Students Ponder Moral Problems at Ethics Symposium

Alex Goles '22, Guest Writer

The Fifth Annual Ethics Symposium, organized by Lecturer in International Business & Management Steve Riccio and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Amy McKiernan was this past Monday on Nov. 11. The purpose of this symposium was to open the community up to get conversation flowing about everyday ethical dilemmas that we face in the modern world. It is not a place for students to simply present these issues, but to provide them a platform to explain why they care about what they care about. Kamila Gadbyzhamalova ’23 said, “it is important for people to have a safe space for people to share”. A main part of the symposium was small table discussion throughout the event to get the audience connected with the theme. McKiernan opened the event by saying, “What this event does is, it’s not a lecture, it’s meant to jumpstart conversation”.

The theme for this year’s symposium was “The Ethics of Perfection”, encouraged students to look at the pressures and ideals of perfections in our society while breaking down the ideas of morality behind them. Five student  speakers were chosen to present their ideas: Sienna Zittie ’20, Kevin Ssonko ’20, Casey Altman ’23, Patrick Davis ’20 and Noel Hricz ’21.

Zittie discussed the effects of burnout in relation to striving for perfection and the “mindset of perfection”. Ssonko questioned the recent call for “civility” in the political domain, in which he explored the justice behind this call, and how it may be a way for people in power to abuse it. Altman proposed the ethics behind the pursuit of perfection in relation to genocide and gene editing, asking “would the world be better if it was without flaws, what would a perfect world look like if it could exist?”.

After these three speakers, a few more questions were proposed in relation to the other presentations, as well. Davis went on to share the success-failure story of Alex Rodriguez in relation to living up to unattainable expectations. Finally, Hricz explained how colleges and universities will underreport sexual assault in order to have a better image.

The interaction between peers is vital to this event. McKiernan said that this event “encourages ethical reasoning in a more informal setting” and, most importantly, that it is “student driven”. Altman, one of the speakers at the event, feels that “Dickinson is a very thoughtful community. This gets people talking about things they otherwise may not have thought about if they didn’t come”. Sarah Mason ’22 explains that she enjoys the event: “I love learning about my peers’ passions and I love sitting at a table with people I don’t know, and having a fantastic discussion with them”. She goes on to say, “As they said at the symposium, the goal is not to answer questions but to inspire questions which can inspire improvement.”