Annual Student Ethics Conference sparks conversation and reflection

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Student Ethics Conference coordinator Dr. Ellen Miller introducing Rowan student Daniel O’Brien’s research study, “Biomedical Ethics: The Philosophy Of Medicine And Dementia.” - Staff Writer / Marchella Mazzoni

With the opportunity to showcase ethical research projects, Rowan students came together to present their findings at the 8th Annual Student Ethics Conference. The event was hosted by the College of Humanities & Social Sciences and sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and World Religions on April 5, inside the King Auditorium in Bozorth Hall. 

Students of all years and majors participated in the conference by submitting their research abstracts to the events coordinator Dr. Ellen Miller, where they were blind-reviewed and chosen to present. The presentations were focused on exploring topics by diving into the nuances of ethical and moral principles. Researchers utilized this conference as a launch pad, as former students who have presented previously have become lawyers, doctors, and public policy for the government. 

“I really like it, I think it’s fun and challenging when someone likes to critique your work so it also opens a lot of different avenues for future research and how to adapt and evolve your papers,” said presenter Anushree Chauhan, a senior dual majoring in political science and philosophy. 

The presentations began with an introduction to each topic and abstract, then followed by eras throughout history focused on individual research subjects. Concepts surrounding the presentation topics were showcased for attendees to understand notions that added to making what they presented perpetual. 

Transformers to showcase modern contemporary thoughts were then featured, with a transition into providing an analysis. Student researchers placed themselves in their presentation to understand how power dynamics affect individuals around subconsciously. Each presentation finished with opening the floor to questions and comments made by attendees. 

“I’m used to presenting in front of students, but it’s always intimidating when you are presenting in front of faculty because these are people who have their doctorates who are studying this for a living, so it adds an extra level of pressure,” said presenter Durwood Pinkett, a junior dual majoring in computing and informatics and philosophy. “I really enjoyed it, I felt really comfortable up there. I feel like it was a very calm environment and it was nice to not have to necessarily be able to simplify ideas, but express them exactly how they appear in my mind.” 

Yuval Saar, a sophomore dual sociology and philosophy major presented about the reinforcement and perpetual impact of the meat-eating culture and meat industry. Saar explained how the meat industry is promoting overconsumption and meat in grocery stores is overly expensive, is seen as going bad, and the need to make healthy food more accessible as opposed to slaughtering animals. 

Voicing that she is not here to criticize meat eaters, she advocated for others to consider the dangers of perpetuity through an us versus them dichotomy and reinforcing a mentality of massification, while professors commended her findings. 

“I think the professors do a really good job of being encouraging and I actually really enjoy that they ask probing questions because I feel like they still come off very respectfully and you can tell that they have a genuine interest in student work,” said Saar. 

Attendees in the room filled up with students, faculty, and community members, with over 15 individuals at the conference. After the student research presentations, attendees asked questions to the presenters. 

One student asked about Saar’s opinion on the dairy industry following her speech and Saar expressed she believes both industries perpetuate the same issues. Saar was also asked what she plans to research next, which she answered with a proposal to focus on lab-grown meat and work to advocate to reinstate native plants. Pinkett watched Saar in the audience and was impacted by her studies. 

“I really liked her presentation because it was an idea that I wasn’t familiar with at all because I’m not a vegetarian like she is. So, it made me question a lot about the ethics behind consuming meat as something that we just don’t really think about,” said Pinkett. 

The presentations continued with demonstrating issues including those about sexualization and brutality in feminist performance art. In the presentation “Feminist Performance Art Exposes the ‘Male Gaze,’” Chauhan highlighted the prevalence of the male gaze throughout films and politics that limit women’s role to being submissive. She showcased Megan Fox’s role in Transformers to explain how personas can damage feminist ethics. 

“It’s definitely something that comes with a lot of anticipation and sometimes anxiety too. But, because you invest so much time and a lot of passion in your research, I feel like once you are up there it comes naturally. When you talk about it, it’s really easy to have open conversation and discourse,” said Chauhan. 

The last three presentations were presented by all majors in philosophy followed by a short intermission. Underclassman Daniel O’Brien presented “Biomedical Ethics and the Philosophy of Medicine,” and highlighted the ethics of dementia.

Sophomore Destiny Simmons showcased her presentation titled, “Ethics and the Tragic Hero.”

Junior Durwood Pinkett introduced “Do You Dream of Labor? Ethical Formulations on Modernity, Dreams, and the Regulation of Desire.” 

“This is definitely my favorite event that we do every year because as someone who teaches philosophy, it’s really rewarding to see this,” said Nathan Bauer, chair of philosophy and world religions. “You don’t always get to see it in the class, but you get to see after the paper is done what they do with it and how they build upon it, and it’s just amazing to see the work that emerges.” 

In Simmons’ presentation, she used the stories of notorious figures including the stories of Judas and Hamlet to explain the ethical principles the individuals tied into their lives. With a dialogue aspect at the end of every presentation, Simmons had the opportunity to answer questions about her research studies. 

“It’s challenging but also very effective. Getting feedback helps you be able to evaluate your presentation and subject and see how well you really truly understand it when someone questions it and asks for a deeper understanding. Along with that, it’s great for experience,” said Simmons. 

The conference ended with attendees asking questions to presenters and followed with lunch inside Bozorth Hall. 

The College of Humanities & Social Sciences annually hosts the Student Ethics Conference every spring and will post information for the next conference on ProfLink. The conference is open to all students and all majors to submit their work and present their research topics. Presenters have voiced they will continue to explore the challenging questions and discussions that came from them presenting their ideas. 

“I like being able to have discussions within the department and with people who I feel can challenge me and help me grow as a philosopher and just as a person in general,” said Saar.

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