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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.