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Alumni Venture to Benefit Veterans

It’s exciting and uplifting to see so many of our alumni set out to make positive changes in our society once they graduate. This week we’re highlighting one of our many alumni who went on to be social entrepreneurs.

True Hero Ties donates 50% of the sale of the tie to a veteran’s charity of the buyer’s choosing. Read the full story here.

Fake Government Websites?

Some are calling for a formal investigation of Greg Walden, NRCC Chairman and Congressional Representative from Oregon, alleging that his team set up fraudulent websites posing as democratic candidates. Donations made to these sites went to the NRCC instead. Read the full story here.

What do you think? Is this deceptive, or not? Do you think Walden and his team did anything wrong?

Former President of Costa Rica delivers DePauw Ubben Lecture

This one is from the archives. We’re going through our recent history and curating as many of the interesting videos that discuss ethical issues.

In 2010, Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica, delivered the Ubben Lecture at DePauw. View an interesting excerpt here. He talked about issues related to poverty and higher education. Let us know what you think.



Privilege at DePauw: A Personal Perspective

In light of recent discussions on campus, I’d like to offer up my own understanding of privilege. The notion of privilege has frequently come up in conversations around campus, but rarely does it seem to be understood. I have heard numerous complaints that discussing privilege demonizes someone for something they cannot control or that it is some sort of boogeyman of reverse discrimination. This understanding of privilege is far from the truth.

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Debate: Should the President Be Able to Kill US Citizens Abroad?

Photo: National Public Radio

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, participated in an Oxford University style debate on whether or not the The president has constitutional power to target and kill U.S. citizens abroad. She argued against the motion. Arguing for the other side were Alan Dershowitz and Michael Lewis, both Harvard Law School professors. You can listen to the entire debate here.


Check it out and let us know what you think.

Why Do People Pirate Music?

This article offers an interesting take on pirating music online. It seems that users who pirate music are adhering to certain norms, and they think that downloading music in many circumstances is wrong.

The basic claim is that people don’t respond to anti-piracy considerations. They do, however, respond to considerations that point out that the music is easily available online already. The advice to copyright holders is to simply make their music easily available online. What do you think?

Does Literary Fiction Teach Empathy?

One important component of ethical reasoning is empathy, the ability to know what it’s like to be someone else in another situation. Knowing what it’s like to be someone else helps reason through ethical issues, precisely because assessing how a course of action might affect other people is essential to assessing the value of that course of action.

It seems that there is good reason to think that reading literary fiction cultivates a capacity for empathy. This would make the study of literature an important aspect for anyone interested in cultivating their capacity for ethical reasoning and reflection.

Check out the article and let us know what you think. Is literature an important component to developing a capacity for ethical reflection?

TOMS: When ‘Conscious Capitalism’ is Not Enough

With great anticipation for TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie’s visit radiating throughout DePauw’s campus, I had to do a double take every time I saw the words “Conscious Capitalism” broadcast on posters. The term “conscious capitalism” has arisen out of the assumption that through making ‘helping’ fashionable, we are somehow working to end poverty. The reality, however, is that philanthropic enterprises such as TOMS allow us to feel that we are helping the world without having to relinquish our role as consumers.

According to the DePauw website, while traveling in Argentina in 2006 Mycoskie was struck by the daily struggles faced by shoeless children. He consequently decided to create a for-profit organization that would provide impoverished communities throughout Argentina, Ethiopia and South Africa with shoe donations. As a result, TOMS ‘One for One’ campaign emerged, and for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased in the US, one pair is donated to an impoverished community.

I can’t help but to question how Mycoskie came to the conclusion that dumping loads of shoes into these communities was the right answer. Was there ever any sort of collaboration in which Mycoskie was told by community leaders that, of all the uses for financial capital, the greatest need lay in US-imported shoes? In my opinion, the image of a brigade of privileged Americans participating in these ‘shoe-drops’ seems only to perpetuate the White Savior Industrial Complex.

The reality is that the communities that TOMS donates to have shoes. Shoe-brigades are detrimental to existing shoe markets because no retailer can compete with ‘free.’ In response to TOMS’ “A Day Without Shoes Campaign” (a day for Americans to experience what it’s like to walk with no shoes), the “Day Without Dignity” campaign was launched. This video portrays how campaigns such as TOMS dehumanize poor people by perpetuating the helper vs. helped dichotomy. The reality is that organizations such as TOMS oversimplify the situation of poverty. In their attempts to ‘help,’ local markets are flooded with free goods. While ‘shoe-drops’ may provide the community with shoes for the time being, when the shoes wear out the community faces dependency.

