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High School Juniors Examined Hot Button Ethical Issues on February 17 at Rotary’s 12thAnnual Ethics Symposium
–Submitted by Sharyn Alden
When more than 200 students from 17 area high schools gathered at the Monona Terrace, they were part of history in the making. They were participating in Rotary’s 12th annual, nothing-quite-like ethical decision making symposium that provided interesting and compelling topics that tackled the big question, “What would you do in this situation?”
As a volunteer at past Symposiums (PR Chair of this year’s event), I had not yet had the privilege of sitting in one of the roundtable discussions expertly guided by area leaders who had expertise in specific topics at hand.
Here are the 12 topics which students could select from. They had time during the morning’s event to attend three of the following sessions:
- Ethics in Advertising led by Jim Armstrong, Advertising Executive, Good for Business
- Ethics in Business led by Denis Collins, Professor of Business at Edgewood College
- Ethics in Bullying/Cliques led by John Bonsett-Veal, Rotarian &
Optometrist, John Bonsett Veal, O.D.
- Ethics in Dating/Friendships led by Amy Bellmore & Ting-Lan
MaDissertator, UW-Madison School of Education
- Ethics in Environment led by Paul Riehemann, Rotarian & Director,
Integrated Property Assessment System for WI Department of Revenue
- Ethics in Health Care led by Bill Reay, Chief Pharmacy Officer & Senior
Director for Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation
- Ethics in Social and Internet Use led by Bryan Chan, Rotarian & President of Supranet Communications
- Ethics in News Media led by Colin Benedict, News Director for WISC-TV
- Ethics in Politics and Political Campaigns led by Andrea Kaminski,
Executive Director for WI League of Women Voters
- Ethics in Racial Justice led by Norman Davis, Contract Compliance
Officer for City of Madison
- Ethics in Sports led by Scott Campbell, Rotarian & Dean, School of
Graduate & Professional Studies for Edgewood College
I decided to sit in on Ethics in Advertising guided by discussion group leader, Jim Armstrong, founder of Good for Business.
The hypothetical case study involved a domestic violence shelter which was hosting an annual fundraiser event to raise desperately needed funds for its shelter. The dilemma presented was this: a sponsor with deep pockets came forward, a liquor distributor who wanted to promote a new brew while also promoting the shelter’s fundraiser. But the high school students attending this session also learned that some studies have found alcohol is linked to domestic abuse between 80-90 percent of the time and that women are more likely (about 95 percent) to be victims.
The primary ethical question that needed to be answered was this: Should the domestic violence shelter accept the liquor company’s sponsorship? The students broke into small groups to discuss the situation and apply the Five Approaches to ethical decision making discussed earlier that morning during the opening welcome presentation.
My small group of five students quickly drew the conclusion that it would be hypocritical to take the sponsorship and might in fact deter other sponsors from contributing to the event once they learned of the alcohol distributor’s sponsorship.
The full group discussion followed and involved about 20 students who came to nearly the same decision with the vast majority in agreement with my group.
Interestingly, Armstrong had kept track of how all three groups (ours was the last group of the morning) had previously voted. The first group that sat in on Ethics in Advertising that day had a completely different consensus than our group. Their majority voted to take the sponsorship while the second group of the morning resulted in a more mixed vote.
What did I learn from this? This one group discussion on one topic might be a good example of how we all look at decision making. Clearly, there is no one way of examining a topic and coming to the same conclusion.
The votes of the numerous teens who attended these three Ethics in Advertising sessions proved just that.
And that alone, is a compelling reason why the Rotary Club of Madison’s annual Ethics Symposium is an excellent resource for helping future leaders better prepare for ethical decision making.
Our thanks to Sharyn Alden for working with local media to cover our event: Wisconsin State Journal Article dated March 12, 2012