Tag Archives: Annual Ethics Symposium

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.

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.

2014 Rotary Ethics Symposium – Ethical Decision-Making in Action!

–submitted by Kathryne McGowan; photo credit to John Bonsett-Veal, Pete Christianson and Valerie Johnson

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From left: Dora Zuniga, John Bonsett-Veal, Karen Christianson & Rob Stroud

We did it again!  The Rotary Framework for Ethical Decision-Making has been shared and used by over 200 high school students from 19 schools in Dane County.  The 14th annual Rotary Ethics Symposium occurred on Friday, February 14, 2014.  After a year of planning, numerous committee meetings and intensive work on the curriculum and facilitation process, over 60 Rotarians and Rotaract volunteers led discussions on ethical dilemmas, hearing from the students about what they would do if they were part of the scenario and why.

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As the students gathered, there was the typical chatter about their morning, their friends, a homework assignment and occasionally a “Do you know what this is?” or “Do you know what is going to happen today?”  These inquiries were generally met with shoulder shrugs, or an “I don’t know.” The mood of the room was anticipatory, a little nervousness and maybe some expectation that this would be boring.

DSC_0033 (2)After a brief welcome by our chair Robyn Kitson (pictured at left), the opening session began.  A lone voice recited a poem, then a second voice, a third and a multitude of voices. A simple, yet powerful poem, should the protagonist take the life of someone who has attempted to harm him and others?  This began the discussions of the day.  Our keynote performers, First Wave Hip Hop Theater, sculpted their presentation to highlight ethical situations from violence, to use of language, to our impressions of others.  The “wow” of their thought-provoking performance was just the beginning of a day of exploring new ideas.  This was not going to be a boring day.

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First Wave (pictured above) introduced the ROTARY Framework for Ethical Decision-Making:

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

The students went to sessions where the ROTARY framework was put to the test with two very different ethical dilemmas: the implications of keeping a promise to a friend who is being bullied via social networking; and, the implications of public policy for the homeless.  The students showed us that we should be very hopeful for our future.  The students readily embraced the framework and in many cases, naturally used the framework to approach the ethical dilemma.

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At the final sessions the students worked with others from their school to identify an ethical issue within their school, and to develop a plan of how to approach the problem. The students chose big issues — bullying, diversity, inappropriate use of social media were some of the topics. We are looking forward to hearing back from the students about the outcomes of applying the framework in their school with their chosen special projects implemented post event.

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The day concluded with an interactive lunch attended by many Rotarians that allowed the student to share their impressions from the day. Gone was the nervousness, fear of boredom and anticipation of the morning, replaced with confidence and understanding.  Student after student discussed their belief that they have found a way to keep the discussion going and continue as leaders in their school.

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Photo 1: Al Ripp & Jamie Weissburg; Photo 2: Kathryne McGowan & Nelson Cummings; Photo 3: Cheryl Wittke, Paul Karch, Mike Wenzel & Barb Siehr

This signature event of the Rotary Club of Madison continues to grow and develop the future thought leaders of our community.  If you had the opportunity to participate, this year we welcome your comments and if you’ve not yet participated in this event we encourage you to sign up for the Ethics Symposium Committee for 2014-15 and join us next year.

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(The Rotary Ethics Symposium is generously underwritten by Madison Rotary Foundation.)

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in Our Club’s History on Ethics Symposium

Rotary Club of Madison-Centennial LogoOur History Sub-Committee continues to take a look back in our club’s rich history and is sharing highlights from the past century.  This week’s message is shared by committee member Jerry Thain:

Ethics LogoEthics Symposium Became One of Club’s Signature Events in the 21st Century

The earlier centennial blog posts dealt primarily with events of the Club in its first 75 years. While such “look backs” provide perspective for today, one of the Club’s major events was developed within the last 15 years and remains an ongoing cornerstone of Club outreach. What is now the annual Rotary Ethics Symposium for high school juniors in Dane County was developed by Melanie Ramey and other Club members beginning in 1999. The first such event was held in October 2000, and there has been one every academic year since then. The first ones were held in October, and the Symposium was held on days when meetings of teachers provided a non-school day for the Symposium. Notably, the schools soon recognized the academic value of the program and allowed students to attend it in lieu of school so the Rotary Ethics Symposium in recent years has been held in February or March. The first program was at the Concourse Hotel; lately the Monona Terrace Convention Center has been the venue.

