Studying Ethics Across Disciplines

Undergraduates explore ethical issues in health, education, finance, computers and the environment at Lehigh’s third annual ethics symposium.

Lehigh in Spring


Lehigh students participating in the third annual Lehigh Undergraduate Ethics Symposium on March 23 explored ethical issues in health, education, finance, computers and the environment, including ramifications of the nation’s drug policy and the growth of automated home devices.

The event was hosted for the first time by Lehigh’s new Center for Ethics and made possible by The Endowment Fund for the Teaching of Ethical Decision-Making. The philosophy honor society Phi Sigma Tau also helped organize the symposium, which allowed students to share their research work on ethical problems in or outside their field of study.

“Without opportunities for Lehigh undergrads to study ethical issues and to engage in informed thinking and discussion of them, they won’t be well-prepared to take on these challenges and respond to them well,” said Professor Robin Dillon, director of the Lehigh Center of Ethics. “The symposium is one of the opportunities the [Center of Ethics] provides.”

Awards were given to the best presentation from each of the three colleges and a grand prize. This year, the judges were so impressed with the quality of the presentations that they decided to award two grand prizes for the best presentation of the symposium category.

Harry W. Ossolinski ’20 and Patricia Sittikul ’19 both won the grand prize.

As a computer science student, Sittikul researched the ethics behind automated home devices and social media, such as Tumblr and Reddit. Sittikul looked at privacy and censorship issues  and whether the outlets are beneficial.

Sittikul said the developers of the devices and apps should be held accountable for the ethical issues that arise. She said she has seen some companies look for solutions to ethical problems.

“I think it's incredibly important to look at ethical questions as a computer scientist because when you are working on technology, you are impacting so many people whether you know it or not,” Sittikul said.

Ossolinski’s presentation was about the U.S. drug policy. As a philosophy major, he used Rousseau’s Social Contract to argue it is unethical for the government to prosecute people for possession and use of mind-altering substances under the current policy structure.

He said he believed they should instead be treated as public health issues.

Julia May ’21 won the best presentation by a College of Business and Economics student for “Cheating on Exams? A Professor’s Dilemma.”

Andrew Goldman ’19 won the best presentation by a student in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences for “Climate Change and Ethical Responsibilities.”

Courteney Shakia Parry ’22 won the best presentation by a College of Arts and Sciences student for “The Violent Predator Act and the Need to Reform the Juvenile Justice System.”

In addition to presenting, Dillon said the symposium allows students and attendees to discuss ethical issues across disciplines.

Sittikul and Ossolinski agree that in addition to learning about other ethics in various disciplines, they benefited from practicing public speaking.

“[The symposium] is something I never thought about doing before and ended up going well,” Sittikul said. “I think other people could benefit too because they could improve communication and presentation skills and present on any topic you find interesting.”

The following students participated in this year’s event:

  • Julia May ’21 (College of Business and Economics): “Cheating on Exams? A Professor’s Dilemma”
  • Asante B. Asiedu ’19 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Adinkra Symbols and Ethical Conduct”
  • Patricia Sittikul ’19 (Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science): “My User’s Keeper:The Role of Ethics in Human-Computer Interactions”
  • Mikayla Spott ’21 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Ethical Implications of Using Organoids in Research on Alzheimer’s Disease”
  • Andrew Goldman ’21 (Rossin College): “Climate Change and Ethical Responsibilities”
  • Harry W. Ossolinski ’20 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Critique of U.S. Drug Policy”
  • Megan Gottschall ’20 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Gender and Being-in-the-flow”
  • Rebecca Salsburg-Frank ’19 and Tori Campbell ’19 (both of Rossin College): “Educational Systems and Prison Systems”
  • Victoria McCulley ’19 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Sustainable Entrepreneurship in International Development Projects”
  • Kelly O’Brien ’21 (College of Business and Economics): “Knowledge of Fraud: What Should You Do?”
  • Courteney Shakia Parry ’22 (College of Arts and Sciences):“The Violent Predator Act and the Need to Reform the Juvenile Justice System”
  • Iman Mosley ’20 (College of Arts and Sciences): “Definitions of Mental Health: Biology, Narrative, and Self”

Story by Madison Hoff

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