News Release

CHICAGO — Urban food deserts, wage theft, global health care and prisoner rehabilitation are among global issues that a team of ethics scholars at DePaul University address in a new public television series titled “Big Questions.”

Part talk-show, part documentary, “Big Questions” examines local and global social issues and asks its audience: “What is the responsibility of each one of us?” “What can we do?” What should be done?”

“If you are a member of a community why not ask how the world works, who benefits, and how can we change things to make them better?” said Kim Clark, instructor at DePaul’s College of Communication.

Clark is one of three hosts for the show, which begins airing April 8 at 9 p.m. CDT on WNIT, the Michiana Public Broadcasting Corp. based in South Bend, Ind. The show in its entirety can be viewed at askingbigquestions.com. His co-hosts are Laura Pincus Hartman, Vincent de Paul Professor of Business Ethics, and Patricia Werhane, the Wicklander Chair of Business Ethics and managing director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics, in DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business.

The team traveled to Jordan, Syria, Bangladesh and Haiti, to explore complex issues such as corporate responsibility, the impact of microlending and refugee camps. They returned with stories that raised big questions like “Is every child entitled to a quality education?” “Until what age?”

The team also explored topics of unfair treatment closer to home, in Chicago.

Clark explained that more than 2,000 workers in Chicago are victims of wage theft and not always the result of an undocumented worker or hidden overtime. A majority of consumers may be unwittingly participating in the unethical act, regardless of their moral standing.

“When you pay with a credit card and tip on it, there is no guarantee your server receives the money you designated for him,” explained Werhane. “There may be a lack of understanding that they are entitled to that money, so their boss could keep it for himself. This seemingly insignificant act could cost someone their livelihood, but the person using the credit card may never know it. That’s why the conversations that stem from ‘Big Questions’ are vital, they promote educated and responsible participation in the world.”

Other big questions topics in the United States are about what can be done to offer low-income communities more healthy food options, and how to keep women out of prison when they feel as if it doesn’t matter how many times they go back because they already have the strike against them.

“People see problems, but they’re unsure what to do about them,” said Hartman. “The show offers its viewers both information and ideas on how to create change, so that they can go out and reshape the world.”

The team believes that conversation is often the first step in addressing these issues and creating change.

“Conversation stimulates ideas and spreads knowledge. These are tough questions people are afraid to ask. They don’t come with one, clear solution,” said Clark.

”Big Questions” isn’t intended to provide the audience with black-and-white answers. Instead, its mission is to challenge a person to think and consider whether they have a responsibility to act and what is in their power to create positive change, noted Werhane.

Once the conversation sparks accountability within an individual, the next step is action and the hosts agree that change does not come from the top.

“Countries spend billions of dollars in aid and it fails miserably,” said Clark.

“The key is to focus on something specific. With smaller amounts of money and a focused cause, you can do a great deal,” added Werhane.

She pointed to a Kenilworth, Ill., couple they met during production.

For the last 11 years, the couple traveled to Ghana to dig wells. They spent just a few thousand dollars during that time. In the years that have followed, schools and active communities have sprung up around the wells creating sustainable communities.

“You change the world, one person at a time. You don’t tell a government how to fix itself. You go out and do it,” said Clark. “We hope the show will ignite conversation and create a new wave of active change.”

WNIT has ordered a second season of “Big Questions” and a public reception on April 29 at DePaul’s Loop Campus will offer a sneak peak at the episodes to come.

The reception will be held from 3-5 p.m. in the communication theatre of the Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building, 14 E. Jackson Blvd.

Special guests from season one will be in attendance. Among them is Klaus Leisinger, chairman of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, whose company participates actively in the implementation of health initiatives around the world by lending both financial and technical assistance.

In season one, Leisinger was instrumental in providing the DePaul scholars access to people in a Tanzania leprosy clinic, in order to explore the big question of society’s relationship with people with disabilities.

More information about DePaul’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics and its work to produce “Big Questions” is online at http://depaulne.ws/IBPE.

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