Ethan Ecklund-ParaThe Rotary Ethics Symposium has been constantly evolving and continues to evolve in its particulars even today. However, it has always involved intensive looks at specific ethical problems by the students and a great deal of preparation and participation by a large number of Rotarians, a few of whom have been involved in every program held to date. Instead of an opening address by a noted scholar or professional specializing in ethics, which was the pattern in the first years, the Symposium now begins with the staging of an ethical problem pertinent to high school students by the First Wave Drama & Music group of the UW-Madison followed by discussion of that and then, as always, breakout sessions of the students into smaller groups that each deal with an ethical issue before returning to a plenary lunch and opportunity for feedback.

DSC00257The Rotary Ethics Symposium, acting in conjunction with academic specialists in ethics such as the Santa Clara University Center for Ethical Studies, developed an R.O.T.A.R.Y. framework for studying ethical dilemmas and five widely utilized but differing approaches to decide them. The emphasis has always been on advising students that there often is no single “right” answer to an ethical question and that different approaches may yield different results, even though both or all may be considered an ethical solution to the problem.

The R.O.T.A.R.Y. framework, in brief, is as follows: Recognize an ethical issue; Obtain pertinent information; Test alternative approaches from the various ethical perspectives; Act consistently with your best judgment; Reflect on your decision; Yield to your ethical judgments.

The Rotary Ethics Symposium now involves not only the volunteer activities of many Club members but also of non-members engaged in analysis of ethical problems in business and the professions, as well as Rotaract participants. Although it seems certain that fine-tuning will continue each year in an effort to continue to improve the program, it clearly has been a success from the perspectives of both students and Rotarians since its inception. Consider the reports in Club newsletters about the initial ethics symposium in 2000 and about the most recent one on March 1, 2013, attended by 213 students from 19 Dane County high schools.

There is every reason to believe that the Symposium will be a signal activity of the Club in its second century of “service above self.”

13th Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium on March 1, 2013

Our club’s strategic plan includes a goal which states, “Identify and focus on up to four areas of need toward which the Club will dedicate its service, attention, and financial resources to optimize impact and make plain our role in the community.”  One project that our club continues which helps us achieve this goal is the annual Rotary Club of Madison Ethics Symposium.

DSC_0018On Friday, March 1, at Monona Terrace (left), there were 213 high school juniors in attendance at our 13th  Annual Rotary Ethics Symposium, and they came from 19 Dane County high schools.

This year, our planning committee, chaired by Dora Zuniga, worked closely with Edgewood College Prof. Denis Collins and Edgewood College Rotaract students to develop the day’s activities to help teach these high school juniors how to work through ethical dilemmas using a R-O-T-A-R-Y Six-step Framework.  We also welcomed back the First Wave Group for our opening session, and the students gave high marks once again to this group.  The First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community is a cutting-edge multicultural artistic program for incoming students at UW-Madison.

DSC00248  DSC00261  DSC00265(Pictured above are various breakout sessions.)

We’d like to thank the following 50 Rotarians who helped out during the day’s event: Steve Aune, Ken Axe,  Brian Basken, Sean Baxter, Donna Beestman, John Bonsett-Veal, Scott Campbell, Sharon Chamberlain, Karen Christianson, Nelson Cummings, Dave Ellestad, Jed Engler, Neil Fauerbach, Jim Fitzpatrick, Rico Goedjen, Dick Goldberg, Cary Heyer, Donna Hurd, Steve Johannsen, Mary Kaminski, Paul Karch, Karen Kendrick-Hands, Robyn Kitson, Ranette Mauer, Kathryne McGowan, Gregg McManners, Renee Moe, Tim Muldowney, Dick Pearson, Laura Peck, Maggie Peterman, Marty Preizler, Melanie Ramey, Bill Reay, Mary Romolino, Joe Sensenbrenner, Bob Shumaker, Larry Smith, Bob Sorge, Wes Sparkman, Ross Squires, Tim Stadelman, Jim Taylor, Jeff Tews, Jerry Thain, Ellis Waller, Mike Wenzel, Marcia Whittington, Bill Zeinemann and Dora Zuniga (chair).

