The Penn Stater Daily — April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

A generous parting gift: President Rod Erickson and his wife Shari on Thursday announced a $1 million gift to the university. The donation, which coincides with this weekend’s celebration of the closing of the “For The Future” capital campaign, will benefit the Arboretum, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Smeal College of Business. Erickson is set to retire from the university next month.

Klosterman on ethics: I wandered over to the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on Thursday to hear Chuck Klosterman speak at the “Religion, Ethics, and Choice” symposium hosted by Penn State’s Center for Ethics & Religious Affairs. I met Chuck a decade or so ago through our mutual friend (and occasional Penn Stater contributor) Michael Weinreb ’94; if you know Chuck’s name, it’s probably from his books, his writing for the likes of Esquire and Grantland, or more recently, his role as the Ethicist for the New York Times Magazine. Based in Brooklyn, he generally makes a handful of college speaking engagements each year, but this was the first time he’d been invited somewhere specifically based on the Ethicist gig.

Speaking to a small room—a mix of students, faculty, and campus and community religious leaders—Chuck was, like his writing, often funny and always thought provoking. He read from his latest non-fiction book, I Wear the Black Hat, in which he uses real and fictional villains to grapple with the idea of good v. evil. But for this crowd, the insights into his Ethicist gig were especially interesting:

* He opened by saying he’s not remotely qualified for the job, then added that, in his opinion, “no one is.” (The Times‘ first Ethicist, he noted, was Randy Cohen, a former writer for David Letterman.)

* He was only half joking when he said that, due both to the nature of the job and the reactive tone of so much of modern culture, he’s certain “I’m going to get fired at some point.”

* He said he receives about 100 submissions each week, and that the correspondents are most likely to be “lawyers, new mothers, and academics. Also, a lot of atheists.”

* In helping people solve their ethical quandaries, Chuck says he aims to be “hyper-rational … almost Spock-like” in his responses: “I’ve advised people to do things I’m not sure I would do in my own life.” As for his process: Once he and his editor have chosen which letters to run, Chuck said he thinks about the dilemma, composes a response, and then “I spend two days thinking about all the ways I’d disagree with that response.” He then edits it accordingly. It’s a unique gig, and qualified or not, I think he’s as right as anyone for the job.

Football is back: The forecast calls for temperatures in the high 60s and blue (and white) skies—a perfect day, in other words, for the Blue-White Game. There’s all sorts of fun stuff scheduled in and around Beaver Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is at 1:30. Hope to see you there…

Ryan Jones, senior editor

 

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The Penn Stater Daily — April 10, 2014 President Erickson Speaks to Alumni Council One Last Time

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