Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sigh of Happy Relief

The Undergraduate Ethics Symposium here at DePauw finished up yesterday in a blaze of glory and an unabashed love fest among speakers, organizers, and participants.

Some thirty student scholars/artists came to the Prindle Institute on Thursday afternoon to present analytic essays and creative works on a wide range of ethical issues and themes. The blind review process of almost a hundred submissions yielded a group of participants drawn from around the country: Harvard, Princeton, University of Central Arkansas, Haverford College, Bard College, University of Minnesota, Claremont McKenna, and of course, our own DePauw. Great was our excitement as we waited for the van to arrive from the airport bringing those who had come by air. After almost a year of planning, they were here!

I was one of four symposium speakers. The others were journalist/memoirist Patricia Raybon, playwright Steven Dietz, and philosopher Matt Tedesco. I gave a philosophical talk on what we owe to our families and why; Matt gave a philosophical talk on moral dilemmas parents face as they make choices regarding the welfare of their children; Patricia spoke about the need for honesty, courage, and craft in sharing stories about our lives with others; Steven talked about the ways in which theater fosters ethical engagement as the "here and now" art form, following the performance of a scene from his play Lonely Planet.

In my seminar session, students presented papers on topics including: reparations for slavery, openness and altruism in sperm donation, the role of faith-based organizations in refugee resettlement, religiously neutral child rearing, right-to-life campaigns targeted to African American women, human/nonhuman interactions, and justice in global health care. This was teaching at its most rewarding: to spend all day with extremely smart, motivated, prepared, and passionate students talking intently about what they love.

And then, at two o'clock yesterday, the van came, and they departed. In our closing session, one student marveled that all this effort and expense had been lavished on an event celebrating undergraduate ethical inquiry. It really is quite amazing. And quite wonderful.

And now we can begin preparing for the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium 2013!

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