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(Pictured above from left:  First Wave Group from UW-Madison; General photo during Opening Session; Edgewood Rotaract Students: front  row from left to right: Michelle Karn, Victoria Ortiz, Ashley Schoenoff, Abby Trollop, Chelsea Culver, Lauren Carpenter; back row from left to right:  Ben Sheperd, Cory Kundert, Nick Walusayi, Aliou Traore, Bill DeVault)

In addition, our thanks go to Edgewood Prof. Denis Collins and Amy Gannon, along with the following Edgewood College Rotaract students:  Lauren Carpenter, Chelsea Culver, Billy DeVault, Michelle Karn, Cory Kundert, Ashton Lareau, Victoria Oritz Sayago, Ashley Schoenoff, Ben Sheperd, Aliou Traore, Abby Trollop and Nick Walusayi.

From the evaluation forms completed by students at the end of the day, we heard some favorable comments.  Here is a sampling:
–  It was very inspiring and I appreciate it very much.  It changed the way I think about these situations.
–  This was a meaningful experience for me, and I will never forget it.
–  I was surprised by how much fun it was.  I thought the all of the discussions were very fun.
–  This was a wonderful experience. I was open to so many new things.
–  I loved the entire experience and cannot express that enough.  The world needs more people who think this way.
–  I really enjoyed it and met new people while learning about problems at my school that I wasn’t fully aware of.
–  It was intriguing and brought me together with new people.  I was a little confused and uncomfortable at the beginning, but it quickly got better.  Thank you for the opportunity!
–  Thank you for the event.  I feel like it has made a positive difference for my ethical decision process.
–  I think the sessions were effective and the student based discussion was key.

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(Pictured above from left: Denis Collins (center) consulting with Rotaract students; and breakout session photos) 

As 2013 Ethics Symposium Chair Dora Zuniga closed the event, she drew a name of one lucky winner from the audience for the iPod prize drawing, and Jeffrey Reinholz from Verona Area High School was pleased to be the recipient.  Our thanks to Ranette Mauer and the Hilton Madison Hotel for donating this door prize.

 

 

Celebrating 100 Years: A Look Back in History

As we celebrate our 100th anniversary, our History Sub-Committee is taking a look back in our club’s rich history and is sharing highlights from the past century.  This week’s message is shared by committee member Rich Leffler:

Committee on Code of Ethics

The Rotary Code of Ethics for Business Men of All Lines

At one time, Rotary had an astounding Code of Ethics, as once required by the Bylaws. But for reasons that are unclear, the Code fell into disuse. Once, it was widely published and distributed. Today, it can hardly be found. We are publishing this remarkable Code of Ethics here, along with a brief history of its rise and fall as a tenet of Rotary.

In 1912, Rotary president Glenn C. Mead proposed that the newly formed Business Methods Committee prepare a code of business ethics for “the advancement of business morality.” (The Rotarian Commemorative Centennial Edition [June 2005], 89) The chair of the committee was Robert W. Hunt of Sioux City, Iowa. Much of the Code was composed by an unofficial committee of Hunt’s fellow Iowa Rotarians while en route to the June 1914 convention in Houston. One of these Iowans, J. R. Perkins, explained that “the articles of the code were revised both as to phrasing and content. The third, eighth, and ninth articles, in their basal ideas . . . grew out of the general discussion. The tenth article, which in the writer’s judgment is the highest ethical upreach of them all, did not appear in [the original] manuscript, tho it was held to be germane to the whole and really expressive of what is fundamental in Rotary.” Perkins also explained that the stunning final paragraph of the “Summary” was “a bit of pragmatic philosophy from William James, but he really borrowed it from European philosophy.”(J. R. Perkins, “History of the Rotary Code of Ethics,” The Rotarian 10, no. 2 [February 1917], 119–21).

