Katerina Traut, ’17, speaks at the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium in STEPS on Saturday, April 18, 2015. Four of the 14 students won prizes totaling up to $950. (Courtesy of Lehigh Communications)

Students discuss presentations at first Undergraduate Ethics Symposium

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Timothy Parsons ’15 speaks at the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium in STEPS on Saturday, April 18, 2015.   Four of the 14 students won prizes totaling up to $950. (Courtesy of Lehigh Communications)

Timothy Parsons ’15 speaks at the Undergraduate Ethics Symposium in STEPS on Saturday, April 18, 2015. Four of the 14 students won prizes totaling up to $950. (Courtesy of Lehigh Communications)

Lehigh University held its first ever Undergraduate Ethics Symposium on April 18 with the hope of raising awareness about the ethical issues that arise in academic disciplines, in everyday life and on campus to inspire students to discuss these issues outside of class.

Fourteen students, with all three colleges represented, gave presentations and prizes totaling $950 were awarded to four of those students.

Jasmine Ameerally, ’15, an economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences, won the prize for best overall presentation for “Achieving a Just Society under Shari’ah Law.” 

“Shari’ah law has recently taken its place within discussion in Western societies, but it was only seen as a topic relevant to Middle East and Islamic communities,” Ameerally wrote in an email. “Yet, I believe it is simply not the case so I decided to participate in order to educate and analyze the intricacies of Shari’ah law to people.”

Shari’ah law is the rule of law, or moral code, followed by those who practice Islam. In her presentation, Ameerally discussed the philosophy behind the practicality of achieving a just society under Shari’ah law through analyzing how Islamic communities interpret and execute Shari’ah law.

Ameerally said she was worried that her argument wouldn’t seem logical but the concept of the law was tough to analyze. The symposium’s structure allowed her to present her essay and then discuss the details of the points she presented afterward. She said the learned a lot about different ethical issues, and the presentations fostered great questions and discussions.

Conor Press, ’15, a finance major, won the prize for best presentation by a student in the College of Business and Economics for “Ethics in Society: Image and Perception.” According to Press, he decided to participate because the symposium seemed like a ripe opportunity to discuss an interesting, yet unusual, topic.

Press’ work was based on the question: “Is social observation ethically relevant?” His presentation explored the notion of moral intention to see whether it is ethical to do things only to “look good” in a social context. He also included topics such as the social desirability bias, social cognitive theory of morality and observer effects.

“The symposium gave me a great chance to develop my own argument, which was tough but also rewarding,” Press recalled over email.

The prize for best presentation by a student in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science went to Deanna Kocher, ’17, an Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences major, for his presentation “Playing God in the Nursery.” Kocher’s work revolved around the issue of medical technology and decision-making in life or death scenarios of severely disabled children. She also brought up the issues of government involvement, as well as quality versus quantity of life decisions.

“I took part in the symposium because these were issues that have stuck with me for a long time, and which I find particularly troublesome since they are not simply life and death decisions of the child,” Kocher said. “I have been intrigued and frustrated by the fact that we seem to be getting closer to play a game of numbers with lives. Hence, I thought this symposium would be a good opportunity for me to share this issue with others.”

To round out the day, Charles Baldwin, ’15, an environmental studies major, won the prize for best presentation by a student in the College of Arts and Sciences for “Zoos and Animals in Captivity.”

The best presentation winners in each college received $200 each, while Ameerally won $350 for best overall presentation.

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