Ethics panel to pose tough questions to incoming Schreyer Scholars

The compelling and controversial Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" will be the starting point for an ethics discussion hosted by the Schreyer Honors College from 9:15 to 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, in 100 Thomas Building on the University Park campus of Penn State.

This event is open only to Schreyer Honors College students. 

Panelists include Pearl Gluck, assistant professor of film and video in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications; Peggy Lorah, assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion for Student Affairs and professor of women’s studies; Erin Farley, cocurricular programs coordinator for the Gender Equity Center; Katie Tenny, Penn State bystander intervention coordinator; Steve Sampsell, director of strategic communications for the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications; and James Tierney, economics lecturer in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Gluck, who is working on several film projects that address the roles of passive bystanders and of “upstanders” – those who intervene when they recognize something is wrong – in various situations, was inspired by reading essay applications of prospective Schreyer students. At a luncheon for faculty readers this past winter, she suggested a question framed around a popular piece of media for a discussion.

"13 Reasons Why," based on a 2007 novel of the same name, revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and his friend Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide. The series examines not just Baker’s story but the stories of the characters around her and how their actions – or inactions – affected her and one another.

“The level of protection that we might try to give to questions of hate and violence and ignorance, that’s over,” Gluck said. “We must engage and we must speak out. And that means helping begin a conversation about what they’re going to be asking, which is the ethics of decision-making. When are you going to get engaged? When are you going to speak out?

“I think it’s a powerful question and I’m excited about what the students have to say, because they’re the ones on the front lines.”

Schreyer Honors Orientation – or SHO TIME, as it is known by students and staff – is a three-day welcome event for the incoming class that has been held each August since 2006 and this year runs from Wednesday, Aug. 16 through Friday, Aug. 18. A group of nearly 100 returning students serve as mentors for an incoming group of more than 300 first-year students. Activities include presentations by Penn State faculty, team-building exercises and a late-night trivia competition.

Each year, the college strives to include an ethics discussion as part of SHO TIME.

“This one particularly is very relevant for the students, primarily because a lot of the issues that we are going to be talking about in the session and from the video clips from the series are very relevant to their daily lives,” said Schreyer Honors College Associate Dean for Student Affairs Mitch Kirsch. “They’re difficult to talk about – sexual assault, alcohol, drug abuse, bullying – but they’re situations they’ve dealt with in high school and will certainly deal with when they come to Penn State.”

“It’s the only time we have a captive audience,” Kirsch added, “and we take the opinion that if we can address some of these issues and help them think about them in this context before they go to class the first day, hopefully it will enable them to make good decisions and be empowered to stand up for each other in future situations.”

Last Updated August 16, 2017