and enrich ethical reasoning.

In a recent conversation Dr. Wishon noted, “The Madison Collaborative has the potential for doing something elevated and is a test of the university. We need to steward the movement to keep it going.” He added that his role as a dean is to remind people of its importance. “Coming from a profession of helping others, there is more that we can do. We are less than we think,” he asserted. “We can’t afford to become complacent on campus, with our partners in the community, or in our college.”

The three funded projects include faculty member Michelle Cude’s that will integrate the Eight Key Questions into the Social Studies Methods courses for middle school teacher education candidates; a collaborative project submitted by faculty members Michele Estes, Rich Ingram and Diane Wilcox in the department of Learning, Technology and Leadership Education to develop a book of case studies specific to ethical dilemmas in education; and a research project developed by faculty member Sharon Blatz that uses the Eight Key Questions as a framework and justification for a study to determine the impact of using hands-on approaches to teach algebra to students with special needs or those who have consistently struggled to master math concepts and skills.

These are just three examples of how ethical reasoning and the Eight Key Questions are being supported and integrated in and around the university. We know there are others. Let’s share our efforts and continue to support what Dean Wishon of the College of Education refers to as the university’s “essential message around issues of conscience.”

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JMU’s Other Mascots

For those of you who might not know, James Madison University has a mascot that isn’t Duke Dog. In fact, it has two. Neither of them will ever been seen at a sporting event. They frequently run and hide when big tour groups come through campus. This doesn’t sound like the typical behavior of a college mascot, does it?

This behavior makes more sense when you realize I’m talking about Dolley and Jimmy, the two black cats who make their home on JMU’s Quad. You’ll find the Quad Cats sunning themselves when the weather is warm and hunkered down on heating grates once winter rolls around. Thanks to Mother Nature’s most recent arctic blast, that’s where they’ve been spending most of their time lately. In spite of these frigid temperatures, they still find the time to rub against my legs and follow me to my office in the morning. It takes more than a nasty cold spell to diminish the affections of these cats.

Despite being semi-feral, Dolley and Jimmy are sweet and good-natured creatures. Dolley is the more outgoing of the two; she’s often the first to greet me with a little meow in the morning. Jimmy is more reserved but once he knows you, he’ll jump up and command attention. Both of them love being rubbed behind their ears. They might like seafood-flavored cat treats even more.

At this point, you’re probably asking why I’m talking about the Quad Cats on a blog devoted to ethical reasoning in action. Choosing to care for these animals is certainly not an ethical dilemma, but I know that the JMU community has great affection for Dolley and Jimmy. Put that affection into action. We’re a community that values engagement, that believes in taking care of one another. I’m writing this post to encourage you to help look after the smallest members of the JMU family. Watch the video below to find out more about how you can help JMU’s other mascots.


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Ethics in Journalism

The media is notorious for reporting biased news. In some cases, it uses unreliable sources and unchecked ideas that are presented as facts. In a YouTube video, a group of journalism students at a Vermont high school decided to use their knowledge of the ethics of journalism to refute the bias of Fox News. The channel, which has the reputation of being a very conservative network, had labeled Vermont as a state of “mindless liberals” and visited the state to interview and “humiliate” people on the streets as part of The O’Reilly Factor show.

The students recited lines from the ethics code verbatim, calling out Fox News on its inaccurate surveys and prejudiced data collection. The newscast had visited only one town in Vermont (Bennington, VT) and used it to represent the entire state. Only six interviews were featured in the broadcast, further lowering the accuracy of demographic representation.

The journalism students’ high school was, in fact, located in Bennington, VT, which was why they felt it was a personal attack from Fox News and wanted to stand up for their town and state. The attack became even more personal when the news network featured an allegation that had first appeared in The New York Times, claiming that the students’ school, Mount Anthony Union High School, was full of heroin-users. The source who made the claim was proven to have no knowledge of heroin at any school in Bennington, VT. The “careless and inappropriate” comments made during the news segment were undone, piece by piece, by Mount Anthony Union High School students. (Watch the full video here: )

In relation to the 8 Key Questions, the students stood up for the character of their school, town and state. The biased news report showed a lack of fairness toward those being interviewed and a lack of empathy for the citizens of Vermont who were being purposely depicted in a bad light. By taking initiative to fact-check and creating a video disclaiming Fox News’s “facts”, the journalism students were exercising their rights of speech and press. They decided, in this case, that rights and fairness were of higher importance than the authority of Fox News as a national TV network, and used these reasoning skills to defend their stance.

It’s important not to believe the false rumors you see in the media, and just as important to stand up for the truth when it those rumors arise. Have you ever had false rumors spread about you or your hometown? What would you do if a news station featured Harrisonburg, VA or JMU in a bad light? As future “educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives,” it is important for us to stay educated about current events and to enlighten ourselves when the “facts” are questionable.


Read more about the Vermont high school students and Fox News here:

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