Category Archives: 3. Committees

2017 Ethics Symposium Highlights

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski

dsc_0106More than 200 students from 20 area high schools assembled at Monona Terrace Convention Center on February 17 for the 17th Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium, underwritten by our club’s Madison Rotary Foundation. They were welcomed by 2017 Ethics Symposium Chair Steve Johannsen, who noted that we all face ethical dilemmas several times a week. He explained that often it’s a small matter, for example, what to do when your cell phone starts ringing in a meeting. Other dilemmas can be gut-wrenching. Steve introduced the students to a hierarchy of four stages of ethical decision-making:

  • Stage 1: What action benefits me most? (Egoism)
  • Stage 2: What actions would my friends or group members think I should do? (Social Group Relativism)
  • Stage 3: What action would produce the greatest amount of good and the least amount of harm? (Utilitarian)
  • Stage 4: What action best respects the rights and dignity of each person? (Rights)

dsc_0046The First Wave Hip Hop Theater then opened the event artistically with dramatizations of three ethical dilemmas that teens might have to face: what to do when the friend who drove you to a party gets drunk; what to make of a famous athlete’s protest during the national anthem; and how to talk with a friend about a decision he has made. First Wave is a cutting-edge, multicultural, artistic program for UW-Madison students. It was the first university scholarship program in the country centered on the spoken word and hip-hop culture. The actors portrayed the dilemmas with humor and insight, and the moderator (a First Wave alumnus who now teaches in the Verona schools) invited audience participation between acts.

The students then participated in three consecutive breakout sessions in which they considered an ethical dilemma and analyzed it according to the stages of ethical decision-making. The scenarios focused on drunk-driving, affirmative action and transgender locker rooms. Designed by Edgewood College Business Ethics Professor Denis Collins and others, the breakout sessions were led by Rotarians with assistance from Edgewood College students, all of whom had been trained in a half-day session at Edgewood College before the symposium. With 18-20 students in each breakout, the facilitators led the students through a series of small-group discussions in which they deliberated about what action would reflect each level, or stage, of decision-making. The goal was to push students toward higher-level thinking.

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I found the students in the three groups that my team facilitated to be open-minded and thoughtful. They were generally familiar with the issues in the three scenarios, at least through the news. Whether they were personally connected with an issue or not, they found the discussion to be eye-opening. For example, one small-town student said that although he had heard about the transgender issue, he had never talked with anyone about it.  A student from Shabazz City High School responded that in her school there are many transgender students, and anyone may use any restroom or locker room. She added that the discussion at the Ethics Symposium helped her understand why the issue, which she said is “normalized” in her school, is an emotional one for others.

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Rotary President Michele McGrath applied her impressive skill in communicating with teens by asking how many wanted to be a CEO of a company or organization in a few years, how many want to lead impactful change in their community, and how many want to lead impactful change in the world. She got an enthusiastic response to all three questions. She explained they can do that through Rotary.

The impact of the day may have been best articulated by the students themselves at lunchtime. Almost 40 of them responded when Steve Johannsen asked what they thought about the experience. Here are some of the things they said:

  • Even though people disagreed, I appreciated that people could talk and be respected.
  • Listening to other people’s opinions made me more open-minded.
  • It’s not OK to isolate someone for being different.
  • If you feel comfortable in school, then you can’t learn.
  • I gained some ideas for our upcoming Awareness Day at school this spring.
  • It was cool how many people think outside the box, not just levels 1, 2 and 3.
  • It helped me understand other schools, and not just the stereotypes about schools.
  • I was shocked by how many people were not mad at each other about their opinions.
  • I was surprised by how easy the ethical framework was to use after the first time.
  • It was good to talk with students about topics I don’t even talk to adults about.
  • I usually don’t share my opinions with people I don’t know. I was comfortable doing that here.
  • I was surprised how insightful and deeply thoughtful people were even though we’re “just teenagers.”
  • As an openly transgender student, I was happy to see how accepting people were of me.
  • I recognized that there was no single right or wrong answer in some issues.
  • I was impressed by how open people were to listening to others. It makes me optimistic and hopeful as we get ready to become the leaders of this nation.

