Rutland Institute for Ethics

The Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics announces...

The 16th Annual

J.T. Barton Jr. Ethics Essay Scholarship Competition


1st Prize: $1,500 Scholarship

2nd Prize: $1,000 Scholarship

3rd Prize: $500 Scholarship

The deadline for submissions is Sunday April 16, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

Winners will be notified by email at 12:00 noon on Friday, April 28, 2017.

For your essay, pick ONE of the five cases below and address the associated question:

Rape and Parental Rights


Should California impose higher fees on agricultural water that is used on certain crops?

As California deals with its multi-year drought, stakeholders are looking for solutions, and, some say, for scapegoats. Farmers feel put upon. Residents feel put upon. Industry feels put upon. Certainly the Almond Board of California feels that their favorite nut is being maligned unfairly.

The acclaimed 1974 movie Chinatown documented California water wars in the beginning of the Twentieth Century, but the state has been plagued by water shortage for much longer. Today, huge population and industrial growth, complex water rights laws, fertile farmland and good growing weather, plus unrealistic definitions of beauty (green lawns in a desert) complicate and exacerbate an escalating problem... (MORE)



Should healthcare providers honor VSED in the advance directives of dementia patients?

An advance directive is a written document that identifies an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment if that person becomes unable to communicate them to the attending physician. Advance directives are legally recognized throughout the United States, although laws governing their implementation vary from state to state.

“Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” (VSED) is a provision included in some advance directives to shorten the dying process. There are particular concerns about honoring VSED in advance directives of patients with dementia...(MORE)

Shot in the Dark


Should the children of foreign nationals who travel to the US to give birth be denied US citizenship?

Wanting to secure the best possible future for her child, Sue started making plans soon after she learned she was pregnant. Sue knew that acquiring excellent prenatal care, maintaining a good diet, and living in a safe and healthy environment wouldn’t be difficult due to the ample financial resources she enjoyed. But Sue wanted something more for her child—something that, technically speaking, couldn’t be purchased—she wanted her child to be a US citizen...(MORE)



Should limits be set on CEO and upper-management salaries in order to lessen the welfare costs that are borne by U.S. taxpayers?

Many US workers earn so little that, to provide for their basic needs, their families are forced to rely on government programs. Food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, assistance for home energy bills, and earned income tax credit are just a few of the approximately 80 government assistance programs that help millions of low-income families and individuals...(MORE)



Who should be responsible for determining the ethical choices required by self-driving cars?

Self-driving cars are being tested, and the results look good. For a few years now, auto manufacturers have been developing a variety of crash-prevention features for new cars, such as forward-collision warning systems (which alert the driver and even brake the car when it gets too close to the car in front), blind-spot monitoring systems, and lane-departure warnings. Such technologies most likely will be integrated into fully automated cars when they are developed.

Since a vast majority of current accidents are caused by human errors, many advantages will probably accrue as more and more cars become self-driving. Traffic congestion should also be eased as the new cars will not hesitate or become confused, they will maintain a steady and safe speed, and they will select alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic, accidents, or construction...(MORE)

Instructions are available here:


Your essay should address the question associated with one of the five cases:

“Nuts Over Water”
“To Be or Not To Be”
“Air Baby”
“Corporate Welfare”
“Auto Autos”

Be sure to indicate clearly which case and question you have selected.

The cases were prepared for the 20th Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. They are used with the kind permission of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, which holds the copyright on them.


Since you’re writing on an ethical question, your essay should concentrate on what should be done ethically rather than what is typical, practical, or consistent with a particular set of religious beliefs.

Ethical reasoning focuses on things like consequences, fairness, and rights. Your essay should address topics like the potential personal and societal effects (or consequences) involved, what would be fair, whether or not people’s rights are being violated.

Keep in mind that there is no one definitive answer to the question. The success of your essay depends on how effectively you state your reasons for the position you take.


Start by identifying the most significant points to be addressed.

Read a variety of opinions on the subject to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various points of view.

Construct your own argument based upon the information you find most central, significant, and compelling.

Test your argument by discussing the question with people who disagree with you.

Revise several times, getting feedback after each new draft.

Utilize credible sources and cite all sources using an appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, or Chicago) in accordance with the university’s undergraduate academic integrity policy: Academic Integrity Policy Undergraduate Studies


Essays must be typed (double-spaced) using a twelve-point font. The title page should include the author’s name and contact information, but the text of the paper should be suitable for blind review (do not put your name in a header or footer). Essays must not exceed 1,500 words (a word count should be included on the title page; references and citations should not be included in the word count).

Essays should be submitted in electronic form (word document) as an attachment to email, which should be sent to this address: . Early submissions are welcome.


The deadline for submissions is Sunday April 16, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

Winners will be notified by email at 12 noon on Friday, April 28, 2017.




The Rutland Institute for Ethics  is committed to

Clemson University’s Academic integrity policies:

Undergraduate Policy

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