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Symposium to examine the ethics of cheating

Triple Helix students with ASU President's Professor Brad Allenby
July 06, 2012

Cheating figures in our daily lives, whether it is cheating on our diets or high-profile public sports figures facing accusations of doping, like Lance Armstrong or Barry Bonds.
“Ought we to be worried that cheating in sport appears to be on the rise?” poses Jason Robert, a professor in the School of Life Sciences and a Lincoln Professor of Ethics and Biotechnology with ASU’s Center for Applied Ethics. “Does it matter if the sport is professional, as in the National Football League or Le Tour de France; amateur, as in the Olympics; or amateur, as in weekend warriors running 5k races?”

Moreover, who decides what cheating behavior is? What are the rules about cheating when it comes to such important matters as national security? And is cheating always wrong wherever it occurs?

Nature is rife with examples of successful cheaters. Male cuttlefish imitate females to get access to another’s mate. Cuckoo birds lay eggs in other birds’ nests to raise their young. Plants mimic bees to get pollinated. Spiders mimic ants to get dinner and protection. The list is long and evolutionarily speaking, a productive strategy – but then, there are also victims.

Examining what should guide us in our own choices and society's choices forms the core of the exciting and interactive David C. Lincoln Ethics Symposium, “The Ethics of Cheating: Cheaters and Victims in Today’s Society,”  from 9 a.m. to noon, Oct. 24, at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Hosted by ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, the symposium brings together the public, college students and high school students from 11 schools around the Valley.

“Cheating and questions of ethics are of particular prominence in the news, most especially with national elections coming up,” says Kelly O’Brien, programs director for the center. “This symposium, in particular, will help us learn from students and the public what areas of cheating concern them regarding sports, human rights, national security and media – including the way our opinions and prejudices may be manipulated by media.”

Participants from local high schools will be given readings and discussion topics in advance, covering four topics areas: cheating in war and national security, cheating minorities in the media, cheating in sports, and cheating in international human rights.

“International human rights law is viewed as something certain and upstanding – a formal way of ensuring that states uphold widely accepted moral standards," notes Daniel Rothenberg, a Lincoln Fellow of Ethics and International Human Rights Law. "Yet, most human rights treaties allow states to include their own interpretations of specific provisions. Is this cheating? Like letting each team in a competition define their own idea as to what constitutes a foul or, for that matter, a goal?”

Four Lincoln Professors, or Fellows, will head up each of the symposium’s thought-provoking sessions. These include Robert; Rothenberg; Braden Allenby, an ASU President's Professor and Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics; and Sharon Bramlett-Soloman, a Lincoln Fellow of Media and Culture. All of the sessions will be moderated by Peter French, the director of the Lincoln Center, and supported by volunteers from ASU’s Triple Helix. Closing remarks will be made by the founder of the Lincoln Center, Mr. David C. Lincoln.

The event is free and open to the public; however, seating is limited and priority is given to students. An RSVP is required to attend: Only 100 seats remain.

More than 100 of the 500 students already signed up to attend the symposium will come from ASU’s Preparatory Academy on the Polytechnic campus, a high school leadership academy for grades K-8 in East Mesa. High school students also are coming from Tempe High School’s International Baccalaureate Program, Camelback High School, Arcadia High School, Phoenix Country Day School’s Upper School, Genesis Academy, Xavier College Preparatory High School, Estrella High School, Tesseract School’s Upper School, Hamilton High School, and Paradise Valley High School’s Center for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST), which hosts the largest Quanta program for youth in the area. The Quanta Foundation is an ASU student initiative launched in 2011 to build mentorship and interactions between high school and college students and faculty advisors around projects in science communication.

“We also hope that our student and public partners leave with questions that cause them to further apply ethics in their daily lives and choices,” adds O’Brien.

“The Ethics of Cheating” symposium is the third in the Lincoln Center’s annual symposium series and is modeled after a larger center event, also titled “The Ethics of Cheating,” to be offered Aug. 5-11 at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Founded in 1874 and affectionately termed a “summer camp for intellectuals,” Chautauqua features nine weeks of fine and literary arts, interfaith worship and educational programs. This is the Lincoln Center’s 11th year of involvement at Chautauqua. The relationship has also built close institutional ties to some of the center’s programs, such as the Consortium on Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security (CETMONS), headed by Allenby.

“Our Lincoln Fellows and Professors are experts with outstanding credentials in their disciplines who are interested in and exploring the ethical implications and issues that arise in practice in their fields,” French says. “This unique feature sets us apart in what we can offer our community and from all other kinds of ethics centers, where the theoretical aspects of ethics dominate.”
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