Fostering Ethical Decision Making

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photos by John Bonsett-Veal and Mike Wenzel

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Almost 250 11th grade students from 20 different Madison area high schools met for the 16th annual Rotary Club of Madison Ethics Symposium on Friday, Feb. 19 at Monona Terrace in Madison, affirming at the culminating luncheon the need not just for adolescents but all of us to “think all the way through decisions.” This kind of thinking, the students expressed, could be enhanced by discussing dilemmas with others including those whom we do not know and those who are different than us.

“Discussing issues with others can broaden your viewpoint,” said Katie Feller of La Follette High School. “It’s interesting to see how people can change their view (by thinking and talking it through),” added Liz Dominguez of Marshall High School.

DSC_0012The five-hour symposium kicked off with real-life reminders that ethical decisions abound throughout history and contemporary life. Steve Johannsen, the 2016 Rotary Ethics Symposium Chair, reminded students that the day was a significant date in history as US President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, authorizing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. “It is a decision that is still being discussed today,” he said, leaving “tacit” the current political dialogue on the Syrian refugee crisis and immigration.

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It was a group of UW students by name of “First Wave Hip Hop Theater” that in the opening session framed and underscored the importance of ethics by its artistic representations of the Holocaust, slavery (particularly vivid  and thought-provoking through a simulation of a public whipping of a slave), police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement with particular reference to the Madison protests in the wake of the March 5, 2015, police shooting of 19-year-old Tony Terrell Robinson, Jr. First Wave is comprised of a diverse group of UW students, all of whom are part of the first university scholarship program in the U.S. centered on the spoken word and hip-hop culture. The group’s performance helped the assembled 11th grade students indeed grasp how ethics not only shape individual lives but instead entire cultures and societies.

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In three separate breakout sessions of about 20 students each, the high school students with the aid of a Rotary facilitator discussed the ethical implications of adolescent alcohol use and the potential for drunk driving, affirmative action directed toward youth of color, and the use of a locker room by a transgender student  who has not had gender reassignment surgery. Many of the students remarked not only how timely these topics were, but also incredibly important for them to discuss.

The three sessions not only provided rich dialogue among the high school students, but also introduced them to a hierarchy of moral and ethical thinking. Students initially were challenged to record their gut decision, and subsequently made decisions through the lens of “egoism” (What Action Will Benefit Me the Most?); “social group relativism” (What Action Do My Friends or Group Members Think I should Do?); Utilitarianism (What Action Would Produce the Greatest Amount of Good and the Least Amount of Harm?); and the “Right Approach” (What Action Will Best Respect the Rights and Dignity of Each Person?).

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Photo 1: Denis Collins & Melanie Ramey; Photo 2: Mike Casey and Rotary District Governor Mary Van Hout; Photo 3: Karen Christianson & Ben Hebebrand

“We want the students to think about these stages. Our goal is to lead them toward the Rights Approach,” said Denis Collins, who, as a Business Ethics Professor at Edgewood College, has lent his expertise to the symposium since its inception. “Creating a forum and a framework in a safe setting with new acquaintances,” is what defines the essence of the symposium, according to Johannsen. Affirming the sense of safety was a student speaker who proclaimed that “sometimes, but not today, our opinions get discounted.”

The sense of safety is no accident. All Rotarian facilitators underwent a five-hour training session, stressing ground rules best summarized by the mandate that participants need to “treat every single person with complete and unconditional respect.” The training for the facilitators included a presentation by local psychologist Dr. David Lee on “LGBTQ Discussion on Transgender and Identity Issues.”

The symposium also offered accompanying teachers and principals the opportunity to ponder possibilities to introduce further outlets for students to discuss ethical dilemmas. Rotarian Bob Shumaker pointed out that often it is the kids who bring back to their schools the need and desire for further ethics education. “Belleville High School kids created an Ethics program,” he said. “The kids created and gave their teachers ethical dilemmas relating to student discipline and assessment of student work.”

