Theme: Status of moral standards and moral truths
Real Life Example: Heisman Trophy winner and Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of raping Erica Kinsman while both were students attending the university. In the end, the university settled the lawsuit, giving Kinsman $950,000, and Winston faced no consequences for his supposed actions. Was a consistent standard used by the Tallahassee police and the FSU conduct code committee?
Question: To what extent are moral/ethical standards are relative to the situation/circumstance?
Description: The Jameis Winston rape case raises the question of ethical standards. The accuser, E. Kinsman recalled meeting Tallahassee police officer Scott Angulo at the hospital, where she said she was instructed to think twice before filing a report. When Kinsman later reached out to Angulo to report Winston’s name, she was further warned. Kinsman recounted that Angulo said: “This is a huge football town. You really should think long and hard if you want to press charges”. “The Tallahassee police did nothing for 10 months, and when they did, her claims were greeted with disbelief that ranged from general skepticism to caustic threats.”
An FSU conduct code hearing, however, failed to find anything “not good” had happened when it finally held Winston’s code of conduct hearing last December. Just days before Winston was to play in the College Football Playoffs, the school’s panel cleared him of any wrongdoing. This allowed him to play, although his team did not win. Kinsman, meanwhile, had dropped out of school. “All these people were praising him; they were calling me a slut, a whore,” Kinsman said.
Perspective 1: Moral relativism = there are no universal values; ethical standards and views are culturally based and determined by the society where we grow up.
Perspective 2: Moral universalism
Perspective 3: Cognitive dissonance theory: Humans have a tendency to keep their cognitions (beliefs, opinions, etc.) consistent. So, when an inconsistency arises they modify their beliefs to reduce the resulting dissonance. The most common way people do so is by changing their attitudes/opinions about the behavior. This applies to ethics because people shift their judgments of a moral act to reduce the potential discomfort it causes.
Connection to RLS 1: Jameis Winston Rape Lawsuit
Perspective 1: Jameis Winston was a beloved football player at Florida State University, which dominates much of Tallahassee's social climate. Thus, when determining if Jameis Winston was guilty of sexually assaulting Kinsman, the judges based their decision on the morality of their society, which claimed football players were untouchable.
Perspective 2: lawsuit occurred after the NFL draft wherein Winston was chosen as first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signing a 4 year deal worth over $23 million. It is FSU’s duty to protect its students and the NFL’s duty to protect its players. So even though Winston was accused of an immoral act, by not punishing Winston and agreeing to a settlement, both institutions fulfilled their duties and thus acted in a morally correct manner.
Perspective 3: president of FSU James Thrasher claimed the school only settled the lawsuit to avoid costly legal expenses. The notion of a famous, well-liked football player raping a fellow student was not consistent with most people’s cognitions. So, rather than punish Winston for his supposed rape (i.e. change the behavior), the school claimed the trial would detract from the “future” and thus altered its cognitions to reduce the dissonance.
Choose a Topic or Real Life Situation (RLS)
Extract the Knowledge Question (KQ) from the RLS
Identify Perspectives or Developments
Structure when discussing a perspective:
Show how your conclusions have significance for your RLS and one other RLS