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Fishbowl Discussions

These campus discussions explore ethical issues arising from current events or trends. In a fishbowl-style discussion, chairs are set in concentric circles. The McFarland Center invites 5-7 students, faculty, staff, and/or alumni to sit in the center ring and participate in a moderated discussion while audience seated in the outer circles observes. Later, the discussion is opened to all for comments and questions. The featured "fish" are generally chosen for their distinct experience, perspective or scholarship on the topic at hand. In a virtual environment, the discussion will begin among the invited "fish," while attendees remain muted. In the second half of the discussion, the moderator will open up for questions and perspectives from all participants.

Some of the fishbowls are recorded. Links to those videos have been posted below.

Save the Date

Green Worcester cover image features collage of scenes of city parks, developments and waterways.

Greening Cities from Plan to Practice

Wednesday, April 6, 2022
4:30-6 p.m., Rehm Library

In April 2021, after many months of meetings, workshops and surveys among various stakeholders, the Worcester City Council voted to adopt the Green Worcester Plan to provide the city a roadmap to a climate-resilient and just future. But how now to turn the plan into action? Using Green Worcester as a springboard for conversation, this discussion will look at the environmental planning process and what happens when competing ethical interests come into play. Featuring: 

  • John Fernández, professor of architecture and director of the Environmental Solutions Initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is a member of the Climate Nucleus, charged with managing and implementing MIT’s new climate action plan;
  • Karin Valentine Goins, program director of Preventative and Behavioral Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and a public health activist who co-founded WalkBike Worcester and served as a member of the Green Worcester Working Group; and
  • John Odell, chief sustainability and resilience officer for the City of Worcester and a member of the Green Worcester Working Group.

Moderated by Thomas M. Landy, director of the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. Co-sponsored with the Office of Sustainability.

Past Fishbowls

COVID-19 and the Ethics of Vaccines

February 22, 2021
Watch the video»

Reaching a threshold of “herd immunity” will be key to suppressing COVID-19 and resuming more normal operations in our businesses and institutions around the world. But what does the rollout of the vaccination look like in the U.S. and globally and what ethical considerations are made in developing the policies and protocols for administering it? Who can get the vaccine, and who is required to take it? Do we have a moral obligation to be vaccinated? Should Holy Cross require students to be vaccinated? Join Rev. William Stempsey, S.J., and Jameliah Shorter-Bourhanou (Philosophy), Geoffrey Findlay (Biology), Denis Kennedy (Political Science), Mary Doyle Roche (Religious Studies) and others for a fishbowl discussion moderated by Thomas M. Landy, Director, McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture.

"The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming" — In his best-selling book "The Uninhabitable Earth," David Wallace-Wells paints a stark, even apocalyptic portrait of the future. Led by Holy Cross faculty Kendy Hess, philosophy; Ellis Jones, sociology; Katherine Kiel, economics; Renee LeBlanc '21; and Sara Mitchell, geology; this discussion summarizes and assesses the claims made in the book, reflects on how to sustain hope under such challenging circumstances, and asks how we should live in light of what's predicted. McFarland Center Director Thomas M. Landy moderates. Co-sponsored with Environmental Studies and the Class Deans. October 21, 2019
Watch the video»

Making Marijuana Legal — Massachusetts voters will decide next week whether or not to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use. Join in a fishbowl-style discussion — with Daniel Bitran, professor of psychology; Gregory DiGirolamo, associate professor of psychology; Paul Irish, associate dean of students and director of student conduct and community standards; and students Pooja Patnaik '17 and Michael Andre '17 — on the science, ethics and outcomes at stake. November 1, 2016

Profiting from climate change? Ethics of investing in the age of climate crisis — The Holy Cross endowment, like the endowments of many institutions, includes investments in fossil fuel industries that contribute to climate change. Are we morally obliged to relinquish these holdings? Some say yes, some say no. Come listen and share as we explore this question as a campus community. Featuring Matthew Eggemeier, associate professor of religious studies; Kendy Hess, Brake-Smith Associate Professor in Social Philosophy and Ethics; Tim Jarry '00, chief investment officer; Marie Therese Kane '18; Victor Matheson, professor of economics; and Mary Kate Silk '16. Moderated by Thomas M. Landy, director of the McFarland Center. Sponsored by Pax Christi and the McFarland Center. March 31, 2016