We see these dynamics play out with like-minded organizations such as Goodwill, who often donate or sell clothing and textiles to foreign markets by the pound. According to Garth Frazer, Associate Professor of Business Economics at the University of Toronto, “Used-clothing imports are found to have a negative impact on apparel and textile production in Africa, explaining roughly 40 percent of the decline in African apparel production and roughly 50 percent of the decline in apparel employment.” Thus, the perceived shortage in apparel and shoes is not the problem but, rather, the conditions that sustain poverty.

According to Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian Marxist philosopher, in buying into these Green Capitalism schemes, we are prolonging the disease rather than curing it. He describes campaigns such as TOMS as “a short circuit where the act of egotist consumption already includes the price for its opposite.” As follows, feel-good campaigns do not initiate substantial political change. They are temporary and often cause more harm than good in the communities they attempt to ‘help.’ It is our responsibility as global citizens to break from the consumerist act. It is time that we think critically about these issues and join the resistance against systems of exploitation that perpetuate poverty.

Poverty in Putnam County

According to US Census Data, the percentage of people below the poverty line in Putnam County is 13%. The percentage of children under 18 living below the poverty line is 17%. Putnam county ranks 69th out of 92 counties with respect to the percentage of people above the poverty line.

DePauw has done enormously positive things to help Putnam County. Being the second largest employer in Greencastle is a huge benefit to the local community. Student outreach through local private charities and campus sponsored centers and groups also significantly improves the lives of those in need in our community.

There are 6 more things we can do to address poverty in Putnam County

  1. Raise Awareness about Filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit

    The Earned Income Tax Credit provides cash supplements to people below the poverty line who show evidence of having earned some income. In a lot of cases it can be enough to raise someone above the poverty line. However, most people below the poverty line are unaware of this, and don’t realize how important it is for them to file taxes, and there are free services available to them that will help them file their taxes.

  2. Raise Awareness about Legal Aid

    Legal Services Corporation provides free legal assistance in civil matters for people below the poverty threshold. They help millions of people fight wrongful evictions, wrongful termination, child custody, and government benefit disputes. They can significantly reduce the degree of injustice that people below the poverty line experience simply because they cannot afford the tools to access our justice system. The office that handles cases in Putnam County is in Bloomington, and the managing attorney there said that she thinks that a vast majority of people in Putnam County who qualify are not served by her office at all. She thinks it is likely an awareness problem and that if the poor in Putnam County could simply be made aware about her branch, we’d make a big difference.

  3. Increase Support for the Campus Farm

    Children below the poverty line have less access to healthy food. The Campus Farm mitigates this by donating 10% of its crop to local services that focus on feeding the poor. I’d like to explore the possibility of expanding the operations of the Campus Farm so that we can increase the amount of support to these services.

  4. Raise Awareness about Higher Education Options

    Not having a college degree is one the top predictors as to whether or not you will be below the poverty line. Getting kids below the poverty line to take the idea of college seriously is an important step in helping get them out of poverty. A recent study suggests that simply sending poor children packets of information dramatically increases the likelihood that they will apply to and enroll in a top college. I propose we do something like that here in Greencastle, and there is already an organization here that we could work with to help.

  5. Raise Awareness about Health Care Options

    People below the poverty line are more likely to suffer from serious health problems, helping the poor take advantage of the Affordable Care Act is something that our students could be involved with that, again, mitigate some of the more severe consequences of poverty.

  6. Support the New Homeless Shelter

    Greencastle has been without a homeless shelter for 3 years, but that’s about to change. This new shelter is encouraging news for Greencastle’s homeless population, and we can work to assist the shelter. This can also be a community focal point for some of the above initiatives. It has already received strong support from the Management Fellows, and I’d like to see Institute Interns join in and help.

Ubben Lecture by TOMS founder offers chance to think and act

On Sunday, March 2nd, Blake Mycoskie, the president and founder of TOMs will deliver a speech about his story and his revolutionary Buy One Give One (BOGO) business model.

I don’t need to point out that the Ubben Lecture Series has a reputation for bringing in impactful speakers from varying fields. The Ubben guests I’ve heard from over the course of my time at DePauw have opened my eyes to a bigger picture and given me an opportunity to connect the wonderful privilege of my education to a new and interesting narrative. Part of the aim of bringing in these speakers seems to be to motivate us to do everything we can with the knowledge we take from DePauw. That’s why I find this choice of speaker particularly intriguing.

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