2017 Ypsilanti Slam Questions

1. Should you allow a robot to make a moral decision for you, that is, decide on your behalf?

2. Prostitution is generally regarded as an unethical practice and harmful. It is illegal in many places. Should there ever be exceptions? At least one ethicist has argued in favor of such an exception, suggesting that for people with disabilities who find it difficult to have a sexual partner, paying for sex is morally permissible. What do you think?

3. I belong to a fitness center and have been working with a trainer. He is very knowledgeable and has helped me reach my personal goals. I have begun to notice, however, that he appears to do whatever his clients want. He has a very overweight and out of shape client he recently took on. The client told him that his goal is to compete in a triathlon in six months. He has a few other clients in similar bad shape. The trainer says he regards these clients as challenges. I think this is unethical. What should I do?    

4.  Louis knows that many of his favorite activities subsidize harmful practices. He eats food owned by large agribusinesses that cause harm to animals and the environment. He loves to travel on cruise ships, knowing of the environmental degradation they cause as well as the low wages and excessive work hours of the staff below deck. Because he is conflicted about these practices, Louis adopts moral offsetting. This is the practice of balancing harms that you cause by donating to charities that seek to diminish those harms. For example, to morally offset his harmful eating, he gives to animal rights groups. Is it wrong to do a good action in order to “cancel out” the bad action? 

5. You are a longstanding member and an officer of a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works on good governance issues. In the past few years, you feel as if you have been working in the wilderness. In addition, your group has faced declining membership.  As a result of the recent national election,however, the organization has tripled in memberships. All of the new members are from one political party, and in some cases, are members of the party’s leadership. What are the ethical issues your organization faces?  

6. Genome editing is a powerful tool for making precise alterations to an organism’s genetic material. Such technologies would create permanent changes passed on from one generation to the next. As a result, gene editing has raised unprecedented hopes for benefiting human health. The speed at which these technologies are being developed and applied has led scientists and  policymakers to express concern about whether appropriate systems are in place to govern these technologies and how and when the public ought to be engaged in the ethical issues genome editing introduces. How should the public be educated and engaged about the ethical issues presented by the advent of these technologies?   

7. Facebook and Google executives have publicly announced their companies are taking steps to reduce or eliminate fake news by: removing, flagging or demonetizing news determined to be fake. What are the principal ethical issues in doing this?   

8. Is it unethical for physicians and teachers to “google” their patients or their students’ parents to seek information about them? Why or why not?  

9. If prisoners are eligible for Pell grants and fee waivers to take college courses, what is the moral rationale for excluding lifer prisoners from doing so? 

10. Is it possible to allow conscientious objection (C.O.) status to civil servants who disagree with a government directive? Is there a morally relevant difference between this and C.O. status for doctors? 

11. My daughter is a server in a local restaurant. The restaurant does not give employees sick days. A few months ago, her hours were cut. Last week, she got sick but insisted on going to work; she needs the money and this job. My friends think it is selfish and wrong for her to do this—because we all eat there—and we might get sick. What should you tell the mother about the moral issues involved in her daughter’s decision?   

12. Is a strongly held secular belief any morally different than a strongly held religious belief? 

13. How does the concept of “dereliction of duty” apply to the Flint water crisis—and what are the ethical lessons we should take away from the crisis?  

14. Is the distinction and separation of men’s and women’s sports ethically justified if not everybody is a man or woman? 

15. Naloxone is a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses. In 2015, the FDA approved a pocket-sized naloxone auto-injector, making the antidote even more accessible for use in a non-medical environment. As the prevalence of opioid addiction and overdoses continues to rise, ethical questions about naloxone’s availability, distribution and potential for enabling opioid addicts have also increased. What are these ethical questions? 

16. Tina is a professor of anthropology. For the past nine summers, she has been doing field work for a southwest Indian tribe. When she first entered the field, she had been accepted as a “granddaughter” by an elderly couple with whom she had always lived. The couple’s children, now adults, consider Tina a “sister.” This summer Tina has a grant to finish her book on the tribe. When she reached the field, however,Tina learned her "grandfather-father" had Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, and has been exhibiting distressing signs of senility, drinking heavily and hallucinating. Her “sisters” tell her that they have been waiting for her to help with his care. What moral responsibilities does Tina have?    

17. Everyone is always talking about “best practices.” What should “best practices” be for the payday loan industry that will pass an ethics test?  

18. Is there a morally relevant difference between hiring a professional writer to help with a wedding toast or a funeral eulogy for a family member, on one hand, and hiring a ghost writer to help with a book or political speech, on the other hand? 

19.  A good friend of mine is getting married to man who has told her he has two graduate degrees. In looking him up on the internet, doing some due diligence, and talking to some of his friends, I have found out that he has faked his graduate degrees. What should happen next?    

20.  Melanie and Phil (who are Caucasian) arrive at your annual Academy Awards party after just having returned from long vacations in India and Argentina. Melanie is wearing a traditional Indian saree. She tells you that she has been looking forward to wearing it. Phil is sporting a poncho, wearing loose-fitting pants and carrying bolas, which he bought at a store catering to gauchos from the Argentinian Pampas. Are there any ethical issues presented by their clothing choices?