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Education, including learning about an ethical framework for decision-making, is of course enlightening. Thomas Mulholland of East High School summed it up this way: “Apathy is dangerous; ignorance is more dangerous.” Equally uplifting was an impromptu remark by a student during the public comment session that “after today, we can still have faith in humanity.”

New Member Networking Event December 10

–submitted by Haley Saalsaa; photos by Dave Ewanowski

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Club President Ellsworth Brown and Haley Saalsaa

On the morning of December 10 25 of us got together for a new member event at the Blackhawk Country club. We were welcomed with fresh hot pastries accompanied by coffee and orange juice.

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From left: Jorge Hidalgo, Mike Casey, Larry Collins & Carol Goedken

We took the first thirty minutes to talk amongst ourselves and then the fun really began. Jason Beren orchestrated a Bingo game deriving answers from surveys we had all previously taken. It was a unique networking event and fun to try something new. Often times networking is the same and discussions become routine. The bingo game allowed us to find out unique things about our fellow Rotarians that we may not have known before. For example, did you know that our president Ellsworth Brown played cymbals in high-school? He could put on quite a show incorporating CO2 for special effects OR that TJ Blitz is a trained stage actor?

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From Left: Sandy Morales, TJ Blitz, Craig Bartlett & Tom Popp

 

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From left: Mary Borland, Ellsworth Brown, Nick Curran

These are the types of things that likely would not have come into conversation if we weren’t playing an exciting game of Bingo! Jason threw a great event and I look forward to this spring for more events to come.

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The 15th Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium Expands Students’ Bandwidth for Ethical Decision Making!

–submitted by Maggie Peterman; photos by Donna Beestman and John Bonsett-Veal

Stacy Nemeth, Chair of 2015 Ethics Symposium Committee

Stacy Nemeth, Chair of 2015 Ethics Symposium Committee

More than 200 students from 18 Dane County high schools were challenged to examine the decisions they make every day in a new way Friday, February 27, at the 15th annual Rotary Ethics Symposium at Monona Terrace.

With dramatic performances on edgy teenage issues – teenage pregnancy and a father confronting his adolescent son about drug use – members of the UW-Madison First Wave Hip Hop Theater, a cosmopolitan multicultural artistic program, set the stage for high school students.

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And First Wave led the students through the R-O-T-A-R-Y Framework for Ethical Decision Making, which is a six-step process of thinking through a dilemma and making a decision.

Then the high schoolers went to work. They were confronted with two dilemmas: Hostile Messages and an Affirmative Action Proposal.

“It was fun to be able to discuss realistic problems,” said Desmond Lawrence, 17, a junior at Madison’s Memorial High School, following the workshop. “I like that they (Rotarians) want us to reach out to our own high schools to get these (workshops) going.”

Rotary members along with participants from Rotaract clubs at UW-Madison and Edgewood College led the workshops. Students learned the ground rules, which emphasized: “Treat every single person in the room with complete and unconditional respect.”

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“I liked that whatever you had to say, you were going to be respected,” noted a student from Belleville High School. “It was nice to see that my friends had a serious side.”

“The coolest thing of all,” said a student from Monona Grove High School, “someone from my school and I, we had different opinions and we still like each other.”

The ROTARY Framework for Ethical Decision Making is as follows:

R = Recognize an ethical issue
O = Obtain information about the situation and others’ interests and perceptions
T = Test alternative actions from various perspectives
A= Act consistently with your best judgment
R = Reflect on your decision after acting
Y = Yield to your ethical judgments

Students dispersed into workshops to learn the practical application of the Rotary Framework. The sessions were designed to group together students from a variety of high schools.

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“Once students were in the smaller groups, they were willing to delve into the issues,” said Sophie Chadli, 17, a senior at Madison’s Shabazz High School.

At first, many participants felt isolated. They later discovered a new-found freedom as they listened to each other and even gained the confidence to rethink their stand.