Adjudicating Sexual Assault on Campus — This discussion will focus on the national debate over the pros and cons of whether college campuses, as opposed to law enforcement authorities, are the best venue for adjudicating sexual assault cases. Participants will include: Stephenie Chaudoir, assistant professor of psychology; Elizabeth Inman '15; Paul Irish, associate dean of students; Courtney Sans '96, assistant district attorney working in the Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit in Worcester, and Emily Winn '17. Co-sponsored with Women's and Gender Studies. November 10, 2014
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

Trigger Warnings in the Classroom — Moderated by Matthew Koss, professor of physics and director of the Center for Teaching, this fishbowl-style discussion explores the ethics of trigger warnings in college syllabi and classrooms. Trigger warnings are providing advanced notice about the intent to cover sensitive content (i.e. rape, torture, suicide, self-harming or shaming behaviors) that may cause trauma to students who have personal experience with it. Featured participants are: Jeffrey Bernstein, associate professor of philosophy; Lisa Fluet, assistant professor of English; Matthew Elliot, senior psychologist in the Counseling Center and a lecturer in psychology; Ann Sheehy, associate professor of biology; and Alison Ludden, associate professor of psychology. Co-sponsored with the Center for Teaching. September 16, 2014
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

The Internship Generation: Working their way up, or getting suckered into working for free?
This discussion looks at the ethics and economics of unpaid internships. Are they mutually beneficial for both intern and employer? Or do they take advantage of students and eliminate jobs for others? Is there a negative consequence for students who cannot afford to work for free? How should public policy address this burgeoning, and sometimes manipulative, free labor market? October 30, 2013
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download Edward Snowden: Whistleblower? Traitor?
This discussion considers the moral status of Edward Snowden, who is accused of leaking top-secret information on government mass surveillance programs. Discussants break down the value of the information he exposed, weigh in on the ethical consequences of his actions, and offer what they think should happen to him now. September 19, 2013
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

The Status of Our Civil Rights
What do recent legal decisions say about the status of minorities? Discussants consider Supreme Court decisions on the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action, a federal judge ruling against the "Stop-Question-Frisk" program, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Also, they weigh in on the Defense of Marriage Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 13 states. September 11, 2013. Co-sponsored with the Diversity Leadership Team, Office of Multicultural Education, and Human Resources.
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

After Sandy Hook: How do we prevent similar forms of violence?
In the wake of the massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on December 14, 2012, a group of Holy Cross students, faculty and staff discuss the possible causes and measures to reduce the incidence of gun violence in America. The participants consider: firearm regulations and the Second Amendment, the mental health care system, cultural and sociological indicators for violence, and the promotion of nonviolence. February 19, 2013
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

Affirmative Action at Holy Cross: A Fishbowl Discussion
Holy Cross students, faculty members, and an alumnus weigh the benefits and trade-offs of affirmative action policies at Holy Cross. October 1, 2012
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

Responding to the Death of Osama bin Laden
Featuring Dustin Gish, visiting assistant professor, political science; Captain Ronald L. Harrell, U.S. Navy, commanding officer & chair of Naval science; Marybeth Kearns-Barrett, acting director, Office of the College Chaplains; Ward J. Thomas, associate professor and chair, political science; and Stephanie E. Yuhl, associate professor, history. Thomas M. Landy, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, moderates. May 5, 2011

Revelations of Sexual Abuse in the Church of Europe, and Response of Catholics Worldwide - Fishbowl discussion with Rev. James Corkery, S.J. of the Milltown Institute, Dublin, and Holy Cross faculty and staff members: Margaret Freije, dean; Marybeth Kearns Barrett, chaplain; Mat Schmalz, professor of religious studies; Alice Laffey, professor of religious studies; and Thomas M. Landy, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. November 9, 2010