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6th Annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium

By Henry Dambanemuya
17 Apr 2013
It’s not every weekend that undergraduate students from across the nation gather at the Janet Prindle Institute of Ethics to inquire on a wide range of pertinent ethics issues about climate change. The 6th Annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium (UES), which just concluded, brought together thirty students from across the nation to engage with a diverse set of ethics-related issues ranging from environmental ethics in “Nishida Kitaro’s Zen no Kenkyu” to creative fiction and non-fiction works. These students were carefully selected from a highly competitive pool of over ninety applicants by a committee consisting of DePauw University faculty members. The students came from various academic backgrounds and from several colleges including Harvard, Hope, U of Kentucky, Duke, U of Washington, Colby, Princeton, U of New Mexico, and many others. Each year’s symposium is built around a specific theme an this year’s theme was focused on Environmental Ethics. The symposium was an outstanding opportunity for student scholars, creative writers, filmmakers and photographers to discuss their ethics-related work with their peers, and with leading scholars and professionals in their fields. 

Chris Cuomo, Professor of Philosophy & Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia delivered the keynote address, “Consciousness and Moral Action: Considering Climate Change”. Her address served as a friendly reminder that responsibility and culpability are not equivalent: while everyone has an individual obligation to preventing climate change, not everyone is taking responsibility.

Chris Cuomo, University of Georgia

In recognizing both our individual and collective responsibility, we must not only focus on how we are affected by climate change, but also on how non-human life is affected. This entails cultivating a culture of ‘active caring’ for the environment amidst adversity. Active caring is more than just changing our light-bulbs or going to the grocery store to buy organic food in our SUVs. It’s more than simply making trade-offs because of what we care about and when it’s convenient, but it’s about making sacrifices even when it’s inconvenient.

The Annual Undergraduate Ethics Symposium is part of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics’ mission to promote critical reflection and constructive debate on the most important ethical questions and moral challenges of our time. 
Symposium Participants at the Bartlett Reflection Center
This year’s undergraduate ethics symposium was also a great opportunity for participants to network, interact, and exchange ideas. The three-day symposium also included time to relax and participate in and yoga and meditation at the Bartlett Reflection Center. The conversations did not end inside the stone walls of the Prindle Institute for Ethics. They continued at Jazz at the Duck, on the bus ride back to the airport, and are still lingering on popular social media networks and in newly found friendships. As we ponder the meaning of it all, in 30-word poems and in words left unspoken, we may never find all the answers, but inquire we shall.


Henry is a 2013 graduate of DePauw and former Prindle intern. He currently works as an Associate Software Engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
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