On the Hot
By Jennifer Jennings '04
you and your best friend were stranded on a desert island
without food, is it morally wrong to eat your friend? Is
it ethical to download music using Smith resources if the musicians
provide the music? If killing one person would ensure peace
for the whole planet,
would you do it?
These questions and other difficult
moral and ethical issues are discussed once a month in Smith's
Campus Center multipurpose room by selected community members during
event entitled "The Hot Seat."
The idea for the event was
developed in 2002, a project of Jennifer Walters,
dean of religious life, and Sadie Miller '03, former religious and spiritual
life intern. Walters was considering developing an "ask the ethicist"-type
program to bring discussion of social and personal ethics to campus, and Miller
suggested putting faculty members on the hot seat and asking them tough questions.
The product of these conversations was "The Hot Seat."
For each session,
three panelists sit in the "hot seat" -- one
student, one professor and a member of the administration. First semester panelists
have included President Carol Christ; Justin Cammy, assistant professor of
Jewish studies and comparative literature; Liz Leidel, SGA president; and Leon
Protestant chaplain. Walters tries to create a panel reflecting different opinions
and disciplines. "It works best when people who don't agree sit
on the panel together," explains Walters, who serves as moderator.
begins each "Hot Seat" with a "lightening round" of
easier questions. She then turns to more difficult questions of social and
personal ethics that she finds through several sources, including the Internet.
the event, students can submit questions to the panel while enjoying lunch
provided by the chapel.
At a recent gathering, Walters began the "lightening round" by
you were fishing for change in your pocket while standing in front of a cashier
and you came across foreign coinage in your possession, can you pay with
Cordelia Strandskov '05 answered
first. "Sure, if
President Carol Christ responded: "No,
it is not right to pay with foreign coins. "
Joel Kaminsky, associate
professor of religion, answered last. "If it is
a Canadian dime or quarter, sure, but not if it is another type of foreign
coin; I don't think that is right."
Students say they enjoy hearing their favorite professors
express opinions in a forum outside the classroom. Each lunchtime event
has drawn from
fifty students. "I enjoyed seeing faculty members and administrators present
themselves so honestly," says Ruhi Rubenstein '07.