“When we were doing the panel on affirmative action, others’ opinions changed mine about certain things,” said Dominique Taylor, 16, a junior at Middleton’s Clark Street Community School. “Me and some other students want to inform our teachers about the process so we can start training and recommend (the Ethics Symposium) to other students.”

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It was a new learning experience, most students agreed.

“I really enjoyed today,” said a student from Madison’s East High School. “It’s something that will stick with me. It’s a tradition that will keep on giving. I met lots of new people.”

The students’ willingness and enthusiasm to embrace a new experience impressed Rotary leaders.

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Sarah Gempeler, 20, a junior at Edgewood College and a Rotaract member, grew up in Monroe, a south-central Wisconsin city of about 45,000 residents.

“It’s great to see how passionate these kids are about (relevant) issues,” Gempler said. “I grew up in a town where there wasn’t much diversity in our high school.”

A first-time volunteer for the symposium, Janet Piraino, a Rotary member and district director for a Wisconsin representative, praised the next generation of Wisconsin voters.

“This is my first time and I’m blown away by their ability to stand their ground,” she said. “There were students of color on both sides of an issue that spoke very passionately for their position. One African American girl spoke in opposition to affirmative action because she felt it didn’t honor equality.”

Discussions on controversial topics showed that students are listening and collecting information as they go about their daily lives, said Steve Johannsen, a Rotary member and Madison business advisor.

“The (affirmative action) statistics were eye-opening for all the students,” Johannsen said. “It gave them a much better feel for real community issues. The conversations were unbelievably insightful and respectful.”

Rotary leaders are willing to assist high schools students and faculty with developing an “Ethics in Action” project at their schools, said Stacy Nemeth, Chair, 2015 Rotary Ethics Symposium.

Monona Grove High School Principal Paul Brost led a discussion with judicious students from his 925-student school. Students were enthusiastic about working with trained facilitators – Rotaract students and Rotary leaders – to deliver the project to Monona Grove.

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“People need help learning about ethical decisions, but we need someone to help facilitate our conversations,” noted a Monona Grove student who voted in favor of assistance from Rotaract students. “We’re too used to just listening and taking notes. We need a role model to help us get going.”

Throughout the discussion, Brost encouraged students to take a leadership role.

“I’m willing to preload the idea at a staff meeting,” he offered. “If it’s student-led, it’s up to you to take the lead and find a coach or a teacher willing to make it work. It needs to be bite-sized and meaningful.

“Part of our goal in school is to get kids to different leadership opportunities,” added Brost who has attended the conference 13 years. “Students always find this very worthwhile. It has high value for us.”

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Rotary member, Donna Beestman, is a veteran participant at the Ethics Symposium. She praises students and school leaders for their dedication and applauds the annual work of the more than 50 Rotaract and Rotary volunteers.

“It’s like students go through a transformation in the course of four hours,” she said.

New Member Coffee Event Held December 11

–submitted by Mary Borland; photos by Jason Beren

IMG_8775Several new members along with established members, gathered the morning of December 11 for networking and education.  Jason Beren led the meeting.

Guest speaker Victoria Gammino, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,  presented information about Rotary International Polio Plus and the impressive work that has been done to try to eradicate polio. There is still work to be done internationally, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, so our continued contributions to the Rotary International fund are very much appreciated.

Cheryl Rosen Weston presented information about the Madison Rotary Foundation and how our club is unique in having a Foundation. Many clubs are much smaller than ours and only contribute to the Rotary International Fund. Our dollars, donated to the Madison Rotary Foundation, go right into our local community to fund important causes.  Roth Judd followed up Cheryl’s presentation with a wonderful visual chart that helps us all better understand where our monies flow, whether local or international.

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Doug Dittmann provided information on the Community Grants Committee.  Committee members make personal visits to prospective grant recipients and then share their findings with the rest of the committee to decide on specific funding to be provided. New members are encouraged to consider serving on this committee – you’ll learn a lot!

The next new member meeting is January 28 at 11:15am, prior to Rotary, and a plan will be started to roast President Tim!  Don’t miss this one!

