Dignity: What Does It Mean?

According to many understandings of human rights, all people are born free and with dignity. We often speak of dignity as something that should be protected and respected. However, when prompted, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a true definition of dignity. What is dignity? Does everyone have the same amount of dignity? Can someone ever do something to lose their dignity?

These are just a few of the difficult questions that students tackled during last week’s Keyword Colloquium on “Dignity” led by Dr. Bryan Pilkington, interdisciplinary philosopher and Director of Academic Programs at Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education.

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Dr. Pilkington (2nd from left) leads an engaging colloquium on “Dignity” with Manresa Scholars.

Dr. Pilkington described the hypothetical case of a patient suffering from cardiac issues who is then also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Without taking these medications, the patient would almost certainly suffer a fatal cardiac event soon after stopping them.

The patient could potentially stop taking his or her heart medicine to avoid living an “undignified” life with dementia. Dr. Pilkington got Manresa Scholars thinking by posing the question — is it morally acceptable to seek your own death, and by doing so are you acting with or without dignity?

He discussed the three viewpoints. The first view is that someone should stop taking the heart medicine and seek death to avoid falling into an “undignified” dementia. The second view is that one should continue to take the heart medicine because seeking your own death is a violation of dignity. The third group provides what Dr. Pilkington considered the best answer: allow the patient to make his or her own decision about what they feel is right for their life and body; that is, “dignity” is relative to individual patients.

Manresa Scholars split into small groups to discuss similar cases and attempt to create a working definition of “dignity.” Some Scholars suggested that people can never lose their dignity while others argued that dignity can be taken away by outside circumstances outside of one’s control.

While there were no definitive conclusions by the end of the dinner-colloquium, Manresa Scholars grappled with some difficult questions and utilized the critical thinking skills they’ve been developing all year.

Anja Asato, FCRH 2018
Manresa Programming & Marketing Fellow, 2016-2017

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Breakfast with CBS News

Hard-hitting journalism, dedication to ethics, and finding your passion all take guts. Guest speakers Dick Brennan (GABELLI ’83) and Alice Gainer (FCRH ’04), award-winning news anchors/reporters for WCBS-TV, sat down with Manresa for a special breakfast Keyword Colloquium on “guts.”

Brennan and Gainer each spoke about the unexpected paths you may take through college and post-graduation, and how their Fordham education has stayed with them throughout their careers. Asking hard questions, holding people in power accountable, and upholding the integrity of journalism in this tumultuous time are central to their work. While these are difficult tasks, they stressed the importance of their Jesuit education in guiding them through this period.

Students gained insights and tips for entering the journalism field. Network, make connections, and intern were points that they stressed. Similar to a few of the Manresa Scholars present, both Brennan and Gainer worked on WFUV, Fordham’s award-winning radio station, during their college years.

Kindness and being nice to anyone you encounter is something that has been important in both of their careers. Whether interviewing a cannibal cop, local politician, or the average New Yorker, everyone is treated with the same sense of respect. This is a trait that Manresa Scholars can apply in their daily lives and any field they decide to pursue.

“Why not me?” Brennan’s question was perhaps one of the most important take-aways of the morning. As capable students and community members, Manresa Scholars should have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Whether you’re applying for an internship or competing for an award, it’s important to put yourself out there. It takes guts, but it can make the difference in discovering your passion, and pursuing that passion.

Anja Asato, FCRH 2018
Marketing and Programming Fellow, 2016-2017

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Manresa Scholars with Brennan (third from left) and Gainer (fourth from left) at the CBS Breakfast.

Taking Shots: The Science and Ethics of Vaccinations

Taking Shots: The Science and Ethics of Vaccinations was a recent dinner colloquium ledunnamed-2.jpg by Manresa Professors Rachel Annunziato (Psychology) and Steven Franks (Biological Sciences) that explored the intersection of science and psychology. The engaging discussion covered several topics regarding vaccinations. We discussed why we receive vaccinations and why some people choose not to vaccinate.

Professors Annunziato and Franks taught us that we receive vaccinations to help us build immunity to infectious diseases. We discussed the widely popular, yet false notion that there is a connection between vaccines and autism, and how this led to many people choosing not to vaccinate their young children. This theory was later proved fraudulent and even the creator of the idea, Dr. Wakefield, stated it was false.

We discussed why some people choose not to receive vaccines, whether it be for religious purposes or because some just do not believe in the health effects of vaccines. We talked about some reasons why people choose not to receive the common flu vaccine, questioning whether it was worth it. The discussion led to how this impacts the community because people who choose not to vaccinate pose a health risk to those around them; they allow or perpetuate the spread of infectious diseases.

Overall, the colloquium was very informative and challenged students’ beliefs and ideas about the science and ethics of vaccinations. 

Molly Brodowski, FCRH 2020
Manresa Scholar

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