The Rotary Code of Ethics for Business Men of All Lines, printed here, was adopted by the Sixth Annual Convention of the International Association of Rotary Clubs meeting in San Francisco in July 1915. Great faith was put into the power of the Code. A report to the 1919 Convention argued that “if the business men of the world would adopt the Rotary Code of Ethics as their rule of conduct, as their guide in commercial intercourse, the world would be a safe place for democracies. . . . Had the business world been operating according to a standard of practices which conform to our Code of Ethics, does any real Rotarian believe that we would have been plunged into a night of horrors such as lasted from August 1914, to November 1918?” (Robert H. Timmons, “Report of Committee on Publicity,” Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Convention . . . [July 16–20, 1919], 430–31)

In 1921, when the Rotary Club of Madison celebrated the sixteenth birthday of Rotary with a full-page spread in the Wisconsin State Journal, it proudly published the Code of Ethics and declared that Rotary is “based on the following Code of Ethics.” (WSJ, February 23, 1921) And the History of our Club recalls that in the mid-1920s the Club’s “leadership began to use it [the Code] as the focal point of a number of somber investigations into the allegedly unethical business dealings of some of its most prominent members.” (John Jenkins, History of the Rotary Club of Madison [Madison, 1990], 56) This latter point deserves scrutiny in future blogs.

But as early as 1921, there were objections to the Code. Ironically, it was Rotary President Mead who asked “Is the Rotary Code of Ethics a code of ethics at all? Is it not a confession of faith or a creed?” (The Rotarian 19, no 1 [July 1921], 39) Similarly, in 1924, Rotary president Guy Gundaker echoed Mead when he observed that the Code was “more in the line of a confession of faith, or a creed.. . . [The Code] should be specific, plain-spoken, and expressed in commonly understood terms; also that its provisions should be given as rules of conduct expressed as ‘Shall and Shall Not.’ This, of course, does not preclude preambles to any of the sections of an informative character.” (The Rotarian 25, no. 3 [September 1924], 42) By 1931, Rotary began to consider itself less a business club than a service club, and Rotary International adopted its “Aims and Objects,” which had application beyond business matters. The Board appointed a committee to revise the Code of Ethics. The Code continued to be published in the Manual of Procedure, but it was no longer separately distributed. In 1943, the Four-Way Test was adopted, and it became a sort of substitute code of ethics with broad application.

In 1951–52, the Board discontinued the distribution of the Code of Ethics entirely. In 1977, an attempt was made to “revive the publication and dissemination” of the Code. But the following year, the Board determined that “because of changes in the realm of business and professional life since the adoption of the code, any revision and updating for the purpose of re-instituting the publication and distribution of the code would be ineffectual.” So the Board voted not to revise the Code or to distribute it. In 1980, reference to the Code was removed from the RI Bylaws.

Although the Four-Way Test is often referred to as a Code of Ethics, it has never been so designated. In fact, the 1981 Manual of Procedure stated that “The Four-Way Test should not be referred to as a ‘code’ in any sense.” So, presently, Rotary has no code of ethics. Our Club is, however, as concerned as ever about ethical behavior, and our annual Ethics Symposium program extends outward to high school students in the Madison area. It is one important way of serving the community.

This introduction is partially based on Doug Rudman, “The Rotary Code of Ethics,” The Rotary Global History Fellowship (An Internet Project) (http://rotaryfirst100.org/history/headings/ethics.htm and Rudman, “Is the Four-Way Test a Code of Ethics?” (ibid.).

 

Rotary Ethics Symposium 2012

 

 

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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

 WISCTV Neil Heinen Editorial 

Small Group Discussion About Ethics in Sports