Rabbi Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award Program on November 12, 2014

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photos by Mike Engelberger

Club President Tim Stadelman (left) presenting award to Jonathan Gramling

Club President Tim Stadelman (left) presenting award to Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling was awarded the 2014 Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award, 32 years since its inception in 1982.

IMG_3317Patty Loew (pictured at left with Jonathan Gramling), a past recipient of the award and Mr. Gramling’s nominator, says of him “Jonathan Gramling has devoted his life to civil rights and promoting racial equity.  From volunteering on self-help projects benefitting African-Americans in the South, to fundraising for United Farm Workers in Madison to supporting Native people on environmental threats associated with mining.  Gramling’s service has been inspirational and exemplary.”

 

IMG_3248In remembrance of Rabbi Swarsensky, Rotarians and guests viewed the 2000 award-winning video production chronicling his life.  In addition, Rotarian Mario Mendoza (pictured at right) provided the club with excerpts of the November 22, 1967, address to the Rotary Club of Madison, entitled “Thanksgiving – Holiday or Holy Day.”  The address, by all accounts, is as relevant today as it was in 1967.  Paralleling the first Thanksgiving to that of 1967, Rabbi Swarsensky penned, “The work of the Pilgrims is no longer our world.  We could not go back to it, even if we wanted to.  But the recollection of the first Thanksgiving of 1621 can have meaning for us in 1967 [and 2014], if we learned again to be grateful for the simple things in life, which are the most priceless blessings: life and health, home and love and friendship, the privilege to give of ourselves and the determination to make our country and the work a better place so that our children and our children’s children may be proud of us, as we are proud of and grateful to those who have gone before us.”

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Pictured above from left: Club President Tim Stadelman, Carol Toussaint, Mercile Lee, Sr. Mary David Walgebach, Sr. Joanne Kollasch, Melanie Ramey, Andy Davison and Mitch Javid

The Club was privileged to host 11 past recipients of the award: Sr. Mary David Walgenbach & Sr. Joanne Kollasch, Patty Loew, Richard Davis, Mitch Javid, Rotarian Carol Toussaint, Rotarian Bill Rock, Rotarian Andy Davison, Norval Bernhardt, Rotarian Melanie Ramey and Mercile Lee.

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In addition, we were honored that Rabbi Swarsensky’s daughter, Sharon Swarsensky Bilow and her husband, Paul Bilow, were able to join us for this celebration.  They are pictured above with Jonathan Gramling.

The Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award was established in 1982 and identifies individuals who have, through their voluntary efforts, made a particularly outstanding contribution to the humanitarian service in the greater Madison community, in the tradition so well exemplified by the life of Rabbi Swarsensky.   The award-winning documentary video, “A Portrait:  Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky,” that was created and produced by Rotarian Dick Goldberg with assistance by Wisconsin Public Television, provides background on Manfred Swarsensky and can be viewed on YouTube, and the Rotary office also has a copy of the video for any member wishing to view it.

“Rotary Bingo” at The Madison Club October 21, 2014

–summary & photos submitted by Jason Beren

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On Tuesday, October 21, at our New Member Event, about 25 new and experienced Rotarians attended a coffee event at The Madison Club (Thanks to Mary Gaffney-Ward for the use of the great room).

The focal point of the event was a cutting edge networking activity known as “Rotary Bingo.”  Much like a scavenger hunt played with a bingo card, attendees had to work their way around the room to fill out their card with the names of the Rotarians who matched each square.

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Prior to the event, attendees completed a survey with questions such as:

  • What is something about yourself that’s unique and people might not know about you?
  • Where were you born?
  • Who were your Rotary Sponsors?
  • What high school activity, club, or sport did you participated in?
  • What unique event have you attended?
  • Have you ever done a unique Rotary make-up international or domestic?

Attendees learned that some of their fellow Downtown Rotarian’s have:

  • Been a ski bum for a winter
  • Spent two months deep in the Amazon jungle
  • Attended a cocktail party on Malcolm Forbes yacht
  • Did a Rotary make-up on Easter Island

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